Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

days, to have all clear and right within. Now, for the opening of this I will fhew:

I. What the evidence or manifeftation of the work of grace is. II. How it appears to be of fuch great advantage to a fuffering faint.

III. Prescribe some rules for the obtaining of it.

I. What it is. And, in short, it is nothing else but the Spirit's fbining upon his own work in the hearts of believers, thereby enabling them fenfibly to fee and feel it to their own fatisfaction. And this is expreffed in fcripture under a pleasant variety of metaphors. Sometimes it is called the "fhedding abroad of the love of God in the heart," Rom. V. 5. Sometimes "the lifting up of the light of God's countenance," Pfal. iv. 6. and fometimes it is expreffed without a trope, by Christ's manifefiing himself to the foul, John xiv. 21.

For the opening of it, I defire you would confider thefe fix things. 1. That it is attainable by believers in this life, and that in a very high degree and meafure. Many of the faints have had it in a full meafure, 1 Cor. ii. 12. John iii. 24. John xxi. 15.

2. Though it be attainable by believers, yet it is a thing feparable from true grace, and many precious fouls have gone mourning for the want of it, Ifa. I. 10. This was fometimes the cafe of Heman, David, Job, and multitudes more.

3. During its continuance, it is the fwecteft thing in the world. It fwallows up all troubles, and doubles all other comforts: it puts more gladneis into the heart, than the increase of corn and wine, Pfal. iv. 7. Suavis hora, fed brevis mora; fapit quidem fuaviffime, fed guftatur rariffime, Bernard.

4. Both in the continuation and removal of it the Spirit acts arbitrarily. No man can fay how long he thall walk in this pleasant light, Pil. xxx. 7. "By thy favour thou haft made my mountain ftand ftrong, thou hideft thy face, and I was troubled." And when in darknefs, none can fay how long it will be e'er that fweet light break forth again. God can fcatter the cloud unexpectedly in a moment, Cant. iii. 4. "It was but a little that I paffed from them, but I found "him whom my foul loveth." There is fuch an obfervable difference in David's fpirit in fome Pfalms, as if one man had written the beginning and another the end of them.

5. Though God can quickly remove the darkness and doubts of a foul, yet ordinarily the faints find it a very hard and difficult thing to obtain and preferve the evidences of their graces. Such is the darkness, deadness, and deceitfulness of the heart; fo much unevennefs and inconftancy in their practice, fo many counterfeits of grace, and fo many wiles and devices of Satan to rob them of their peace, that few (in comparison) live in a conftant and quiet fruition of it.

6. Notwithstanding all these things, which increate the difficulty; yet God hath afforded his people a fure light, and iufficient means, in the diligent ufe of improvement whereof they nay attain a certainty.

of the work of grace in them. And there is a threefold light by which it may moft clearly and infallibly be discovered.

1. Scripture-light, which is able to discover the fecrets of a man's heart to him; and is therefore compared to the Anatomizer's knife, Heb. iv. 12.

2. The innate light of grace itfelf; or, if you will, the light of experience, 1 John v. 10. It hath fome properties and operations which are as effential, neceffary, and infeparable, as heat is to the fire, and may be as fenfibly felt and perceived by the foul, Pfalm

cxix. 20.

3. The light of the Spirit, fuperadded to both the former, which is fometimes called its earnest, fometimes its feal. The Spirit doth but plant the habits, excite and draw forth the acts, and alfo fine upon his own work, that the foul may fee it; and that fometimes with fuch a degree of light as only begets peace, and quiets the heart, though it do not fully conquer all the doubts of it. And at other times the heart is irradiated with so clear a beam of light, that it is able to draw forth a triumphant conclufion, and fay, Now I know the things that are freely given me of God: I believe, and am fure, And fo much briefly for the opening of the nature of this evidence. II. I fhall fhew you the advantage of it to a fuffering faint in order to the right management of a fuffering condition.

And this will appear by the confideration of five things.

1. You will readily grant, that the Chriftian's love to God hath a mighty influence into all his fufferings for God. This grace of love enables him victoriously to break through all difficulties and difcouragements. "The floods cannot drown it, nor the waters quench it," Cant. viii. 6, 7. It 'facilitates the greatest hardfhips, I John v. 3. And whatever a man fuffers, if it be not from this principle, kit is neither acceptable to God, nor available to himself, 1 Cor. xiii. 3. But now nothing more inflames and quickens the Chriftian's love to God, than the knowledge of his intereft in him, and the fenfible perception and taste of his love to the foul. Our love to God is but a reflection of his own love; and the more powerful the stroke of the direct beam is, the more is that of the reflex beam alfo. Never doth that flame of Jah burn with a more vehement heat, than when the foul hath the most clear manifestations of its interest in Chrift and his benefits, Luke vii. 47.

2. It must needs be of fingular use to a fuffering faint, because it takes out the finking weight of affliction. That which finks and breaks the fpirit, is the conjunction and meeting of inward and outward troubles together; then if the Lord do not ftrangely and extraordinarily fupport the foul, it is wreckt and overwhelmed, as the thip in which Paul failed was, when it fell into a place where two feas met, Acts xxvii. 41. O how tempeftuous a fea doth that foul fall in, that hath fightings without, and fears within! how muft that poor Chriftian's heart tremble and meditate terror, that when he retires from

troubles without, for fome comfort and fupport within, shall find a fad addition to his troubles from whence he expected relief against them! hence it was that Jeremiah fo earnestly deprecates fuch a mifery, "Be not thou a terror to me, thou art my hope in the day of evil," Jer. xvii. 17. This is prevented by this means: if a man have a clear breaft, and all be quiet within, he is like one that hath a good roof over his head when the ftorm falls. "We glory in tribulation, be"caufe the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts," Rom, v. 3, 5. 3. It is a fountain of joy and comfort in the darkest and faddeft hour. Hence the glorious triumphs of faints in their afflictions, Rom. v. 5. And in the Chriftian's joy in the Lord, lies much of his ftrength, for fufferings, Neh. viii. 10. If once the fpirit droops and finks, the man is in a bad cafe to fuffer: Holy joy, is the oil that makes the chariot-wheels of the foul free to follow the Lord, Non tardat unita rata. To fuffer with joyfulness for Chrift is a qualification that God's eye is much upon in his fuffering fervants, Col. i. 11. How did the famous worthies that went before us magnify Chrift, and glorify religion by the holy triumphs of their faith and joy under tribulation! one kifs'd the apparitor that brought him news of his condemnation, and was like a man tranfported with an excefs of joy: Another upon the pronouncing of the fentence kneels down, and with hands and eyes lifted up, folemnly bleffes God for fuch a day as that. Oh how is Chrift magnified by this! and this cannot be until interest be cleared. It is true, the faith of recumbency gives the foul a fecret fupport, and enables the Christian to live; but the faith of evidence keeps him lively, and prevents all thofe uncomfortable and uncomely finkings and defpondencies of fpirit, 2 Cor. iv. 16, 17. and therefore cannot but be of a fingular ufe to a foul at fuch a time.

4. And, laftly, It is of fpecial ufe to a Chriftian under fufferings, inafmuch as it enables him to repel the temptations that attend upon fufferings. Nothing fets a keener edge upon his indignation against unworthy compliances, than this. Indeed a poor cloudy and dubious Christian will be apt to catch at deliverance, though upon terms difhonourable to Chrift; but he that is clear in point of intereft, abhors compofitions and capitulations upon unworthy terms and conditions, Heb. xi. 35. and x. 34. He that fees the gain and reward of fuffering, will think he is offered to his lofs, when life and deliverance are fet before him upon fuch hard terms as fin is.

And thus you see what influence it hath into a fuffering condi

tion.

III. In the next place I promifed to prefcribe fome rules for the attaining of this evidence, and the difpelling of thofe doubts by which it is ufually clouded in the fouls of believers. And oh, that by the faithful use of them you may attain it, against a fuffering day come upon you.

1. Rule. And the first rule I fhall give you is this, make it your business to improve grace more; for the more vigorous it is, the more

evidential it muft needs be, 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Oh how much time have many Chriftians fpent in inquiring after the lowest figns of fincerity, and what may confift with grace? Which had they fpent in the diligent improvement of the means of grace, for the increafing of it, they would have found it a fhorter cut to peace and comfort by much.

2. Rule. Miftake not the rule by which you are to try yourselves, left you give a falfe judgment upon yourselves. Some are apt to make thofe things figns of grace, which are not; and when the falfenefs of them is detected, how is that poor foul plunged into doubts and fears, that leaned upon them? As now, if a man should conclude his fincerity from his diligence in attending on the word preached; this is but a paralegifm, (as the apoftle calls it,) Jam. i. 22. By which a man deceiveth his own foul: For that which is a note or mark, must be proper to the thing notified, and not common to any thing elfe. There are divers forts of marks; fome are exclufive, the principal ufe of which is to convince bold pretenders, and difcover hypocrites; fuch is that, 1 Cor. ix. 9. It is a moft certain fign where thefe are, there is no grace; but yet it will not follow on the contrary, that where thefe are not, there is no grace. See Luke xviii. 11. Others are inclufive, the ufe of which is not fo much for trying of the truth, as the ftrength and degrees of grace. As now, when faith is defcribed by the radiancy of it, or by fome of its heroic acts, and pro mifes made to fome railed degrees and operations of it; as that, Eph. iii. 12. &c. here a mistake is eafily made. Befides.thefe, or rather betwixt thefe, are another fort of marks, which are called pofitive marks; and these agreeing in the lowest degree of grace, are for the trial of the truth and fincerity of it. Such are thefe, 1 John iv. 13. 1 John ii. 3. Matth. v. 3. Be fure to try by a proper mark.

3. Rule. Take heed of fuch fins as violate and wafte the confcience; for thefe will quickly raise a mist, and involve the foul in clouds and darkness, Pfal. li. 8. &c. Such are fins against light, and the reclamations of confcience.

4. Rule. Labour to fhun thofe common mistakes that Chriftians make in judging of their ftate; among which I fhall felect these five as principal ones.

1. Call not your condition into question upon every failing and involuntary lapfe into fin. "Iniquities prevail against me, as for our tranfgreffions, thou fhalt purge them away," Pfal. lxv. 3. In fhort, thou needeft not call thy condition into question, provided thou find thy fpirit working as Paul's did under the furprizals of temptation: viz. If, (1.) Thou do approve of and delight in the law, though thou fall fhort of it in thy practice, Rom. vii. 12, 14. (2) If thy failings be involuntary, and against the refolution and bent of thy foul, ver. 15, 18, 19. (3.) If it be the load and Burden of thy foul, ver. 24. (4) If the thoughts of deliverance comfort thee, ver. 25.

2. Queftion not the truth of thy grace, becaufe it was not wrought

in the fame way and manner in thee, as in others: For there is a great variety, as to the circumstances of time and manner, betwixt the Spirit's operations upon one and another. Compare the hiftory of Paul's converfion with that of the Jailor, Zacheus, or Lydia, and fee the variety of circumftances.

3. Conclude not that you have no grace, because you feel not thofe tranfports and ravishing joys that other Chriftians fpeak of. If thou canit not fay as Paul doth, Rom. viii. 38. yet blefs God, if thou canft but breathe forth fuch language as that, Mark ix. 24. "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief."

4. Say not thou haft no grace, because of the high attainments of fome hypocrites, who in fome things may excel thee. When fome perfons read the fixth chapter to the Hebrews, they are ftartled to fee to what a glorious height the hypocrite may foar; not confidering that there are thefe three things wherein they excel the most glorious hypocrite in the world." (1.) That felf was never dethroned in hypocrites, as it is in them. All that an hypocrite doth is for himself. (2.) The hypocrite never hated every fin, as he doth; but hath still fome Agag, Rimmon, or Delilah. (3.) That the hypocrite never acted in duty from the bent and inclination of a new nature, taking delight in heavenly employment, but is moved rather as a clock by the weight and poifes of fome external motives and advantages.

5. Conclude not you have no grace, because you grow not fo fenfibly as fome other Chriftians do. You may be divers ways mistaken about this. (1.) You may meafure your growth by your defires, and then it appears nothing; for the Chriftian aims high, and grafps at all. (2.) Or by comparing yourselves with fuch as have larger capacities, time, and advantages than you. (3.) Or by comparing your ✪ graces with other men's gifts, which you mistake for their graces. (4.) Or by thinking that all growth is upward in joy, peace, and comfort; whereas you may grow in mortification and humility, which is as true a growth as the former. Oh! take heed of these mistakes; they have been very prejudicial to the peace of many Chriftians.

5. Rule. Laftly, Decline not fufferings when God gives you a fair call to them. Oh! the Chriftian's fuffering tire is commonly his clearest and most comfortable time. "Then the Spirit of God and glory refteth on them," Pet. iv. 14. That which hath been in fufpence for fome years, is decided and cleared in a fuffering hour. And thus I have fhewed you how to attain this neceffary qualification alfo.

CHAP. VII.

Difcovering the neceffity of an improved faith for the right management of fufferings, and directing to fome special means for the im provement thereof.

THE

HE next thing conducing to our actual readiness for fufferings, is the improvement of faith to fome confiderable degree of VOL. VI. No. 49. F

« ForrigeFortsæt »