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labour is not in vain in the Lord;" 1 Cor. xv. 58. "We know God spake to Moses;" &c. John ix. 29. "We know God heareth not sinners;" John ix. 31. "We know thou art a teacher come from God;" John iii. 2. So 1 John iii. 5, 15, and 1 Pet. iii. 17; and many other Scriptures tell you, that believing God, is a certain infallible sort of knowledge.
I shall in justification of the work of faith, acquaint you briefly with, 1. That in the nature of it: 2. And that in the causing of it, which advanceth it, to be an infallible knowledge.
1. The believer knows (as sure as he knows there is a God) that God is true, and his word is true, it being "impossible for God to lie;" Heb. vi. 18. God that cannot lie hath promised;" Tit. i. 2.
2. He knows that the Holy Scripture is the word of God; by his image which it beareth, and the many evidences of Divinity which it containeth, and the many miracles (certainly proved) which Christ, and his Spirit in his servants, wrought to confirm the truth. 3. And therefore he knoweth assuredly the conclusion, that all this word of God is true.
And for the surer effecting of this knowledge, God doth not only set before us the ascertaining evidence of his own veracity, and the Scripture's divinity; but moreover, 1. He giveth us to believe; Phil. i. 29. 2 Pet. i. 3. For it is "not of ourselves, but is the gift of God;" Ephes. ii. 8. Faith is one of the "fruits of the Spirit;" Gal. v. 22. By the drawing of the Father, we come to the Son. And he that hath knowledge given from heaven, will certainly know and he that hath faith given him from heaven, will certainly believe. The heavenly light will dissipate our darkness, and infallibly illuminate. Whilst God sets before us the glass of the Gospel in which the things invisible are revealed, and also gives us eyesight to behold them, believers must needs be a heavenly people, as walking in that light which proceedeth from, and leadeth to the celestial, everlasting light.
2. And that faith may be so powerful as to serve instead of sight and presence, believers have the Spirit of Christ within them, to excite and actuate it, and help them against all temptations to unbelief, and to work in them all other graces that concur to promote the works of faith;
and to mortify those sins that hinder our believing, and are contrary to a heavenly life. So that as the exercise of our sight, and taste, and hearing, and feeling, is caused by our natural life; so the exercise of Faith and hope, and love, upon things unseen, is caused by the Holy Spirit, which is the principle of our new life: "We have received the Spirit, that we might know the things that are given us of God;" 1 Cor. ii. 12. This Spirit of God acquainteth us with God, with his veracity and his word: "We know him that hath said, I will never fail thee, nor forsake thee;" Heb. x. 30This Spirit of Christ acquainteth us with Christ, and with his grace and will; 1 Cor. ii. 10-12. This heavenly Spirit acquainteth us with heaven, so that "We know that when Christ appeareth, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;" 1 John iii. 2. And "we know that he was manifested to take away sin ;" perfect his work, and present us spotless to his Father ; Eph. v. 26, 27. This heavenly Spirit possesseth the saints with such heavenly dispositions and desires, as much facilitate the work of faith. It bringeth us to a heavenly conversation; and maketh us live as "fellow-citizens of the saints," and "in the household of God;" Eph. ii. 19. Phil. iii. 20. It is within us a Spirit of supplication, breathing heavenward, with sighs and groans which cannot be expressed; and as God knoweth the meaning of the Spirit, so the Spirit knows the mind of God; Rom. viii. 37. 1 Cor.ii. 11.
1 John iii. 5. And will
3. And the work of faith is much promoted by the spiritual experiences of believers. When they find a considerable part of the Holy Scriptures verified on themselves, it much confirmeth their faith as to the whole. They are really possessed of that heavenly disposition, called, The Divine Nature, and have felt the power of the word upon their hearts, renewing them to the image of God, mortifying their most dear and strong corruptions, shewing them a greater beauty and desirableness in the objects of Faith, than is to be found in sensible things: they have found many of the promises made good upon themselves, in the answers of prayers, and in great deliverances, which strongly persuadeth them to believe the rest that are yet to be accomplished. And experience is a very powerful and satisfying way of conviction. He that feeleth, as it were, the first fruits, the earnest, and the beginnings of heaven al
ready in his soul, will more easily and assuredly believe that there is a heaven hereafter. "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in the Son Jesus Christ: this is the true God and eternal life;" 1 John v. 20. "He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself;" ver. 10. There is so great a likeness of the holy and heavenly nature in the saints, to the heavenly life that God hath promised, that makes it the more easily believed.
4. And it exceedingly helpeth our belief of the life that is yet unseen, to find that nature affordeth us undeniable arguments to prove a future happiness and misery, reward and punishment, in the general; yea, and in special, that the love and fruition of God is this reward; and that the effects of his displeasure are this punishment: nothing more clear and certain than that there is a God, (he must be a fool indeed that dare deny it ;) Psal. xiv. 1. As also that this God is the Creator of the rational nature, and hath the absolute right of sovereign government; and therefore a rational creature oweth him the most full and absolute obedience, and deserveth punishment if he disobey. And it is most clear that Infinite Goodness should be loved above all finite and imperfect created good: and it is clear that the rational nature is so formed, that without the hopes and fears of another life, the world neither is, nor ever was, nor (by ordinary visible means) can be well governed; (supposing God to work on man according to his nature.) And it is most certain that it consisteth not with Infinite wisdom, power and goodness, to be put to rule the world in all ages, by fraud and falsehood. And it is certain that heathens do for the most part through the world, by the light of nature, acknowledge a life of joy, or misery to come: and the most hardened atheists, or infidels must confess, that 'for ought they know there may be such a life;' it being impossible they should know or prove the contrary. And it is most certain that the mere probability or possibility of a heaven and hell, (being matters of such unspeakable concernment) should in reason command our utmost diligence to the hazard or loss of the transitory vanities below; and consequently that a holy, diligent preparation for another life, is naturally the duty of the reasonable creature. And it is as
sure that God hath not made our nature in vain; nor set us on a life of vain employments, nor made it our business in the world to seek after that which can never be attained.
These things, and much more, do shew that nature affordeth us so full a testimony of the life to come that is yet invisible, that it exceedingly helpeth us in believing the supernatural revelation of it, which is more full.
5. And though we have not seen the objects of our faith, yet those that have given us their infallible testimony by infallible means, have seen what they testified. Though "no man hath seen God at any time, yet the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him ;" John i. 18. "Verily, verily, (saith our Lord) we speak that we know, and testify that we have seen;" John iii. 11. "He that cometh from heaven is above all, and what he hath seen and heard that he testifieth;" ver. 31, 32. Christ that hath told us, saw the things that we have not seen: and you will believe honest men that speak to you of what they were eye-witnesses of. And the disciples saw the person, the transfiguration, and the miracles of Christ. Insomuch that John thus beginneth his epistle: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the word of life, (for life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew it to you, that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us:) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you;" 1 John i. 1-3. So Paul, 1 Cor. ix. 1. “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" "He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present;" 1 Cor. xv. 5—7. "This great salvation at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will;" Heb. ii. 3, 4. "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty; for he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him, from the excellent glory; This is my beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy mount;" 2 Pet. i. 16, 17. And therefore when the apostles were commanded by their persecutors, not "to speak at all, or teach in the name of Jesus," they answered, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard;" Acts iv. 18.20. So that much of the objects of our faith to us invisible, have yet been seen by those that have instrumentally revealed them; and the glory of heaven itself is seen by many millions of souls that are now possessing it. And the tradition of the testimony of the apostles unto us, is more full and satisfactory, than the tradition of any laws of the land, or history of the most unquestionable affairs that have been done among the people of the earth (as I have manifested elsewhere). So that faith hath the infallible testimony of God, and of them that have seen, and therefore is to us instead of sight.
6. Lastly, even the enemy of faith himself doth against his will confirm our faith, by the violence and rage of malice that he stirreth up in the ungodly against the life of faith and holiness; and by the importunity of his oppositions and temptations, discovering that it is not for nothing that he is so maliciously solicitous, industrious and violent.
And thus you see how much faith hath, that should fully satisfy a rational man, instead of presence, possession and sight.
If any shall here say, 'But why would not God let us have a sight of heaven or hell, when he could not but know that it would more generally and certainly have prevailed for the conversion and salvation of the world. Doth he us the most effectual means?'
I answer, 1. "Who art thou, O man, that disputest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?" Must God come down to the bar of man, to render an account of the reason of his works? Why do ye not also ask him a reason of the nature, situation, magnitude, order, influences, &c. of all the stars, and superior orbs, and call him to an account for all his works? When yet there are so many things in your own bodies, of which you little understand the reason. it not intolerable impudency, for such worms as we, so low, so dark, to question the eternal God, concerning the reason