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men on the earth; how can you assent unto those heavenly mysteries of the gospel, which at first are to be received by a pure act of faith, without any present sense or experience?
Of all dangers therefore in profession, let professors take heed of this ; namely, of a customary, traditional, or doctrinal owning such truths, as ought to have their effects and accomplishment in themselves, whilst they have no experience of the reality and efficacy of them. This is plainly to have a form of godliness, and to deny the power thereof. And of this sort of men do we see many turning Atheists, scoffers, and open apostates. They find in themselves that their profession was a lie; and that in truth they had none of those things which they talked of; and to what end should they continue longer in the avowing of that which is not? Besides, finding these things which they have professed to be in them, not to be so; they think that what they have , believed of the things that are without them, are of no other nature, and so reject them altogether.
You will say then, What shall a man do, who cannot find or obtain an experience in himself of what is affirmed in the world? He cannot find the death of Christ crucifying sin in him, and he cannot find the Holy Ghost sanctifying his nature, or obtain joy in believing. What shall he then do ? Shall he not believe, or profess those things to be so, because he cannot obtain a blessed experience of them? I answer, our Saviour hath perfectly given direction in this case, John vii. 17. ' If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.' Continue in following after the things revealed in the doctrine of the gospel, and you shall have a satisfactory experience that they are true, and that they are of God; cease not to act faith on them and you shall find their effects ; ‘for then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord ;' Hosea vi. 3. Experience will ensue upon permanency in faith and obedience. Yea, the first act of sincere believing will be accompanied with such a taste, will give the soul so much experience, as to produce a firm adherence unto the things believed. And this is the way to prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,' which is revealed unto us; Rom. xii. 2.
Where there is an inward spiritual experience of the power, reality, and efficacy of any supernatural truth, it gives great satisfaction, stability, and assurance unto the soul. It puts the soul out of danger, or suspicion of being deceived ; and gives it to have the testimony of God in itself. So the apostle tells us, he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself;' 1 John v. 10. He had discoursed of the manifold testimony that is given in heaven by all the holy persons of the Trinity, and on earth by grace and ordinances, unto the forgiveness of sin, and eternal life to be obtained by Jesus Christ. And this record is true, firm, and stable, an abiding foundation for souls to rest upon, that will never deceive them. But yet all this while it is without us; it is that which we have no experience of in ourselves: only we rest upon it, because of the authority and faithfulness of them that gave it. But now he that actually believeth, he hath the testimony in himself; he hath by experience a real evidence and assurance of the things testified unto, namely,' that God hath given us eternal life, and that this life is in the Son;' ver. 12. Let us then a little consider wherein this evidence consisteth, and from whence this assurance ariseth. To this end some few things must be considered. As,
1. That there is a great answerableness and correspondency between the heart of a believer, and the truth that he doth believe. As the word is in the gospel, so is grace in the heart; yea, they are the same thing variously expressed; Rom. vi. 17. You have obeyed from the heart,' siç ôv trapeδόθητε τύπον διδαχής, “ the form of doctrine delivered unto you.' As our translation doth not, so I know not how in so few words to express that which is emphatically here insinuated by the Holy Ghost. The meaning is, that the doctrine of the gospel begets the form, figure, image, or likeness of itself in the hearts of them that believe: so they are cast into the mould of it. As is the one, so is the other. The principle of grace in the heart, and that in the word, are as children of the same parent, completely resembling and representing one another. Grace is a living word, and the word is figured, limned grace : as is regeneration, so is a regenerate heart: as is the doctrine of faith, so is a believer. And this gives great evidence unto, and assurance of, the things that are believed. As we have heard, so we have seen and found it; such a soul can produce the duplicate of the word, and so adjust all things thereby.
2. That the first original expression of divine truth is not in the word, no not as given out from the infinite abyss of divine wisdom and veracity, but it is first hid, laid up, and expressed in the person of Christ. He is the avxécutOS, the first pattern of truth, which from him is expressed in the word, and from and by the word, impressed on the hearts of believers; so that as it hath pleased God that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge should be in him, dwell in him, have their principal residence in him; Col. ii. 3. so the whole word is but a revelation of the truth in Christ, or an expression of his image and likeness to the sons of men. Thus we are said to learn the truth as it is in Jesus;' Eph. iv. 21. It is in Jesus originally and really, and from him it is communicated unto us by the word. We are thereby taught, and do learn it; for thereby, as the apostle proceeds, 'we are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and do put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness, and true holiness;' ver. 23, 24. First, the truth is in Jesus; then it is expressed in the word; this word learned and believed, becomes grace in the heart, every way answering unto the Lord Christ his image, from whom this transforming truth did thus proceed. Nay, this is carried by the apostle yet higher, namely, unto God the Father himself, whose image Christ is, and believers his, through the word; 2 Cor. jii. 18.
We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord;' whereunto add, chap.iv. 6. ‘God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ.' The first pattern or example of all truth and holiness is God himself; hereof Christ is the image, ver. 4. Christ is the image of God, “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;' Heb. i. 3. · The image of the invisible God;' Col. i. 15.' Hence we are said to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ; because he being his image, the love, grace, and truth of the Father are represented and made conspicuous in him. For we are said to behold it in his face, because
of the open and illustrious manifestation of the glory of God in him. And how do we behold this glory? In a glass (as in a glass), that is, in the gospel, which hath the image and likeness of Christ, who is the image of God, reflected upon it, and communicated unto it. So have we traced truth and grace from the person of the Father, unto the Son as a mediator, and thence transfused into the word. In the Father it is essentially; in Jesus Christ originally and exemplarily; and in the word as in a transcript or copy. But doth it abide there? No, God by the word of the gospel shines into our hearts, chap. iv. 6. He irradiates our minds with a saving light into it, and apprehension of it. And what thence ensues? The soul of a believer is changed into the same image by the effectual working of the Holy Ghost, chap. iii. 18, that is, the likeness of Christ implanted on the word, is impressed on the soul itself, whereby it is renewed into the image of God, whereunto it was at first created. This brings all into a perfect harmony. There is not where gospel truth is effectually received, and experienced in the soul, only a consonancy merely between the soul and the word, but hetween the soul and Christ by the word, and the soul and God by Christ. And this gives assured establishment unto the soul in the things that it doth believe. Divine truth 80 conveyed unto us, is firm, stable, and immoveable. And we can say of it in a spiritual sense, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of life,' we know to be true. Yea, a believer is a testimony to the certainty of truth in what he is, much beyond what he is in all that he saith. Words may be pretended; real effects have their testimony inseparably annexed unto them.
3. Hence it appears, that there must needs be great assurance of those truths which are thus received and believed. For hereby are the senses exercised to discern good and evil;' Heb. v. 14. Where there is a spiritual sense of truth, of the good and evil that is in doctrines, from an inward experience of what is so good, and from thence an aversation unto the contrary; and this obtained dià Tv ELV, by reason of a habit, or an habitual frame of heart, there is strength, there is steadfastness and assurance. This is the teaching of the unction, which will not, which cannot, de
ceive. Hence many of old and of late, that could not dispute, could yet die for the truth. He that came to another, and went about to prove by sophistical reasonings that there was no such thing as motion; had only this return from him, who either was not able to answer his cavilling, or unwilling to put himself to trouble about it, he arose, and walking up and down gave him a real confutation of his sophistry. It is so in this case; when a soul hath a real experience of the grace of God, of the pardon of sins, of the virtue and efficacy of the death of Christ, of justification by his blood, and peace with God by believing ; let men, or devils, or angels from heaven oppose these things, if it cannot answer their sophisms, yet he can rise up and walk : he can with all holy confidence and assurance oppose his own satisfying experience unto all their arguings and suggestions. A man will not be disputed out of what he sees and feels. And a believer will abide as firmly by his spiritual sense, as any man can by his natural.
This is the meaning of that prayer of the apostle, Col. ii. 2. “That your hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.' Understanding in the mysteries of the gospel they had ; but he prays that by a farther experience of it, they might come to the assurance of understanding. To be true, is the property of the doctrine itself; to be certain or assured, is the property of our minds. Now this experience doth so unite the mind and truth, that we say, such a truth is most certain, whereas certainty is indeed the property of our minds or their knowledge, and not of the truth known. It is certain unto us, that is, we have an assured knowledge of it, by the experience we have of it. This is the assurance of understanding here mentioned. And he farther prays, that we may come to the riches of this assurance; that is, to an abundant, plentiful assurance. And that eis élywolv, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God,' owning it from a sense and experience of its excellency and worth.
And this is in the nature of all gospel truths ; they are fitted and suited to be experienced by a believing soul. There is nothing in them so sublime and high, nothing so