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whom we are treating is now upon the work of coming unto God for forgiveness by Jesus Christ. Many and weighty objections it hath in and against itself, why it should not come, why it shall not be accepted. Our Lord Jesus, the wisdom of God, foresaw all these objections; he foreknew what could be said in the case, and yet he hath determined the matter, as hath been declared. In general, men's arguings against themselves arises from sin and the law. Christ knows what is in them both. He tried them to the uttermost as to their penalties; and yet he hath so determined as we have shewed. Their particular objections are from particular considerations of sin; their greatness, their number, their aggravations. Christ knows all these also; and yet stands to his former determination. Upon the whole matter then, it is meet his word should stand. I know when a soul brings itself to be judged by the word of the gospel, it doth not always in a like manner receive and rest in the sentence given. But when Christ is pleased to speak the word with power to men, they shall · hear the voice of the Son of God,' and be concluded by it. Let the soul then that is rising out of depths, and pressing towards a sense of forgiveness, lay itself down before the word of Christ in the gospel. Let him attend to what he speaks, and if for awhile it hath not power upon him to quiet his heart, let him wait a season, and light shall arise unto him out of darkness. Christ will give in his sentence into his conscience with that power and efficacy, as he shall find rest and peace in it.
2. Christ also judgeth by his spirit; not only in making this sentence of the gospel to be received effectually in the soul, but in and by peculiar actings of his upon the heart and soul of a believer : 1 Cor. ii. 12. We have received the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given us of God.' The Spirit of Christ acquaints the soul, that this and that grace is from him, that this or that duty was performed in his strength. He brings to mind, what at such and such times was wrought in men by himself, to give them supportment and relief in the times of depths and darkness. And when it hath been clearly discovered unto the soul at any time by the Holy Ghost, that any thing wrought in it, or done by it, hath been truly saving; the
comfort of it will abide in the midst of many shakings and temptations.
· 2. He also by his Spirit bears witness with our spirits, as to our state and condition. Of this I have spoken largely elsewhere, and therefore shall now pass it by.
This then is our first general rule and direction. Selfdeterminations concerning men's spiritual state and condition, because their minds are usually influenced by their distempers, are seldom right and according to rule. Mistakes in such determinations are exceedingly prejudicial to a soul seeking out after relief, and sense of forgiveness ; let Christ then be the judge in this case by his word and Spirit, as hath been directed.
Self-condemnation and abhorrency for sin consistent with gospel justif
cation and peace. The nature of gospel assurance; what is consistent with it. What are the effects of it.
Self-CONDEMNATION and abhorrency do very well consist with gospel justification and peace. Some men have no peace, because they have that, without which it is impossible they should have peace. Because they cannot but condemn themselves, they cannot entertain a sense, that God doth acquit them. But this is the mystery of the gospel, which unbelief is a stranger unto; nothing but faith can give a real subsistence unto these things, in the same soul, at the same time. It is easy to learn the notion of it, but it is not easy to experience the power of it. For a man to have a sight of that within him, which would condemn him, for which he is troubled, and at the same time to have a discovery of that without him, which will justify him, and to rejoice therein, is that which he is not led unto, but by faith in the mystery of the gospel. We are now under a law for justification, which excludes all boasting ; Rom. iii. 27. so that though we have joy enough in another, yet we may have, we always have, sufficient cause of humiliation in ourselves. The gospel will teach a man to feel sin, and believe
righteousness at the same time. Faith will carry heaven in one hand, and hell in the other; shewing the one deserved, the other purchased. Aman may see enough of his own sin and folly to bring 'Gehennam è cælo,'a hell of wrath out of heaven; and yet see Christ bring 'Cælum ex inferno,'a heaven of blessedness out of a hell of punishment. And these must needs produce very diverse, yea, contrary effects and operations in the soul. And he who knows not how to assign them their proper duties and seasons, must needs be perplexed. The work of self-condemnation, then, which men in these depths cannot but abound with, is in the disposition of the covenant of grace, no way inconsistent with, nor unsuited unto, justification, and the enjoyment of peace in the sense of it. There may be a deep sense of sin on other considerations besides hell. David was never more humbled for sin, than when Nathan told him it was forgiven. And there may be a view of hell as deserved, which yet the soul may know itself freed from, as to the issue.
To evidence our intendment in this discourse, I shall briefly consider what we intend by gospel assurance of forgiveness, that the soul may not be solicitous and perplexed, about the utter want of that, which perhaps it is already in some enjoyment of
Some men seem to place gospel assurance in a high unassaulted confidence of acceptance with God. They think it is in none but such, as if a man should go to them, and ask them, Are you certain you shall be saved ? have boldness, and confidence, and ostentation to answer presently, Yea, they are certain they shall be saved. But as the blessed truth of assurance hath been reproached in the world under such a notion of it, so such expressions become not them who know what it is to have to do with the holy God who is 'a consuming fire. Hence some conclude, that there are very few believers who have any assurance, because they have not this confidence, or are more free to mention the opposition they meet with, than the supportment they enjoy. And thus it is rendered a matter not greatly to be desired, because it is so rarely to be obtained ; most of the saints, serving God, and going to heaven well enough without it; but the matter is otherwise. The importance of it, not only as it is our life of comfort and joy, but also as it is the principal means of the Aourishing of our life of holiness, hath been declared before, and might be farther manifested, were that our present business, yea, and in times of trial, which are the proper seasons for the effectual working and manifestation of assurance, it will and doth appear, that many, yea, that most of the saints of God, are made partakers of this grace and privilege.
I shall then in the pursuit of the rule laid down, do these two things. 1. Shew what things they are which are not only consistent with assurance, but are even necessary concomitants of it, which yet if not duly weighed and considered, may seem so far to impeach a man's comfortable persuasion of his condition before God, as to leave him beneath the assurance sought after. And,
2. I shall speak somewhat of its nature : especially as manifesting itself by its effects.
1. A deep sense of the evil of sin, of the guilt of man's own sin, is no way inconsistent with gospel assurance of acceptance with God through Christ, and of forgiveness in him. By a sense of the guilt of sin, I understand two things. 1. A clear conviction of sin by the Holy Ghost saying unto the soul, “Thou art the man;' and, 2. A sense of the displeasure of God, or the wrath due to sin, according to the sentence of the law. Both these David expresseth in that complaint, Psal. xxxi. 10. - My life is spent with grief, and my years with sigbing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.' His iniquity was before him, and a sense of it pressed him sore. But yet notwithstanding all this, he had a comfortable persuasion that God was his God in covenant, ver. 14. “I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.' And the tenor of the covenant, wherein alone God is the God of any person is, that he will be merciful unto their sin and iniquity. To whom he is a God, he is so according to the tenor of that covenant; so that here these two are conjoined. Saith he, Lord, I am pressed with the sense of the guilt of mine iniquities, and thou art my God who forgivest them. And the ground hereof is, that God by the gospel hath divided the work of the law, and taken part of it out of its hand. Its whole work and duty is to condemn the sin and the sinner. Tha sinner is freed by the gospel, but its right lies against the sin still, that it condemns, and that justly. Now though the sinner himself be freed, yet finding his sin laid hold of and condemned, it fills him with a deep sense of its guilt, and of the displeasure of God against it; which yet hinders not, but that at the same time, he may have such an insight as faith gives into his personal interest in a gospel acquitment. A man then
may have a deep sense of sin all his days, walk under the sense of it continually, abhor himself for his ingratitude, unbelief, and rebellion against God, without any impeachment of his assurance.
2. Deep sorrow for sin is consistent with assurance of forgiveness. Yea it is a great means of preservation of it. Godly sorrow, mourning, humiliation, contriteness of spirit, are no less gospel graces, and fruits of the Holy Ghost, than faith itself; and so are consistent with the highest flourishings of faith whatever. It is the work of heaven itself, and not of the assurance of it, to wipe all tears from our eyes. Yea, these graces have the most eminent promises annexed to them, as Isa. lvii. 15. lxvi. 2. with blessedness itself, Matt. v. 4. yea, they are themselves the matter of many gracious gospel promises, Zech. xii. 10. so that they are assuredly consistent with any other grace or privilege that we may be made partakers of; or are promised unto us.
Some finding the weight and burden of their sins, and being called to mourning and humiliation on that account, are so taken up with it, as to lose the sense of forgiveness, which rightly improved, would promote their sorrow, as their sorrow seems directly to sweeten their sense of forgiveness. Sorrow absolutely exclusive of the faith of forgiveness, is legal, and tendeth unto death. Assurance, absolutely exclusive of godly sorrow, is presumption, and not a persuasion from him that calleth us. But gospel-sorrow and gospel-assurance may well dwell in the same breast at the same time. Indeed, as in all worldly joys there is a secret wound; so in all godly sorrow and mourning considered in itself, there is a secret joy and refreshment; hence it doth not wither and dry up, but rather enlarge, open, and sweeten the heart. I am persuaded that generally they mourn most, who have most assurance. And all true gospel mourners, will be found to have the root of assurance so rafted in them, that in its proper season (a time of trouble) it will undoubtedly flourish.