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humble acquaintance and familiarity, must needs believe the truth of all that excellency which before he doubted of. For doubting is the effect of ignorance: and he that knoweth most here, believeth best. Falsehood and evil cannot bear the light; but the more you think of them, and know them, the more they are detected and ashamed: but truth and goodness love the light; and the better you are acquainted with them, the more will your belief and love be increased. Direct. 10. Live not in the guilt of wilful sin; for that will many ways hinder your belief.'
1. It will breed fear and horror in your minds, and make you wish that it were not true, that there is a day of judgment, and a hell for the ungodly, and such a God, such a Christ, and such a life to come, as the Gospel doth describe: and when you take it for your interest to be an unbeliever, you will hearken with desire to all that the devil and infidels can say: and you will the more easily make yourselves believe that the Gospel is not true, by how much the more you desire that it should not be true. 2. And you will forfeit the grace which should help you to believe; both by your wilful sin, and by your unwillingness to believe for who can expect that Christ should give his grace to them, who wilfully despise him and abuse it: or that he should make men believe, who had rather not believe? Indeed he may possibly do both these, but these are not the way, nor is it a thing which we can expect. 3. And this guilt, and fear, and unwillingness together, will all keep down your thoughts from heaven; so that seldom thinking of it, will increase your unbelief: and they will make you unfit to see the evidences of truth in the Gospel, when you do think of them, or hear them: for he that would not know, cannot learn. Obey therefore according to the knowledge which you have, if ever you would have more, and would not be given up to the blindness of infidelity.
Direct. 11. Trust not only to your understandings, and think not that study is all which is necessary to faith: but remember that faith the gift of God, and therefore pray as well as study.'
"Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not to thy own understanding;" Prov. iii. 5. It is a precept as necessary in this point as in any. In all things God ab
horreth the proud, and looketh at them afar off, as with disowning and disdain: but in no case more, than when a blind ungodly sinner shall so overvalue his own understanding, as to think that if there be evidence of truth in the mystery of faith, he is able presently to discern it, before or without any heavenly illumination, to cure his dark distempered mind. Remember that as the sun is seen only by his own light; so is God, our Creator and Redeemer. Faith is the gift of God, as well as repentance; Ephes. ii. 8. 2 Tim. ii. 25, 26. Apply yourselves therefore to God by earnest prayer for it. As he, Mark ix. 24. "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." And as the disciples, Luke xvii. 5, “Increase our faith." A humble soul that waiteth on God in fervent prayer, and yet neglecteth not to study and search for truth, is much liker to become a confirmed believer, than ungodly students, who trust and seek no further than to their books, and their perverted minds. For as God will be sought to for his grace; so those that draw near him, do draw near unto the light; and therefore are like as children of light to be delivered from the power of darkness; for in his light we shall see the light that must acquaint us with him.
Direct. 12. Lastly, 'What measure of light soever God vouchsafeth you, labour to turn it all into love; and make it your serious care and business to know God, that you may love him, and to love God so far as you know him.'
For he that desireth satisfaction in his doubts, to no better end, than to please his mind by knowing, and to free it from the disquietude of uncertainty, hath an end so low in all his studies, that he cannot expect that God and his grace should be called down, to serve such a low and base design. That faith which is not employed in beholding the love of God in the face of Christ, on purpose to increase and exercise our love, is not indeed the true Christian faith, but a dead opinion. And he that hath never so weak a faith, and useth it to this end, to know God's amiableness, and to love him, doth take the most certain way for the confirmation of his faith. For love is the closest adherence of the soul to God, and therefore will set it in the clearest light, and will teach it by the sweet convincing way of experience and spiritual taste. Believing alone is like the knowledge of our meat by seeing it and love is the knowledge of our
meat by eating and digesting it. And he that hath tasted that it is sweet, hath a stronger kind of persuasion that it is sweet, than he that only seeth it; and will much more tenaciously hold his apprehension: it is much more possible to dispute him out of his belief, who only seeth, than him that also tasteth and concocteth. A parent and child will not so easily believe any false reports of one another, as strangers or enemies will; because love is a powerful resister of such hard conceits. And though this be delusory and blinding partiality, where love is guided by mistake; yet when a sound understanding leadeth it, and love hath chosen the truest object, it is the naturally perfective motion of the soul.
And love keepeth us under the fullest influences of God's love and therefore in the reception of that grace which will increase our faith: for love is that act which the ancient doctors were wont to call, the principle of merit, or first meritorious act of the soul; and which we call the principle of rewardable acts. God beginneth and loveth us first, partly with a love of complacency, only as his creatures, and also as 'in esse cognito,' he foreseeth how amiable his grace will make us; and partly with a love of benevolence, intending to give us that grace which shall make us really the objects of his further love; and having received this grace, it causeth us to love God: and when we love God, we are really the objects of his complacential love; and when we perceive this, it still increaseth our love and thus the mutual love of God and man, is the true perpetual motion, which hath an everlasting cause, and therefore must have an everlasting duration. And so the faith which hath once kindled love, even sincere love to God in Christ, hath taken rooting in the heart, and lieth deeper than the head, and will hold fast, and increase as love increaseth.
And this is the true reason of the steadfastness and happiness of many weak unlearned Christians, who have not the distinct conceptions and reasonings of learned men; and yet because their faith is turned into love, and their love doth help to confirm their faith: and as they love more heartily; so they believe more steadfastly, and perseveringly, than many who can say more for their faith. And so much for the strengthening of your faith.
General Directions for exercising the Life of your Faith.
HAVING told you how faith must be confirmed, I am next to tell you how it must be used. And in this I shall begin with some general directions, and then proceed to such particular cases, in which we have the greatest use for faith. Direct. 1. Remember the necessity of faith in all the business of your hearts and lives, that nothing can be done well without it.' There is no sin to be conquered, no grace to be exercised, no worship to be performed, nor any acts of mercy, or justice, or worldly business, to be done well without it, in any manner acceptable to God. "Without faith it is impossible to please God;" Heb. xi. 6. You may as well go about your bodily work without your eyesight, as about your spiritual work without faith.
Direct. 2. Make it therefore your care and work to get faith, and to use it; and think not that God must reveal his mind to you, as in visions, while you idly neglect your proper work.' Believing is the first part of your trade of life; and the practice of it must be your constant business. It is not living ordinarily by sense, and looking when God will cast in the light of faith extraordinarily, which is indeed the life of faith; nor is it seeming to stir up faith in a prayer or sermon, and looking no more after it all the day; this is but to give God a salutation, and not to dwell and walk with him; and to give heaven a complimental visit sometimes, but not to have our conversation there; 2 Cor. v. 7, 8.
Direct. 3. Be not too seldom in solitary meditation.” Though it be a duty which melancholy persons are disabled to perform, in any set, and long, and orderly manner; yet it is so needful to those that are able, that the greatest works of faith are managed by it. How should things unseen be apprehended so as to affect our hearts, without *any serious exercise of our thoughts? How should we search into mysteries of the Gospel, or converse with God, or walk in heaven, or fetch either joys or motives thence, without any retired studious contemplation? If you cannot meditate or think, you cannot believe. Meditation abstracteth the
mind from vanity, and lifteth it up above the world, and setteth it about the work of faith; which by a mindless, thoughtless, or worldly soul, can never be performed; 2 Cor. iv. 16-18. Phil. iii. 20. Matt. vi. 21. Col. iii. 1.3. Direct. 4. Let the image of the life of Christ, and his martyrs, and holiest servants, be deeply imprinted on your minds.' That you may know what the way is which you have to go, and what patterns they be which you have to imitate; think how much they were above things sensitive, and how light they set by all the pleasures, wealth, and glory of this world. Therefore the Holy Ghost doth set before us that cloud of witnesses, and catalogue of martyrs, in Heb. xi. that example may help us, and we may see with how good company we go, in the life of faith. Paul had well studied the example of Christ, when he took pleasure in infirmities, and gloried only in the cross, to be base and afflicted in this world, for the hopes of endless glory; 2 Cor. xi. 30. xii. 5. 9, 10. And when he could say, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ
-that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death;" Phil. iii. 8-10. No man will militate in the life of faith, but he that followeth the "Captain of his salvation" (Heb. ii. 10.); who for the bringing of many sons to glory (even those whom he is not ashamed to call his brethren) was made perfect, (as to the perfection of action or performance) by suffering; thereby to shew us, how little the best of these visible and sensible corporeal things, are to be valued in comparison of the things invisible; and therefore as the general and the soldiers make up one army, and militate in one militia; so "he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one;" Heb. ii. 10-12. Though that which is called the life of faith in us, deserved a higher title in Christ, and his faith in his Father, and ours, do much differ, and he had not many of the objects, acts, and uses of faith, as we have who are sinners; yet in this we must follow him as our great example, in valuing things invisible, and vilifying things visible in comparison of them. And therefore Paul saith, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth