« AnteriorContinuar »
The ^d and last, namely, the testimony of the Spirit. This Spirit, as it assists us in our examination, so it ratifies and confirms our sentence by its suffrage, fortifying our assurance, and increafing our joy. All this the scripture exprefly teaches us; for the Spirit is called, The earnest of our inheritance, the seal of our redemption, Eph. i. 13, 14- Eph. iv. 30, 31. 2 Cor. ii. 10. 2 Cor. v. And tho' it be not improbable, but that these, and such like places, may relate more immediately to the spirit of promise which was conspicuous in miracles, and seeps to have accompanied all that believed in the infancy of the Church, according to those words of our Saviour, And these figns shall follow them that believe ; in myname they shall cast out devils, &c. Mark xvi. 17. Yet there are texts enough which assure us, that the Spirit of God should be imparted to believers through all succeeding ages, and that this should be one effect of it to comfort us, and be a pledge to us of the divine favour: thus, Rom. xv. 13. Now the God of hope f II you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may aboundin hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. And Rom. viii. 15, 16. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear . but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba Father; the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we E 3 are
are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. If it be here demanded .what this testimony of the Spirit is: I answer, 'tis a powerful energy of the blessed Spirit, Jhed~ ding abroad and increasing the love of God in our hearts, Rom v. Tribulation worketh patience, patience experience, and experience hope, and hope makes not asshamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. This ti thespirit of adoption, the spirit of obfignation, the spirit of glory, and the spirit of love; happy is he who is partaker of it, he has attained the maturity of Perfection and pleasure. I can scarce forbear going in with some of the fathers, who thought that such as these could never finally fall. I can scarce forbear applying to such, those words, Rev. xx. 6. BlefJ'ed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurreSlion; on such the second death hath no power. Thus far I have considered afj'urance as it relates to the present time. But,
2. Assurance may regard the time to come; and it conduces very little less to the peace and pleasure of z Christian to be ajuredthat he shall persevere in a good state, than that he is now in one. Let us therefore in the next place examine what grounds the perfeB man may have for such a persuasion: Now these are likewise three.
First, Tht propenfion and favour of God
Secondly, The sufficiency of divine aff-
Thirdly, The conscience of his own /«/<?
1. The favour of GW. I need not go about to prove that Go</will be ever ready to assist the perfect man; I need not prove that his eyes are always upon the righteous, and that bis ears are always open to their prayers; that they are the dear objects of his delight and love: reajon zadscripture both do abundantly attest this, and the repeated promises of God to good men, encourage them to hope from God whatever beloved children may from a tender and kind father. Is not this enough then to inspire the perfect man with great and confident hopes? He knows, not only, that God is an immutable God, free from all levity and inconstancy; and therefore, that nothing less than presumption and obstinacy, habitual neglect or wickedness, can tempt him to recall his gifts, or repent him of his favours: he knows not only that God is faithful, and will not suffer him to be tempted above what he is able; but he knows also, that he has a powerful Intercessor at the right-hand of God, an Advocate with the Father, who cannot but E 4 pre
prevail. Nor is this all yet; he has a. great many things that plead for him with God: there are his tears which are bottled up; there are his prayers and alms which are gone up for a memorial before God j there is a book of remembrance written, wherein all his pious discourses are registred; and God is faithful, and cannot forget his works and labour of love. The Spirit of Go</will not soon quit the bosom that it so long refided in; it will not suffer itself to be divided from that person, with whom it had entred into so close an union, that it seemed as it were inanimated or incorporated with him, and become essential to his Being: whence it is that the spirit is said to be grieved when he is forced and compelled to retire.
2. The second ground of assurance for the time to come, is insufficiency of divine as fiftance. The good man is well ajj'ured, that God will never refuse the protection of his Providence, or the aid of his Spirit: and what can be too difficult forJucb a one? Providence can prevent a temptation, or remove it; the Spirit can support him under it, and enable him to vanquish it; nay, it can enable him to extract new strength and vigour from it; my grace is sufficients or thee, 2 Cor. xii. 9. the truth of which assertion has been illustriously proved by the victories of martyrs and confefjors, who
triumphed over the united force of men and devils. Tho' then the conscience of human frailty may awaken in the best of men fear and caution, the assurance of divine assistance cannot but beget in them an holy confidence; the snares and temptations. of the world, the fubtilty and vigilance of the devil may justly create a sollicitude in the best of men ; but when they consider themselves encompassed with the divine favour, they can have no reason to despond.
3. The conscience of his own integrity is a third ground of a good man's considence; he knows that nothing but crying provocations can quench the spirit, and oblige God to desert him; and he has reason to hope, that this is that he cannot be guilty of. He is sure, that presumptuous wicked-. ness is not only repugnant to his principles; but to the very bent of his nature, to all the inclinations and pajions of his foul: I speak here of the perfect man; can he ever wilfully dishonour and disobey God, who loves him above all things, and has done so long? Can he forsake, and betray his Saviour, who has long rejoiced and gloried in him; who has been long accustomed to look upon all the glories and satisfactions of this Iise, as dung and dross in comparison of him? Can he, in one word, ever be seduced to renounce and hate religion,