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St. John and in my text, to be all one; not as though we wrought them, but we believe them to be so. If a man ask how I know that I am sanctified, the answer must be, I believe and know it to be so: the work of producing these things in me comes of God; but for the work of discerning, this is certain, how our affections stand in this case; it comes of us yet to come nearer the matter.
The testimony of our spirit I conceive to be, when a man hath taken a survey of those excellent things belonging unto justification and sanctification, when according to the substantial truths which I know in the word, I observe and follow as fast as I can what is there commanded; when I take the candle and the word, and with that bright burning lamp search into the word, what is there to be done, and so bring it home to myself, thereby mortifying my corruptions; this is the groundwork of the witness of our spirit. First, as in the blood, with my spirit I must see what is needful to be done in order unto justification, what free promises of invitation belong thereunto; I must see how God justifies a sinner, what conditions on our part are required in justification; I must see what footings and grounds for life, and what way of hope there is for a graceless man to be saved; yea, even for the worst person that may be. In this case a man must not look for any thing in himself as a cause, Christ must not be had by exchange, but received as a free gift; as the apostle speaks: "Therefore it is of faith, that it may be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed." I must there bring unto the receiving of Christ a bare hand. It must be of grace: God for this cause will make us let fall every thing before we shall take hold of him. Though qualified with humiliations, I must let all fall; not trusting unto it, as to make me the worthier to receive Christ, as some think. When thus, at first for my justification I received Christ, I must let any thing I have fall, to lay hold of him; that then he may find us thus naked as it were, in our blood; and in this sort God
b Rom. chap. 4. ver. 16.
doth take us, that all may be of mere grace. Another thing the apostle adds, and that is, that the promise may be sure if any thing in us might be as a cause or help to our justification, a man should never be sure; therefore it is all of that grace, that the promise might be sure. As though God should say, I care for nothing else; bring me my Son, and show me him, and then all is well. And in this case you see he doth not name hope, or love, or any other grace, but faith; for the nature of faith is to let fall all things in laying hold on Christ: in justification, faith is a sufferer only; but in sanctification, it works and purgeth the whole man; and so witnesses the certainty and truth of our sanctification, and so the assurance of salvation.
Hence, from the nature hereof in this work, the apostle writes to them "who had obtained like precious faith:" in this case it is alike to all in virtue in this work, whatsoever the measure be. And I may liken it thus; St. Paul, you know, writes: "With these hands I get my living." Now, though strong hands may work more than weak hands, and so earn a great deal more; yet a beggar who holds out his hand, may receive more than he or any other could earn. So faith justifies only receiving, not working; as we may see: "But to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe in his name." Receive him; that is, believe in him; how? Come and take him: How? as it is in Rev. chap. XXII. " And let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely." Now, when I see that God keeps open house, come who will, without denying entertainment to any, and when God's Spirit hath wrought the will in me, what lets me now to receive Christ? Now, when the Spirit hath wrought this will in me, and I come, and take God at his word, and believe in Christ; laying hold by degrees on the other promises of life, winding and wrapping myself in them as I am able, it is faith: but
e 2 Peter, chap. 1. ver. 1.
d John, chap. 1. ver. 12.
that persuasion only which many have, that they shall go to heaven, is not faith, but rather a consequent hereof. The promise is made unto those that believe in Christ: "For in him," says the apostle, "all the promises are yea, and amen.” If a man weep much and beg hard for the remission of sins, he may weep and be without comfort unto the end of his life, unless he have received Christ, and applied his virtues home unto his trembling soul. A man must first receive Christ, and then he hath a warrant to interest himself in all the promises. So that now this being done, if such a man were asked, hast thou a warrant to receive Christ? Yes, I have a warrant, says the soul, for he keeps open house unto all that come, welcoming all, and I have a will to come, this is a good and sufficient warrant for me to come, if I have a will wrought in me, and then if I do come, this is the first thing to be observed in the witness of our spirit.
Now if a man do stagger for all the King keeps open house, so as he will not, or does not come, then in the second place comes invitation, because we are slow to believe, therefore God invites us, "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Many object, O, I am not worthy to come, but you see here is an invitation to encourage me to come, yea the sorer and heavier my load is, I should come so much the rather: so that in this case, if the question should be asked of such a one, Friend how came you hither? What warrant had you to be so bold? Then he shows forth his ticket, as if he should say, Lord thou gavest me a word of comfort, a warrant of thy invitation, in obedience to thy word, and faith in thy promise, I come hither. Now this invitation is directed to them who as yet have no goodness in them, when then my spirit warrants this much unto me, that upon this word of promise and invitation I have come in for relief and ease of many miseries unto Christ Jesus, the great physician, relying on him for cure, and lying as it were at his feet for mercy, this is the testimony of my spirit that
Matt. chap. 11. ver. 28.
I do believe, and a ground for me to rest on, that now I am in the way of life, and justified by his grace.
Thirdly, sometimes Christ meets with a dull and slow heart, lazy and careless, in a manner, what becomes of it, not knowing or weighing the dangerous state it is in, making excuses; here Christ may justly leave us, (for is it not much that the King should invite us for our good?) as he did those in the Gospel, who for refusing to come to his supper were excluded from ever tasting thereof, strangers being fetched in in their places. God might so deal with us, but you see God sends an embassage to intreat us, erects, as it were, a new office for our sakes, saith he: "Nowe then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled unto God." This may seem to be needless, we being weaker than he. Ambassadors for the most part are sent unto those that are stronger. The apostle reasons the matter, are we stronger than he, do we provoke the Lord to anger? But here we see and may admire his infinite rich goodness, that he comes and sues to us to be reconciled, as we see it is a kind of indignity for a great monarch to sue for peace to them that are far below him and his inferiors. This dishonour God is willing to put up at our hands, and sues unto us first, when it rather became us upon our knees to beg and sue first unto him. The effect of the embassy is, that we would be friends with him, and receive that which is so highly for our advancement; when therefore I see that this quickens in my heart, so that, as St. James speaks of the ingrafted word that is able to save our souls, I can bring it home, having some sweet relish, and high estimation of it in my heart, that it begins to be the square and rule of my life, then I am safe. If this or any of these fasten upon the soul, and thereupon I yield and come in, it is enough to show that I am a justified person. And from hence our spirit may witness, and that truly: this is a third thing in the witness of our spirit.
e 2 Corinth. chap. 5. ver. 20.
Fourthly, if none of all this will do, then comes a farther degree, a command from the Highest, you shall do it: "And" this is his commandment that we should believe on his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment." In the parliament of grace there is a law of faith, which binds me as strictly to believe, as to keep any of the commandments: says the apostle, "Where is boasting then? it is excluded; by what law? of works? nay, but by the law of faith." So that if I will not believe on the Lord Jesus, who eases me of the vigour of the law, and so is my righteousness, I must perish for ever. What? may one object, must I needs believe? Yes, thou art as strictly bound to believe, as not to murder, or not to be an idolater, not to steal or commit adultery: nay, I will add more, that thy infidelity and contempt of that gracious offer, thy disobedience to the law of faith is greater than thy breach and disobedience to the law of works, when thou dost fling God's grace in his face again, and, as it were, trample under foot the blood of the covenant: see for this John, chap. XVI. ver. 9. What is that great sin which Christ came to reprove? even this infidelity, saith he, "because they believe not in me:" which in two respects is a great sin. First, because it is a sin against God's mercy. Secondly, because it is a chain which links and binds all sins together. Thus our faith is sure when it relies on the word, otherwise all other thoughts are but presumption, and will fail a man in the time of need; for what is faith but my assent to believe every word of God he hath commanded me to believe, and so endeavour the practice of it.
1 John, chap. 3. ver. 23.
Fifthly, if none of these prevail, there comes threatening; then God swears, that such as refuse shall never enter into his rest. If a prince should sue unto a beggar's daughter for marriage, and she should refuse and contemn him, do you think he would be well pleased? So it is with us, when the King of Heaven's Son sends unto us,
Rom. chap. 3. ver. 27.