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3. A deep sense of the indwelling power of sin, is consistent with gospel assurance. .. Sense of indwelling sin will cause manifold perplexities in the soul. Trouble, disquietments, sorrow, and anguish of heart, expressing themselves in sighs, mourning, groaning for deliverance, always attend it. To what purpose do you speak to a soul highly sensible of the restless power of indwelling sin concerning assurance ? Alas, saith he, I am ready to perish every moment, my lusts are strong, active, restless, yea, outrageous; they give me no rest, no liberty, and but little success do I obtain. Assurance is for conquerors; for them that live at rest and peace. I lie grovelling on the ground all my days, and must needs be uncertain what will be the issue. But when such a one hath done all he can, he will not be able to make more woful complaints of this matter than Paul hath done before him, Rom. vii. and yet he closeth the discourse of it with as high an expression of assurance as any person needs to seek after, ver. 25. and chap. viii. l. It is not assurance, but enjoyment that excludes this sense and trouble. But if men will think they can have no assurance, because they have that, without which it is impossible they should have any, it is hard to give them relief. A little cruse of salt of the gospel cast into these bitter waters will make them sweet and wholesome. Sense of the guilt of sin may consist with faith of its pardon and forgiveness in the blood of Christ. Godly sorrow. may dwell in the same heart at the same time, with joy in the Holy Ghost; and groaning after deliverance from the power of sin, with a gracious persuasion thatósin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law but grace.'
4. Doubtings, fears, temptations, if not ordinarily prevailing are consistent with gospel assurance. Though the devil's power be limited in reference unto the saints, yet his hands are not tied. Though he cannot prevail against them, yet he can assault them. And although there be not an evil heart of unbelief in believers, yet there will still be unbelief in their hearts. Such an evidence, conviction, and persuasion of acceptance with God as are exclusive of all contrary reasonings, that suffer the soul to hear nothing of objections, that free and quiet it from all assaults, are neither mentioned in the Scripture, nor consistent with that state wherein we walk before God, nor possible on the account of Satan's will and ability to tempt, or of our own remaining unbelief. Assurance encourageth us in our combat, it deliveręth us not from it. We may have peace with God, when we have none from the assaults of Satan.
Now unless a man do duly consider the tenor of the covenant wherein we walk with God, and the nature of that gospel obedience which he requires at our hands, with the state and condition which is our lot and portion whilst we live in this world, the daily sense of these things, with the trouble that must be undergone on their account, may keep him in the dark unto himself, and hinder him from that establishment in believing which otherwise he might attain unto On this account some as holy persons as any in this world, being wholly taken up with the consideration of these homebred perplexities, and not clearly acquainted with the way and tenor of assuring their souls before God according to the rule of the covenant of grace, have passed away their days in a bondage frame of spirit, and unacquaintance with that strong consolation which God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive.
5. Evangelical assurance is not a thing that consisteth in any point, and so incapable of variation. It may be higher or lower, greater or less, obscure or attended with more evidence. It is not quite lost, when it is not quite at its highest. God sometimes marvellously raiseth the souls of his saints with some close and near approaches unto them; gives them a sense of his eternal love; a taste of the embraces of his Son and the inhabitation of the Spirit, without the least intervening disturbance; then this is their assurance. But this life is not a season to be always taking wages in; our work is not yet done, we are not always to abide in this mount; we must down again into the battle, fight again, cry again, complain again; shall the soul be thought now to have lost its assurance ? Not at all. It had before assurance with joy, triumph, and exultation; it hath it now, or may have, with wrestling, cries, tears, and supplications. And a man's assurance may be as good as true, when he lies on the earth with a sense of sin, as when he is carried up to the third heaven with a sense of love, and foretaste of glory. In brief, this assurance of salvation is such a gracious, evangelical persuasion of acceptance with God in Christ, and of an interest in the promises of preservation unto the end, wrought in believers by the Holy Ghost, in and through the exercise of faith, as for the most part produceth these effects following.
1. It gives delight in obedience, and draws out love in the duties that unto God we do perform. So much assurance of a comfortable issue of their obedience, of a blessed end of their labours and duties, of their purifying their hearts, and pressing after universal renovation of mind and life, as may make them cheerful in them, as may give love and delight in the pursuit of what they are engaged in, is needful for the saints, and they do not often go without it; and where this is, there is gospel assurance. To run as men uncertain, to fight as those that beat the air, to travel as not any way persuaded of a comfortable entertainment or refreshment at the journey's end, is a state and condition that God doth not frequently leave his people unto. And when he doth, it is a season wherein he receives very little of glory from them, and they very little increase of grace in themselves. Many things, as hath been shewed, do interpose, many doubts arise and entangling perplexities, but still there is a comfortable persu on kept alive, that there is a rest provided, which makes them willing unto, and cheerful in, their most difficult duties. This prevaileth in them, that their labour in the Lord, their watchings, praying, suffering, alms, mortification, fighting against temptation, crucifying the flesh with the lusts thereof, shall not be in vain. This gives them such a delight in their most difficult duties, as men have in a hard journey towards a desirable home, or a place of rest.
2. It casts out fear, tormenting fear, such as fills the soul with perplexing uncertainties, hard thoughts of God, and dreadful apprehensions of wrath to come. There are three things spoken concerning that fear, which is consistent with the assurance of forgiveness. First, With respect unto its principle, it is from a spirit of bondage;' Rom. viii. 15.
We have not again received the spirit of bondage unto fear.' It is not such a fear as makes an occasional incursion upon the mind or soul; such as is excited and occasioned by incident darkness and temptation, such as the best, and
persons of the highest assurance are liable and obnoxious unto;
but it is such as hath a complete abiding principle in the soul, even a 'spirit of bondage,' a prevailing frame constantly inclining it to fear, or dreadful apprehensions of God and its own condition. Secondly, That it tends to bondage, it brings the soul into bondage. Heb. ii. 14, 15. He died to deliver them who by fear of death were in bondage all their days.' Fear of death as penal, as it lies in the curse, which is that fear that proceeds from a 'spirit of bondage,' brings the persons in whom it is into bondage; that is, it adds weariness, trouble, and anxiety of mind unto fear, and puts them upon all ways and means imaginable, unduly and disorderly to seek for'a remedy or relief. Thirdly, It hath torment; 'Fear hath torment;' 1 John iv. 18. It gives no rest, no quietness unto the mind; now this is so cast out by gospel assurance of forgiveness, that though it may assault the soul, it shall not possess it; though it make incursions upon it, it shall not dwell, abide, and prevail in it.
3. It gives the soul a hope and expectation of the glory that shall be revealed,' and secretly stirs it up and enlivens it unto a supportment in sufferings, trials, and temptations. This is the hope which makes not ashamed;' Rom. v. 5. and that, because it will never expose the soul unto disappointment. Wherever there is the root of assurance, there will be this fruit of hope. The proper object of it, is things absent, invisible, eternal; the promised reward in all the notions, respects, and concernments of it. This hope goes out unto, in distresses, temptations, failings; and under a sense of the guilt and power of sin. Hence ariseth a spring of secret relief in the soul, something that calms the heart, and quiets the spirit in the midst of many a storm. Now, as wherever assurance is, there will be this hope; so, wherever this secret relieving hope is, it grows on no other root, but a living persuasion of a personal interest in the things hoped for.
4. As it will do many other things; so that I may give one comprehensive instance, it will carry them out in whom it is, to die for Christ. Death unto men who saw not one step beyond it, was esteemed of all things most terrible. The way and means of its approach add unto its terror. But this is nothing in comparison of what it is unto them who look through it as a passage into ensuing eternity.
man then to choose death rather than life, in the most terrible manner of its approach, expecting an eternity to ensue, it argues a comfortable persuasion of a good state and condition after death. Now I am persuaded that there are hundreds, who upon gospel saving accounts would embrace a stake for the testimony of Jesus, who yet know .not at all that they have the assurance we speak of, and yet nothing else would enable them thereunto. But these things being besides the main of my intendment, I shall pursue them no farther, only the rule is of use. Let the soul be sure to be well acquainted with the nature of that which it seeks after and confesseth a sense of the want of.
Continuance in waiting necessary unto peace and consolation. The fourth
rule. Remove the hinderances of believing by a searching out of sin. Rules and directions for that duty.
Whatever your condition be, and your apprehension of it, yet continue waiting for a better issue, and give not over through weariness or impatience. This rule contains the sum of the great example given us in this psalm. Forgiveness in God being discovered, though no sense of a particular interest therein as yet obtained; that which the soul applies itself unto, is diligent, careful, constant, persevering waiting; which is variously expressed in the fifth and sixth verses. The Holy Ghost tells us, that light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart ;' Psal. xcvii. 11. Light and gladness are the things now inquired after. Deliverance from darkness, misapprehensions of God, hard and misgiving thoughts of his own condition, is that which a soul in its depths reacheth towards. Now saith the Holy Ghost, 'these things are sown for the righteous. Doth the husbandman, after he casts his seed into the earth, immediately the next day, the next week, expect that it will be harvest ? doth he think to reap so soon as he hath sown? or doth he immediately say, I have laboured in vain, here is no return, I will pull up the edge of this field and lay it waste? or I see a little grass in the blade, but no corn, I will