Page images
PDF
EPUB

come of me when I awake? what kind of awaking shall I have ? shall I awake amidst the beams of glory, or flames of wrath? If thou canst be persuaded to think this no matter of indifferency, then stir up thy drowsy soul to a serious inquiry, how it is likely to fare with thee for ever; and to that purpose put thy conscience to it, to give a free, sincere answer to these few queries.

[1.] Canst thou say thou art already certain of thy eternal blessedness ? Art thou so sure, that thou needest not inquire ? I know not who thou art that now readest these lines, and therefore cannot judge of thy confidence whether it be right or wrong ;only that thou mayst not answer too hastily, consider a little, that certainty of salvation is no common thing ; (Phil. 2. 12.) not among (I speak you see of subjective certainty) the heirs of salvation themselves. How many of God's holy ones, that cannot say they are certain; yea, how few that can say they are? The exhortation to a church of saints, work out your sal. vation with fear and trembling, (they of whom he expresseth such confidence, chap. 1. 6. over whom He so glories, chap. 4.1.) implies this to be no common thing; so doth Christ's advice to his disciples, strive to enter in at the strait gate ; and St. Peter to the scattered Jews (that he saith had obtained like precious faith, &c.) give diligence to make your calling and election sure; with many more passages of like import. Yea, how full is the Scripture of the complaints of such crying out of broken bones, of festering wounds, of distraction by divine terrors. Now what shall we say in this case, when so eminent saints have left us records of the distresses and agonies of their spirits, under the apprehended displeasure of God ? May it not occasion us to suspend awhile, and consider? have we much more reason to be confident than they? and do we know none that lead stricter and more holy lives than we, that are yet in the dark, and at a loss in judging their spiritual states? I will not say, that we must therefore think ourselves bound to doubt, because another possibly better than we doth so. Unknown accidents may much vary the cases. But who would not think, that reason and modesty had quite forsaken the world, to hear (where the odds is so vastly great) the vain boasts of the loose generality, compared with the humble, solicitous doubts of many serious knowing christians ? to see such trembling about their soulconcernments, who have walked with God, and served him long in prayers and tears? when multitudes that have nothing whereon to bottom a confidence but pride and ignorance, shall pretend themselves certain ! If drawing breath awhile, thou wilt suspect thou have reason not to be peremptory in thy confidence : thou wilt sure think thyself concerned to inquire further. Urge thy soul then with this question again and again, Art thou yet certain, yea or no ?

[2.] Is it a comfortable state to be uncertain, or to have before

thee apparent grounds of a rational and just doubt ? For causeless doubts may sooner vanish, when their causelessness is once discovered ; and so they are less likely to keep a person that is capable of understanding his own case, under a stated discomfort. But I suppose thee, in order to the answering the foregoing query, to have in some measure considered the case ; and that with a preponderating apprehension of danger in it, thou returnest it uncertain. Uncertain, man! And what, wilt thou remain uncertain! wilt thou sit still so, till thou perish? shall thy life hang in doubt, and thy soul be in jeopardy every hour, till the everlasting flames resolve the doubt, and put the matter out of question with thee? What course canst thou apply thyself to, but to inquire and search further into thy own state, to avoid the torture of thy own fears, and pangs and dreadful expectation of a palpitating, mis-giving heart? It is true, that inquisitive diligent doubtfulness hath hope and comfort in it, but doubtfulness joined with a resolution of casting off all further care, is utterly desperate and disconsolate. What remains to thee in that case, but a fearful looking for of fiery indignation? how canst thou pass an hour in peace, while thou apprehendest it unlikely, thou shalt see the face and be satisfied with the image of God? do not thy own thoughts represent to thee, the amazing sights, the horrid images which shall for ever entertain and possess thy soul? Art thou not daily haunted with divine horrors? when thou sayest at night, thy bed shall refresh thee, art thou not terrified with dreams and affrighted with visions? Dost thou not say in the morning, would to God it were evening; and in the evening say, would to God it were morning? And while thou knowest not what else to do, meditate only changes instead of remedies ? or is thou find no such trouble invading thy mind, let me further ask :

[3.] Is it reasonable to be secure in such a state of uncertainty? Debate this matter a little while with thyself. Is it thy reason, or thy sloth that makes thee sit still and forbear to look into thy spiritual affairs ? Is it any rational consideration, or not rather the mere indisposition of a soul, afraid to know its own state, that suspends thee from inquiring? What hast thou to say, that looks like a reason? Is it that it will disturb thy thoughts, interrupt thy pleasures, fill thee with anxious cares and fears, which thou art as loth to admit, as burning coals into thy bosom? Is it that thou canst not endure to look upon so dreadful an object, as the appearing danger, or possibility of thy being miserable to eternity? And art thou therefore resolved to shut thine eyes, and cry peace, peace? This is to avoid a present inconvenience, by an eternal mischief, (a gross overstraining the paradox!) for avoiding the present fear of hell to run into it; as if because a man cannot bear the thoughts of dying, he should presently cut his own throat. Vain man? canst

22

VOL. I.

thou not bear the thoughts of eternal misery; how wilt thou bear the thing? And how long-lived dost thou think that peace shall be, that thou purchasest upon so dear and hard terms? canst thou promise thyself an hour ? mayst thou not lose thy purchase and price together the next moment? canst thou defer thy misery by forgetting it; or will thy judgment linger, and thy damnation slumber, while thou securely lingerest and slumberest? canst thou wink hell into nothing; and put it out of being, by putting it out of thy thoughts ? Alas man! open thy eyes when thou wilt, thou shalt find thou hast not bettered thy case by hay. ing them fast closed. The bitterness of death is not yet past. The horrid image is still before thee. This is not a fancied evil, which a man may dream himself into, and eadem opera, with as little difficulty, dream himself out of it again : no, thy case is miserable and dangerous when thou composest thyself to sleep; if thou awakest thou wilt find it still the same; only thou didst not apprehend it before, for then thou wouldst not have slept: as the drunkard that kills a man, and after falls asleep in his drunken fit, he awakes and understands his wretched case. Would his sleeping on, till the officer's arrest had awaked him, have mended the matter with him? But thou wilt possibly say, Is it not better here to have a little quiet now, than to be miserable by sad thoughts here, and miserable by actual suffering hereafter too? Is not one death enough? why should one kill himself so often over; and hasten misery, as if it came on too slowly? Better, man! A hard choice. Supposing thou art to be eternally miserable (if thou understandest that word eternity,) the good or evil of this little inch of time, will signify so little with thee, as hardly to weigh any thing in the scale of a rational judgment. But what, art thou now dreaming while thou thus reasonest ? Dost thou yet no better understand thy case? art thou not under the gospel? Is it not the day of thy hope, and of the Lord's grace and patience towards thee? It was said, that sleeping would not better thy case; but it was not said, that awaking would not; but all that is here said, is designed to the awakening of thee, that thou mayst know thy case, and endeavor a redress. Dost thou think any man in his sober wits would take all this pains thus to reason with thee, if that were the acknowledged and agreed state of thy case, that it were already taken for granted thou must perish? We might as well go preach to devils, and carry down the gospel into hell. But dost thou think the holy merciful God sent his Son and his ministers to mock men; and to treat with them about their eternal concernments, when there is no hope? Were that thy case, thou hadst as good a pretence as the devil had, to complain of being tormented before thy time. But if thou be not wilfully perverse, in mistaking the matter we are reasoning about, thou mayst understand, thy reason is here appealed to in this; whether having so fair

hopes before thee, as the gospel gives, of this blessedness we are discoursing of, it be reasonable from the apprehension of a mere possibility of miscarrying, (which can only be through thy wilful security and neglect,) to give up thyself to a supine negligence, and indulge that security which is so sure to ruin thee, and exchange a possible hoped heaven for a certain hell; or whether rather it be not reasonable to stir up thy soul to consider in what posture thou art, towards the attainment of this blessedness, that thou mayst accordingly steer thy course in order to it? If an accusation, or a disease do threaten thy life; or a suspected flaw thy title to thy estate, wouldst thou not think it reasonable to inquire into thy case? And is it not much more desirable, in a matter of this consequence, to be at some certainty ? and prudent to endeavor it, if it may possibly be attained ? Whence let me further ask:

[4.] Canst thou pretend it to be impossible? Hath God left thee under a necessitated ignorance, in this matter? or denied thee sufficient means of knowing how it is with thee in respect of thy spiritual estate? Though he hath not given thee a list, or told thee the number or names of his sanctified ones, yet hath he not sufficiently described the person, and given the characters by which they may be known? And hath le not furnished thee with a self-reflecting power, by which thou art enabled to look into thyself, and discern whether thou be of them or no ? Doth he not offer and afford to serious, diligent souls, the assisting light of his blessed Spirit to guide and succeed the inquiry? And if thou find it difficult to come to a speedy, clear issue, to make a present certain judgment of thy case ; ought not that to engage thee to a patient continued diligence, rather than in a rash despairing madness to desist and cast off all ? inasmuch as the difficulty, though great, is not insuperable; and the necessity and advantage incomparably greater. And (though divers other things do confessedly fall in the principal difficulty lies in thy aversation and unwillingness. Thou art not put to traverse the creation, to climb heaven or dig through the earth; but thy work lies nigh thee, in thy own heart and spirit; and what is so nigh, or should be so familiar to thee, as thyself? it is but casting thy eye upon thy own soul, to discern which way it is inclined and bent, thou art urged to. Which is that we propounded next to discover: namely,

(2.) That we are to judge of the hopefulness of our enjoying this blessedness, by the present habitude or disposedness of our spirits thereto. For what is that righteousness which qualifies for it, but the impress of the gospel upon the minds and hearts of men? The gospel-revelation is the only rule and measure of that righteousness: it must therefore consist in conformity thereto. And look to the frame and design of the gospel-revelation, and what doth so directly correspond to it, as that very habitude

1

and disposedness of spirit for this blessedness whereof we speak? Nothing so answers the gospel, as a propension of heart towards God gratified in part now, and increasing till it find a full satisfaction; a desire of knowing him and of being like him. It is the whole design of the gospel, which reveals his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, to work and form the spirits of men to this. They therefore whose spirits are thus wrought and framed, are righteous by the gospel-measure, and by that righteousness are evidently entitled and fitted for this blessedness. Yea, that righteousness hath in it (or rather) is the elements, the first principles, the seed of this blessedness. There can therefore be no surer rule or mark whereby to judge our states, whether we have to do with this blessedness, may expect it yea or no, than this. How stand we affected towards it ; in what disposition are our hearts thereto? Those fruits of righteousness, by which the soul is qualified to appear without offence in the day of Christ, the several graces of the sanctifying Spirit, are nothing else but so many holy principles, all disposing the soul towards this blessedness, and the way to it; mortification, self-denial, and godly sorrow, take it off from other objects, the world, self and sin ; repentance (that part of it which respects God) turns the course of its motion towards God the end ; faith directs it through Christ the way ; love makes it move freely; desire, earnestly; joy, pleasantly ; hope, confidently ; humility, evenly; fear, circumspectly ; patience, constantly and preseveringly. Al conspire to give the soul a right disposition towards this blessedness. The result of them all is heavenliness, a heavenly temper of spirit. For they all (one way or other,) as so many lines and rays have respect to a blessedness in God (which is heaven) as the point at which they aim; and the cuspis, the point in which they meet, in order to the touching of that objective point, is heavenliness. This is the ultimate and immediate disposition of heart for this blessedness; the result the terminus productus of the whole work of righteousness in the soul ; by which it is said to be as it were, nata ad gloriam, begotten to the cternal inheritance. Concerning this therefore chiefly institute thy inquiry. Demand of thyself, Is my soul yet made heavenly, bent upon eternal blessedness, or no ? And here thou mayst easily apprehend, of how great concernment it is, to have the right notion of heaven, or future blessedness, as was urged under the foregoing rule. For if thou take for it another thing, thou missest thy mark, and art quite beside thy business : but if thou retain a right and scriptural notion of it, the rule tbou art to judge by is sure, they shall have heaven whose hearts are intent upon it, and framed to it. Scripture is every where pregnant and full of this.

The apostle plainly intimates, this will be the rule of God's final judgment. Certainly it cannot be unsase for us to judge

« PreviousContinue »