« VorigeDoorgaan »
frequently exhorting all to do as he did ; and that in a perfect consistency with the doctrine of the saints' perseverance, which he also teaches : And as Paul's being certain of the event did not tend to make hina careless in the use of proper means to save his natural life, but rather tended to encourage and animate him, as knowing that he should finally succeed—so his being certain of the event did not tend to make him careless, but to animate him, with respect to his spiritual and eternal life : And as it was with him, so it is with all good men.... Rom, yi, 2: For this is always the case, that certainty of success animates men, if the thing they are about be what they love, and what their hearts are engaged in; but to die to themselves, the world and sin, and love God, and live to him, and grow up into perfect holiness, is what all believers love, and have their hearts en. gaged after ; an absolute certainty, therefore, of perseverance has, in the nature of things, the greatest tendency to animate them to the most sprightly activity. There are none but graceless hypocrites that take encouragement from the doctrines of free grace to carelessness and sin...Rom. vi, 1, 2.
10. If this be the nature of a saving conversion-if is be the nature of true holiness if this be true religion, so contrary to flesh and blood, and all the habitual propensities of nature, then, so long as there is the least corruption left in the heart, there will, of necessity; be a continual conflict : Grace will continually seek the ruin of sin, through its contrariety to it, and hatred of it ; and sin will strive to maintain its ground-yea, and to regain its former dominion. The gracious nature delights in the law of God, and aspires after sinless perfection—the sinful na. ture hates the law of God, and strives to lead the man captive into sin : The gracious nature is a disposition to love God sų, premely, live to him ultimately, and delight in him superlatively; and this sinful nature is a disposition to love self supremely, live to self ultimately, and delight in that which is not God wholly : and because these two are contrary the one to the oth. er, therefore the flesh will lust against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh....Gal. v. 17. The gracious nature joins in on
God's side against all sin ; and while God works in the man ta will and to do, he works out his own salvation with fear and trembling....with caution and circumspection....with watchfulness and holy concern-laboring to die to himself, the world and sin, and be wholly the Lord's.... Phil. ii. 12, 13. While the divine spirit is breathing upon his heart, and realising to him the being and perfections of God....the existence and importance of divine and eternal things, and is spreading divine light over his soul, and is banishing selfish and worldly views, and is drawing his soul to holy and divine contemplations, he feels the divine influence....he blesses the Lord....he summons all within him to engagedness....he pants after God: “O that I might know « him—that I might see him in his infinite glory! (Psalm Ixüü. “1, 2.)....O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee-my “soul thirsteth for thee-my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and “thirsty land, where no water is.... To see thy power and glory, “ so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. (Verse 8.) ..... My " soul followeth hard after thee. (Psalm lxxiii. 25.) ....Whom " have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth I de. “sire besides thee. O that I could, with my whole heart, love “thee forever, live to thee forever, live upon thee forever, and “never, never, depart from thee! O that I could think for thee, “ and speak for thee, and act for thee-at home and abroad, “ by day and by night, always live to thee, and upon thee ! “Here, Lord, I give myself to thee, to be forever thine....to love “ thee and to fear thee, and to walk in all thy ways, and to keep “ all thy commands ; and O that my heart might never depart " from thee ! But alas, alas, to will is present with me....to have ua disposition to all this, and long for all this, and seek and " strive for all this, is easy and natural, for I delight in the law “ of God after the inward man; but how to perform I find not “ how to get my whole heart so to fall in, as that there shall not “ be the least contrary temper, this is quite beyond me, for I " am still carnal, sold under sin....have another law in my mema bers....have still the remains of the flesh) of my native con« trariety to God, and disposition to disrelish divine things;
" and so am apt to forget God....to warp off from him, and to “ have selfish and worldly views and designs secretly creepinto my mind, and steal away my heart from God—and so am
daily led into captivity. O that sin was entirely dead-that a s disposition to disrelish God....to forget him....to go away “ from him....to live without him, and to seek content in that, “ which is not God, was entirely slain! 0, wretched man that * I am, who shall deliver me ?”...,Rom. vii. 14-24.
If grace and corruption were not so contrary the one to the other....so diametrically opposite, there might possibly be an accommodation between them, and both quietly dwell together in the same heart; but now they are set for each other's ruin, and seek each other's destruction-and, like fire and water, will never rest till one or the other be entirely destroyed....Gal. v. 17.
If grace could be wholly killed, or corruption wholly slain, then the conflict of believers might wholly cease in this life ; but grace is immortal, like a living spring that shall never dry, folen iv. 14.)—like a root that will ever grow,(Mat, xiii. 20— 23.) and Christ is always purging believers, that they may bring forth more fruit, (John xv. 2.): So that he that is born of God cannot sin as others do, (I. John iii. 9.)--cannot sin, but against the grain of his heart, the gracious nature continually resisting, (Gal. v. 17.) ; so that it is certain, from the nature of things, that David and Solomon neither of them felt, in their worst frames, as graceless men do. Grace resisted within, (Gal. v. 17.) hating their proceedings ; nor did it cease inwardly to struggle and torment them, till the one cries out, My bones wax old through my roaring all the day long.... Psalm lii. 3 : For his sin was ever before his eyes....Psalm xxxi. 3: And the other, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit... Eccle. i. 2.
Many stony-ground hearers, who were once filled with light and joy, do, when their religion is all worn out, and they lie dead, and blind, and stupid, whole months and years together, cry, the best are dead sometimes ; and have recourse to David and Solomon : and many a hypocrite, whose religion is only by fits and pangs, sometimes floated as the streets in summer,
by a sudden shower, and then, in a few days, as dry as ever, deceive themselves here ; and many take natural conscience to be a principle of grace, and the war between that and their corruptions to be a gracious conflict : But as all counterfeit reli. gions are specifically different from the true, as has been alrea. dy shown, so, by consequence, their conflict is different from that which believers have, in its very nature. They fight, from different principles, and for different ends, and about different things, and in a different manner, just as their religions differ from one another.
11. If this be the nature of conversion and holiness, and the manner wherein they are wrought--and if true religion be thus specifically different from all counterfeits, then may believers be infallibly certain that they have true grace. A man cannot but perceive his own thoughts, and know what views he has, and be intuitively acquainted with his own designs and aims ; so every man knows it is with him, as to the things of this world. Much less is it possible that there should be so great a change in a man's heart and life, thoughts, affections, and actions, as there is made by conversion, and yet he know nothing about it. For a man to be awakened, out of a state of security in sin, to see what a sinful, guilty, helpless, lost, undone state he is in, and yet not to perceive any thing of it, evidently implies a con. tradiction, and so is, in the nature of things, impossible : For a man to be brought to see God in his infinite glory, so as to be disposed to love him supremely, live to him ultimately, and delight in him superlatively, and yet not to perceive it, i. e, not to be conscious of his views and affections, also implies a contradiction, and so is impossible : For a man to lose his selfish and worldly views more and more, from year to year, and die to himself, the world and sin--and for a man to live a life of communion with God, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord, and yet not at all to perceive it, is utterly impossible ; for the mind of man is naturally conscious of its own exercises : So, from the nature of things, it is evident that grace is perceptible ; yea, in its own nature, it must be as perceptible as corrup
tion....love to God as love to the world....sorrow for sin as sor. row for affliction....aiming at God's glory as aiming at our own honor and interest : But if true grace be, in its own nature, perceptible, and if it be also specifically different from all counterseits, it is self-evident that a good man may know that he has true grace. I cannot see why, extraordinary cases excepted, a good man, who lives a life of communion with and devotedness to God, and in the daily exercise of every grace, may not come to know that he has grace. Surely he must be conscious of the exercises of his own mind; for this is natural : And surely he
may see the difference between his religion and all counterfeits, when the difference is so great and plain : so that, if the scriptures did not expressly teach us that assurance is attainable, it is yet evidently demonstrable from the nature of things.
But the scriptures do plainly teach this doctrine, in II. Pet.i. 10-1. John v. 13—I. John ii. 3, and iii. 14, &c. &c.-Besides, all those promises, that are made for the comfort and support of God's people in this world, suppose that they may know that they are the people of God : for, unless a man knows that he is a child of God, he cannot rationally take comfort in those promises which are peculiar to such. It is true, brazen hypocrites will do so, but they act very presumptuously. It is folly and madness for me to fatter myself that God has promised to do so and so for me, unless I know that I am one to whom the
promises belong : For instance, it is folly and madness for me to believe that God will make all things work together for my good, according to that promise in Rom. viii. 28, unless I know that I love God; for this promise plainly respects such, and no other: But there are very many precious promises made to believers in the word of God, which are evidently designed for their comfort and support. It is certain, therefore, that God thinks that believers may know they are such-without which knowledge, all these promises cannot attain their end.
Besides, to suppose that to be a servant of God, and a ser vant of the devil....to be going the way to heaven, and the way to hell...to be travelling in the narrow way, and to be travelling