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Power on the souls of all true Christians in the world, successively to this day, considered in itself, and in its agreement with the same image in the holy Scriptures, which do imprint it, and in its agreement or sameness as found in all ages, nations and persons, is such a standing perpetual evidence that the Christian religion is divine, that (being still at hand) it should be exceeding satisfactory to a considerate believer, against all doubts and temptations to unbelief. And were it not, lest I should instead of an index, give you too large a recital of what I have more fully written in my aforesaid Treatise, I would here stay yet to shew you how impossible it is that this spirit of holiness, which we feel in us, and see by the effects in others, even in every true believer, should be caused by a word of falsehood, which he abhorreth, and, as the just ruler of the world, would be obliged to disown.
I shall only here desire you by the way to note that when I have all this while shewed you that the Spirit is the great witness of the truth of Christianity, that it is this Spirit of wisdom, goodness and power, in the prophets, in Christ, in the apostles, and in all Christians, expressed in the doctrine, and the practices aforesaid, which I mean; as being principally the evidences, or objective witness of Jesus Christ; and secondarily, being in all true believers, their teacher, or illuminator and sanctifier, efficiently to cause them to perceive the aforesaid objective evidences in its cogent, undeniable power. And thus the Holy Ghost is the promised agent or advocate of Christ; to do his work in his bodily absence in the world: and that in this sense it is, that we believe in the Holy Ghost, and are baptized into his name; and not only as he is the third person in the eternal Trinity.
And therefore it is to be lamented exceedingly, 1. That any orthodox teachers should recite over many of these parts of the witness of the Spirit, and when they have done, tell us, that yet all these are not sufficient to convince us without the testimony of the Spirit: as if all this were none of the testimony of the Spirit; and as if they would persuade us and our enemies, that the testimony which must satisfy us, is only some inward impress of this proposition on the mind, by way of inspiration, 'The Scriptures are the Word of God, and true.' Overlooking the great witness of
the Spirit, which is his especial work, and which our bap tism relateth to, and feigning some extraordinary new thing as the only testimony.
And it is to be lamented, that Papists, and quarrelling sectaries should take this occasion to reproach us as infidels, that have no true grounded faith in Christ; as telling us that we resolve it all into a private, inward, pretended witness of the Spirit: and then they ask us, Who can know that witness but ourselves? And how can we preach the Gospel to others, if the only cogent argument of faith be incommunicable, or such as we cannot prove?" Though both the believing soul and the church be the kingdom of the Prince of Light, yet O what wrong hath the prince of darkness done, by the mixtures of darkness in them both!
So much for the first Direction for the strengthening of faith; which is, by discerning the evidences of truth in our religion.
The rest of the Directions for strengthening our Faith.
I SHALL be more brief in the rest of the Directions, for the increase of faith: and they are these.
Direct. 2. Compare the Christian religion with all other in the world. And seeing it is certain that some way or other God hath revealed, to guide man in his duty, unto his end, and it is no other; you will see that it must needs be this.'
1. The way of the heathenish idolaters cannot be it. The principles and the effects of their religion may easily satisfy you of this. The only true God would not command idolatry, nor befriend such ignorance, error and wickedness as do constitute their religion, and are produced by it as its genuine fruits.
2. The way of Judaism cannot be it: for it doth but lead us up to Christianity, and bear witness to Christ, and of itself is evidently insufficient; its multitude of ceremonies being but the pictures and alphabet of that truth which Jesus Christ hath brought to light, and which hath
evidence, which to us is more convincing than that of the Jewish law.
3. The Mahometan delusion is so gross, that it seemeth vain to say any more against, than it saith itself; unless it be to those who are bred up in such darkness, as to hear of nothing else, and never to see the sun which shineth on the Christian world; and withal are under terror of the sword, which is the strongest reason of that barbarous sect.
4. And to think that the atheism of infidels is the way, (who hold only the five articles of the unity of God, the duty of obedience, the immortality of the soul, the life of retribution, and the necessity of repentance) is but to go against the light. For, 1. It is a denial of that abundant evidence of the truth of the Christian faith, which cannot by any sound reason be confuted. 2. It is evidently too narrow for man's necessities, and leaveth our misery without a sufficient remedy. 3. Its inclusions and exclusions are contradictory: it asserteth the necessity of obedience and repentance, and yet excludeth the necessary means (the revealed light, and love, and power,) by which both obedience and repentance must be had. It excludeth Christ and his Spirit, and yet requireth that which none but Christ and his Spirit can effect. 4. It proposeth a way as the only religion, which few ever went from the beginning (as to the exclusions). As if that were God's only way to heaven, which scarce any visible societies of men, can be proved to have practised to this day.
Which of all these religions have the most wise, and holy, and heavenly, and mortified, and righteous, and sober persons to profess it; and the greatest numbers of such? If you will judge of the medicine by the effects, and take him for the best physician, who doth the greatest cures upon souls, you will soon cónclude that Christ is the “ way, the truth, and the life, and no man cometh to the Father but by him;" John xiv. 6.
Direct. 3. Think how impossible it is that any but God should be the author of the Christian religion.'
1. No good man could be guilty of so horrid a crime as to forge a volume of delusions, and put God's name to it; to cheat the world so blasphemously and hypocritically, and to draw them into a life of trouble to promote it. Much less could so great a number of good men do this, as the
success of such a cheat (were it possible) would require. There is no man that can believe it to be a deceit, but must needs believe, as we do of Mahomet, that the author was one of the worst men that ever lived in the world.
2. No bad man could lay so excellent a design, and frame a doctrine and law so holy, so self-denying, so merciful, so just, so spiritual, so heavenly, and so concordant in itself; nor carry on so high and divine an undertaking for so divine and excellent an end. No bad man could so universally condemn all badness, and prescribe such powerful remedies against it, and so effectually cure and conquer it in so considerable a part of the world.
3. If it be below any good man, to be guilty of such a forgery as aforesaid, we can much less suspect that any good angel could be guilty of it.
4. And if no bad man could do so much good, we can much less imagine that any devil or bad spirit could be the author of it. The devil, who is the worst in evil, could never so much contradict his nature, and overthrow his own kingdom, and say so much evil of himself, and do so much against himself, and do so much for the sanctifying and saving of the world: he that doth so much to draw men to sin and misery, would never do so much to destroy their sin. And we plainly feel within ourselves, that the spirit or party which draweth us to sin, doth resist the Spirit which draweth us to believe and obey the Gospel; and that these two maintain a war within us.
5. And if you should say, that the good which is in Christianity, is caused by God, and the evil of it by the father of sin; I answer, either it is true or false: if it be true, it is so good, that the devil can never possibly be a contributor to it: nay, it cannot then be suspected justly of any evil. But if it be false it is then so bad, that God cannot be any otherwise the author of it, than as he is the author of any common natural verity which it may take in and abuse; or as his general concourse extendeth to the whole creation. But it is somewhat in Christianity, which it hath more than other religions have, which must make it more pure, and more powerful and successful than any other religions have been. Therefore it must be more than common natural truths: even the contexture of those natural truths, with the supernatural revelations of it, and the addition of a spirit of power,
and light, and love, to procure the success.
And God can
not be the author of any such contexture, or additions, if it be false.
6. If it be said, that men that had some good, and some bad in them, did contrive it (such as those fanatics or enthusiasts, who have pious notions and words, with pride and self-exalting minds); I answer, The good is so great which is found in Christianity, that it is not possible that a bad man, much less an extremely bad man, could be the author of it. And the wickedness of the plot would be so great if it were false, that it is not possible that any but an extremely bad man could be guilty of it: much less that a multitude should be found at once so extremely good as to promote it, even with their greatest labour and suffering, and also so extremely bad as to join together in the plot to cheat the world, in a matter of such high importance. Such exceeding good and evil, cannot consist in any one person, much less in so many as must do such a thing. And if such a heated, brain-sick person as Hacket, Nailer, David George or John of Leyden, should cry up themselves upon prophetical and pious pretences, their madness hath still appeared, in the mixture of their impious doctrines and practices: and if any would and could be so wicked, God never would or did assist them, by an age of numerous open miracles, nor lend them his omnipotency to deceive the world; but left them to the shame of their proud attempts, and made their folly known to all.
Direct. 4. Study all the evidences of the Christian verity, till their sense, and weight, and order be thoroughly digested, understood and remembered by you; and be as plain and familiar to you, as the lesson which you have most thoroughly learned.'
It is not once or twice reading, or hearing, or thinking on such a great and difficult matter, that will make it your own, for the establishing of your faith. He that will understand the art of a seaman, a soldier, a musician, a physician, &c. so as to practise it; must study it hard, and understand it clearly and comprehensively, and have all the whole frame of it printed on his mind; and not only here and there a scrap. Faith is a practical knowledge: we must have the heart and life directed and commanded by it: we must live by it, both in the intention of our end, and in the