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courage to live loose lives, under a supposition that once in Christ, and ever in Christ, and the covenant cannot be broken, nor the relation of father and child dissolved; for those that do so, it is evident, have not known what it is to receive the Spirit of adoption: it is the spirit of the devil in his own hue that suggesteth this unto them, and that prevaileth with them to do so. Shall we do evil, that good may come? shall we sin, that grace may abound? or shall we be base in life, because God by grace hath secured us from wrath to come? God forbid : these conclusions betoken one void of the fear of God indeed, and of the Spirit of adoption too. For what Bon is he, that because the father cannot break the relation that is betwixt the father and him, nor suffer sin to do it, that will therefore say, I will live altogether after my own lusts, I will labour to be a continual grief to my father?
Yet, lest the devil, (for some are not ignorant of his devices,) should get an advantage against some of the sons, to draw them away from the filial fear of their Father, let me here, to prevent such temptations, present such with these following considerations.
Though God cannot, and will not, dissolve the relation which the Spirit of adoption hath made betwixt the Father and the sons, for any sin that such do commit: yet he can, and often doth, take away from them the comfort of their adoption, not suffering children, while sinning, to have the sweet and comfortable sense thereof on their hearts. He can allow them to be in the state of the unhappy man to whom it is said, "Snares are round about thee, and sudden fear troubleth thee. Or darkness, that thou canst not see; and abundance of waters cover thee," Job xxii. 10, 11.
God can tell how to hide his face from them, and so to afflict them with that dispensation, that it shall not be in the power of all the world to comfort them. "When he hideth his face, who then can behold him ?" Job xxxiv. 29.
God can tell how to make thee again to possess the sins that he long since hath pardoned, and that in such wise that things shall be bitter to thy soul. "Thou writest bitter things against me," saith Job; "and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth," Job xiii. 26. By this also he once made David groan, and pray against it as an unsupportable affliction, Psa. xxv. 7.
God can lay thee in the dungeon in chains, and roll a stone upon thee; he can make thy feet fast in the stocks, and make thee a gazing stock to men and angels, Lam. iii. 55 ; Job xiii. 27.
God can tell how to cause to cease the sweet operations and blessed influences of his grace in thy soul, and to make those gospel showers that formerly thou hast enjoyed, to become now to thee nothing but powder and dust. See Deut. xxviii. 24.
God can tell how to fight against thee with the sword of his mouth, and to make thee a butt for his arrows; and this is a dispensation most dreadful, Rev. ii. 16; Job vi. 4; Psa. xxxviii. 2—5.
God can tell how so to bow thee down with guilt and distress, that thou shalt in no wise be able to lift up thy head, Psa. xl. 12.
God can tell how to break thy bones, and to make thee, by reason of that, to live in continual anguish of spirit: yea, he can send a fire into thy bones that shall burn, and none shall quench it, Psa. li. 8; Lam. iii. 4; i. 13; Psa. cii. 3; Job xxx. 30.
God can tell how to lay thee aside, and make no use of thee as to any work for him in thy generation He can throw thee aside as a broken vessel, Psa. xxxi. 12; Ezek. xliv. 10—13.
God can tell how to kill thee, and to take thee away from the earth for thy sins, 1 Cor. xi. 32.
God can tell how to plague thee in thy death, with great plagues, and of long continuance, Psa. lxxiii. 4, 5.
What shall I say? God can tell how to let Satan loose upon thee; when thou liest a dying, he can license him then to assault thee with great temptations; he can tell how to make thee possess the guilt of all thy unkindness towards him, and that when thou, as I said, art going out of the world; he can cause that thy life shall be in continual doubt before thee, and not suffer thee to take any comfort day or night; yea, he can drive thee even to madness with his chastisements for thy folly, and yet all shall be done by him to thee as a father chastiseth his son, Deut. xxviii. 65—67.
Further; God can tell how to tumble thee from off thy death-bed in a cloud; he can let thee die in the dark: when thou art dying, thou shalt not know whither thou art going, to wit, whether to heaven or to hell. Yea, he can tell how to let thee seem to come short of life, both in thine own eyes and also m the eyes of those that behold thee. "Let us therefore fear," said the apostle, though not with slavish, yet with filial fear, " lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it," Heb. iv. 1.
Now, all this, and much more, can God-do to his, as a Father by his rod, and Father by rebukes. Ah! who knows, but those that are under them, what terrors, fears, distresses and amazements, God can bring his people into? He can put them into a furnace, a fire, and no tongue can tell what; so unsearchable and fearful are his fatherly chastisements, and yet never give them the Spirit of bondage again to fear. Therefore, if thou art a son, take heed of sin, lest all these things overtake thee, and come upon thee.
Object. But I have sinned, and am under this high and mighty hand of God.
Ans. Then thou knowest what I say is true; but yet take heed of hearkening unto such temptations as would make thee believe thou art out of Christ, under the law, and in a state of damnation: and take heed also, that thou dost not conclude, that the author of these fears is the Spirit of God, come to thee again as a Spirit of bondage, to put thee into such fears, lest unawares to thyself, thou dost deify the devil, dishonour thy Father, overthrow good doctrine, and bring thyself into a double temptation. Object. But if God deals thus with a man, how can he otherwise think but that he is a reprobate, a graceless, Christless, and faithless one?
Ans. Nay, but why dost thou tempt the Lord thy God? why dost thou sin, and provoke the eyes of his glory ?" Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?" Lam. iii. 39. He doth not willingly afflict, nor grieve the children of men; but if thou sinnest, though God should save thy soul, as he will if thou art an adopted son of God, yet, he will make thee know that sin is sin; and his rod, that he will chastise thee with, if need be, shall be made of scorpions. Read the whole book of the Lamentations; read the complaints of Job and David: yea, read what happened to his Son, his wellbeloved, and that when he did but stand in the room of sinners, being in himself altogether innocent, and then consider, O thou sinning child of God, if it is any injustice in God, yea, if it be not necessary, that thou shouldst be chastised for thy sin.
But then, I say, when the hand of God is upon thee, how grievous soever it be, take heed, and beware that thou give not way to thy first fears, lest, as I said before, thou addest to thine affliction. To help thee here, let me give thee a few instances of the conduct of some of the saints under some of the most heavy afflictions that they have met with for sin.
Job was in great affliction, and that, as he confessed, for sin. "I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?" Job vii. 20; yet he counted not all this as a sign of a damnable state, but as a trial and chastisement; and said, when he was in the hottest of this battle, " When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold," Job xxiii. 10. And, again, when he was pressed upon by the tempter to think that God would kill him, he answers with the greatest confidence, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," Job xiii. 15.
David complained that God had broken his bones, that he had set his face against his sins, and had taken from him the joy of his salvation; yet even at this time he saith, "O God, thou God of my salvation," Psa. li. 14.
Heman complained that his soul was full of