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on it; but you see not the hell from which they fly, nor the heaven they seek; and therefore you marvel why they make so much ado about the matters of their salvation; and why they cannot do as others, and make as light of Christ and heaven, as they that desire to be excused, and think they have more needful things to mind. But did you see with the eyes of a true believer, and were the amazing things that God hath revealed to us but open to your sight, how quickly would you be satisfied, and sooner mock at the diligence of a drowning man, that is striving for his life, or at the labour of the city, when they are busily quenching the flames in their habitations, than mock at them that are striving for the everlasting life, and praying and labouring against the ever burning flames.
How soon would you turn your admiration against the stupidity of the careless world, and wonder more that ever men that hear the Scriptures, and see with their eyes the works of God, can make so light of matters of such unspeakable, eternal consequence! Did you but see heaven and hell, it would amaze you to think that ever many, yea, so many, and so seeming wise, should wilfully run into everlasting fire, and sell their souls at so low a rate, as if it were as easy to be in hell as in an alehouse, and heaven were no better than a beastly lust? O then with what astonishment would you think, 'Is this the fire that sinners do so little fear? Is this the glory that is so neglected?' You would then see that the madness of the ungodly is the wonder.
Use 3. By this time I should think that some of your own consciences have prevented me, in the use of examination, which I am next to call you to. I hope while I have been holding you the glass, you have not turned away your faces, nor shut your eyes; but that you have been judging yourselves by the light which hath been set up before you. Have not some of your consciences said by this time, 'If this be the nature and use of faith, to make things unseen, as if we saw them, what a desolate case then is my soul in! How void of faith! How full of infidelity! How far from the truth and power of Christianity! How dangerously have I long deceived myself in calling myself a true Christian, and pretending to be a true believer; when I never knew the Life of Faith, but took a dead opinion, bred only by education, and the custom of the country instead of it;
little did I think that I had been an infidel at the heart, while I so confidently laid claim to the name of a believer! Alas! how far have I been from living, as one that seeth the things that he professeth to believe!' If some of your consciences be not thus convinced, and perceive not yet your want of faith, I fear it is because they are seared or asleep.
But if yet conscience have not begun to plead this cause against you, let me begin to plead it with your consciences. Are you believers? Do you live the Life of Faith, or not? Do you live upon things that are unseen, or upon the present visible baits of sensuality? That you may not turn away your ears, or hear me with a sluggish, senseless mind, let me tell you first, how nearly it concerneth you to get this question soundly answered; and then, that you may not be deceived, let me help you towards the true resolution.
1. And for the first, you may perceive by what is said, that saving faith is not so common, as those that know not the nature of it do imagine. "All men have not faith;" 2 Thess. iii. 2. O what abundance do deceive themselves with names, and shows, and a dead opinion, and customary religion, and take these for the Life of Faith!
2. Till you have this faith, you have no special interest in Christ. It is only believers that are united to him, and are his living members. And it is by faith that he dwelleth in our hearts, and that we live in him; Ephes. iii. 17. Gal. ii. 20. In vain do you boast of Christ, if you are not true believers. You have no part or portion in him. None of his special benefits are yours, till you have this living, working faith.
3. You are still in the state of enmity to God, and unreconciled to him, while you are unbelievers. For you can have no peace with God, nor access unto his favour, but by Christ; Rom. v. 1-4. Ephes. ii. 14, 15. 17. And therefore you must come by faith to Christ, before you can come by Christ unto the Father, as those that have a special interest in his love.
4. Till you have this faith, you are under the guilt and load of all your sins, and under the curse and condemnation of the law; for there is no justification or forgiveness but by faith; Acts xxvi 18. Rom. iv. v. &c. sound belief of things unseen, you
5. Till you have this
will be carnal-minded, and have a carnal end to all your actions, which will make those to be evil, that materially are good, and those to be fleshly that materially are holy. "Without faith it is impossible to please God;" Rom. viii. 5. 8, 9. Prov. xxviii. 9. Heb. xi. 6.
6. Lastly, till you have this living faith, you have no right to heaven, nor could be saved if you die this hour. "Whoever believeth shall not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him, is not condemned; but he that believeth not, is condemned already. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" John iii. 16. 18. 36.
You see if you love yourselves, it concerneth you to try whether you are true believers: unless you take it for an indifferent thing, whether you live for ever in heaven or hell, it is best for you to put the question close to your consciences betimes. Have you that faith that serves instead of sight? Do you carry within you "the evidence of things unseen, and the substance of the things" which you say you hope for?" Did you know in what manner this question must be put and determined at judgment, and how all your comfort will then depend upon the answer, and how near that day is, when you must all be sentenced to heaven or hell, as you are found to be believers or unbelievers, it would make you hearken to my counsel, and presently try whether you have a saving faith.
2. But lest you be deceived in your trial, and lest you mistake me, as if I tried the weak by the measure of the strong, and laid all your comfort upon such strong affections and high degrees, as sight itself would work within you, I shall briefly tell you how you may know whether you have any faith that is true and saving, though in the least degree. Though none of us are affected to that height as we should be if we had the sight of all that we do believe, yet all that have any saving belief of invisible things, will have these four signs of faith within them.
1. A sound belief of things unseen, will cause a practical estimation of them, and that above all earthly things. A glimpse of the heavenly glory as in a glass, will cause the soul deliberately to say, 'This is the chief desirable felicity; this is the crown, the pearl, the treasure; nothing but this can
serve my turn.' It will debase the greatest pleasures, or riches, or honours of the world in your esteem. How contemptible will they seem, while you see God stand by, and heaven as it were set open to your view; you will see there is little cause to envy the prosperous servants of the world; you will pity them, as miserable in their mirth, and bound in the fetters of their folly and concupiscence, and as strangers to all solid joy and honour. You will be moved with some compassion to them in their misery, when they are braving it among men, and domineering for a little while; and you will think, Alas! poor man! Is this all thy glory? Hast thou no better wealth, no higher honour, no sweeter pleasures than these husks? With such a practical judgment as you value gold above dirt, and jewels above common stones; you will value heaven above all the riches and pleasures of this world, if you have indeed a living, saving faith; Phil. iii. 7-9,
2. A sound belief of the things unseen, will habitually incline your wills to embrace them, with consent and complacence, and resolution, above and against those worldly things, that would be set above them, and preferred before them. If you are true believers you have made your choice, you have fixed your hopes, you have taken up your resolutions, that God must be your portion, or you can have uone that is worth the having; that Christ must be your Saviour, or you cannot be saved; and therefore you are at a point with all things else. They may be your helps, but not your happiness. You are resolved on what rock to build, and where to cast anchor, and at what port and prize your life shall aim. You are resolved what to seek, and trust to; God or none; heaven or nothing; Christ or none, is the voice of your rooted, stable resolutions. Though you are full of fears sometimes whether you shall be accepted, and have a part in Christ, or no; and whether ever you shall attain the glory which you aim at; yet you are off all other hopes; having seen an end of all perfections, and read vanity and vexation written upon all creatures, even on the most flattering state on earth, and are unchangeably resolved not to change your Master, and your hopes, and your holy course, for any other life or hopes. Whatever come of it you are resolved that here you will venture all; knowing that you have no other game to play, at which you are not sure
to lose, and that you can lay out your love, and care, and labour on nothing else that will answer your expectations; nor make any other bargain whatsoever, but what you are sure to be utterly undone by; Psal. Ixxiii. 25. iv. 6, 7. Matt. vi. 20, 21. xiii. 45, 46. Luke xviii. 33.
3. A sound belief of things invisible, will be so far an effectual spring of a holy life, as that you will "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;" Matt. vi. 33. and not in your resolutions only, but in your practices, the bent of your lives will be for God, and your invisible felicity. It is not possible that you should see by faith the wonders of the world to come, and yet prefer this world before it. A dead, opinionative belief, may stand with a worldly, fleshly life; but a working faith will make you stir, and make the things of God your business. And the labour and industry of your lives will shew whether you soundly believe the things unseen.
4. If you savingly believe the invisible things, you will purchase them at any rate, and hold them faster than your worldly accommodations; and will suffer the loss of all things visible, rather than you will cast away your hopes of the glory which you never saw. A human faith and bare opinion will not hold fast when trial comes. For such men take heaven but for a reserve, because they must leave earth against their wills, and are loath to go to hell. But they are resolved to hold the world as long as they can, because their faith apprehendeth no such satisfying certainty of the things unseen, as will encourage them to let go all that they see, and have in sensible possession. But the weakest faith that is true and saving, doth habitually dispose the soul to let go all the hopes and happiness of this world, when they are inconsistent with our spiritual hopes and happiness; Luke xiv. 33.
And now I have gone before you with the light, and shewed you what a believer is, will you presently consider how far your hearts and lives agree to this description? To know whether you live by faith or not, is consequently to know, whether God or the world be your portion and felicity, and so whether you are the heirs of heaven or hell. And is not this a question that you are most nearly concerned in? O therefore for your souls' sakes, and as ever you love your everlasting peace, "Examine yourselves, whether you are in