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· Sect. VII. 7. Moreover, many a soul lieth long under doubting, through the great imperfection of their very reason, and exceeding weakness of their natural parts. Grace doth usually rather turn our parts to their most necessary use, and employ our faculties on better objects, than add to the degree of their natural strength. Many honest hearts have such weak heads, that they know not how to perform the work of self-trial; they are not able, rationally, to argue the case; they will acknowledge the premises, and yet deny the apparent conclusion; or, if they be brought to acknowledge the conclusion, yet they do but Auctuate and stagger in their concession, and hold it so weakly, that every assault may take it from them. If God do not some other way supply to these men the defect of their reason, I see not how they should have clear and settled peace. · Sect. VIII. 8. Another great and too common cause of doubting and discomfort, is the secret maintaining of some known sin. When a man liveth in some unwarrantable practice, and God hath oft touched him for it, and conscience is galled, and yet he continueth it, it is no wonder if this person want both assurance and comfort.8. One would think, that a soul that lieth under the fears of wrath, and is so tender, as to tremble and complain, should be as tender of sinning, and scarcely adventure upon the appearance of evil. And yet, sad experience tells us that it is frequently otherwise: I have known too many such, that would complain, and yet sin; and accuse themselves, and yet sin still; yea, and despair, and yet proceed in sinning; and all arguments and means could not keep them from the wilful committing of that sin again and again, which yet they themselves did think would prove their destruction. Yea, some will be carried away with those sins which seem most contrary to their dejected temper. I have known them that would fill men's ears with the constant lamentations of their miserable state, and despairing accusations against themselves, as if they had been the most humble people in the world; and yet be as passionate in the maintaining their innocency, when another
.8 Read Bishop Hall's Soliloquy, 61. p. 239, called “The Sting of Guilti. ness.' When men dally with siu, and will be playing with snares and baits, and allow a secret liberty in the heart to sin, cunniving at many workings of it, and not setting upon mortification with earnest endeavours ; though they be convinced, yet they are not persuaded to rise with all their might against the Lord's enemies, but do bis work negligently, which is an accursed thing; for this God casteth them upon süre straits.-Simonds' Deserted Soul, &c. pp. 521, 522.
accuseth them; and as intolerably peevish, and tender of their own reputation in any thing they are blamed for, as if they were the proudest persons on earth; still denying or extenuating every disgraceful fault that they are charged with.
This cherishing of sinh doth hinder assurance these four ways: 1. It doth abate the degree of our graces, and so make them more undiscernible. 2. It obscureth that which it destroyeth not; for it beareth such sway, that grace is not in action, nor seen to stir, nor scarce heard to speak, for the noise of this corruption. 3. It putteth out, or dimmeth the eye of the soul, that it cannot see its own condition; and it benumbeth and stupifieth that it cannot feel its own case. 4. But especially, it provoketh God to withdraw himself, his comforts, and the assistance of the Spirit, without which, we may search long enough before we have assurance. God hath made a separation betwixt sin and peace; though they may consist together in remiss degrees, yet so much as sin, prevaileth in the soul, so much will the peace of that soul be defective. As long as thou dost favour or cherish thy pride and self-esteem, thy aspiring projects and love of the world, thy secret lust, and pleasing desires of the flesh, or any the like unchristian practice, thou expectest assurance and comfort in vain. God will not encourage thee, by his precious gifts, in a course of sinning, This worm will be crawling and gnawing upon thy conscience; it will be a fretting, devouring canker to thy consolations. Thou mayst steal a spark of false comfort from thy worldly prosperity or delight; or thou mayst have it from some false opinions, or from the delusions of Satan; but from God thou wilt have no more comfort, than thou makest conscience of sinning. However an Antinomian may tell thee that thy comforts have no such dependence upon thy obedience, nor thy discomforts upon thy disobedience, and therefore may speak as much peace to thee in the course of thy sinning as in thy most conscionable
Some have disputed whether it be possible for a godly man to be secure in sinning, and more willing to offend, because of God's gracious covenant, which will infallibly rescue him out of that sin ! But what sin is not possible, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, even to a regenerate mau ?-Mr. Burgess of Justific. lect. 28. p. 256.
i Some would have men, after the committing of gross sins, to be presently comfortable, and believe without humbling themselves at all. Indeed, when we are once in Christ, we ought not to question our state in him, &c. But yet a guilty conscience will be clamorous, and full of objections, and God will not speak peace till it be humbled. God will let his children know, what it is to be too bold with sin, &c.--Dr. Sibbs' Soul's Conflict, Preface. VOL. XXII.
walking, yet thou shalt find by experience that God'will not do so. If any man set up his idols in his heart, and put the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a minister, or to God, to inquire for assurance and comfort, God will answer that man by himself, and instead of comforting him, he will set his face against him: “He will answer him according to the multitude of his idols." Read Ezek. xv. 3 9.
Sect. IX. Another very great and common cause of want of assurance and comfort is, when men grow lazy in the spiritual part of duty, and keep not up their graces in constant and lively action. As Dr. Sibbs saith truly, “ It is the lazy Christian commonly that lacketh assurance.” The way of painful duty is the way of fullest comfort. Christ carrieth all our comforts in his hand : if we are out of that way where Christ is to be met, we are out of the way where comfort is to be had.
These three ways doth this laziness debar us of our comforts.
1. By stopping the fountain, and causing Christ to withhold this blessing from us.k Parents use not to smile upon children in their neglects and disobedience. So far as the Spirit is grieved, he will suspend his consolations. Assurance and peace are Christ's great encouragements to faithfulness and obedience : and, therefore, though our obedience do not merit them, yet they usually rise and fall with our diligence in duty. They that have entertained the Antinomian dotages to cover their idleness and viciousness, may talk their nonsense against this at pleasure, but the laborious Christian knows it by experience. As prayer must have faith and fervency to procure its success, besides the blood-shed and intercession of Christ, (James v, 15, 16,) so must all other parts of our obedience. He that will say to us in that triumphing day, “Well done, good and faithful servant, &c., enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” will also encourage his servants in their most affectionate and spiritual duties, and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, take this foretaste of thy everlasting joy,” If thou grow seldom, and customary, and cold in duty, especially in thy secret prayers to God, and yet findest no abatement in thy joys, I cannot but fear that thy joys are either carnal or diabolical.
2. Grace is never apparent and sensible to the soul, but while it is in action; therefore, want of action must needs cause want of assurance. Habits are not felt immediately, but by the freeness and facility of their acts : of the very being of the
" See Dr. Sibbs?! Soul's Conflict,' pp. 480, 48).
dest no abatespecially in thyrow seldom, a
-soul itself, nothing is felt or perceived but only its acts. The fire that lieth still in the fint is neither seen nor felt, but when you smite it, and force it into act, it is easily discerned. The greatest action doth force the greatest observation, whereas the dead and inactive are not remembered or taken notice of, Those that have long lain still in their graves, are out of men's thoughts as well as their sight, but those that walk the streets, and bear rule among them, are noted by all; it is so with our graces, That you have a habit of love or faith, you can no otherwise know but as a consequence by reasoning; but that you have acts, you may know by feeling. If you see a man lie still in the way, what will you do to know whether he be drunk, or in a swoon, or dead? Will you not stir him, or speak to him, to see whether he can go; or feel his pulse, or observe his breath, knowing that where there is life, there is some kind of motion ? I earnestly beseech thee, Christian, observe and practise this excellent rule: thou now knowest not whether thou have repentance, or faith, or love, or joy; why, be more in the acting of these, and thou wilt easily know it. Draw forth an object for godly sorrow, or faith, or love, or joy, and lay thy heart flat unto it, and take pains to provoke it into suitable action, and then see whether thou have these graces or not. As Dr, Sibbs observeth,' “ There is sometimes grief for sin in us when we think there is none,” It wants but stirring up by some quickening word : the like he saith of love, and it may be said of every other grace. You may go seeking for the hare or partridge many hours, and never find them while they lie close and stir not; but when once the hare betakes himself to his legs, and the bird to her wings, then you see them presently. So long as a Christian hath his graces in lively action, so long, for the most part, he is assured of them. How can you doubt whether you love God in the act of loving, or whether you believe in the very act of believing! If, therefore, you would be assured whether this sacred fire be kindled in your hearts, blow it up; get it into a flame, and then you will know: believe till you feel that you do believe, and love till you feel that you love.
3. The acting of the soul upon such excellent objects, doth naturally bring consolation with it.m. The very act of loving
I See Dr. Sibbs' « Soul's Conflict,' pp. 480, 481,
m Men experimentally feel that comfort in doing that which belongs unto them, which before they longed for, and went without.-Dr. Şibbs Soul's Conflict.
God in Christ, doth bring inexpressible sweetness with it into the soul. The soul that is best furnished with grace, when it is not in action, is like a lute well stringed and tuned, which while it lieth still doth make no more music than a common piece of wood; but when it is taken up and handled by a skilful lutist, the melody is most delightful. “Some degree of comfort,” saith that comfortable doctor, “ follows every good action, as heat accompanies fire, and as beams and influence issue from the sun;”n which is so true, that very heathens upon the discharge of a good conscience have found comfort and peace answerable : this is premium ante præmium, a reward before the reward.P
As a man, therefore, that is cold, should not stand still and say, I am so cold that I have no mind to labour,' but labour till his coldness be gone, and heat excited ; so he that wants assurance of the truth of his grace, and the comfort of assurance, must not stand still and say, 'I am so doubtful and uncomfortable that I have no mind to duty,' but ply his duty, and exercise his graces, till he find his doubts and discomforts to vanish.
Sect. X. Lastly: Another ordinary nurse of doubtings and discomfort, is the prevailing of melancholy in the body, whereby the brain is continually troubled and darkened, the fancy hindered, and reason perverted by the distempering of its instruments, and the soul is still clad in mourning weeds. It is no inore wonder for a conscientious man that is overcome with melancholy to doubt, and fear, and despair, than it is for a sick man to groan, or a child to cry when he is beaten. This is the case with most that I have known lie long in doubting and distress of spirit. With some, their melancholy being raised by crosses or distemper of body, or some other occasion, doth afterwards bring in trouble of conscience as its companion. With others, trouble
n Preface to Soul's Conflict.'
• Pro voluptatibus, et pro illis quæ parva et fragilia sunt, et in ipsis flagitiis noxia, ingens gaudium subit, inconcussum, et æquabile; tum pax et concordia animi, et magnitudo cum mansuetudine. Omuis enim ex imbecillitate feritas est.-Senec. de Vit. Beat. c. 3.
P Perhaps you think that the only comfort you can have, is by receiving some benefit, some inercy from God; you are much mistaken. The comfort of letting your hearts out to God, is a greater comfort than any comfort you have in receiving any thing from God.- Mr. Burroughs on Hos. ii. 19. p. 606.
9 Non est mirum si timent melancholici, quia causam timoris continuo secum portant; anima enim est involuta cum caligine tenebrosa, et quia anima sequitur corporis passiones seu complexiones, ideo timent, &c.-Galen, in fine quarta partic. de Morbo.
i l'imor et pusillanimitas si multum tempus habuerint, melancholicum faciunt,- Hippocr.