A Treatise of Effectual Calling and Election - by Christopher Love (1618-1651)
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A Treatise of Effectual Calling and Election
A treatise of effectual calling and election In XVI. sermons, on 2 Peter 1.10. Wherein a Christian may discern, whether yet he be effectually called and elected. And what course he ought to take that he may attain the assurance thereof. Preached by that faithfull servant of Christ, Mr. Christopher Love, late minister of Laurence Jury, London.
Love, Christopher, 1618-1651., Calamy, Edmund, 1600-1666.
A TREATISE OF EFFECTUALL CALLING AND ELECTION.
In XVI. SERMONS, On 2 Peter 1.10.
WHEREIN A Christian may discern, whether yet he be effectually Called and Elected.
And what course he ought to take that he may attain the Assurance thereof.
Preached by that faithfull Servant of CHRIST, Mr. CHRISTOPHER LOVE, late MINISTER of Laurence Jury, London.
LONDON, Printed for John Rothwell at the Fountain and Beare in Goldsmiths Row in Cheapside. 1655.
To the Reader.
ITs a true saying, that the assurance of an eternal life, is the life of this temporal life. The Apostle tells us, that if in this life only we had hope in Christ, we were of all men most miserable. None being exposed to so m•ny troubles and tribulations in this life as the best Christian; And what could sustain and bear us up under them all, but the certain hope and expectation of a better Resurrection? This makes Christians glory in tribulation, despise all the glory of the world, run as swiftly in waies of duty, as the chariots of Aminadab; in a word, to enjoy a Heaven upon earth. They therefore are the greatest enemies of a Christians comfort, that teach a doctrine of doubting; that a Christian must alwaies hang in suspense about his eternal state; and can never arrive to any certainty, whether he shall be saved or no.
But as this assurance is excellent, so it is hard to come by; Difficilia quae pulchar. ‘Tis not to be obtained without a great deal of labour and diligence. ‘Tis usually the fruit of much prayer, and care, and humiliation, and long-waiting; those that come by it so easily, and get it so soon, have great cause to suspect that their assurance is not of the right kinde; Carnal security and presumption is e•sily attained, but Christian assurance not without great difficulty.
‘Tis therefore much to be lamented, that there is so litt•e diligence used, for obtaining the assurance of our effectual Calling and eternal Election, which i• of such great concernment 〈1 page duplicate〉 〈1 page duplicate〉 to every Christian. What care do men take, and what diligence do they give to make sure their lands, and goods, and worldly estates? They cannot be at rest till they have secured these. But upon what uncertainties do they venture the salvation of their precious and immortal souls? They run the most desperate hazard of their eternal salvation; never consider whether they are in the way to heaven or hell, until they drop irrecoverably into the bottomlesse pit. Oh what a strange madnesse possesseth the mindes of men, that they should look no more to their own safety; that they think it wisedom to secure every thing except their own soules. What evil have they deserved of you, that you should neglect them so much?
The design of this Treatise is to awaken men from their security, and to stirre them up to give all diligence to make their Calling and Election sure. It was handled by the Author as a just Consectary from the doctrine of the Glory of Heaven, and the Torments of Hell, (which Treatise is already published) as appeares in the Introduction to this discourse; That seeing there is such glory prepared for the Elect, and such torments for the reprobate: it concerns every Christian to give all diligence to make sure to himself, that he shall attain the one, and escape the other; So that these three Treatises have dependance upon each other, and together make up one compleat Systeme. In this last thou shalt finde many practical cases handled, of great soul-concernment, both for the comfort of such as are sincere, and the discovery of those that are unsound. If thou wilt reap any profit by the perusal hereof, let God have the praise, and let them have thy prayers, who are Ready to spend and be spent for the good of thy soul.
- Edmund Calamy.
- Jeremiah Whitaker.
- Simon Ashe.
- William Taylor.
- Allen Geere.
OF THE ASSURANCE OF OUR Vocation and Election.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
TO give you an account why I pitch’d upon these words, it is briefly thus: Having spent seventeen Sermons in treating of the glory of Heaven for the Elect, and of the torments of Hell for the Reprobate; I deem’d it most meet to shut up those two Doctrines in the prosecution of this Subject, of the Assurance of our Election and Vocation, that so if this Doctrine be well improved, you may have establishment in your own hearts, that you are freed from the torments of the damned, and may be confident you shal be stated into the Glory of Heaven, which God hath provided for all his Saints. And to the end you might have assurance, that you shall be freed from the one, and shall enjoy the other; you must make it your work according to the words of my Text, to make your calling and election sure: Make but that sure, and you are sure of heaven. This is the reason why I pitch’d upon this subject: And it is my care in preaching the Word, not to chuse those Texts that are most for my ease in study, but for your profit in hearing; that so one Subject might back another, and one Subject might strengthen another, and being put together, might more serve for your edification and knowledge.
I shall not stand long in Prefacing: All that I have to doe in the managing of those words, are these three things.
- To shew you the scope and dependance of the words.
- The sense and meaning.
- To draw out those practical observations which naturally flow from them: and then apply the observations deduced.
For the scope and dependance of these words; you may discern it lyes thus: Peter who is called an Apostle of the Circumcision, that is, an Apostle whose work and office it was to Preach to the circumcised Jewes (as it was Pauls office to Preach to the uncircumcised Gentiles) he writ his Epistle to the dispersed Jewes that were scattered throughout the world, through Pontus, Asia, Cappadocia, Galacia, and Bythinia: whence observe, Gods people are a scattered people. And to them he writes that though they were persons living in different places, yet they had the same faith: Simon Peter a servant and an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith. So that you see the spirit of God, where it works in men, though they live in different places, yet they shall all believe the same Truth, and all receive the same Faith: Though different in language, yet but one God, and one Faith. The spirit of God wrought the same Faith among those scattered Christians; and the Apostle writing to these Jewes, he begins his Epistle 1. By way of salutation. ver. 2. Grace and peace be multiplyed to you. 2. He writes by way of consolation, ver. 4. telling them that they are Partakers of the Divine Nature, that they are called to Glory, and shall enjoy all the promises of the Gospel: These are the great props with which he bears up their hearts and comforts them by. Then 3. He proceeds by way of exhortation and direction, ver. 5. and that is, that they should give diligence to adde grace to grace, that they should make it their 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or their main businesse for which they are sent into the world, not only to get grace, but to thrive in grace; and begins with Faith, because this is the foundation or mothergrace: and this he presseth by a double Argument. First, considering the benefit shall redound to them, in case they perform this duty to labour to thrive in grace, ver. 8. If these things be in you and abound, they shall make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. If you make it your work to grow in grace, you shall never be a barren or unfruitful people; but you shall be growing in grace, and thriving in God still. 2. From the inconvenience that would accrue, in case they should neglect this work, ver. 9. He that lacks these things, is blind and cannot see afarre off; that is, he that lacks these graces, if you do not grow in grace, you will be so dim sighted, you wil so deaden your comfo•ts, and darken your evidences, that you can have no assurance you shal be saved. And then he comes in with a general exhortation backing all this, that seeing there is this good comes by adding grace to grace, and seeing there wil be this evil if you doe it not; he brings all home by a practical inference, in the words of my Text, Wherefore Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
The words are not difficult, though indeed they are mangled by the Papists, who bring this Text to Martyrdome by their corrupt glosses. I shal only give you a briefe Paraphrastical Explication, and so come to the Observations.
Wherefore] That you may see the force of the connexion, it is as much as if the Apostle should say thus: Seeing there comes so great good by growing in grace, and seeing the neglect of it doth so much hurt; not only to deaden your hearts, but darken your comforts, that you can have no cleere and comfortable evidence for heaven; Therefore give diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
Wherefore the rather brethren:] that is, Brethren, not in the flesh, but in the faith of Christ, imbracing the same faith, keeping to the same head; them the Apostle calls brethren.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence:] The word in the Greek is more emphatical,* and signifies to do a thing enough, not agere, but sat agere, not in an overly and carelesse way, but to do a thing with industry, vigilancy, and unweariednesse of spirit: it should not be matter of constraint, but free and voluntary: Give diligence. And the diligence you should use is in matters of the soul. Give diligence: In what? To make your Calling and Election sure. First, I must shew you what is meant by Calling; then by Election: and then shew you why Calling is set before Election, when in order of time Election is before Calling.
- What is meant by Calling; which, that you may understand; you must know there is a twofold Calling: an external, and an internal Calling.
The external Calling is that general invitation, which by the Preaching of the Gospel is made unto men, to invite them to come in to Jesus Christ: and most in the world are called by this call, both good and bad.
- The internal Calling, when the spirit of God accompanies the outward administration of the word, to call a man from ignorance to knowledge, and from a state of nature to a state of grace; and of this Calling my Text means. Make your Calling sure; that is, you that live under the Preaching of the Gospel, be sure you be called thereby.
Your Calling and Election:] Election is an act of God, whereby from all eternity he doth purpose within himself, of his own pleasure and will, to bring a certain number of men unto salvation by Jesus Christ.
But now, how can it be said, We must make our calling and election sure? Doth not the Foundation of God stand sure as the Apostle saith? And are not the gifts and calling of God without repentance? How then must we make our Election sure, when all the Decrees of God stand sure?
*Beloved, when it is said you must make these sure, you must take it in this sense; not to make them sure on Gods part, for it cannot be made more sure then it is already; whom he hath elected, shal be glorified: But make it sure on your parts; that is, Labour to have a real, bottom’d, and grounded assurance that you are effectually called, that you are elected by God in his eternal Decree, to obtain life and glory by Jesus Christ.
*Divines therefore give this distinction; That there is an assurance of the Object, and that is sure enough; for if God hath decreed you to glory, that wil hold sure for ever. But then, there is a certitude of the Subject, an assurance to the person that is elected; and that is, when by a reflex act of faith you have a grounded perswasion in your own brests, that you are effectually called, and eternally elected: An assurance in your own apprehension and knowledge.
Lastly, Why is Calling here set before Election, when in order of time Election is before Calling? You are called in time by the Preaching of the Gospel, you are elected before all time, before the world: Before the foundation of the world was laid he hath elected us in Christ, Eph. 1.4. And if so, what is the reason that Calling in my Text is put before Election?
To this I answer,* Calling in order of words is placed before Election, not as if it were in time before it; but to shew that we can never be sure of our Election til God hath effectually called us by the Preaching of the Gospel: and therefore Calling is set b•fore Election.
Thus I have opened the things most material, giving you the sense of the words. The whole Verse is made up of two parts.
First, Here is a main duty enjoyned in these words, Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.
Secondly, Here is a strong inducement to inforce you to this duty; and that in the last words, If you do these things you shall never fall.
In the duty enjoyned there are several things observable:
- 1. The matter of the duty: To make sure your election and calling.
- 2. The manner how you must set about this duty; and that is with diligence: Give diligence.
- 3. The motive to draw you to it, in the word Wherefore.
- 4. Here is the comparison between this duty and all other duties; Wherefore the rather: do this rather then all other things in the world. And
Lastly, Here is that loving compellation whereby Peter would gain them to set upon the ready practice of this duty, in that word, Brethren, Wherefore Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.
From these five Parts there are five points observable.
As 1. From the matter of the duty, Make sure your election and vocation. Hence note.
- That it is the main and chiefe duty of a Christian in this life,* to make this sure to his soul, that he is effectually called and eternally elected.
- From the Manner how you must do this duty; willingly, or diligently. Note hence,
*2. That Christians ought to set about this duty, of making sure their •ffectual calling and eternal election, with a great deal of dilegence.
- From the motive to this duty; Wherefore Brethren. Wherefore? why, considering the evil that comes by slothfulnesse, and by neglect of improving grace, therefore give diligence. The observation hence is,
*3. That seeing much hurt comes by slothfulnesse in not improving grace, this should strongly oblige Christians to be the more dilig•nt in all matters of Religion.
- From the co•parison of this duty with others: Wherefore the rather, Brethren; i.e. rather then do any thing do this, to make your calling and election sure: Hence Note;
*4. That of all imployments in the world, you should rather imploy your selves with diligence in making sure of heaven: To make sure that you are effectually called, and eternally elected.
Lastly, From the Compellation of Peter; Wherefore, Brethren. Note,
*5. That when we would fasten exhortation upon others to duty, we should labour to expresse to them abundance of affection. Here Peter when he would urge the Jewes to a duty, insinuates into them by a loving expression, calling them Brethren; Wherefore Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.
But I should both confound your memory, and crosse my usual Method, should I speak of these five Doctrines thus drawn forth; I had rather then thus mangle the Text, give you the scope and substance thereof in fewer Doctrines. You may be pleased therefore in dividing the words, to draw them into two parts.
- A duty generally pressed, and that in these words, Give diligence.
- The particulars wherein our diligence must be conversant, expressed; And that in two things. First, In making your calling sure. Secondly, In making your election sure.
From the words thus divided, wil arise two Points of Doctrine.
First, From the duty pressed, Give diligence, Note,
- That in all matters of soul concernment,*Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence.
Secondly, From the particulars wherein this duty of Diligence is to be conversant; that is, in making your Calling and Election sure. Hence observe,
II.*That the great diligence of a Christian ought chiefly to be imployed about this, to make sure to his soul, that he is effectually called, and eternal•y elected. These are the two points I shal draw from these words.
I begin with the first, That in all matters of soul concernment, Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence. In the fifth verse it is said likewise, Give all diligence: as if all your chiefe endeavours should be about the concernments of your soul.
In the managing of this point, I shal lay down the demonstrations of it; then the reasons; then apply it.
First, For the demonstration of it: It appears that in all soul concernments you should put forth a great deal of diligence, by those resemblances that the work belonging to the salvation of the soul is compared to in Scripture. As
- Sometimes the work of Christianity in saving the soul is compared to a race, Heb. 12.2. Let us lay aside every weight, and run with patience the race that is set before us. So 1 Cor. 9.24, 25. When you walk in your Gardens or Galleries, you take no pains; but when you run a race, you labour and strive hard, and put forth all your strength to attain the en•. Why (Beloved) matters about the soul, they are compared to the running of a race; to shew, what labours and endeavours you must put forth in all imployments of the soul.
- It is compared to wrestling, Eph. 6.12. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against Principalities and Powers. And so 2 Tim. 2.5. An allusion to the Olympick games, and publick pastimes, when men wrestled before the common multitude, wherein they put forth all their strength and skil to throw each other down; To note, that Christianity is no slight work, but a wr•stling work, wherein a great deal of diligence and labour is to be put forth.
- It is expressed in Scripture by fighting a Battel; 2 Tim. 4.7. We have f•ught a good fight. And, As good Souldiers you have endured hardnesse, 2 Tim. 2.3. Now when men are fighting for their lives, what care, and what labour, and what diligence do they put forth to save themselves? And the work of Christianity in the concernments of the soul is set forth by this resemblance.
- It is compared to one being in an Agony; Luke 13 24. Strive to enter in at the strait gate; The word in the Greek is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Strive, till you are in an Agony, as Christ was: Christ was in an agony in the Garden, when he sweat drops of blood; so saith Lu•e, Strive, and strive til you are in an agony, that you sweat blood again in the work of your souls. Now put these together, that the work of Christianity is resembled to a Race, to a Fight, to be in an Agony, to Wrestling, wherein men put forth the utmost of their strength; the resemblance wil hold forth this, That you must put forth a great deal of diligence in all matters of soul-concernment.
Now for the Reasons why you must be thus diligent in the matters of Christianity. I shal lay down ten.
*1. Because diligence is required in all matters concerning the body, therefore much more should you put forth diligence in all matters concerning the soul. Diligence is required in all matters concerning the body, Eccles. 9.10. Whatever thou puttest thy hand unto, do it with all thy might. And we read (Psal. 127.) of men that rise up early, and go to bed late, and eate the bread of ca•efulness, and all for the body, to sustain that. Now if you must put forth so much diligence, and use so much care to thrive in the Body, then much more for the soul: The soul is a more noble piece then the body; and if you must work in your calling, you must much more work out your salvation: If you must labour for earth, you must much more labour for heaven: if you labour to lay up treasure here, you should much more labour to lay up treasure for hereafter. If you work, and toil, and all to finde subsistence for a mortal and vile body, you should much more use diligence and take pains for a glorious immortal soul.
*Because many have miscarried to all eternity, for the want of putting forth diligence in the matters of salvation, Heb. 12.15. Looking diligently, least any fall from the grace of God: many men did fail of Gods grace, because they did not look after grace diligently: Why alas, Beloved, how many lose grace, and lose Christ for want of diligence? the five foolish Virgins lost Christ for want of diligence, Mar. 25. Luke 13.24. Many have lost heaven by using slight endeavours after heaven; Strive (saith Christ) to enter in at the strait gate, for many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able: Their want of diligence, because they only sought, and did not strive in the wayes of heaven, therefore they fel short and missed it.
- Because all you can do for your souls is little enough for to save them. I may make use of that expression, 2 Pet. 4.*17. The righteous shall scarcely be saved: (though I know it may have reference in some sense to outward salvation only) yet I may make use of it to this purpose, that if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? all the diligence and endeavours you can put forth is little enough, and too too little to save your souls: Eph. 6.13. Put on the whole Armour of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and when you have done all, stand. A strange expression! as much as if the Apostle should say, All you can do is little enough to stand: When you have done all to stand, you can hardly stand, and when you have done all to get grace, you can hardly get grace. And therefore when all the diligence you can put forth in the wayes of God, is little enough to save the soul; and all little enough to keep on a good profession in the wayes of grace; when you have done all you can, stand: Prov. 4.24 Keep thy heart with all diligence, &c.*
- You should put forth diligence in all matters of soul concernment, because there is a great deal of labour and diligence used against your souls, and against your salvation; As first, by the Divel, 1 Pet. 5.8. He goes about like a roaring Lion, seeking whom he may devour: And Iob 1. when God asked the Divel, Whence he came, he tells him, I come from compassing the earth to and fro. The Divel is stil industrious and indefatigable to damn souls; he went compassing the earth to damn souls. Why (O Beloved) shal the Divel use diligence to damn thy soul, and wilt thou use none to save it? Shall he go about compassing the earth to damn thee, and wilt not thou stir one foot in Ordinances and Duties, and all to save that poor soul of thine? Again, as the Devil, so wicked men, they use diligence against the soul also: Matth. 23.15. It is said of the Pharisees, They would compasse sea and land to make one Proselyte, and when they had made him, they made him twofold more a child of hell then before. Mark how indefatigable they would be; they would take so great a journey to damn a poor soul? thus are wicked men. Ephes. 4.14. It is said of false Teachers, They lie in wait to deceive; they will be so industrious, they will lie and watch opportunities. Beloved, look over the world, how industrious will your companions be to draw you to sin, to draw you to the Alehouse, to draw you to profanenesse? And therefore seeing wicked men use diligence to damn your souls, have not you reason in all matters of soul concernment to put forth a great deal of deligence?
*5. Because wicked men put forth a great deal of di•igence to damn their own souls, and you your selves have done so in the daies of your unregeneracy. What pains will a Drunkard take to sit all day and all night at his pots? What pains will a Robber take to indure the darknesse of the night, the coldnesse of weather, the danger of being taken, and all to break open a house to get a little gain? What diligence will an Adulterer use to watch for a Harlot in the twilight, in the evening tide? Why? Shall-wicked men (in the phrase of Habakkuk) weary themselves in vanities, tire out themselves to damn their own souls; and wilt thou do nothing to save thy soul? It’s said of wicked men, Micah 7.3. They do evil with both hands greedily: A man may sin with one hand enough to damn him; yet they were so eager they would sin with both. Shall wicked men put forth both hands to sin, and wilt not thou put a finger to holiness, put a hand to the waies of God? you have a phrase, Jer. 23.10. Their whole course is evil, and therefore it is not right: A strange expression! God doth there complain of men, that they were not only wicked, but they were forcibly evil; they were strong in their wickednesse, and laborious in their profanenesse: And shall wicked men force God to damn them, as it were; shall wicked men be violent in a way of sin, and wilt not thou with one hand, labour to save thy soul? An old Father seeing a Gentlewoman spend three hours in beholding her face in a Glasse, to trim her self, when she came down he fell a weeping; being ask’d why he wept? answered, because this woman hath spent more hours in a morning to damn her self, then ever I spent in Religious duties to save my soul. Alas! many men are more diligent to damn themselves, then many of us are to save our souls; which should strongly engage you to put forth diligence in all matters of soul concernment.
- Because the more diligent thou art,* the lesse busie and operative will the motions of sin and suggestions of Satan be in thy Spirit. It is the speech of Bernard,* By how much the more (saith he) the Devil findes a man well imployed, by somuch the lesse will he be able to fasten a temptation upon him. The more diligent the more industrious you are in heavens way, the lesse force will the temptation of the Devil have upon you. I remember it was the speech of Mr. Greenham, That when the Devil tempted a poor soul, she came to him for advice to resist the temptation, and he gave her this Answer: Never be idle, but be alwaies well imployed; for in my own experience I found this, When the Devil came to tempt me, I would tell the Devil, I am not at leisure to harken to thy temptations: and by this means I did resist his assaults. Beloved, tell the Devil when he tempts you, you are not at leisure to lend an eare to his temtations, and then he will never fasten upon you. The Devil never gets advantage of us, but either when we are out of Gods way, or idle, or have our hands in some sinful inployment; and then the Devil gets power over us. If once you slack in diligence, in this spiritual industry, you do even tempt the Devil to tempt you: you lay your selves open to a world of sin, and a world of snares. As you know it is with water, whilest the stream keeps running, it keeps clear; but let it stand still, it breeds frogs and toads, and all manner of filth. So while you keep going, you keep clear; but doe but once flag in your diligence, and stand still, and O what a puddle of filth and sin will thy heart be! The Keys that you keep in your pocket, and use every day, are bright; but keys seldom used, the very rust eats them out. So it is with your graces; not used with diligence, they will soon grow rustie, and decay; the lesse diligent you are, the more will sin and Satan fasten upon you. Heb. 6.12. We desire you, saith the Apostle, every one of you to shew the same diligence: to what? that you be not slothful. As if he should say, if once you slack in diligence, the sin of slothfulnesse will soon grow upon you. Whereas now, the more deligent you are, the lesse busie and operative will the suggestions of Satan, and the operations of sin be in thy soul. While men sleep, the enemy came and sowed tears, Matth. 13.25. As you know it is with the body, A man that is given to live a Sedentarie life, a life of sitting, those bodies are more exposed to ill humors, (And therefore the life of Schollars is a life exposed most to diseases,) but those whose livelihoods are in handycraft trades, alwaies in motion, and stirring; the motion expels the ill humors, that they cannot seize upon the body. It is so in the soul, the lesse you Act in matters of soul concernment, the more spiritual diseases and spiritual infirmities will grow upon you. Whereas the more active and industrious you are, the lesse power will ill distempers and humors have to seize upon the soul.
*7. Because the more diligent you are in matters pertaining to the soul, the nearer resemblance and conformitie you carry to Jesus Christ: you read of Christ, that he went about alwaies doing good: And when his father and mother mist him, and went three daies sorrowing to seek him, and having found him, askt him, where hast thou been? Wot ye not•, saith Christ, I was about my fathers business? As if he should say; I wa• not about any evil work, but to glorifie my God, and promote the honour of my father: this was my work. And elsewhere he tels us, it was his meat and drink to do the will of his father: Here was a diligent person indeed. Why the more industrious you are, and the more diligent you are in matters of the soul, the more like you are to Jesus Christ. And where can there be a better pattern for you to resemble, or a better Coppy for you to write by?
- Because the more diligent you are in this imployment,* the more peace, and the more profit wil accrue to your own souls. The more peace wil accrue, the more industrious you are, 2 Pet. 3.14. Be you diligent (saith the Apostle) for what? that y•u may be found of Christ in peace without spot, and blamelesse. So Isa. 32.17. The work of righteousness is peace, and the effect thereof quietnesse for ever. It is not the bare habit, or having of grace, that is peace; but it is the working of it, and being industrious in it, and the acting of it in your lives that brings peace to your souls. And then it wil not only bring peace, but it brings profit also. I may say as Solomon saith, Prov. 10.4. The hand of the diligent maketh rich. I am sure the hand of a diligent Christian, that is industrious in Gods wayes, wil make him rich in grace; when those who are spiritual sluggards, wil come to spiritual poverty. So 1 Cor. 15. last; Be stedfast, unmoveable, alwayes abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as you know your labour shall not be in vaine in the Lord. If then you are industrious in the work of grace, it shal not be in vain, but you shal get by all that you do in the Lord.
9.* Because you have lost more grace in a little time then you can ever regain by all the diligence you can put forth should you live never so long. You had all graces once in Adam, but Adam by one morsel of forbidden fruit lost all that grace, which you cannot now regain by never so much diligence. Should you pray til you can speak no more; and should you sigh to the breaking of your loyns; should every word be a sigh, and every sigh a tear, and every tear a drop of blood, you would never be able to recover that grace which you lost in Adam; You obliterated the beautiful image of God; You lost that knowledge by the commission of one sin, which you cannot regain by ten thousand Sermons, or doing ten thousand Duties. Have not you therefore need of diligence, seeing you have lost so much in so little time, which by all your diligence you wil never fully recover?
10.* Because the best of you have lived a long time either using diligence to damn your selves, or else taking no care to save your selves, one or both; therefore you had need now to set about the work.* Beloved, I may say Seneca did of the heathen, That a great part of mans life doth passe away in doing evil, the greatest part in doing nothing, the whole of a mans life in doing other things then he should do. And truly so I may say to you, a great of your lives hath past in sinning away your salvation, in taking pains to damn your own souls; and if not so grosse, I believe a great part hath past away in doing nothing for your s•lvation, in not praying for salvation, in not hearing for salvation, in not reading for salvation, in not mourning for salvation, in doing nothing for heaven: and if it be so, that you have thus spent your time, you have great cause now to put your hand to the work, and to use all diligence in matters pertaining to your salvation. A man going a journey, that hath gone the greatest part of his time out of his way, he had need mend his pace when he comes into the right way again: so if we have spent the most part of our time in vain, we had need give the more diligence for the •ime to come.
1 Pet. 2.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
HAving in the morning finished the doctrinal part of this general point, I shal now only make a short Use, and then pass to the particulars wherein you should be diligent.
*1. Now is it true, that in all matters of soul Concernment, you must put forth a great deal of diligence? Then first in applying this Doctrine, I must proceed by way of Caution, and I shal lay down four Cautions, that you may not run into any mistakes about this point.
First, That though God calls for a great deal of diligence at your hands in the matters of your souls,* yet this doth no way presuppose, as if you could draw out, or put forth this dilig•nce by your own native power; but that God that commands your strength, that God must give you strength to doe what he commands. Psal. 68.28. Thy God hath commanded thy strength: What then? can a man therefore put forth his own strength? No, but the prayer followes; Strengthen O God, that which thou commandest us. Implying, that though God did command their strength, they could not put it out by their own power: but they would make a prayer to back the command, Lord thou commandest us to be strong, Lord, strengthen that which thou commandest. So that though God cal for your diligence, & cal for your strength; yet cannot you put forth any strength by your own power. Austine upon this consideration hath this passage; when I have a will, saith he, to do good, I have not a power; and when I have power, I have not a wil; and herein I see my own weaknesse, and that I must be beholding to Christ for strength. You can as wel carry on the work of Creation, as the work of Conversion by your own strength. You can as wel conquer a world of armed men alone, as conquer one Suggestion of the Divel by your own power. Though God doth cal for your obedience, and to put forth your diligence, yet this supposeth not, as if you could do this by your own strength; but that God that Commands you diligence, that God must stir it up in you.
- When God calls for your diligence in matters of soul-concernment take this Caution; that you do not discharge your duty in expressing a great deal of zeal and diligence in matters of your soul, unlesse you do it in a right manner, and to a right end. People think, if they can be diligent in hearing, and diligent in reading, and diligent in praying, and in receiving Sacraments; that then they discharge their duty, and answer the command of my Text, to be diligent. No Beloved, you do not answer your duty to God in expressing diligence in that which is materially good, unlesse you do it in a right manner, and to a right end: You have an instance in Jehu: 2 Kings 10. He was a marvellous industrious man in many good matters concerning the worship of God; at one time he killed the worshippers of Baal, at another time he pulled downe the houses where they worshipped, and broke the graven Images in pieces▪ At another time he cals out to Jehonadab, to see his zeal for the Lord of Hosts. Wonderful diligent! and yet all this was not done in a good manner, nor to a right end. Not in a good manner because it was done by halfes, not throughly; for though he d•stroyed the Images of Baal, yet he worshipt the Idols at Bethel. And then not to a right end, because he did not shew his zeal and industry out of any supreame reference to Gods glory, but only out of a politick end; to establish himself in his Kingdome, 2 King• 10.31. So that you may put forth such diligence in reading, and hearing, and in receiving, and the like; and yet, if not done in a right manner, and to a right end, you do not performe the duty of my Text. For take this as a rule in Divinity, that when God commands a duty, all the circumstances included in •he duty must be observed or els that duty is not done aright. As when you pray, you must not leave out one circumstance or quality required in a prayer; if so, God wil not accept your prayer. So here, God commands your diligence, if you are not diligent in a right manner, and to a right end, your diligence is not right.
*3. Though you put forth never so much diligence in the ma•ters of your soul, all those acts you do, are none of them me•i•orious:* you do not get heaven for praying, nor get heav•n for reading, nor get heaven for hearing, though haply you get not heaven without it. Good works, they may be causes of salvation in this sense, causes without which you cannot be saved; but all your obedience, and all your diligence are no causes for which you are saved, or which may any way move God to save you. So that though you are never so diligent, this diligence is not meritorious at all: Why? Because to make it meritorious, say Divines, three things must concur; First, The thing must be done freely not as a debt. Secondly, it must be done with a mans own native and proper strength, and not a borrowed power. Thirdly, It must be done perfectly: and therefore Divines say, (and that upon good reason too) That all our obedience, and all our actings in the wayes of grace cannot be meritorious: Why?
Because (First) We do them not as a free gift, but as a due debt: we owe God this diligence, and owe him this duty; and therefore cannot merit, because we only pay God his due. If you lend a man money, wil you thank and reward him to pay you your own? No: it is your due, he ought to repay you. All duties in matters of the soul are Gods due, of right belonging to him, and therefore cannot be meritorious.
Secondly, This diligence, could you put it forth by your own strength, you had somewhat wherein to boast; but all your diligence is put forth by a borrowed strength, by a strength derived from Jesu• Christ, by a strength from the Covenant of grace; it is thence you fetch power to perform all acts of obedience and spiritual diligence.
Thirdly, It cannot merit, because it is not perfect▪ nay, you are so far from meriting by your obedience, that you merit nothing but hell for the defects in your obedience, and the imperfections that are remaining in your best services.
- Take this Caution,* That though all the diligence you can put forth cannot be meritorious for God to save you; yet take this for truth, that the more you abound in spiritual industrie in the matters of the Soul, the more likely you are to receive fuller incoms of joy, and fuller increase of grace in your souls: To him that hath shall be given, and it shall be given him much more abundantly: That is, to him that hath improved his graces, and used them well, they shall be given more abundantly: Thou hast been faithful in a little, thou shalt be ruler over much. The more you act, and the more diligent you are in the matters of your soul, the more likely you are to be eminent and increasing in grace above others. It is a note that an Au•hor hath upon the Apostle Paul. Paul was the most eminent of all the Apostles; no Apostle like Paul, none outstript him. Now Divines ask the reason, why Paul should be more eminent then the rest of the Apostles, who saw Christ in the flesh; whereas Paul saw him onely in a vision, and no where else; yet Paul was more eminent then any other Apostle? and they give this reason: Paul was in labours more abundant; Paul was more industrious, putting out his gifts and graces, and God did blesse that industry with a fuller increase of the graces of Gods spirit then others had: So that, though God gives us not heaven for our growth in grace; yet ordinarily God intails a greater measure and increase of gifts upon the well using of them while we are in this world: Open your mouthes wide, and God will fill them. The more wide we are in our desires and expectations, the more we shall be filled.
*2. For Reprehension. Is it so, that in all matters of soul concernment we should put forth a great deal of diligence? then this should be a great scourge to that sluggishnesse of spirit that most men in the world are guilty of. What benummednesse, and what sluggishnesse of spirit do most men lie under? Many men are as David was, 1 King. 1.1. who when he grew old, he was so cold, no clothes could warm him. There are many men, that haply have been hot and zealous in profession; yet in processe of time they grow so cold, that all Ordinances cannot warm them. And though ordinarily, the words of the wise (saith Solomon) are as nails and goads; they are as nails to fasten us in a course of profession, they are as goads to put us on; every Ordinance is as a goad in our side, still putting us on in a course of holinesse: yet O that sluggishnesse, and O that deadnesse of spirit that lies upon mens hearts, they go but a snails pace in the way to heaven; whereas they can run as fast as a Dromedarie in the waies of sin.
It is the Observation of a Rabbi, That the Snail above all other creatures, was by God pronounced unclean, because of its slow and easie pace: God looks upon thee as an unclean man, and an unclean woman, that hast a sluggish and a slow spirit in matters of Christianity. There are many men that like no life like an idle life; they are never weary so much, as they are weary of doing good, and weary of duties; an hour at a Sermon, a day at a Fast, a little time at a prayer quite tires them; whereas waies of vanitie, and waies of pleasure, they are never weary of. It was the speech of that Epicure Marcus Lepidus,* who lying under a shady tree upon a Sunshine day, stretching himself, cries out, O would to God this were to take pains to live at ease. There are many men as sottish as he: they could wish, I would to God to sit in a Tavern were the way to go to heaven; I would to God to walk in the fields, to sit at the door on the Sabbath day, that this were the way to heaven; many men would be saved more easily! Why, how should this condemn that great sluggishnesse and idlenesse of mens spirits, that they do so little in the matters of soul concernments?
Beloved, you have cause to labour, because you finde many that have taken pains for heaven, that never came to heaven. Many shall strive to enter, but shal not be able, Luke 13 Had not you therefore need to take heed? Nay, Beloved, suppose (it is a supposition Aegydius hath, though not true,* yet I say suppose it) that all the world should be saved, but one man, yet, saith he, you have cause to take pains to be happy, lest you should be that one man should perish. If all the world should be saved but one man only; if one man should be damned, I have cause to labour with all my might, that I be not that one man. Here then, great cause you have not to lye under sluggishnesse, in all matters pertaining to the soul. You have a great deal of do, and haply but a little time; if you knew the greatnesse of your work and s•ortnesse of your time, haply you would now set about the businesse of your salvation. It was the speech of young King Charles of Sicily lying upon his death bed: I have scarce yet begun to live, and now, woe is me, I am compelled to dye. Beloved, Many of you may have cause to say thus, you have scarce yet done one good action that may give you any evidence to be happy with Christ another day: Happily you have not yet begun to be Christians, and you may be soon called to dye: and what an affliction would this be to you, that you have hardly begun to live a life of grace, and yet you must dye the life of nature. This Diligence is conversant about many things: 1. In getting grace. Here you have a great work to do, to get grace, Above all gettings get understanding: And the difficulty of getting grace, doth shew the goodnesse of grace. As we say in nature, the most vile things are most obvious to the eye, and most common to be found; you have stones and dirt every where, but things of a more excellent nature are more hard to come by; if you would have Gold, you must dig into the earth; if you would have Pearle, you must dive into the •ea: things that are excellent, nature hath made them hard to come by. This shewes the goodnesse of those matters which concern the soul, that they are very hard to be got. Prov. 2.2, 4.*Seek f•r wisdome as for silver, and dig for it as for hidden Treasure. And then, 2. Diligence is required not onely to get grace, but to keep it; and it is no lesse skill to keep grace, then to get it, there are so many temptations lie in your way. And then, 3. To watch the heart, that doth conspire against your grace, and against your soul: Prov. 4.23. Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life. 4. In examining the heart: Psal 64.6. The heart is deep; and Psal. 77.6. All these considered, you have cause to take pains in all the matters of the soul.
Thus having finish’d this Doctrine; I now pass to the Particulars, to which this diligence is applied. Give diligence: to what? Why, To make your Calling and Election sure. From whence, the second Observation I shal draw, is this:
*That Christians that profess the Gospel, ought to put forth a great deal of industry and diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called, and eternally elected. Give diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
Now I cannot handle this Doctrine in the bulk of it, but must of necessity take it into parts, and handle it piece by piece, that so I may give you the strength of the whole Observation in the Application of it. And seeing Calling lies in the front, I shal in a few Sermons treat of that. And the Point from thence, wil be this: That,
*That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually Called.
Beloved, This is a very material Point I am now upon, especially in this deceitful age, wherein men plunge themselves into a gulfe of presumption, wherein many times men take faith upon trust, and Christ upon trust. It is meet that you that live under the Gospel, should trie your Calling by the Gospel, whether it be true or no; there may be an external Call, when there is no inward calling by the operation of the Spirit upon your hearts.
In the managing of this Point, I shal shew you these three things.
First, What effectual Calling is.
Secondly, Why you are required to put forth a great deal of diligence to make your Calling sure to your souls.
Thirdly, By what Characters or Discoveries you •ay be assured in your own hearts that you are effectually call••.
First, What Effectual Calling is. You say we must make it sure, therefore what is the nature of it? For answer, you may take this description of it.
Effectual Calling is the fruit of Gods Election, whereby God of his free grace works a wonderful change in the heart of an Elect person, by the inward operation of the Spirit accompanying the outward Ministry of the word; by vertue of which, the soul is brought from under the dominion of sin and Satan into a state of grace, and so made meet for the enjoyment of God in glory. Now I shal not take this apart, but commit it to your memory and judgment to apprehend: Onely in this description there are laid down foure differences to distinguish effectual Calling from that ordinary or outward Calling that wicked men have by the Ministry of the word. As
- Effectual Calling in the description, is said to be a fruit of Gods Election; but outward or general Calling is a fruit only of common providence. God by an over-ruling providence sends the Gospel among a people, and thereby calls them to an outward compliance and conformity; but effectual Calling is a fruit of Gods Election.
- It is said in the description, that Effectual Calling, it changes the heart, whereby God works a wonderfull change in the heart: but an external Calling no way reacheth the heart, onely worketh some kind of civil or common alteration in the life.
- It’s said, Eff•ctual Calling is wrought by the inward operation of the Spirit accompanying the outward Ministry of the word; whereas an External Call is onely by the word, but no inward saving worke of the Spirit at all.
- It’s said of Eff•ctual Calling, that it is from the Dominion of sin; but External Calling is onely from the external acts of sin. Indeed by an external calling the word may have that power over a man, as to restrain and keep in the vis•ble and external actings of sin, but it no way works upon the inclination to take off the affection from sin: whereas the effectual Calling works upon the heart, and works to the subduing and destroying of the power of sin, as well as the actings of it.
Secondly, Why doth God require, that we should put forth such great diligence in making sure that we are effectually called, by the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the Gospel? There are three Reasons why this should be?
*First, Because there are many professing the Gospel, that do harbour ungrounded perswasions that they are effectually called, when they are not▪ Now if any men be deceived, why may not you? And if any are apt to be deceived about this matter, have not you great cause to be diligent, lest you are deceived also? The Jewes of old, they boasted of their Calling; and said, We have Abraham to our father: but Christ confuts that; If you were Abrahams children (saith he) you would do the works of Abraham: but you seek to kill me, which Abraham did not. But then they go higher, John 8.46. they were effectually called, For God is our Father: No, saith Christ, You are of your father the Devil. Thus many men run into these grosse mistakes, to beleive they are effectually called, when they are not. Many are called outwardly that are not called effectually, Matth. 22.14. And therefore it concerns you, not to be deceived in this great businesse.
*Secondly, Because there is this natural aptnesse in all of us, in things that are of any value concerning the body; you will be sure to make sure of them. It may be, if you have Brasse and Pewter, or baser Mettals, your Kitchin shall serve for that; but things of greater value, as Pearls and Diamonds, they must be in the Closet, and in a Cabinet in that Closet, you will be sure to ensure them. Why how much more should you ensure this great and precious Jewel of Effectual Calling, that so much concerns your immortal souls? When you buy Land, you will be sure your Title is good; to draw up your evidences, so as to be firm in Law. You know Merchants, if they venture a great or most part of their estate at sea, where happily there may be hazard in the Voyage, they will run speedily to ensure a great part of their Commodities. Beloved, this should you do; this body of yours is the Ship, and the Merchandize and Freight in this Ship is your souls; and this Ship is going a great Voyage to Glory, Glory is the Port whither this Ship is to come, you shall meet with many dangers in your way, haply with storms and tempests of temptation; yea, haply you may run upon the rocks of presumption, or quick-sands of despair. O now, run to the ensuring Office: what’s that? why, run to seek the Testimony of Christs Spirit in your own spirit, by the word, to evidence unto you upon good ground, that the Ship shall be safe, and the Commodities brought secure to the Haven; that Ship, Body, Soul and all shall come safe to Heaven. Beloved, if men will thus ensure their Estates, you have much more reason to ensure your souls. For believe it, if you make not sure your souls, if you suffer shipwrack, ye are •urned Bankrupts presently; Bankrupt to God, you lose him for ever. It is said of an old Usurer, That when any man came to borrow money of him, he would hardly trust one in twenty; and being ask’d the reason, Why he would do so? O (saith he) it is good to be sure. Why (Beloved) shall a Usurer in all his wayes be so secure, and so heedful in all his disbursments, that he could say, It is good to be sure? and may not I much more say to you, It is good to be sure of Heaven? it is good to be sure you are effectually called by Jesus Christ; it is good to be sure that you are Christians in truth, not in name onely; that you are Christians in Deed, not in Profession onely. O it is good to make your Calling and Election sure.
Thirdly, Christians should labour to assure this,* because the more assured you are of your Effectual Calling, the more it will heighten and increase your inward peace and Comfort, 1 Pet. 1.8. In whom believing ye rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is very observable, that in all the Epistles of the new Testament, where the Apostle speaks of their effectual calling to be Saints, in the very next verse he salutes them with these words, Grace and Peace be towards you, 1 Cor. 1.2. You are called to be Saints; Grace and Peace be towards you. Rom. 1.6, 7. Called to be Sa••t•, Grace and Peace be multiplyed towards you: and so in every Epistle besides; to note that when a man is eff•ctually called, the more assurance he hath of his calling, the more peace he hath in his own conscience. It wil greaten your peac•, and greaten your inward comforts; therefore you should labour af•er this ass•rance of your effectual calling.
And thus having shewn you what effectual calling is, and why you •ust give diligence to make this sure. I now passe to a third Q•erie.
What are the Characters or discoveries, whereby my soul may be assured that I a• eff•ctually called by Jesus Christ? And in the dispatch of this, I shall resolve it onely by these two general heads.
First, You may be assured of your effectual calling, if God hath •aken that method with your souls, which he doth ordinarily take with those whom he doth effectually call.
Secondly, If the Lord hath wrought in you those saving effects or concomitants, which do ordinarily accompany those that are thus effectually called: if these two things be done, you may have a seal and assurance in your own hearts that you also are effectually called. Beloved, it is not for Ministers to flatter you: there are among many in the world but few that are called; among many that are called but few that are elected; and therefore do not flatter your selves. If upon tryal you finde you are not in the number of Gods called ones, go home and bewail your unregenerate and unconverted estate. But before I can speak of this method, I must first lay downe some mistakes that are held by erroneous mindes about the method God takes in calling a sinner home to himself.
A fi•st mistake is of the Pelagians, who hold this, that a man is able to call and convert himself. Now this opinion doth quite exclude and justle out God from having any hand therein: they say a Christian is able to call and convert himselfe, having only a general concurrence and assistance from God.
- Of the Arminians, and they hold this▪ That effectual calling consists only in moral perswasions, and may be resisted by the person that is thus called; and that a man being called into a state of grace, may fall from his calling and fall from his grace, and so have no profit by his calling at all; which is a most uncomfortable opinion: and surely God would never take this method in calling of his people.
- That of the Papists; and they say that God calls and ordains a sinner to glory, but it is upon the foresight of his good works. God foresaw how good and holy the man would be, and therefore God would chuse and call him to glory: But this hath no ground from Scripture neither.
- That of the Familists; and they hold this, That Gods method in calling a sinner is not by the outward Ministry of the Word, but it is by Raptures and Revelations, and by divine inspirations, and extraordinary wayes of working: but this is not Gods usual method, though God sometimes takes this way, as he did by Paul, who was called this way after an extraordinary manner: Yet this is not Gods ordinary rule.
- There is another mistake, and that is of those who presse a necessity of such measures of legal horrour and terrour upon the consciences of men, else they can never be saved. Sometimes Ministers have been so harsh now and then, (though indeed no such cause to blame them as is pretended) yet sometimes lashes break out, that men must be so and so humbled, in such a measure, and so long for duration. Now this is not Gods method to presse for measure, but a great mistake about Gods manner of calling a sinner; though I must confesse, this is the nearest of all the five, to that rule God takes in calling a sinner to glory. Having thus laid down the mistakes, ’tis the easier now to finde out the truth. I come now to speak of that method God takes in calling a sinner. And here I shall lay down a sixfold method, in which God proceeds with those whom he doth effectually call, which if he doth so with you, you may go home with a seal upon your hearts, that you are effectually called to grace, and you shall one day come to glory.
First, When God goes about effectually to call a poor sinner into a state of grace, he puts a clear light into his soul, whereby he may see the hainous and aggravated nature of all his sins, more then ever he did before. Rom. 7.8, 9, 13. Paul tells you, Before the commandment came, he was alive, and sin was dead; that is, before the power of the word came upon his conscience to convert him, he was alive; i.e. he thought he was a good man, and a just man, and he thought sin was dead, sin was destroied; he never knew sin so sinful: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died: but when the word of God came with power upon my conscience, and light upon my judgement, then I saw I was a dead man, sin had kil’d me, and I saw sin was raigning, and sin was raging in me: and what then? ver. 13. I saw sin exceeding sinful: he never saw sin so before conversion, before his Call, when he was a Pharisee; but when the word of God came with power upon his conscience to call him, then saith he, I saw sin to be exceeding sinful. Now (O Beloved) hath ever God done thus with your souls? may be you look upon sin with a transient and general view but do you look upon sin so as to see more evil in sin then ever you saw before? This is the course God usually takes. Me thinks God deals with a converted sinner, as it is spoken in Job 33.27, 28. He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it doth not profit me, he will deliver his soul from going down into the pit, and his life shall see the light: that is, God looks upon the mass of mankind in the world, and saith, if any man say he hath sinned, and it did not profit him, that is, if he look upon sin as an evil, and that he never did get good by it: then saith God, I will deliver his soul from hell, and bring him to heaven.
*Yea, but you will say, May be sometimes God may do thus to affright men, and trouble men in minde, make them see their sins: but is this Gods usual work?
*Yes, it is, ver. 29. Lo, these things worketh God oftentimes with men. Mark, it is not a seldom work, but it is Gods work often, he will make you see your sins, see them to be fruitlesse, and see them to be unprofitable; Lo, these things God worketh oftentimes with men. Hence you read, John 16.8. When the Spirit shall come (mark his Office) he shall convince the world of sin: The first act of the Spirit in converting a soul, and calling him, is to convince him of sin. And I Remember Piscator thinks this accomplished in Acts 2.37. When they saw their sin in crucifying of Jesus Christ; this is the first work of the Spirit of God, in you Calling; he will convince you of sin. Now, O Beloved, to how many do I speak this day, with whom God hath never taken this Method, since they were born into the world? How many are there that have been told of their drunkennesse, and told of their lusts, and of their deceits, and of their licencious living from day to day; and yet to this day they never saw sin to be exceeding sinful; they never were convinced of sin to purpose? If they did indeed see their sin, 1. it was but a transient sight, soon come and soon gone; or else 2. it was but a general sight, •o say we are all sinners: or 3. If they did see their sin, it was but a confused sight; no way distinct: or 4. If they did see sin, it was an unhumbling sight; the sight of sin did never humble them in Gods sight. I intreat you, Beloved, do not lay hold or have hopes of being effectually call’d, if God hath not shewn you the hainous and aggravated nature of your sins. There is a speech, Job. 36.9, 10. He first shews to men their works, and their transgressions, that they have exceeded; and then he opens their ears to discipline, and commands them to return from evil. Mark, then the Lord doth it, when he makes them see their transgressions, that they have exceeded; Now, have you seen that you have exceeded in your Passions, and in your Pride? have you seen sin to be exceeding sinful? this is Gods first work; and happy are you that are brought into Christs School, that Christ doth take this Method withall.
- After God hath put a light into the soul, to make you see the sinfulnesse of sin; then 2. God fastens these thoughts on the soul, to make you sensible of the great misery that your sins have brought you into; to cry out with Paul, Rom. 7.24. Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death? There Paul cryes out of his wretchednesse and misery, by reason of that body of death, the sinfulnesse of his nature, which he confesses did as much trouble him as if a dead body should be tied to his living body; alluding to the custome of the Romans, in punishing notorious Malefactors, which he takes to be a most grievous punishment. Why Beloved, have you ever seen this? did you ever see that misery that sin brought upon you? that sin did devest you of righteousnesse, did rob you of your God, banish you from his presence, intitle you to hell, and make you objects of his wrath? Now were you sensible of this misery? this is Gods method, to make you see your misery by reason of sin.
- God puts the soul into a kind of spiritual astonishment, that the poor sinner doth not know where to go, what course to take, which way to turn, how he may get pardon for his sin, and recovery from his miserie. This you finde mentioned as Gods method, Acts 2.37. upon 3000 at once, Men and Brethren, what shall we do to be saved? They were even in amaze, the word wrought upon them, and they saw Jesus Christ crucified to be their sin; and now they crie out in great astonishment, Men and Brethren, what shall we do to be saved? When God effectually calls a man, he will leave him a little to himselfe, that he knows not which way in the world to turn him. Now when I speak of spiritual Astonishment, mistake me not; for first, I presse not such a measure of Humiliation, nor such a measure of trouble of minde, how great it must be; Nor Secondly do I presse the duration of it, how long it must be; that you must be so long and so long. Nor Thirdly, do I presse an absolute necessitie of this, as if a man could not be call’d without it. Indeed we read of Lydia, that her heart was opened, and she never troubled nor astonisht; and God sometimes works thus in an extraordinary way: but I presse this, that ordinarily, its Gods Method in some measure or other, at some time or other, to put his People in such a plunge, that they shall not know which way in the world to turn themselves. And so were those 3000 Acts 2. They could not tell what they should do to be saved.
And here further, if you ask me, With whom doth God most of all take this course, to put them into such spiritual amazement; to put them into horror and terror about their everlasting estate? I Answer, first, Those that have liv’d in a course of prophanenesse before Conversion; let them look to it: if thou hast been a knottie and stout-hearted sinner against God, God must give thee many a blow before he can hammer thee to his own will. You that have been guiltie of Drunkennesse, and guiltie of Adultery, or guiltie of Sabbath-breaking in a grosse and licencious way, that have made this world a stage to act wickednesse upon, look to it; boast not of your Calling: if God hath not brought you in this way, you have ground to suspect you are not yet call’d. They that before Conversion were loose in their lives, if they finde not this spiritual amazement, it is not likely they are call’d. And therefore I verily suspect your Call, that can jump out of a course of Profanenesse, into a course of Profession; that can jump from a course of Malignitie to delight to hear Sermons, and love Ministers. You that have been opposers of godlinesse, if you do not shew an eminent work in your Conversion, I greatly suspect, whether you are converted or no: because it is Gods usual Method, if men have been men of grosse lives before calling, to bring them to great ashonishment when they are called.
- You that have often withstood, and still withstand Gods call; that Sermon after Sermon, and invitation after invitation would not gain upon you; Do you look about you: God will give you many a blow, God will send you many a sad hour, before he brings you •o your peace.
- Those that have often sinn’d against Conscience, that do as it were lay Conscience wast; that are prodigall of sinning, not caring for sinning against never so much light, and never so much conviction. Beloved, you shall not have so easie a coming to heaven: God will first lay many stroaks upon you, and draw heavie groans from you. David saith, By reason of thy terrors I am afraid, and my bones are dried up: You are subject to most horror and astonishment, that do sin against Conscience. Again,
- When God hath done thus, made you see the aggravated nature of sin, shewn you your misery by reason of sin, and brought you into such a condition that you cannot tell how to be saved; then 4. this is Gods Method, to take you off from your own bottom, beat you off from resting on duties, and beat you off from dependance upon graces, and beat you off from every thing in your selves. This was Gods work in Paul, Phil. 3.9, 10. I was, saith Paul, Circumcised the eigth day, of the stock of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamen, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; that is, my father and mother were Hebrews: what then? and I was, touching the Law, blamelesse, Mark, he was so standing upon his own legs, upon his own bottome; that he thought himselfe a holy man, a man blamelesse touching the Law. But now, saith he, what things were gain to me, I count loss for Christ; yea doubtlesse, I count all things lost, that I might be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousnesse. Here Paul before Conversion depended upon his holy living, and honest dealing; but now I am converted, and see my folly; now I desire to be found in Christ, not having mine own righteousnesse. See how God did unbottome Paul from any goodnesse in himself, to make him rest upon Jesus Christ: and this is Gods work with thee; he will unbottome thee from thy selfe, and make thee see thou canst not be thine own Saviour.
- After he hath unbottom’d thee from thy selfe, he puts thee upon earnest longings and looking after Jesus Christ. When the poor soul hath ransack’d duties, and gone to this Minister, and the other Minister, to be satisfied; and he sees duties cannot help him, and prayer wil not help him; now he thinks, I see none but Christ to lay my head upon: and I see none but a Christ I must make recourse unto: And now he is so longing after Christ, that if all the stones in the streets were gold, and all the building of his house were diamond, and all his garments bespangled with pearle; none of these should interrupt, or stay him from running after Jesus Christ; and this, as I may say, is Gods second work: The three first may be in wicked men, they may see their sin and misery thereby, and be in a maze not knowing which way to goe: but these two are a form beyond the wicked; they never unbottom themselves, nor ever have any longings or breathings after Christ at all.
- It is Gods method after all this, to make them finde abundance of contentment, and acquiescence in Jesus Christ; that they may have occasion to say, I see I have laid my help upon one that is mightie; I see I have pitcht upon him that is both able and willing to do me good. 2 Thess. 2.16. Hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace And now beloved, having spoken of these things, how many in the Congregation have I left behind, that haply the Lord hath used none of these methods with their soules? O Lord, I am not able to tell you your miserie, but I intreat you take heed, and doe not nuzzle up your soules in Presumption and groundless perswasions; for believe it, these are Gods ordinary methods he takes with most souls in bringing them to Glo•y.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
HAving finisht the first part of the discoverie, in relation to the method God takes with those whom he doth effectually call. I now proceed to the second way of discovery, and that is, by those saving Concomitants, that do and will accompany a soul that is effectually call’d: and these saving effects, I shal reduce under eight heads.
First, A man effectually call’d by Christ, he doth unfainedly love the word of God, and the Minister that preached that word that God did use as an instrument of his call. First, I say, he will love the word, John 8.47. He that is of God, (that is, he that is calld by God) heareth Gods word, therefore you are not of God, because you hear not his word. There the Scripture tels us, that they who are of God, effectually called by him, they hear his word with abundance of delight, and abundance of joy and love. So 1 John 4, 5, 6. He that is of God heareth us, he that is not of God heareth not us. And therefore David, when he would evidence a work of God upon his heart, Psal. 119.14. Thy word, saith he, is as great riches to me. And as if he did not vulue riches comparable to the word, vers. 72. I love thy word above thousands of gold and silver. Beloved, if you are converted and called by Jesus Christ, you wil love the Word of God, that was an instrument of your Call. Wherefore all you that spurn against the Gospel, that cannot endure to have the word come with power upon your consciences; all you that are weary of Ordinances, and find no more savour in an Ordinance of God, then (as Iob saith) there is taste in the white of an egge; this is an argument you are not yet called. What’s the reason one man wil rise early, goe far, take pains, and many times n•glect his own lawful affairs, and all to enjoy the word: when another man will goe by the Church-door, and haply goe to a Tavern, and wil not goe to hear the word at all? What’s the reason? One is call’d by the word, and the other not: one is called by the Word, and therefore loves it, another is not called, and that makes him neglect it.
- He doth not only love the word, but the Minister that by preaching the word was an instrument of his conversion. And therefore it is observable, which some Divines note, That of all men that we read of in Scripture, there was no man did love Paul so well as Timothy: For I have no man like minded, saith Paul, Phil. 2.22. No man that did so naturally care for him, and for the Church of God, as he; For as a son with his father hath he served me. And what’s the reason? Why, Paul was the instrument of Timothies conversion, and Timothy being a Minister, and come to a great pitch in grace, he thought that of all Arguments in the world, that should indear him to love Paul, because Paul was the Minister that did convert him: therefore he calls him (1 Tim. 1.2.) Timothy his beloved son in the Faith. And hence it is, that when the Apostle would draw love from the Corinthians to himself, and the Ministers of Christ that were the means of their calling, he urgeth it upon this ground, that they were the means that did beget them to Christ Jesus, 1 Cor. 4. ver. 1. compared with ver. 15, 16. Let a man so account of us, as of the Ministers of Christ, and as Stewards of the myst•ries of God. Why should men so account of them? For (ver. 15.) though you have ten thousand Instructers, yet have you not many Fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel. Hereby he would draw out their love to him, because he was the instrument that did first convert them. Now then, put these two together: A man that is effectually called, he doth both love the Word of Christ, that was an instrument of his calling; and the Minister that preach’d that word, which was the meanes by which he was called: and try your selves by these. Many of you haply have some good wrought (as you think) upon you, and some change in you; but truly let me tell you this, if you are persons that are out of love with the word, if you are out of love with those Ministers God made instrumental to convert you; you have just cause to suspect your calling; for you see throughout the whole course of Scripture, their hearts did cleave with love to them that called them: And therefore they that can slight and contemn those Ministers by whose Ministry they were brought home to Jesus Christ, they have just cause of jealousie to suspect their Call. Again,
- If God hath effectually called you, he will by his Spirit bring you out of a state of ignorance and darkness, and give you some measure of knowledge, to be acquainted both with the mysteries of God and Christ, and the sinfulnesse of your selves more then ever you were before. This the Apostle Peter intimates, 1 Pet. 2. ver. 9. You are a chosen generation, a royall Priesthood, a peculiar people, that you may shew forth the praise of him, who hath called you out of darknesse into his marvellous light: i.e. out of ignorance into a great measure of knowledge. And it is called a marvellous light, 1. Because it is marvellous if you compare that knowledge you shal have under the Gospel, with what men had under the Law. 2. It is marvellous, because men are astonish’d, that they should, after so long a night of ignorance, come to so great a measure of knowledge. 3. It is called marvellous, because it is so contrary to that condition they were formerly in: As if a man that hath lain long in a dark dungeon, should be suddenly called into a glorious Palace, the Palace would seem more glorious, because it is so contrary to the dark Prison: So this work of God when he calls you, it is marvellous light, because it is so contrary to the condition you were in before your calling. Isa. 30.26. Acts 26.18. He hath sent his word to call you from darknesse to light, and from the power of Satan to God. 4. It is a marvellous light, because such as none but the Mediator could procure it, Isa. 42.6, 7. I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles. 5. It is a marvellous light, because a light that shines out of darknesse, 2 Cor. 4.6. God that commanded the light to shine out of darknesse. 6. It is a marvellous light because it hath more force then any other light: ’tis called the light of life, John 8.12.
Now this call from darkness to light hath two branches:
- 1. A man shal have more Light, to have more acquaintance with, and more clearness in the mysteries of Jesus Christ: And
- 2. more Light to know the sinfulness of himself.
First, He shal have more Light to know the mysteries of Jesus Christ: And hence it is that Paul tels us, Gal. 1.16. It pleased God to call me by his grace, and to reveal his Son in me; implying, that where God by his grace doth call a sinner, he doth reveal his Son unto him. Wherefore, Beloved, if Jesus Christ be not made known to your soules, if you have no competent measure of the knowledge of Christ; you may be under this conviction, that you are not yet called by Jesus Christ. Nay further, he doth not only call you unto this Light, to manifest Jesus Christ to you in some dim way; but you shal have a clear light: 2 Cor. 4.6. For G•d who commanded light to shine out of darknesse, hath shined in our hearts (not in a dim, but shining light) to give us the light of the knowledg of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: that is, you have a cleer light to know God in the face of Christ; you cannot know God in himself, but in the person of Christ you shall have light to know him. This therefore is the first Branch, That God will put a light into thy soul, whereby thou shalt have a clear knowledge of the things appertaining to Jesus Christ.
Again Secondly, This shall not only reveal Christ to thee; but this light shal also reveal thy Selfe to thee, the sinfulness of thy self. It is observable of Paul, that before his calling, he was after the law blameless; he thought himself to be a faultless man; but when the word called him▪ then he cries out, I see sin to be exceeding sinfull: then he saw sin to be sin, and him•elfe to be a vile and wretched man. And therefore, Beloved, any of you that have not this marvellous light in your souls, neither to know God, nor to know Jesus Christ, nor the matters appertaining to him, nor to know the sinfulnesse of your own hearts; take it from God, you are not effectually called: either these passages in Scripture must be rased out, or else your call•ng must not be sound; and therefore take heed: I would fain m•ke my Ministry searching, that hypocrites may not lie lurking under it. You would be better Christians, if you were better acquainted with all that unsoundness, and that wretchedness of heart that is in you; and therefore (I intreat you) look about you: Though I would have no godly man discouraged by this that is spoken; but that you that are not yet called, might have your hearts a little staggered by what is and wil be said.
- A man effectually called is cast out of himself, and cleaves to, and closeth with Jesus Christ, with more complacencie and contentment, then ever he could do in all his life before. John 6.45. He that hath heard and learned of the father, shal come unto m•; he doth not say, all they that hear of the father: many men doe hear the word, but never close in with Christ; but all they that have heard, and by hearing have learnt, and are called, come unto me, and close in with me, and cleave to me, and take content and delight in me. Beloved, there are many that hear the word, yet never goe out of themselves, and never close in with Christ: yea but all they that hear and learn, that hear and are called by hearing, they all come in to Jesus Christ. Wherefore all you, that in hearing cannot finde your hearts in love with Christ, cannot finde your hearts to close in with Christ, and believe in Christ; you have just cause to suspect your call, that your calling is not effectual. 1 Cor. 1.24. The Apostle tels you, there were other men counted Christ foolishness; but to you that are called, Christ is the power and wisdome of God: that is, you do acknowl•dge, and you do conceive of Jesus Christ, that he hath as much power as God hath in him, and as much wisdome as God hath in him; and you close in with Chrrst for that end, when other men think Christ to be foolish, and Christ weak: men uncall’d, they have low thoughts of Christ: but to you that are called, Christ is the power and wisdome of God: You will have high thoughts of Jesus Christ if you are effectually called.
- That man that is effectually called, he shall be inabled by the spirit of Christ to call upon God, 1 Cor. 1.2. To all in Corinth called to be Saints, with all that call upon the name of the Lord. There the Apostle joynes called to be Saints, with this phrase, to call upon God: to shew, that whoever is effectually called to be a Saint, that man shall be inabled by the Spirit of Jesus, to call upon God. Psal. 27.8. When thou saidest, Seek my face; my heart said unto thee, thy face Lord will I seek. Hence ye read, Acts 9.11. when Ananias doubted whether Paul was truly call’d or no, and Jesus Christ would convince Ananias that he was truly call’d: what means doth he use? verse 11. do not suspect him, but arise saith Christ, and go to him into the street, called straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one Saul of Tarsus, for behold he prayeth. If he were not called, he would never go to God in such a cordial way, and humble his soul before God for his by past failings: and beg strength for time to come, and labour to have his peace made with me. Go to him, for behold he prayeth: and therefore all you that have not a spirit in any measure to call upon God, and to pour forth your requests in a solemn prayer; you have just cause of jealousie to suspect your Call.
- If you are effectually called, God hath wrought in your souls, an utter detestation and loathing of all the evils that in the former part of your lives before your calling you have committed and were guilty of. Hos. 14.8. Ephraim shall say, what have I any more to do with Idols? The interogation imports a vehement detestation of them, and indignation against them. 2 Cor. 7.11. the Apostle speaks there of repentance, (the same with calling) when men come to have the work of grace in their hearts: and this is a branch of it: that godly sorrow causeth care, and causeth feare, and causeth indignation: that is, if any man be a repenting man, and a converted man: this conversion will cause indignation; that is, he will be even mad with himselfe, and angry with himselfe, that he should be so vile a wretch before conversion, as he hath been. Thus was Paul, he speakes with indignation against the sins he was guilty of before his calling. I have been a persecutor, I have hal’d the Saints into prison: Nay, saith he, I was even mad against the Church. Beloved, you will count your sins to be madnesse, and count them to be greatly aggravated, that were committed before God call’d you. Anselm said to his body, I’le tame thee, O unruly beas•, with fasting and pray•r. We read of one that bit off his tongue in indignation, that therewith he had denied Jesus Christ. Another Martyr put that hand first into the fire, with which he had subscribed a recantation: saying, Burn thou, O hand, that didst subscribe to that which might have made me burn both body and soul in hell. And therefore you that have no loathing thoughts against past deceit, and past drunkennesse, and past swearing, and past evils: suspect your calling: You that do not abhor the thoughts of your forme• evils, your wonted pride, and wonted covetousnesse: if you cannot look with indignation against these, you have great cause to suspect your call: For if God have called you, he will make you even angry with your selves, that ever you have been so vile as you have been. Hence it is, when God speaks of Israels conversion, Isa. 2.20. ’tis said, they shall cast away their Idols from them: they shall cast away their sins as with indignation against themselves, because they have sinned. And hence in the Prophesie of Ezek. 20.43. the Prophet tels them, that for the evils they had done, they should loath themselves in their own eyes: their indignation should be so great against themselves, that ever they should be so vile against God before their call. So David with indignation saith, after he had recovered himselfe, and brought his heart into a repentant frame, so foolish was I and Ignorant, Psal. 73.22. Now Beloved, I would hear appeale unto you, I will judge no man; let your own consciences passe sentence upon you; But let me appeale to your selves: Have not many of you before these times been opposers of Religion; men walking in ungodly, lewd, and profane courses of living? haply now you are moulded into a form of Profession; now you hear the Word, speak wel of Ministers; now you cry up Government, many your plausible way•s and actions you can carry on; but what is in your hearts? Have you indignation against your past persecution, and evils? If not, belie•e it, though you go far, I fear you may com• short of heaven: your calling is not real, if you have not indignation •n• wrath against your former sins commit•ed. And therefore, O what a sad word is this to all •nsensible sinners! that are men that never had their hearts touch’d with remorse for any evil: What a sad word is this to you that have been drunk week a••er week; and sworn day after day; and d•c•ived hour after hour, and been unclean time after time: and yet all these evils never touch’d the heart? Truly, you have gr•at cause to fear, that God hath not yet •ff•ctually called you by Jesus Christ.
- The man that is eff•ctually call•d, his spirit is brought into an obedi•ntial frame, to yield obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ: if God call you by his Spirit, he will not leave you to the exorbitancies of your own wayes and will, but he will bring you to a yeeldingnesse of heart to all his commands. Rom. 15.6. We have received grace and Apostleship for obedience to the faith among all Nations, among whom you are also the called of Jesus Christ. The Apostle did not alone receive grace for obedience; but the same was among them also: You receive grace for the obedience of faith. So that now, if you are the called of Jesus Christ, the Lord hath this work upon you, he doth bring you to the obedience of faith; that is, he doth work in your souls a yeelding frame to obey all the commands of Jesus Christ: and therefore any of you that stand out with stoutnesse of heart against Jesus Christ; let Christ say what he will, you will do what you list; let him command what he will, you will do what you please: you that stand out thus with gainsaying of spirit against Jesus Christ, you have great cause to suspect your Call. Again,
- A man effectually called by Jesus Christ, he will be mis-called and reproach’d by the men of the world: John 15.19. If you were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Yet do not mistake me; I do not say in this Concomitant, That every man that is reproach’d and mis-called is a called man: but I say, A man that is truly called, will be mis-called by wicked men. Now mis-calling, or the reproaches of wicked men, is a pledge of you effectual calling, if you take in these qualifications: First, if they mis-call you meerely because you are godly, and hate you because of your holinesse, then it is an argument, as Jesus Christ said, Because I have called you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Secondly, If they mis-call you when you give no occasion of offence wherefore they m•y justly mis-call you: If you can say with David, Psal. 59. They mis-call me; but it is neither for my wickedness, nor for my sins: if they mis-call you without any ground, then it is a probable argument of your Effectual Calling.
- A man effectually called, he makes it his endeavour to walk worthy of his calling: 2 Thess. 2.13, 14. So E•hes. 4.1. Walk worthy of the calling wherewith you are called. And thus I have briefly gone over these Eight Particulars: I intreat you, delude not your own hearts, but bring the Word and your hearts together, and trie by these Notes, whether you can evidence to your own souls, That you are effectually called by Jesus Christ, or no.
Now is this true, That wi•h all those whom God hath effectually called, he doth take those Methods before spoken of; & he doth work these Concomitants now named? Then 1. By way of Ʋse, This should be astonishment to all those that never had those Methods of God upon their souls;* that never had these effects within them to accompanie their Call. O (Beloved) I wish I could fasten the naile of Terror deep into their hearts, that never had any of these wrought in their souls; that never loved the word, nor the Ministers of it; that never were brought by God out of a state of ignorance into a state of knowledge; that never did close in effectually with Jesus Christ; that never had indignation against the evils they did before Conversion; that never had their hearts brought into an obediential frame, to take impression of any command that God should laie upon them; how sadly should this Consideration lie upon your hearts?
- Are you effectually called?* Labour to resemble him in your conversation that hath called you. This Use the Apostle makes of this Doctrine, 1. Pet. 1.15. As he that hath called •ou is holy, s• be you holy: Resemble him that hath called you in holinesse. An excellent phrase you have, 1 Pet. 2.9. Shew forth (saith the Apostle) the praises of him that hath called you from darkness into his marvellous light.* The word is more full in the Greek; Shew forth, or manifest (not the praises, as we read it, but) the vertues or the graces of him that hath called you. If God hath called you, and Christ hath called you, you should shew forth Christs graces in your Conversation; that is, live as Christ lived, and walk as Christ walked. If you say, you have fellowship with Christ, you ought also to walk as he walked, 1 Joh. 1.6.
*3. Do nothing that may any way blemish this holy calling of yours; this the Apostle presseth, 2 Thess. 1.11. We pray alwaies for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling. So Ephs. 4.1. I as a prisoner of the Lord Jesus beseech you, that you walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith you are called. Beloved, If you are called, take heed of any way blemishing your Call: All the scandals and failings you commit, laies a spot upon that holy calling of yours: though indeed their is no reason to blemish a mans Profession, although some should erre in their practice. The Apostle takes off this, Gal. 5.8. This perswasion, saith Paul, comes not from him that hath called you. As if he should say; many men seeing the Galathians turn Apostates, they may blame Religion, and blame God that call’d them; but saith the Apostle, do not blame them; for this perswasion of their failings, comes not from him that called them: your calling is not in fault, but your corruptions are in fault. Therefore it is an unjust accusation, because some men fail, to blame God, and blame Profession, and Religion for it.
*4. If God hath effectually call’d you, and you can evince it to your own souls upon the discovery before heard; my last Use is this, that you would live in exalting and magnifying of the grace of God in your calling:*you are called, saith the Apostle, according to the purpose of his grace; not according to your own works. O live live in magnifying that grace that hath called you.
And here I might presse upon you 7. or 8. Considerations, why you should live in magnifying of grace. I shall name them fi•st in general. This exhortation should much sway with you, if you would consider these three things, 1. From what you are called. 2. To what you are called; and 3. For what you are called. I shall put the two first together.
- The consideration of this, from what, and to what you are called, should much heighten your magnifying of Gods grace: And here I shal name seven particulars.
- A man effectually called, he is called from ignorance to knowledge, 1 Pet. 2.9. You are called from darknesse into marvellous light. Now should not this make you magnifie mercy, that you that lay in your sins uncalled, as in a dungeon of darknesse, now God should call you into a lightsome and pleasurable palace? thy minde was a faire builded house without windowes; or if any, but woodden windowes that would let in no light: now God hath opened these shuts, and let in the Sun of righteousnesse to shine upon thy soul; and brought thee from this dungeon of darknesse in thy soul, and given thee the light of his knowledge.
- You are called from a course of sin to a course of holinesse: Before your calling you were the Divels Drudges, and did his work at wil; the Divel (in Pauls language to Timothy) had you Captive at his pleasure; but when God calls you, he takes you from under the dominion and raign of sin; and brings you into a course of holinesse, 1 Thes. 4.7. You are called, not unto uncleannesse, but unto holinesse, 2 Pet. 1.3. He hath called us to glory and vertue. Before calling, thou wert the receptacle or common shore of all filth and uncleannesse; when called, thou art swept with the besome of sanctification; yea beautified and adorned as a pleasant palace for thy God to delight in. And this should cause you much to magnifie grace, that you are brought from being the Devils drudges, to be Gods freemen; from being the Devils slaves, to be Gods servants; from being the Devils taskeman, to pay thee thy wages in hel, to be Gods workman, for which he will give thee thy reward in heaven.
- God calls thee from bondage to libertie. In the time that thou art uncalled, thou art in bondage; 2 Pet 2.19. they are the servants of Corruption, &c. in bondage to thy lusts, and bondage to thy Passion, and a slave to the world; thou art in bondage under the Law, under the curse and rigour, and condemnation of it; but now Jesus Christ, if he have called thee, he hath called thee to liberty. Gal 5.13. You are called to liberty, only use not liberty as a Cloak to wickedness. Before calling, 2 Tim. 2.25. you are in Sathans snares; but after calling, you are set at liberty, you are freed from the guilt, and freed from the bondage of your sin.
- You are called from a condition of estrangednesse, into an intimate familiaritie and fellowship with Jesus Christ. Before calling, you are Strangers from the life of grace, Ephes. 4.18. You are without God in the world, strangers to the Commonwealth of Israel, Ephes. 2.12. But when God calls you, he cals you from the condition of a stranger, and brings you into friendship and fellowship with Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 1.9. God is faithful, by whom you are called into the fellowship of his Son: You who were without Christ before calling, being called, you enjoy neer familiaritie with his Son.
- You are called from Sathan unto God. Acts 26.18. He hath sent forth his word among you, to bring you from darknesse to light, and from the power of Sathan to God. Sathan who was thy lord, and was thy master, and ruler, thou art now from under his clutches, and brought under the dominion and subjection of thy Go•.
- When God effectually calls thee, thou art brought from a state of enmitie against God, to a state of amitie and reconciliation towards him, and Jesus Christ, and all the things of God. Col. 3.15. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, for to this ye are called; and be ye thankful. God hath called you to peace, he hath not called you to wrath. Before Calling, God and thy soul were the most inveterate enemies in all the world: After Calling, God and thou are of enemies become the greatest friends: You are called to peace, therefore be thankful.
- You are called from state of shame to a state of glory. Before you are called, you are vile & shameful creatures in Gods sight; when Gon cals you, he cals you into a condition of glory. 1 Pet. 5.10. Who hath called us to his eternall glory: and 1 Thes. 2.12. Since thou wast precacus in my sight, and I have loved thee, thou becamest honou•able, Isa 43. 1 Pet. 2.6. To you that beleive, Christ is precious: or as it is in the Greek, he is an honour to you.* Jesus Christ, when once you are called to a believeing state, he is not onely precious to you, and priz•d of you, but he is an honour to you. This then you are to consider, that unc•lled, you are in a shameful condition, •o badg of honour lies upon you; but when once you are called by Christ, he becomes an honour to you.
- And lastly, (which shall be accomplished in the end) you shall be called from earth to heaven, and from the grave to glory; this shall be your call after death. Now put all these Eight together: To be called from ignorance to knowledge; from sin to grace; from bondage to liberty; from estrangement to fellowship with Jesus Christ: from a state of enmitie to a state of amitie and reconciliation with God and man; from shame to glory; and from earth to heaven: and should not this mightily highten your joy, and greaten your praises in magnifying the grace of God in your hearts?
Secondly, Again, The consideration of this, As, From what, and To what; so, For what you are called, should greaten your praises. Now for what are you called? You are called meerly according to the purpose of his own grace; neither foreseen works, nor good education, nor grace in you, none of all these were motives in Gods brest to call you. And hence you may see it was nothing in you, because there were many things in us might move God not to call us: We have often withstood his call; we have often strangled the motions of his Spirit in our hearts: we have often carried gain-saying hearts to the wooings of the Ministers of Christ: So that it is nothing in us, but meerly his own grace that conquers our unholinesse, and conquers our unwillingnesse, and overcomes that stoutnesse of that is in us; meerly the grace and goodnesse of Jesus Christ. Now summ up all these together, and revolve them in your hearts, and you will see what great cause you have to live in magnifying of Jesus Christ.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
IN the prosecution of these words, the Doctrine I drew from the first particular dutie injoyned, was this;
That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ.
In the handling of which, I have gone over several particulars: I now come to lay down some Propositions or Conclusions about Effectuall Calling, and I shall name twenty in all.
First, Ten sad Conclusions to all those men who are not effectully called.
Secondly, Ten consolatory conclusions to all those men that are effectually called by Jesus Christ; and mixing conclusions procuring terror to the wicked, and such as procure comfort to the godly; one tempered with the other may be good to both. I begin with the first.
- The first sad Conclusion I shall lay down is this: That there are many men in the world, that are called outwardly by the word unto a profession of Christ, that are not called effectually by the spirit to a possession of Christ. My meaning is this: There are many men have the word of God working much upon them, to the changing of their lives, altering there course, and new moulding of them into an external profession, that yet notwithstanding all this never had saving grace wrought upon their hearts, which is effectual calling: Many are called, but few are chosen, saith Christ, Matth. 20.16. And this is a dreadful Conclusion to all you that are professors, that have not a saving work upon your hearts: to you that flock unto the ministry of the word, yet are not called thereby.
- That they who are called outwardly by the preaching of the word to a profession Christ, and yet not called inwardly by the spirit, they shall endure greater damnation, and greater torments in hell, then those that never heard a word of Jesus Christ. Matth. 8.12. Many shall come saith Ch•ist, from the East and from the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaak, and Jacob, in the Kingdome of Heaven: and what then? but the children of the Kingdome shall be cast out into utter darkness, where shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of Teeth. Now, who are meant here by the children of the kingdome? not those that have heaven prepared for them; but the professing Jewes, who are called the children of the kingdome, because they enjoyed a greater, and clearer, and fuller measure of the things of God, which shewed them the way to the kingdome of heaven, then other men did. And when Christ calls them the children of the kingdome, he calls the heathen the children of the world. Now, many of the children of the kingdome shal be cast into utter darknesse: If there be any more dismal place then other, it shall be for the children of the kingdome; those that have been as it were nursed up under Gods elbow by ordinances; the children of the kingdome, they shall have a more dismal portion, and dismal room in hell then other men shall have, that never enjoyed the ordinances of Jesus Christ. And O what a sad word is this to you that live where ordinances do most abound, that you may be called the children of the kingdome, and yet you to be thrust into utter darknesse!
- That there are many men, who are onely called outwardly into a bare profession, that do harbour and nourish perswasions in their own hearts, that they are eff•ctually called by Jesus Christ; when they never had any saving work of grace upon their hearts. This I spake of some weeks agoe, from John, 8.41. The Jewes had strong perswasions, they had Abraham for their father; and when Christ beats them off from that, they went higher and said, we have God to our father: and yet verse 44. Christ tels them, they were of their Father the Div•l. And Beloved, you may also be deceived, in harbouring strong p•rswasions th•t you are called effectually, when you are o••ly calle• outwardly.
- That they that are conceited the opinion of their own goodnesse, without seeing their want and necessitie of Jesus Christ, are of all sorts of people in th• world most unlikely to be effec•ually call•d by J•sus Christ. This I urge from Matt. 9.13. I c•me not, s•ith Christ, to call the righteous, &c. Mark, who are they? that is, Christ came not to call the Pharisees, who were ri•hteous in their own eyes, and who had a selfe conceitedness• that things went w•ll with them; a•d saw no ne•d of a M•diator, and Intercessor, and Redeemer; I came not to call the righteous: Jesus Christ exclude• that sort of men fr•m being called by him: men that are sel•-opinionated, and have a conceit of their own goodnesse, wi•hout any want of Jesus Christ. Wherefore all you that •••k you have a strong faith towards God ever since you w•r• born, that think you live honestly among your neighbours, pay every man his due, and therefore see no need of Christ all your daies▪ the Lord shew you mercy; you are more unlikely to be called then any men in the world▪ Matth. 21.31. There is a parable of a man that had two sons, he bid both work in the vineyard; one son said he would not work: he was obstinate: the other son said he would work, but did not, and so was worse then his word. Now these two sons, they are the emblem of two sorts of men within the pale of the Church; some are profane and obstinate men, and they answer as the first son, and say, they will not work: the second are professing men, men that make a good profess•on, but do not answer their profession in their practice. Now mark; Whether of these twain will the father accept? and they said un•o him, the first, the most obstinate; that said, he would no• go, but went. Verily, saith Christ, so I say unto you, Publicans and Harlots shall go into heaven before you. Mark, how Christ applies the parable from their own mouths; you that are Pha•is•es, that are righteous and honest in your own eyes, I wil sooner call whores, and harlots, and the worst of men, then I will call you. Publicans and Harlots; Publicans, they were the worst sort of men that were, they were sitting at the receit of custome, their calling exposing th•m to a great deal of extortion and briberie: yet these men should go to heaven before others that made a glorious profe•sion of Jesus Christ. Again,
- A fifth sad Conclusion, is this, That when others are effectually called before your faces, and yet you remain uncalled, this should greatly aggravate your sin and condemnation; when (I say) you shall see others that liv• (haply) in the same house with you, that hear in the same congregation, that sit in the same seat with you; when you shall hear these effectually called, and you remain uncalled; thi• shall greatly increase your sin and damnation. Matt. 21.3•. John came to you in the way of righteousnesse, and y•• believed him not; (that is, they were not called by his Ministry) what then? but the Publicans and Harlots believed: what then? and you, when you had seen it, repented not afterwards that you mi•ht believe: Mark how Christ argues; he urges that those men that heard the same Sermons that the other men did hear, they were converted; saith he, you see whores and harlots converted, (alluding to Mary Magdalen, and others) you see these, and yet you repent not, and yet you believe not: now you see one, then another; and yet when you see this, you repent not that you might believe. Beloved, This is a sad conclusion to you, that shall see others converted, when you that haply lie in the same bed, sit at the same board, and hear the same Sermons in the same Congregation; yet they shall be converted and called, and you not: this wil greatly increase your sin and condemnation.
- That whoever God intends effectually to call, it is Gods ordinary way to call them by the Ministry of his word. 2 Thes. 2.13, 14. Its said there, that they were called through the Sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, to obtain eternal glory by Jesus Christ: they were called by belief of the truth, that is, by believing the word preacht, and loving the word preacht; faith comes by hearing: faith is the first grace of a Christians Call, and that comes by hearing. Rom. 10.17. so Acts 26.17, 18. When Christ would call and convert the Gentiles, he doth it not immediatly, but he useth the Ministry of Paul: Go thou, teach the Gentiles, and bring them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unt• God. God doth it still by the preaching of his word. Now this is a sad word to three sorts of men. First, its a sad word to them that never sat under the powerful preaching of the word, they are out of Gods ordinary way of being saved.
- It is a sad word to those that may enjoy the word, and yet slight it; they also are not likely to be called.
3 Its a sad word to those that leave the ordinary way of Gods calling by the preaching of the word, and trust to raptures, revelations, inspirations, and extraordniary means for God to call them by: alas, they also are out of Gods ordinary way of calling; for God ordinarily takes this way to call a soul by the preaching of his word. Luke 15.22. When the Prodigal was effectually called home to his father, his father did not presently comfort him himselfe, but he sends his servants, and said, Go, take the best robe, and put it upon my Sonne; This son is a sinner, the father is God Almighty, the servants are the ministers: now God doth not his work by himselfe, but he leaves it to his Ministers; and they shal put on the ring and the garment; they shal be the instruments by the Ministry of the word to work grace in the heart. Hence ’tis that 1 Cor. 1.12. some are blamed that should say, I am of Paul, and I of Apollo, and I of Christ; Why, are men blamed for saying they are for Christ? Is that blame-worthy, to cry up Christ? No: the fault is not simply in advancing Christ, but the fault was this, so to cry up Christ, as to cry down duties, and cry down the use of Ministers, and the use of Ordinances, and therein they were too blame; because Christ would not immediatly by revelations and raptures cal any, but leaves the conversion and cal of a sinner, to the ordinary way of preaching the word: and therefore a sad word it is to all out of Gods way of calling, that either have not the word, or if they have it, never care to enjoy it.
- That if men continue long under the enjoyment of the word, and are not effectually called by it, they are likely never to be called. I would commend to you that place to prove this, in Luke 13.6, 7. where Christ tels you of a fig-tree, he s•ayed three years looking for fruit, and he found none; the husband-man prayed to spare it one year longer, and if it did not beare fruit then, he should cut it down, and cast it into the fire. Now, this Fig-tree were the professing Jewes, who lay some competent time under the Ministrie of Christ, and of his Apostles; and this Fig-tree, if it were spared but one year, and brought not forth fruit, then it should be cut down: and Christ did so; it seems he curst it, and said, never fruit grow more upon this tree. Now, you would ask what the meaning of all this is? Why, Beloved, a fig tree, if it beareth not fruit within four years after it is planted, it is likely never to bring forth fruit: And here the Parable comes home thus far, that if after some competencie of time, in which in all likelihood men may have some sparks wrought in them by the ministrie of the word; if after all this they are not converted, the curse of the fig-tree is like to fal upon that mans heart; never let the word doe that man good more, and never let grace grow in that mans heart more; let never fruit grow more upon that tree: this the Parable holds forth, that if you live under the enjoyment of the word long, and are not converted, it is an argument you shal not be called. And this is a heartcutting consideration to all ancient men, that have out-lived many Ministers, and have seen their Ministers laid in the grave; their Ministers have spent their strength, and wasted their lungs in preaching to them, and yet they are as profane as ever, and as loose as ever, and as regardless of God and grace as ever; truely, you are in a very sad case if it be thus with you, you are likely never to be called by Jesus Christ.
- That God in the dispensations of his grace, doth not ordinarilie let effectual calling run to the richer sort of men in the world; but rather to the poorest sorts and ranks of men that are.* I remember that Austin in one of his books hath this saying, Unlearned men they snatch away heaven from us that are great Scholars: and truly, as it was in his time, so it is now: Men that are great Scholars, that understand Scripture, know Languages, they are turned into hel, when unlearned and poor men, they get heaven. God hath chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. In all the dispensations of his grace (though he cals some rich men, it is true, to carrie on the work, and countenance his people; yet Gods effectual calling doth not so commonly come among rich men, as the poor of the world: the poor, saith Christ, receive the Gospel; the Learned Scribes, and Doctors among the Jewes, and the rich Pharisees, they did all spurn at Jesus Christ, when the poor and ignorant people that knew not the Law, they followed him. 1 Cor. 1.26. Not many wise, not many noble, not many mighty are called; but God hath chosen the poore things of this world, and things that are despised, yea and things that are not, to bring to nought things that are. Here you see plainly this conclusion proved, that Gods effectual calling doth not ordinarilie and commonly run among the greater sort of men in the world, but it runs among the poorer sort of men, they ordinarilie give best entertainment to the Gospel. And the reason of this is, 1. To magnifie the riches of his grace: if Christ should cal rich men onely and chiefly, many would think, it was onely mens riches and mens honour did move Christ to call them: Now, Christ to vindicate and magnifie his grace, he wil call poor despicable wretches, that one would think there should be nothing in the eye of reason or sense, why God should cast an eye of favour upon them.
- To magnifie and manifest his power, that he wil preserve a companie of poor contemptible people, among so many enemies, so potent, and so wealthy, that they shal never be able to overthrow them.
- Because rich men lie under more temptations against effectual calling, then poor men do. Rich men think, should I be called to be a Professor, I may lose my riches, endanger my estate, and eclipse my honour; and these are great temptations to rich men to hinder their calling. Therefore you read Mark 10.22. of the young man, that when Christ called him, it is said, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions; and would not follow Christ, who had not a house wherein to put his head. Many men for fear of losing their estates, they lie under this sore temptation, to hinder them from being called: And then also for their honour; men may think they shal eclipse their honour, should they professe a course of Religion, Gal. 22. I preacht publikely among the ordinary sort, saith Paul, but I preach privately to men of reputation, lest I should run in vain. As much as if he should say, men of qualitie and of repute, they would not own Christ publickly, they were afraid they should lose their honour and credit; therefore Paul was enforc’d to indulge them so far, as to preach privately to them: hence Nicodemus a great man came to Jesus by night.
- If you are onely externally called to a profession of Christ, and not called internally to a possession of him, at one time or other before you die, God wil discover the hypocrisie of your hearts, and the unsoundness of your call. There are many men who now are called; a man cannot discerne whether they be effectually called or no; but in likelihood before you die, you wil discover somewhat or other that may give just ground of suspition you are not savingly called, eiby falling into some errour in judgement, or running nto some scandalous sin, or the like.
Lastly, if God hath not, or intends not effectually to call thee, thou maiest take this for an undeniable truth, God neither intends to justifie thee, nor to save thee: Whom he calls, them be justifies, and none else; and whom he justifies, them he glorifies, and none else: So that Justification and Glorification depends upon calling, Rom. 8.30. And thus I have done with these ten sad conclusions.
I shal now change my discourse, and turn my speech to a second sort of men, and to them I shal lay down ten consolatory conclusions, for the comfort of you that are the called of Jesus Christ. And here, before I lay these down, I shal first shew you what need there is that Ministers should preach comfortably to you that are effectually called. Because first, after you are called effectually, you are more exposed to meet with persecutions from men. Secondly, Temptations from the Devil. Thirdly, The stronger struglings of corruptions from within, then ever you were before; therefore you had need of comfort.
- I say, After calling you are more exposed to meet with persecutions from men then ever you were before. Heb. 10.32 33. Call to remembrance the former dayes, in which after you were illuminated, you endured a sore fight of affliction, partly by being reproached, and made a gazing-stock, &c. They endured nothing before, but after they were enlightned, they endured a great fight of Affliction: had not you therefore need of comfort?
- After calling, you are more exposed to temptations from the Devil, then ever you were before. The Devil, when he finds all things at peace, he lets men alone; but when he finds a man comming out of his clutches to be called, then Satan▪ troubles and assaults him. 1 Pet. 5.8.10. Your Adversary the Devil goes about like a roaring lyon, seeking whom he may devoure. These were they that the God of grace hath called to eternal glory. Yet these were they thay that the Devil rageth so against. Had not you therefore need of comfort, because you are exposed to more temptations from the Devil?
And 3ly. You are to meet with more strong and vigorous workings of inward corruptions in your own hearts; as Paul, before his calling was not troubled with his corruptions, sin never troubled him, the powerful & vigorous workings of this lusts never wearied him; but when the command came, then sin revived: When the power of the word came with Authoritie upon his conscience, then he saw sin to revive and get strength upon him. Beloved, I would appeal to any of you, whom God hath called to grace and glory, whether before you were called, you ever found sin so strong as after, and ever found the workings of your inward corruptions so violent as after? and therefore upon these three grounds, you have need that comfort should be preached unto you.
I now pass to the Conclusions, which I shal lay down for the comfort of all them that are effectually called.
- That Jesus Christ doth effectually cal a poor sinner, before that sinner doth look after Jesus Christ. Should God entail heaven upon this condition, that you that had been first in the transgression, should be first in seeking reconciliation, we should never have the difference ended betwixt God and us; but behold, here is mercie, and here is a ground of comfort, that though we are the first in the transgression, Christ is the first in suing out Reconciliation: Jesus Christ doth effectually cal poor sinners, before they either cal or look after Jesus Christ at all. Isa. 65.1. I am sought of them that asked not for me, I am found of them that sought me not; I said, Behold me, Behold me, to a Nation that was not called by my name. Here you see, Jesus Christ goeth out first to cal thee, before thou goest out to cal him. And O what c•mfort is this? Christ doth not stay til thou look after a Christ, but Christ casts an eye upon thee before thou look after him. We read of Matthew the Pubcan, that while he was looking after his money at the receit of custome, at that time Jesus Christ was looking after his soul. We read of the Disciples of Christ, whilst they were mending their ne•s, and looking after their fish, Jesus Christ takes this occasion with the hook of the Gospel to catch them. We read of Paul, that whilst he was breathing out persecution against the Church of God, and raging with malice against the Saints of God, at that time he was even called to be a Saint: So that this is very comfortable. God doth first look after a sinner in his effectual calling, before a sinner looks out after Christ. God doth first look after thee, enlightning thee by a Sermon, and seizing upon thy conscience by a command, before thou look after him.
- That Jesus Christ hath effectually called thee, when he hath left many thousands in the world, of better parts, and better dispositions, more natural good, and lesse evil in them then thou hast in thy selfe; and yet he hath rejected them and called thee. Jesus Christ hath many times rejected a patient heathen, when he hath called thee, who art of a rigid and passionate disposition. Jesus Christ hath left many a curious wit, and pregnant Scholar, and many of singular parts, that had they grace to manage them, they might bring God much glory; and it may be he hath called thee, a poor ignorant sottish creature. Jesus Christ (it may be) hath rejected many that have had less sin then thou hast in thee. Jesus Christ did reject many an honest heathen, when he would cal Mary Magdalen, that had seven Devils in her: Christ rejected Simon Magus, and rejected Agrippa, a half turned Christian, and rejected Herod, who heard John Baptist gla•ly; and ••••ed Felix, that trembled at a Sermon, and rejected Ab••, that humbled his soule before God; when it may be he hath called thee, that never hadst such workings in thy heart as these men had: And O what ground of comfort is here!
- God in calling thy soul, and bringing thee into a state of grace, he doth it freely for his own names sake; when there was nothing in thee to move him to cal thee; when there was much in thee to provoke him never to cal thee, yet his own grace compelled him, and his own mercie engaged him to cal thee. 1 Tim. 2.9. We are called according to the purpose of his own grace, not according to our own works.
- That they who are most sensible of their own vilenesse, and see the most want and necessitie of Jesus Christ, they of all people are most likely to be called by him. When Christ rejects civil honest men, and self-conceited men, and morally good men, and they are no way likely to be called; yet those men that are sensible of their wickedness, and see their want of Jesus Christ, they are of all Men most likely to be called. Matth. 9.13. I came not to call the righteous; but whom? but sinners to repentance. All men are sinners, but he means such as see their sin, and see their need of Christ to pardon and subdue sin in them, for so the words import: The whole need not a Physician, but they that are sick: They that are sick of sinne, and see their infirmities, they are most likely to be called by Jesus Christ. And therefore this is most comfortable to you, all you that are drooping Christians, that hang down your heads under the sense of sin, that see sin to be exceeding sinful; this is the end for which Christ came into the world, to cal you to glorie.
- That a man may be elected by God from all eternitie, and yet he may live a long time in a course of sin, before he cal him, and yet before he dies he shal be called. John 10.16 I lay down my life for my sheep; and other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall heare my voice, and there shall be one fold under one shepherd, &c. The meaning is this; Christ told them his converted ones were his sheep; and th•se are not all, but I have others that are not converted? yet I wil convert them, and bring them to the same fold also. So that Christ hath his sheep among them that are not yet converted and called: and though many times you may go a long time in a course of sin, yet before you die, you shal be effectually called, and brought home to the sheepfold of Jesus Christ.
- A man may be effectually called, when in his own apprehension he cannot finde any real and sound evidence of his vocation. This that phrase in Peter imports, 2 Pet. 1.11. Whoso doth not these things, is blind and cannot see afar off. It is spoken of a godly man, of a man that hath his election sure, but doth not add grace to grace to make his calling sure, that man is purblind and cannot see afar off; that is, cannot see as far as •eaven, that his name is written there; cannot have cleer and strong comfort of his belonging to God. M•ny a godlie man may be effectually called, and yet that man a purblind man, not able to behold as with open face the evidence of his effectual calling.
- A man may have grounded assurance that he is effectuallie called, and yet neither know the time when, nor the manner how, nor the instrument by whom he was called. And this is a very comfortable conclusion. There are some that presse-conversion so high, that if a man cannot tel the time when, or the manner how, or the Sermon by which h• was called, they say he is not yet converted; this is too r•gid a Doctrine, and the Scripture makes more for the confirmation of this, that a man may have a grounded assurance of his effectual calling, when he neither knows the time, nor the manner, nor the instrum•nt by which he was called. Mark. 4.27. And he said, so is the Kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring up and grow he knows not how. The seed here sown is the work of grace, for so is the Kingdome of God, saith Christ: and here this seed springs up, the man cannot tel haply the day he sowed it, nor how he scattered it, ye• this seed springs up he knows not how▪ So a man may have the seed of grace sown in his heart, which is effectual calling, and yet it grows up he knows not how, nor when he• was called. So John 9. (I onely allude to i•) 19, 20. It is spoken there of the man that was healed by Jesus Christ; the blind Son, that had his eyes opened by Jesus Christ: What say his Parents? We know this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now seeth we know not, nor who opened his eyes. Beloved▪ So I may say of a poor sinner; a poor sinner is like this blind son, we know we are born blind, neither knowing God nor our selves. We know, if we are converted, we now see, but how this was done, or by whom this was done, man cannot so •x•ctly determine.
But now, this Conclusion doth not hold true in all causes; If a man have been a profane liver; then it is impossible in an ordinary way, that that man should be effectually called, but he must know the time when he is called: but for others that from their childhood have been brought up in a godly family, and from their childhood to their dying day, did never break out into any scandalous sin, these men cannot give an account either when, or by whom they were called, and yet their calling may be effectual: and therefore that is too rigid a Doctrine, to presse such high qualifications before conversion; for God hath different wayes and degrees of working, though al are not obvious to our eye.
- That they who are called by Christ, they shal be kept by Christ, that they do not fal from their Cal, but be brought to the state of glory; and that’s another comfortable conclusion: you are not called by Christ, and so left to your selves and the wide world, as Adam was. Adam was called by God to a state of blessednesse: but he was left to stand by his own strength, but you are not so: You are not onely called by Christ, but you are kept by Christ, that you shal not fal from grace, being once called to it: Jude ver. 1. Jude the servant of Christ, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Christ and called. Here then is your comfort, that you are not called by Christ, and left to your selves: but you are preserved by Christ, and called and kept in a state of grace, til you shal come to glory. So 1 Thes. 5.24. Faithful is he that called you, who also will do it: that is, bring you to that glory which you are called unto.
- When Christ hath an intent to cal a poor sinner, neithe their Povertie, nor their impietie shal hinder the call of Jesus Christ. Not your Povertie; God hath chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heires of a kingdome. Jam. 2. Not your impiety; poor Christians think, Oh, I am so vile, and so sinful, and profane, that I fear Christ wil not cal me: Why, this shal not hinder: Mary Magdalen a Harlot, possessed with seven Divels, yet called: Manasseh a blood-sucker, that made the streets of Jerusalem run down with blood, yet called: Paul a pesecutor, a blasphemer, a man mad with rage against the Church of God, yet he obtained mercy: and why? that he might be an example to them that after should be called. So that here is your comfort, when Jesus Christ hath an intent to cal you, neither your Poverty, nor your Impietie shal withstand his cal, nor turn the thoughts of his mercy from you.
- That though no man can pry into the Decrees of God about Election, and Reprobation, yet if you can make good your Effectual Vocation, you may be sure of your election and of your glorification. Though no man, I say, can enter into the bosome of God to know his secret decrees, yet if you can finde upon good and Scripture grounds, that you are •ff•ctually called, you may be sure you are eternally elected, and shal hereafter live in glory. Rom. 8.28. Whom he predestinates, them he calls, whom he calls, them he justifies, and whom he justifies, them he will glorifie. And therefore comfort your hearts in these consolatorie Conclusions about effectual calling.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THe Doctrine I am yet upon in the prosecution of these words, is this, That Christians should put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the managing of which, I laid down the last Lords day twenty Propositions; ten in relation to wicked men not called, and ten Conclusions for the comfort of them that are effectually called by Jesus Christ. I am now to proceed in the dispatch of six cases of conscience, which I shal handle about effectual calling. Three of which concern men not effectually called, and three touching Believers, who are called by Christ to grace here, and to hopes of glory in the world to come.
The three first cases touching wicked men are these:
First, Whether a wicked man be able to resist his own call?
Secondly, What temptations doth the Devil suggest, to keep a wicked man from entertaining and embracing the cal of Jesus Christ?
Thirdly, What delusions doth the Devil use to deceive Hypocrites, to make them presumptuously believe that they are effectually called, when they are not?
There are three cases more touching godly men: As
First, Whether may a man that is effectually called, be any way assured that he is so?
Secondly, If a man may be assured, then what is the reason many a godly man is not assured of his effectual calling?
And then Thirdly, How may he come to get the assurance of his effectual calling? I begin with the first, about wicked men that are not called; and the case is this.
First, Whether may a wicked man, a man as yet not called, be able to resist and keep off his own cal?
And that you may understand the answer hereto, I must lay down this distinction; That there is a twofold callng of Christ:
A Significative calling, and an Operative calling.
First, a Significative calling, which is such a calling whereby Christ in the Ministry of the word, signifies and declares what he would have men to do: Now this kind of cal, wicked men may resist; this cal, I say, and this revealed will of God, in declaring what grace he would have men act, and what sin he would have men forbear: Therefore we read, Acts 7.5. You stiff-necked people, and uncircumcised in heart and eares, you have alwaies resisted the Holy Ghost; meaning the Preaching of the word, by the Ministry of his Apostles. So Prov. 1.24. I have called, and ye have refused, &c.
But then secondly, There is an Operative calling, and that is such a call, whereby God doth not onely signifie to a man what he must do, but with the signification of his wil, gives a man a power to do what he cals him to do, accompanying the word with his Spirit, making the heart stoop and yeild to Jesus Christ.
Now this cal no man can resist; Grace is irresistible; and this effectual calling by the operation of the Spirit, a man cannot resist. Al the gain-sayings of the heart, and al the stoutnesse of the will it must stoop, and must be brought under subjection to Jesus Christ, Iohn 6.37. All that the Father hath given me, saith Christ, shall come unto me. They shal not be able to withstand Jesus Christ, but they shal come in unto him. So Isa. 55.10. As the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither again, but waters the earth, to make it bring forth, so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth, it shal not return in vain; but shall accomplish that which I intended, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. As al the world cannot hinder the rain from coming down on the earth, no more can any man in the world, if God hath an intent to convert and cal him, hinder the benefit of the word from redounding upon his soul.
Now the answering of this case thus briefly, wil admit of a double Use.
First, an Use of Condemnation to wicked men,* that have often resisted the signicative call of Jesus Christ. When Christ hath signified, this is my wil, I would have you leave these courses, and I would have you walk in these waies; Christ signifies his will in the Ministry of the Gospel; yet let Christ signifie what he wil, you wil do what you lift; this is for thy great condemnation.
Secondly, The answering this Query,* is for consolation to elect men, who are not yet converted. Dost thou belong to Gods Election? Why, before thou art converted, thou hast a stubborn wil, thou hast a gainsaying heart, thou hast a stout spirit against God, thy heart is as hard as an Adamant, as hard as the Rocks; yet here is thy comfort, all the gain-sayings of thy spirit, and all the stubbornnesse of thy wil, it shal not be able to keep off converting mercy, and shall not be able to keep off calling grace from thee: When God hath an intent to call thee, he wil come with Power by his call, and make thee do what he commands thee, and make thee embrace what he calls thee to. Did not Jesus Christ use an operative call, as wel as a significative cal, no man in the world would ever be called. And this is the reason, that in hearing the same Sermon, and following the same Preacher, one man is converted, the other is not. The reason is this, The cal of the Ministry is onely a significative cal of a Reprobate; onely signifying what God would have him do: But there is no power conveyed with the invitation to make the man able to do what Christ cals him to; and therefore one is called, the other is not. Thus much in in Answer to the first case.
*Secondly, What temptations doth the Devil suggest to men, who are uncalled, that they should not give entertainment to, or embrace the call of Jesus Christ unto grace and glory? And in answer to this, I shal lay down onely four suggestions of the Devil, wherewith he entangles a man, that he should not yeild to the cal of Jesus Christ. And as I lay them down, I shal labour to take them a way. As
- The first temptation the Devil wil suggest, is to you that are young men; and to you he wil suggest, that you are yet too young to embrace the call of Jesus Christ: ‘twil be time enough hereafter, and you may do it soon enough hereafter; you are two young now to be abridg’d of your pleasure, and to mortifie your lusts, and to betake your selves unto so serious a course as Christ cals you to: and by this temptation, the Devil prevails with young men more especially. And I remember Austine saith, that this temptation of the Devil made him keep off for seven years together, from embracing the cal of Jesus Christ; the Devil would stil tel him in his heart, thou art too young to leave thy Drunkennesse, and too young to leave thy Harlots; til at last he cryed out, How long shal I say it is too soon? Why may I not repent to day? This temptation I say, it hath fastened upon many before you, that they were too young to come in to Jesus Christ; and to this end, the Devil wil suggest to you that old and false Proverb, A young Saint, and an old Devil: Whereas indeed, if you are young Devils, you wil be old Beelzebubs. And therefore this being a suggestion, prevailing wit• many hearts, I shal lay down six considerations, to take off this temptation, that it may not prevail with you.
First, If the Devil tempt you, that you are too young to hearken to Christs cal, consider, That the Devil cannot give you a Lease of your lives; if the Devil could give you a Lease of your lives, and tell you, you should live til old age, you might then with more safety harken to his temptation; but your lives are not at the Devils disposal: God is the Author of your life; the issues of life, and death are in his hands; you may die in youth uncalled, you may be damned, as wel as dead. You may be as these men, Job. 36.14. that shall die in their youth, and their lives shall be among the unclean. And therefore though the Devil tempt you, that you are too young, seeing he canno• assure you of your lives, you have no reason to hearken to his temptation.
Secondly, Suppose the Devil could assure you, you should live til old age; yet take this consideration, that in putting off, your calling, and the work of conversion from your youth, this may so provoke God, that he may harden your hearts in your old daies, that you shal have no heart to think of, and embrace the call and invitation of Jesus Christ. Jer. 22.21. I spake to thee in thy prosperity, but thou wouldst not hear, and this hath been thy manner fr•m thy youth; Thou wouldst not obey my voyce. God spake but they would not hear, and it was from their youth that they did thus; therefore God would never speak more: God hardened their hearts, that they should never receive or embrace the cal of Jesus Christ. So Isa. 6.9, 10. Seeing the Jewes from their youth were obstinate against the word of God, Go, (saith God) make their ears heavy, and their hearts fat, and their eyes blind, that they should not be called, and converted, and I should save them. Let this therefore be a second consideration, that the putting off your cal til your old age, may so provoke God, as never to give you hearts to embrace his cal.
Thirdly, Suppose al this, that you could have a Lease of your lives, and you could be assured, that when you come to old age, your hearts should not be hardened; yet consider this, that the more sinful and evil the daies of your youth have been, the more disquietnesse of minde, and horror of conscience will this breed in you when you are old, though you shal be called, and converted by Jesus Christ. Job. 13.24.25, 26. Thou •idest thy face, thou holdest me as thy Enemy. Thou dost drive me as a leaf to and fro, and thou dost pursue me like dry stubb•e. Now why doth Job complain thus? Mark the next words, For th•u writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possesse the iniquities of my youth. Job, when he was a young man, it seem•, he was a wicked man, and had many sins in his youth, and this in his old age made him cry out, and say, that God took him for his Enemy, and that God brake him like a leafe driven with the wind. O beloved, the sins of your youth, though you should be Jobs, converted, yet they wil bring great disquietnesse, and great horro•, when you come to age; the lusts of youth, and the vanities of youth, and the sensual pleasures of your youthful daies, they wil lay a foundation of sorrow, when you come to gray hairs, to be neare your graves; so Job 20.11. And therefore, put the case you should repent, and should be called when you are old, you have no cause to put off the cal of Jesus Christ, seeing sins of youth wil fill you with horror and disquietnesse of minde. Hence it is, that David, after he was call’d by the power of the word, cries out, Psal. 25. Lord, remember not the sins of my youth; that gravelled and gall’d his conscience,* the sins of his youth before his cal. It is the speech of an Author, that to look on the pleasurable vanities and contents of youth, this wil become an heavy burden, and bitter vexation to old age. Beloved, the more evil you run out into in your youthful daies, the greater and deeper foundation of disquietnesse and sorrow you lay in your souls in your latter daies, though you should be called by Jesus Christ.
- If the Devil suggest, that you are too young to embrace the invitation of Christ: consider, That Jesus Christ wll take it most kindly at your hands, if while you are young you wil give entertainment to his cal, Jer. 2.2. I remember thee, saith the Lord, and the kindnesse of thy youth, that thou wouldst follow me in the Wildernesse, in a land that was not sown. Mark how the Lord speaks, and how kindly he takes it, that they would in their youth follow God; the Lord wil remember it, and take it acceptable from you, if while you are young, while the Marrow is in your bones, and strength in your joynts, you wil embrace the waies of Jesus Christ. It is an observation that some have, concerning the Beloved Disciple John, John 20. He is called the Disciple whom Christ loved, and that leaned upon his brest; of al the other eleven Disciples, Christ did love John above the rest; and Divines give this reason of it, John was the youngest of al the Disciples; he was converted and called by Christ, when he was a young man; and Christ seeing a young man follow him, took this very kindly at his hands, and cals him his beloved Disciple. As you that are Parents, you let your little Children sit in your lap, when your great ones shall not; so Iohn, he being a young man, Christ would let him lean upon his brest, and lie in his bosome, expressing his kindnesse to him.
Now, O how should this beat off this temptation that you are too young to follow Christ, because Christ takes it so kindly at your hands, if you imbrace this call in time? nay, Christ doth take it so kindly, that he doth love bare Morality and Civility in young men; and therefore it is said in Matthew, when Christ saw the young man, and he told him, I have observed these things from my youth, Christ look’d upon him, and loved him: Christ shewed a general love to the young man,* that was but a Moral man from his youth; and if Christ love Morality, he wil much more love Piety, and true Syncerity. It is observed of Timothy, that of one particular man, Paul expressed more love to Timothy then to any other: Read over al the book of God, you shal never finde Paul expresse so much love to any as to Timothy; he cals him Timothy my son, Timothy who serveth me as a childe, and Timothy my dearly beloved; and why was all this? Why the reason is, because Timothy from a child was converted, and knew the Scriptures, 2. Tim. 3.6. He was from a child converted and called by the Ministry of the word in Paul• m•uth, and •his did indear the heart of Paul unto him. You read in the book of L•viticus, that when God did require a Sacrifice, he would not have an old Sheep, but a •oung Lamb, a Lamb of a year old, and a Kid of the youngest of the Flock: And it was significative in this, not only to shew that Christ our Sacrific• sh•uld die and suffer for our sins 〈◊〉 flower of his age, but also to shew that Jesus Christ loo•s upon that as an abominable Sacrifice, when you wil not be of his Fold while y•u are as young lamb•. O Beloved, Christ takes it wonderful kindly, if in your youth you do embrace his call.
Fifthly, Yield not to the Devils temptation, considering this, that though you should be converted in your old age, yet Christ cannot but take this very unkindly at your hands, that you should put him off until your last end, that you reserve (if any part, yet) the worst part for his service. You know when Christ stood all the night for his Spouse, till his head was full of dew, and his locks were wet with the drops of the night, he got him gone because she came not, and would stay no longer. O how unkindly (think you) wil Christ take this, when he shal wait year after year, and yet you wil not embrace his cal•!
It is said in Isaiah, All the day long have I stretched out my hand to a rebellious people, yet t•ey w•uld not hear: and Mal. 1. Offer the lame and the blind to the Governour, will he accept of it?
Christ must needs take this unkindly, that you should give the Devil the flower of your age, and give to Christ but the decrepit and infirm parts of your lives, that the Devil should suck out the Marrow of your youth, and onely give God the dry bones, a palsie head, a dim eye, a weak body, and so all your services must needs be weak also: and think but how unkindly Christ wil take your services thus performed.
Sixthly, consider this, That from your Birth-day, to your dying day, you have time little enough to carry on the businesse of your salvation, should you live never so long; and therefore you have no cause to put off the cal of Iesus Christ. And thus much be spoken by way of satisfaction, to take off the first temptation, that you are too young to give entertainment to the cal of Iesus Christ: and this I doe for the sake of young men, that they may take heed of being insnar’d by this d•lusion of th• Devil.
- Sug. 2. Here it may be, the Devil cannot insnare you in this Gin: Old men wil say, this concerns not •e, I am not taken with this temptation, therefore now the Devil comes upon them with this suggestion: Saith the Devil to them, You cannot now give entertainment to the cal of Jesus Christ, for you have callings in the world to follow; you have a particular calling, and you must provide for Wife, and Children, and Familie, and lay up for future times, against old age and sicknesse, and therefore you cannot be at leasure now to give entertainment to the cal of Jesus Christ; when I am more at leasure, I may look after my effectual calling: And this also sticks very close to a great many.
And to take off this suggestion of the Devil, I shal lay down six particulars also, by way of Answer. As
First, God never intended that our outward calling should any way hinder us in the work of our conversion. God never intended that our imployments upon earth, should justle out the necessarie provision for heaven. But God hath so given out our callings here in the world, that he hath made and ordained them to be subordinate to our general and effectual calling, to the great business of Gods glorie and our own salvation.
It is said of Noah, that he walked with God,*and was perfect in his generation. And yet Noah was imployed by God for some time, to wit for 120 years in a Handicraft-calling, to build an Hrk, to shew that God did never intend that Noah’s making an Ark should any way hinder his walking with God, or carrying on the work of his soul. Though you have callings to follow, and families to provide for, yet God did never intend your outward calling should justle out your inward and effectual calling.
Secondly, Consider you that make this plea, whether you doe not imbezel away much time from your outward calling, which you do not imploy in the concernments of your souls, but in the works of sin and Satan. There is many a man that can plead he hath no leasure to pray, nor no leasure to hear a Sermon, he must follow his calling; yet this man can follow a Whore, and follow a Tavern, and these men can spend a whole day upon recreation, and yet can spare no time, finde no leasure to hearken to Jesus Christ. This now should be a great conviction to you that pretend you must follow your calling, that you can neglect your calling, to follow your sensual and vain courses, and yet can spare no time to make your souls happie.
Thirdly, You that plead your outward calling in the world, to be an excuse why you cannot hearken to your effectual calling by Jesus Christ; consider this, that this plea hath damned many a soul before you, and wil damn you also, if you look not to it. This hath been an ancient plea, Luk. 14.18, 19, 20. When Christ called a companie of men there to come to him, what excuse have they? Saith one, I have bought a yoke of oxen, and I must prove them. I have bought a Farm, saith another, and I must manage that. I have marria wife, and therefore cannot come, saith a third. All these were lawful callings, and yet these callings kept them from Heaven, and kept them from Jesus Christ. You read Acts 24.25. When Paul did startle Felix’s conscience by a powerful Sermon of judgement to come, Felix’s heart trembled; but mark now, how did Felix put off the power of the word? Why, Now, saith he, I am not at leasure, but go thy waies, and in convenient time I will send for thee to speak of this matter. As if he should say, I am now to go about some other business, about the affairs of my Kingdome, and cannot have leasure to hear thee now: and so by some outward imployment, he justled the power of the word from his heart, and had not convenient time to imbrace Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, Consider this, That this plea of yours (in making your callings an excuse to neglect your effectual calling) it is the only way to provoke God to curse and blast all your outward callings to you, and to engage him to curse all you put your hands unto. Hagg. 1.6 9. Because they neglected Gods Worship, and Gods Ordinances, Therefore, saith God, you shall have much, but it shall come to nothing; and what you get, you shall put into a bag with holes: You shal lose all you get, and all you sow, and all you labour for, because you would not look after Gods worship. So Micah 6.13, 14. I will make thee sick in smiting thee, and desolate because of thy sins. Thou shalt eat, and not be satisfied: thou shalt sow, and not reap: thou shalt tread Olives, and not anoint thy selfe with oyle; and make sweet wine, but shalt not drink it. For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the manners of the house of Ahab, and you walk in their counsels. As much as if the Lord should say, You wil not hearken to my Statutes, and to my Counsels, but Omri’s statutes, and Ahabs counsel you wil hearken to, Therefore now, you shall eat, and not be satisfied; sow, and not reap: That is, God wil curse what you have, and what you doe, because you wil not hearken to Gods cal and counsel. So Deut. 28.38. to 46. Thou shalt carry much seed into the field, and gather but little, the Locusts shall consume it; ther’s one curse: And shalt plant Vineyards, but shalt not drink the wine, nor gather the grapes, the worm shall eat them; another curse. Thou shalt have Olive-trees throughout all thy coasts, but shalt not anoint thy selfe with Oyl, for thy Olives shall fall; there’s a third curse. Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but shalt not enjoy them; all the trees and fruit of the Land shall be consumed. Now what’s the reason of all this, that God should thus blast their callings and their comforts to them? Verse 45. Yea all these curses shall come upon thee, and pursue thee, and overtake thee, because thou hearknedst not to the voice of thy God, to keep his commandements, and his statutes which he commanded thee. Here is the reason, they would not hearken to God, nor obey God, and therefore God would blast their comforts to them. Now then, Beloved, think of this, you that make your callings a plea why you cannot hearken to the call of Christ; this plea is a great provocation to engage God to blast, and to curse your very callings to you.
Fifthly, Take this consideration, that God will the more blesse you in your callings and prosper you in the work of your hands, the more consciencious you are in hearkning to the call and invitation of Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because Godlinesse hath not onely a promise of the life to come, but of this life also. 1. Tim. 4.8. And Mal. 3.10, 11, 12. Bring yea all the tythes into the Store-house, that there may be meat in my house; that is, saith God, Use all means, and take all care, that there may be meat in my house, that Ordinances may be on foot, that my worship may be maintained; and what then? And if you will take care of his Ordinances, God bids you prove him, and try him, if he will not take care of you. ver. 11. M•rk the words, Let there be meat in my house, and prove me now, saith the Lord; if I will not open the windows of heaven, and poure forth a blessing upon you, and there shall not be room enough to receive it. A strange blessing: that if men wil take care to have meat in Gods house, & have a care of Gods ordinances, God would open the very windows of hea•en, and make the earth so fruitful, they should not have room to receive Gods blessings. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and all Nations shall call you blessed, and call you a delightsome land. Here now you see if you will take care of Gods Ordinances, and imbrace his cal, God wil blesse your outward calling the more; and give you in a more abundant increase, if you imbrace the cal of Jesus Christ.
- You that urge your outward callings as a reason why you cannot hearken to the cal of Christ: take this for answer, that if truth were known, it is not the urgencie of your callings, but the obstinacie of your wils, and the slugishnesse of your spirits is the cause, you do not give entertainment to the cal of Jesus Christ. If it were mens callings urged them, they would not take pleasure in sin; therefore, it is not their callings, but the badnesse of their hearts: they do not love Christ, and love his waie•, but think it too industrious a work to labour for conversion; and therefore they make this plea. John 5.40. Ye will not come to me that ye might have life: When will is wanting, saith Doctor Preston, any vain excuse wil be pretended. When wil is wanting to walk in the waies of God, any groundlesse pretence wil be made to excuse their negligence. And thus much to take off the second suggestion, that men have callings to follow in the world, and therefore they haue no leisure to look after their effectual calling by Jesus Christ.
- Sug. Thirdly, The Devil suggests, if you give entertainment to the cal of Jesus Christ, this wil expose you to a great deal of povertie, and persecution in this world; and therefore you must not hearken to his cal: And he wil urge Scripture for this. First, for poverty, the Devil wil urge Matth. 8.19, 20. Christ said, the Foxes have holes, the Birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head: The Devil wil urge this Scripture, and tel you, you are exposed to poverty, want, and beggery, if you follow Christ. And this we read in history likewise of Lucius, the fi•st Christian King that ever England had; (and indeed the first Christian King that ever any Nation had, to the glory of England; so Gildas in his life tels us) And this King though he was turned to Christianity; yet for many years he had this temptation upon him, that the Christians were poorer then the Romans, that did not embrace Jesus Christ; and this temptation he could hardly shake off: the Romans were more wealthy, and the Romans were more warlick, and so had like to have been overcome with this suggestion. Agolantus a heathen Prince, being taken prisoner by the Emperor and being in his Court, he saw thirty or forty poor men in poor clothes walking in the Palace; and demanding of the Emperor who those poor men were, the Emperor told him they are the followers of Jesus Christ; are they so, saith he? If Christ keep his followers in such a low condition, I wil never follow Jesus Christ. The poornesse of Christs followers, made him stumble at Christianity. There are many men, especially the gallants of the times, they see a company of poor silly women come with a Bible under their armes; and they embrace the faith, and they love it; and this is a marvellous great offence to them, that they wil not follow Jesus Christ, because of the poverty they are exposed to in the wayes of Jesus Christ: And then for persecution also, that they are not onely exposed to want, but to losse of liberty, and good name, and life also; Matth 10.38. You must take up the cross: these are tedious termes to flesh and blood, and this doth wonderfully gravel and keep back men from entertaining of Christ. Now to take off this temptation of the Devil, that it might not seize upon your hearts, I shal lay down six paticulars by way of answer.
First, That the servants of God of old time, th•y had rather chuse poverty and persecution with the people of God, then to enjoy the vanities and profits of this world with wicked men. And this was Moses’s choice, Heb. 11.24 25. Moses when he came to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaohs Daughter; c•usi•g rather t• suffer a•fliction with the people of God, then to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ better then all the riches of Aegypt. Moses, when he came to years; it was no childish act, but an act of deliberation; and it was no constrained act, but Moses choice rather, it was an act of his own choice, rather to have affliction with the people of God, then to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season. It was spoken of Mr. Philpot his being in the Cole-house at Windsor, a dismal and dark place. Saith one, I had rather be with Philpot in the Cole-house, then be with Bonner in his Palace. And being asked, why? the one being so dismal, the other so beautiful? saith he, the reason is, because Bonners conscience makes his Palace a cole-house; but Philpots God, and Philpots Christ makes his cole-house a Palace. And Beloved, this is a truth; though a man should be a beggar, if he be rich in faith, he is the happiest man in the world. Though a man should beg his bread from door to door, if he can beg Christ and have it, and beg grace and have it; he is the richest man upon earth. This therefore is my first answer, that the servants of God, had rather chuse afflictions with the people of God, then have pleasures with wicked men.
Secondly, Suppose you meet with poverty and persecution in following Christ, yet consider, Jesus Christ doth make you abundant recompence with that inward peace, and inward joy he fils your hearts withal, for all the outward troubles you meet with in the world. John 16.33. In the world you shall have tribulation; but mark the Cordial, In me ye shall have peace, therefore be of good chear, I have overcome the world. Though you have troubles in the world, yet you have joy in me, and peace in me; and therefore why should you be offended?
- Consider, Though you want many things in the world, yet you shal want nothing that is good for you; Psal. 84.11. He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he with-hold from them that live a godly life. If riches be good for thee, thou shalt not want it; if wealth be good for you, you shal not want it; if estate be good for you, you shal not want that; for he will with-hold nothing from them that live a godly life.
- A gracious heart, if he hath or can finde that he hath a real interest in Christ, though he wants much in the world, he thinks he wants nothing: but he hath all things in having a Christ; nor wil he complain of poverty, when endowed with riches of heaven. Luke 22.25. And Christ said unto them, when I sent you without purse, and without scripe, and shooes, lacked you any thing? Mark the question. Now, if a carnal man had been to answer this, what would he have said? What? send a man without a purse, then he wants money; send him without a scrip, he wants meat; send him without shooes, a man is a poor man indeed, that hath no shooes to his feet; a carnal man would have said, Yes Lord, we want mony, and we want meat, and we want shooes; but ask the Disciples, wanted you any thing? They said Nothing. And why was this? Because the Disciples knew they had a grounded interest in Jesus Christ, and a right to Jesus Christ, and though they wanted these poor outward comforts, they did not want Christs comfort, and Christs graces; and therefore when they had neither purse, scrip, nor shooes, they wanted nothing. Why, O Beloved, if you were of the temper of these gracious Disciples, you would say so too; that if you can finde a grounded and real interest in Christ, though you want many of the comforts of this world, you will say you want nothing. Wanted you any thing? and they said Nothing.
- You that make poverty and persecution a plea, Consider this, that the poor are ordinarily the most people that Jesus Christ doth call to embrace his Gospel. The poor receive the Gospel, saith Christ, and blessed are you that are not offended at it; Not many wise, not many noble are called, but the poor things of the world hath God chosen. 1 Cor. 1.26. And in James, God hath chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith. Doe not therefore Beloved make this a plea to keep off from Christ, because ordinarily they are the people Christ pitcheth most love upon, and doth delight to make them rich in grace, who are poore in goods.
- Consider, That if upon this ground you refuse the cal of Jesus Christ, you are exposed to more povertie, and to worse p•rsecution then ever you could be exposed to in the entertaining of Christ. In the following of Christ you are only exposed to an outward povertie; but in neglecting the cal of Christ, you are exposed to be poor in faith, and to be such a beggar, as not to be endowed with one dram of grace, and then you are beggars indeed. As we say, he is a poore man that God hates: He that hath not Christ, and hath not the treasures of heaven in him, he is exposed to worse poverty a thousand times then he can be for imbracing the cal of Jesus Christ, Rev. 3.17. Yea, and he is exposed to worse persecution also, that for fear of persecution neglects Jesus Christ. Psal. 83.5. The Lord will persecute them, saith David, with fury and wrath, speaking of wicked men. All persecution from man reaches but to the body, but this from God reaches to the soul.
- And then lastly, This should not hinder you from following Jesus Christ, considering, that though you should be poor, and should be persecuted, yet heaven wil make you amends for all, Heb. 11.35. Heaven wil make amends for povertie, when you are endowed with all the riches of Christ, and Heaven wil make amends for persecution, when there the weary shal be at rest, and there the troubled shal be at ease. And thus much be spoken of the third suggestion of the Devil, that if you entertain the cal of Jesus Christ, you shal be exposed to much povertie, and persecution here in the world.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon is this.
That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the prosecution of which, I have resolved one case of conscience, and am yet upon the second case; namely, what suggestions the Devil doth use to keep men off from imbracing the cal of Jesus Christ: I have laid down and answered three already.
- Now there is one suggestion more. When the Devil sees either of these wil take place, then he comes in with a fourth, to disswade men from imbracing the call of Christ, and that is this: Why, saith the Devil, if you wil entertain the call of Christ, you wil abridge your selves of all the joy and comfort of your lives; you wil never have merry daies while you live upon earth: You see men that pretend to be converted, and doe hear Sermons, what lumpish and melancholy men they are, not so jocund and jolly as others are, that walk not so precisely; if you follow Christ, and his Gospel, this wil casheer all your merry daies, and this wil put you into a sad temper; all your jovial daies are gone. Therefore to take off this aspersion, that the waies of Christ are sad and melancholy waies, which hath been an aspersion that from age to age, and generation to generation, hath been as a Gin the Devil hath used to keep men from Christianity. And I remember it is one of the greatest Engines Antichrist useth to support and uphold his Kingdom. The Papists, to deter men from Christianity, and the Protestant Religion, they would hold their Disciples in hand with this, that the spirit of a Calvinist is a sad and lumpish spirit, and therefore they would disswade all Nations from turning to their Religion; and this the Priests were to tel in all the Churches of Rome, how sad and melancholy they were that turned to the Calvinists religion; and this did mightily stay the people from imbracing the truth. And this aspe•sion hath passed from hand to hand, and is many times prevalent upon the spirits of men that are of the true Religion, that they must not be too forward in the practice of Religion, fearing lest this should work melancholy and sad thoughts in them.
Now, to take off this, I shal onely urge four or five heads briefly.
First, Whereas you say, they are melancholy & sad that are called by Christ to a profession of his waies, I would answer thus, That they of all people in the world have most cause of mirth & gladness, and they are the most truly joyful people in the world. That they have most cause of rejoycing is apparent. When the Disciples came triumphing that they could cast out Devils, heal the diseased, and work Miracles: O but saith Christ, Rejoyce not in this, but rejoyce that your names are written in the book of life, Luke 10.20. As much as if Christ should say, All the endowments and extraordinary gifts of the spirit, they are no such grounds of joy, if you had them all; but here is your joy, and cause of rejoycing, that your names are written in the book of Life; that you are in Christ, and your souls shal be saved. And so Paul tels us, Phil. 4.4. Rejoyce in the Lord alwayes, again I say rejoyce. The Apostle would not speak it to them with a single command, but doubtless his expression, to shew, that they that are people that have their sins pardoned; that have their souls reconciled; that have a title to glory, whose names are written in the book of Life; these of all men in the world have most cause of joy and gladness. And they have not onely most cause, but they doe most truly rejoyce, and have more real joy in their hearts in one day, then the wicked can have all their lives, 1 Pet. 1.8. They rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glory. What joy you have in the world, the tongue is able to speak of it, but the tongue is not able to speak of that inward joy that godly men have in their hearts, upon the apprehension of the interest they have in Jesus Christ, Psal. 4.6. Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance. And Thou shalt put more gladness in mine heart, &c. Prov. 14.13. A good conscience is a continual feast. Men are never more merry, then when they are at a feast; godly men, they carry clear consciences about them, and that makes them as joyous and pleasant, as if they were alwayes at a great and sumptuous feast. Indeed this is true, they do not rejoyce with such exorbitancies of joy as wicked men do. Wicked men rejoyce in sin, that they cannot do; wicked men rejoyce in their lusts, in their drunkenesse, and their adulteries, and wayes of sin, that godly men dare not do. Such a rejoycing as this, is the foundation of sorrow: This rejoycing (like the Prodigal) in a riotous course of living, is the foundation of sorrow, and will meet with you, when you are to die.
Secondly, Grant this should be true; yet consider, that this sorrow that godly people have, it is such a sorrow, that they shal have no cause to repent thereof, but it is a foundation of future joy to them, 2 Cor. 7.9, 10. I rejoyce (saith the Apostle) in that I have made you sorrowful. What, rejoyce to see them a sad people? Yes, for the sorrow I made you sorrowful with, was a sorrow never to be repented of, you wil never repent of that sorrow; and therefore Paul would do it, because it was a sorrow, never to be sorrowed for; nay,* it is not such a sorrow as is not to be repented of, but it is a sorrow that laies a foundation to a great deal of future joy, They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. But now al the joy of wicked men, is a joy to be repented of. They must repent of all their jovial bouts, and repent of all their merry pastimes, this wil be sadnesse to their remembrance; whereas the sorrow of the godly is never to be sorrowed for.
Thirdly, It is true, it may be they are sorrowful, but they are sorrowful for sin, which you have cause to be that are uncalled, as wel as they, and more: Now if a godly man be sorrowful for sin, this wil never prejudice him. Indeed, Worldly sorrow brings forth death, saith the Apostle, but godly sorrow brings forth salvation never to be repented of.
Fourthly, It may be they are sorrowful, but how is it? They are not sorrowful because they are good, but they are sorrowful because they are so bad. It is not profession makes them sorrowful, but it is because they can professe Christ no better, and professe him no more zealously, this is their sorrow; and this sorrow should be in all of us, that we can serve God no better, and bring God no more Glory.
Fifthly, They are sorrowful, but it not for themselves, but for thee; they are not sorry because they are good, but because thou art so bad; they are sorry because of thy sins, because they see thee an uncalled man stil, and they see thee drunk, and see thee profane, and see thee dishonour God, and damn thy soul; and this makes them more sad then they would be. Lot, his righteous soul was vext within him, for the wickednesse of the Sodomites; 2 Pet. 2.8. And Jeremiah, his eyes run down with tears, for the iniquity of the people he lived amongst. And so Paul, I told you before, and now tell you weeping; there are wicked livers among you, that walk not according to the truth, Phil. 3.17, 18. Paul did not weep because he was miserable; but because he saw so many wicked, and abominable in their lives. So David, Psal. 119.136. Mine eyes run down with water, because men keep not thy Law. Ezek. 9.4.
And lastly, Though you see some men sad and melancholy, yet think not ill of the wayes of God; because, this way of all other, doth most invite to joy and gladnesse in the Lord. Rejoyce evermore, and again I say, rejoyce, Phil. 4.4. And John 16. These things I speak, saith Christ, that your joy might be full. In the profession and following of Christ, it is the intendment of Christ to give you more joy, then ever you had before; there is no such cause therefore to entertain a prejudice by the Devils temptation against the wayes of Jesus Christ, when he cals you to professe his Gospel. And thus much be spoken to the second case of conscience in reference to wicked men.
There is a third case touching men uncalled, and that is, What delusions doth the Devil deceive hypocrites by, to make them nourish presumptuous perswasions that they are effectually called when they are not? And I intreat you, give me your attention a little in the dispatch of this material question. I shal onely lay down four Delusions, whereby the Devil deceives many.
- The Devil may delude men by this,* because they do delight to hear the word preacht, therefore the Devil would egg on this perswasion, surely your d•lighting to hear the word, and your following of Sermons, this must needs be an evidence of your effectual calling. And here the Devil would misapply Scripture, as John 8.47. He that heareth not my words, saith Christ, is not of God; he that is of God, heareth my words. Now, here the Devil would misapply this Scripture, and tel you, you that hear Gods word, and delight to hear Sermons, this can be no other then an infallible evidence of your •ffe••ual calling.
Now, I beseech you to follow me in the taking off this delusion, and shewi•• you wherein, & in what cases, this will prove but a broken re•d unto you. And I shall shew you that in five cases, hearing the word of God with d•light, is no evidence of effectual calling, but may be a meer delusion of Satan. As
- If your hearing the word, be but a bare hearing, and not a hearing with practice; if you have not practice joyned with what you hear; and know, your thus hearing the word with delight, is no evidence of your effectual calling. Ezek. 33.31. They come before thee as my people cometh, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, as one that can play well upon an instrument of musick. Here the Lord sets forth with what delight they heard Ezekiel preach; they heard him as a man that had a very lovely voice, and they heard him as a man that played upon an Instrument of Musick; much delight they took in hearing. Yet, saith God, they hear thy words, but do th•m not. Beloved, though you take as much delight in hearing a Sermon, as to hear the most melodious musick a cunning hand can make; yet if you barely hear with delight, not joyning practice with your hearing; this is no evidence of effectual calling. Hence it is James saith, James 1.21. Be not hearers of the word onely, but doers also, lest you deceive your own souls. Implying, that you will deceive your souls •bout eff•ctual calling, if you onely hear, and do not do. This was the fault of the stony ground, Matth. 13.20.
- If your hearing be a partial hearing: I mean thus; if you hear, and wi•l hear but part of the word, or leave but some part of your sins by hearing; will pick and chuse both whom you will hear, and what you will hear; in that case, your hearing with delight can be no evidence of your effectual calling. If it be a partial hearing, as first, that you will hear some part, and will not hear other; to hear the promising part, and not the commanding part; to hear with delight the commanding part, and not hear the threatning part of the word: in this case, thus hearing will be no evidence of your call. Mark 6.20. Herod it is said of him, he heard John Baptist gladly, and did many things: There was his partial hearing: he heard him with joy in many things, but he would not do all. Now, if you ask, wherein was Herods failing? Herod heard the word with gladnesse; yet this was no evidence of his effectual calling. Wherein did he fail? Why mark, compare this Scripture with Luke 3.18, 19, 20. Herod, it is true, he heard John Baptist gladly, while he preached of ordinary matter; but when John came to reprove him of his sins, and told him he was an Adulterer, then he could not endure to hear John preach, ver. 18. Many things in his exhortation did John preach to the people, but Herod the Tetrarch being reproved by John, for Herodias his brother Philips wife, and for all the evils Herod had done, he added yet this above all, to shut up John in pris•n. He would hear John no more then: Mark how the Scriptures points out a wicked man; Herod heard John gladly, when he preached of comfortable and general matter; but when John came to reproving matter, and convincing matter, then he would hear him no more; but added this sin to the r•st, to shut up Iohn in prison. So that to be a partial hearer, gladly to hear some part of the word, but not all, can be no evidence of effectual calling. So those in Isaiah discovered this temper, Isa. 30.10▪ Prophesie to us smooth things, prophesie deceits. There were many men could delight to hear smooth and comfortable preaching, but they could not endure to hear a true denunciation of Gods judgements against them for their sins. They love to hear some part of Gods wil, not all; the promising part, not the reproving part: this is no evidence of effectual calling. Ezek. 13.17, 18. There were some lying Prophetesses that did preach, but what did they doe? They sowed Pillows under mens elbows; and the Lord charges them for it, that they did hunt after their souls. To preach smooth Doctrines, and plausible comfortable Doctrines, is but to sow pillows, and hunt after mens soules. Now, mamen love •o be smoothed up, and flattered in their sinnes; whereas to be a partial hearer▪ is no signe of your •ffectual calling.
- Hearing the word with delight, is no evidence of your effectual calling, in case this be a fickle and unconstant hearing. To delight to hear the word, because the word comes in request, because there is no danger in hearing; this wicked men may delight to do, when yet if times of persecution should arise, they would be fickle, and leave off their hearing. Matth. 13.20, 21. It is said of the stony ground, that the seed that fell among stones, are they that receive the word with joy (there is their delight to hear) but not having deep root, in times of persecution fell away. Here the Scripture Anatomizeth a man, that he may hear the word with joy sometimes, when the current of the times run for Religion, when the word comes in fashion among a people; but if persecution should attend the word, and a prison attend hearing, you would then see how flag their delights would be in hearing the word: and in this case you may delight to hear the word, yet be no evidence of your effectual calling.
- In case your hearing be a selfish hearing: As now, many men may hear the word with delight: why? Because they may get profit by hearing, and praise and vain-glory by hearing the word, and this may make them wonderfully delight to hear. Luke 12.1. There was an innumerable company went to hear Jesus Christ, insomuch the croud was so great, that one trod upon another to hear him: yet Christ saith of them, John 6.26. They come to hear me preach, but not for the word I teach, or the miracles I doe, but for the loaves they eat of. It was not love to Christs person, or his Ministry, but onely beaause they saw Christ with a few fishes to feed so many men, they seeing of this miracle, this made them frequent the Ministry and word of Jesus Christ. Many men may hear the word, when sel•ish advantage accompanies hearing, to get more trading, to be better thought of among their neighbours; this is a selfish hearing, and in this case you may hear, yet not be effectually called. There is a phrase in Hosea 7.14. They c•ied unto me, and they howled upon their beds, and they assembled themselves for corn and wine. Here was a people, that assen bl•d together at the Ordinances of God; but what was their end? there was a dearth and famine likely to come, and here they would use duties to be a meanes to prevent a famine, and get corn and wine together. Here was a selfish end, and thus men may hear, yet have no evidence of their effectual calling.
- If your hearing be a divided hearing, and your delight a divided delight, this can be no Argument of your call. As thus, A man may delight to hear, yet if that man divide and share his delights, partly to sin, and partly to the Word, this can be no evidence of his effectual calling. In the place before quoted, Hos. 7. They assembled together, and howled upon their beds, yet they s•n against me, saith the Lord. There they divided their delight, they would serve God in his worship, yet they would sin against him. So those Isa 58.3, 6, 7. They took delight in drawing neer to God, yet in the day of their fast, found pleasure in sin. Now, to have a divided love, to delight in sin, as wel as in Ordinances, this can be no Argument of effectual calling; and your hearing the word in these five cases, is but a meer delusion. But on the contrary, if your hearing be not a bare hearing, but with your delight in hearing you joyn practice: If it be not a partial hearing, but the commanding and reproving part as welcome as any other: If it be such a hearing as is not selfish, such a hearing in which you aim more at Gods glory then your own advantage: If these be the qualifications, then your delight in hearing the Word is an evidence of your effectual calling.
*Yea, but you wil urge further, Though this be not an Argument of our effectual calling, yet we can goe one step higher; We doe not onely delight to hear the word, but we love the godly who are effectually called to grace and glory; and if we love them, we hope it is argument that we also are called: and they urge that Scripture for it, We know that we are translated from death to Life, if we love the Brethren, 1 Joh. 3.14.
Now, to speak to this: I answer, It is clear in Scripture, that every kind of love to the people of God, is no Argument of effectual calling, but there may be a feigned and a counterfeit love, as wel as any other grace. Hence the Apostle presses, Rom. 12.9. Let your love be without dissimulation; importing, that men may dissemble their love as wel as any grace else. 1 John 3.18. Let us not love in word and in tongue onely, but in deed and in truth. So 1 Pet: 1.22: Let there be unfeigned love to the Brethren: intimating that there may be a feigned and false love. So that every kind of love is no evidence of effectual calling. And this I shal make out by this demonstration; because there are several acts or expressions of love, that men who are not effectually called, may shew to be godly men. Now if a man uncalled, may shew many expressions and acts of love to a man converted, then meer shewing love to a godly man, is no Argument of your effectual calling. I shal reduce what I have to say unto six heads. As,
- A man may be frequently in the company of godly men, yet not be effectually called; and so Demas was a companion with Paul in the Gospel, yet he not called, but imbraced the world, and fel away.
- They may speak wel of the people of God. And this John tels us, 1 John 3.18. Let us not love in word, or in tongue. This loving in word and tongue, was to speak wel of a godly man; this a wicked man may do.
- They may write Letters of commendation in the behalf of a godly man. And so you read of Pilat’s Wife, which the Scripture gives as no evidence of her conversion, Mat. 27.19. She wrote a Letter to her Husband in the morning before he was to arraign Christ, and told him, Have nothing to do with the blood of this just man. Here you see she wrote in the behalf of a good man, of Jesus Christ. And so we read of Claudius Lysias, that he wrote a Letter in the behalfe of Paul to Felix the Governour: Here were great acts of love, yet these no evidence of their effectual calling. Nay,
- They may think nothing too much to give to good men, yet not be called. And so did the Galathians, whose calling Paul questions, Gal 4.15. They would pull out their own eyes, and not think them too dear for Paul: Yet at length how cold they did grow, and count Paul their enemy, for telling them the truth.
- They may expresse such love, that in times of danger they may take care of the safety of godly men. So Acts 23.27. Claudias L•sias, when he heard Paul was in danger of his life, he came with an Army of men to rescue him, that they should not take away his life from him; and yet Claudius Lysias lived and died a Heathen, for ought the Scripture mentions.
Lastly, They may relieve the necessities of the godly, yet not be effectually called. Now here are high expressions of love, yet it is evident, all these may be, where calling is not.
But now its true, in some cases love to the people of God, may prove a good evidence of ones effectual call; to wit, if it have these four qualifications.
- If you love the people of God under this notion, because godly, it is an evidence of your effectual call, because there is good in them, more then because you receive good from them. Hence it is John tels us wicked men may love a godly man, because they have good from him. 2 John 1. To the elect Lady, whom I love in the truth, for the truths sake dwelling in her. Iohn did not love the Lady, because she was a Lady, or because she was a goodly woman, but for the riuths sake that dwelt in her. Whereas wicked men they love a godly man, but not as godly, under that notion. Therefore you shal see the difference between Iohns love to a godly person, and Claudius Lysias a man unconverted. Acts 23.27. Claudius Lysias tels you there, that Paul was in danger of his life, and with an Army I rescued him. Now why was it he did so? did he love Paul because a godly man? no, for mark the next words: With an Army I rescued him, because it was told me he was a Roman. He loved Paul for his Nation, not for his conversion: had he loved Paul as Paul, Paul as a Christian, this were an Argument of grace; but to love Paul as a Roman, because of Country and Nation sake, this was no evidence of his call. So Matth. 5.46, 47. If ye love them that love you, what reward have you? doe not even the Publicans so; So that you see a wide difference between the love of a godly man, and of a wicked man.
- To measure your love to them by their graces, that you love that man most that hath most grace, that’s an Argument of effectual calling, because it is grace in the man, and nothing else you love.
- If your love be universal to all that are godly, of what sort or condition soever they be, this is an evidence of your effectual calling; for then ‘•is evident, that grace, as grace, is the object of your love.
Lastly, to love a man so, as to carry compassion in your brests towards him, to have a sympathizing heart with him in his sufferings, 1 Pet. 3.8. Suffer one with another, love as Brethren. This shews your love to be true, when it hath pity and compassion to attend it.
I passe now to a third delusion,* which indeed is a main delusion, and hath deceived many, specially those that professe the Gospel, to make them believe they are effectually called, when they are not. And that is, because they discern a change in their conversation, that they are not the same men they were in dayes past; and hereby the Devil props up this perswasion, that surely they must needs be effectually called, and he alledges Scripture for it, 1 Cor. 6.9, 10, 11. Such were some of you, but ye are washed, &c. Now this being so universal a delusion amongst most men in the world, that if they have hopes of heaven, it is upon this ground, that they are not the same now they were in times past. I shall therefore a little enlarge my self in speaking of this particular, and shall lay down six or seven particulars wherein I shall shew, that this ground taken in general, is no infallible evidence of a mans effectual calling.
First, Because there are many gradual changes, which do not come up, or amount to a saving change or alteration of the heart of man. As there as a change from a Pagan to a Christian, so was Julian chang’d, yet a man never called by Jesus Christ. Th•n there is a change from a persecuter to be a countenancer of Religion, so we read Valerius Maximinus was chang•d, who was the vil•st persecuter of all men in his time, and the hand of God lying so sore upon him for that sin, that his very bowels rotted within him, and the very worms crept out of them, and in horrour of conscience he cryed out to his Nobles about him, perswading them by his example, to take heed never to persecute the Christians more. Now both these were great changes, and yet they are but gradual changes, that leave men abundantly short of those saving changes that God works in them that are effectually called. Thirdly, There is a change from prophanenesse to profession, and yet this is a step below a saving change. Fourthly, there is a step from profession into sincerity, into a real possession of Iesus Christ. Now those three steps they fall short of a saving change, and therefore every change of life doth not not argue a man to be effectually called because there are many gradual changes that do not amount to so high a pitch as this, to be savingly changed.
Secondly, There may be a change in the life, when there is no change in the nature, or in the heart, Matth. 23. they may wash the outside of the cup, when within it is full of pollution. The life may be changed, the external acts and course may be changed, when the heart may not be changed, and the nature the same still.
Thirdly, There may be a great change in a mans life, proceeding, not from a change in their nature, but from the times wherein they live: the times are changed, therefore they are changed; the times do not favour superstition, therefore they will not shew their superstitious hearts; the times countenance not profanenesse, therefore they will not be profane. Beloved, a change in a mans life may flow many times from a change of the times wherein they live, and yet this change no Argument of a heart change, or of effectual calling by Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, A change in your life may proceed from a change in your sin, not from a change in your heart: As thus. A man may be a Drunkard, may be an Adultery, may be a profane liver in times past, and may change these sinnes for other sins. He may change his Drunkennesse into Covetousnesse, and be a covetous Worldling. He may change his Adultery for Idolatry, and be a superstitious m•n. He may change Profanenesse into Hypocrisie, and be an hypocritical man. He may change his loose practice into a loose judgement, and be an erroneous man. Now this is no change of the heart, but onely a change of the sin; you have not the same sins you had, but you have other sins in place of them; and men may thus have a change in their life, flowing from a change in their sin, yet no Argument of effectual c•lling. Ier. 2.36. Why gaddest thou so much to change thy way? The people of Israel they would be alwayes changing, now they would be for God, anon for Baal; now for Gods true worship, an on for false worship; they would be ever changing their sin, but never leaving it, onely change their old sins for other sort of sins. And so there are many men now adayes changed, they are turned from Malignity, and are come to be Professors; it may be they have not so gross sins now, as in times past; in times past they would oppose Religion, and now they professe it; though they have left their opposition, they have some sin more eminent then that. Many men have been loose in practise, they have changed that to be loose in judgment; this is no change of heart all this while: so that take this for a truth, there may be a change in the life, when the heart remains unchanged still.
Fifthly, There may be a change in mens lives, arising from a change in the occasions to sin, and not from a change in the heart: As now, A Lion that will go ramping and roaring up and down, devouring his prey when he is at large, yet put this Lion in a Den, there he is quiet, and will offer no hurt: now the Lion is a Lion still, and hath his ravenous disposition still, only he hath not so fair an occasion to shew his rage. It is thus with men, many men want a•fions and opportunities to shew their wickedness, and the evil of their natures, and therefore doe not discover them: What’s the reason many a man was a drunkard before, and is not so now? It may be drunkenness hath brought beggery, and now he hath not money to sit upon an Ale-bench. What’s the reason a man was an Adulterer before, and is not so n•w? It may be he hath spent his stock, and spent his strength upon Whores, and now he hath neither strength nor purse to follow after them. It is no thanks to you, if God take away your occasions of sinning: men may be thus changed, yet have no change in the heart at all.
Sixtly, Many men may change their lives, because they come into better company, haply their company is better then in times past,* and this may work in them a change in their lives. As we read of Joash, all the while he was in Jehojada’s company, he was a well ordered man in his life; but when he was dead, and he came to have wicked men about him, then he shewed the wickedness of his heart.
- Lastly, Every change is not an evidence of effectual calling, because there may be a change in the life, proceeding from a wrong principle, and tending to a wrong end: As thus, a man may change his life from a wrong principle; what’s that? I will name two wrong principles of a change in unconverted men. As
First, Men may change their lives, because of some present outward affliction that lies upon them in this life, their afflictions may inforce them to change their wayes, and not be so bad as in former dayes, Jonah 1.5. when they were in a storm in the ship, every man went and prayed to his God. What a change was here? yet the change was only because of the danger, they were in danger of death, and therefore they grew religious: Every man when a danger and affliction lies upon him, that will make him betake himself to God, and be a better minded man. And so Pharaoh, when God sent ten sore plagues upon him, the plagues did inforce Pharaoh to confesse his sin, and beg of Moses to pray for him; and yet this change in Pharaoh was only because of the present affliction that lay upon him which wrought this change Ier. 22.23. Oh Inhabitants of Lebanon, how gracious wilt thou be when thy pangs come upon thee? When pangs and afflictions were upon them, then they would be a gracious people. There is many a man will change his life, when God brings pangs, and death, and sicknesse upon him; these are forc’d wayes that God takes, to make a wicked and stout-hearted wretch change his life, Isa. 16.12. Its said there, When Moab is weary, Moab will come to my Eanctuary and pray. What a change was here in Moab? Moab, an Idolatrous company, that hated Gods people, and were enemies to all goodness; yet when they were weary, and Gods hand lay heavy upon them, then they would pray, Ezek. 24.12, So that you see clearly, though men do change their lives, yet if this change flow only from a present affliction they lie under, that Gods hand upon them doth even force them to change their course; this is no Argument of a saving change, and so by consequence no evidence of your effectual calling.
Secondly, Men may change their course from this Principle also, because of that horrour of conscience that seizeth on them, in the apprehension of hell, and the wrath of God; and from this principle a Heathen may change his course. It is noted by one upon that place Peter, It happens unto them, as the Dog that turns to his vomit, &c. Upon those words he hath this note, That the Dog in vomiting, carries resemblance to a wicked man leaving his sin. Now, saith the Author, the Dog when he vomits, it is by reason of some qualm and pang that is in his stomack, and when he hath that pang, he will disgorge himself, and ease himself by vomit; not as if he loathed his meat, but if he could free himself from those pangs, he would fain have the meat in his body to nourish him. Thus a wicked man, he may disgorge and vomit up his sins, and leave his sins, but why? it is not because he hates his sins, no, he would keep them as a sweet morsel under his tongue; but it is because those sins cause horrour and trouble of conscience, he cannot deceive, nor he cannot follow his lusts, but conscience will follow him. Now if thou change thy sin, only to stop consciences mouth, and muzzle conscience, this is no Argument of effectual calling.
*Fourthly, Men are tempted by the Devil to nourish presumptuous perswasions, that they are effectually called when they are not, because they are miscalled and reproached by the men of this world. Now think they, I should never be miscalled and reproached by wicked men, if I were not called by my God.
Now to take off this briefly, I answer: Every reproach from wicked men, can be no argument of an effectual call from God, because men may be miscalled upon a twofold ground: There are some men suffer as Christians, and some as evil-doers; we may suffer either for Christs sake, or for our own sakes: The distinction is laid down 1 Pet. 4.15, 16, 17. Let none of you suffer as a murtherer, as an evil doer, as a Thief, as a Busie-body in other mens matters; but if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed. So that some men may be punished for their own evils they have done, and so suffer no more then they have deserved; but other men suffer for their profession, because they professe Jesus Christ. Now to suffer because of your evil doings, this can be no evidence; but to suffer for Christ, meerly for professing his name, this is an argument of effectual calling. Therefore Christ pronounceth those blessed, Matth. 5.11. Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and speak evil of you for my sake: This is an evidence of your effectual calling by Jesus Christ.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrin• I am yet upon, drawn from these words, is this, That Christians should put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their soules, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the prosecution of which, I have gone over many particulars, and resolved some cases of conscience in reference to wicked men. I am now at this time to dispatch some cases of conscience more, touching them that are effectually called by Jesus Christ: As
- Whether men that are effectually called by Christ into a state of grace, and hope of glory, may in this life attain to an infallible and firm assurance of their own effectual calling?
- If it be found that it is attainable in this life, then what is the reason that many Christians who are effectually called, doe so much suspect and doubt their own calling; and walk so sadly for want of their assurance?
- What must be done that so you may make it sure to your own soules, that you are effectually called by Jesus Christ.
First, whether it be attainable in this life, that men who are effectually called by Christ, may have a firm and infallible assurance of their own call? And in resolution of this I shall briefly free it from two extreams, both of which are untrue about this Query.
The first is that of the Papists, who utterly deny any such thing as assurance about a mans Calling, Justification, or Election by God, and they hold all their followers in suspence, affi•ming that the most a man can have is a conjectural faith, an hope or conjecture that he shall be saved. And hence it is, that in that Popish Councel of Trent they made this Canon, that if any man doth say,* that he is bound of faith to believe that he is certainly in the number of Gods called ones, or justified ones, or elect ones, let him be Anathema, let him be accursed. That man that would so much as take this assurance to himselfe, they would hold that man accursed. And the reason why they doe it, is, because they hold another errour, to wit, falling from grace; which they could not maintain, did they not hold this also: This is the first extream.
- Another extream is of the Lutherans; they being opposite to the Papists in this point of assurance, to confute them who deny all assurance, they run into this extream, to hold that assurance is of the nature of faith, and whosoever hath faith, hath assurance: but this is another extream, and an uncomfortable Doctrine for doubting Christians, were it true. Therefore to keep this truth in the middle betwixt two extreams, I shall lay down this position by way of Answer: That though sometimes persons effectually called, may be without a particular assurance of their own call, yet this assurance is attainable by Christians in this life; and Christians may be assured of their own effectual calling. And this I shall prove by four Mediums.
First, Because the Apostle injoyns it here in my Text, Give dilig••ce to make your Calling and Election sure. Now this is a rule in Divinity, No man is bound to doe a thing impossible, and therefore in that we are commanded and bound to doe it, it is clear that it is possible, and may be made sure
Secondly, because it is the office of the Spirit of Jesus Christ to work this particular assurance in the hearts of those that are effectually called, that they are in the state of grace, and shall be brought to glory. 1 Cor. 2.12. We have received not the Spirit of this world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God. 1 John 5.10. He that believeth, he hath a witnesse in himself; a witness to his own soul that he doth believe. Eph. 1.13, 14. There the Spirit is called a Seal; you are sealed by the Spirit of promise; and verse 14. it is called the earnest of our inheritance. Now a seal, and earnest, is to give more assurance to a promise; and here the Spirit of God is given to Believers as a seal, and earnest-penny, that as they have the first fruits in grace, they shall have their harvest in glory. 1 Iohn 4.13. Hereby we know we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us his Spirit. It is the office of the Spirit of Jesus Christ to assure our hearts in this particular. Rom. 8.16. The Spirit it selfe beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.
Thirdly, Particular servants of God in Scripture, that have been partakers of this mercy, they have had this firm assurance of their effectual calling, I shall instance in three. First in Paul, and the Scripture tels us of him, that he had a clear evidence of his effectual calling, Gal. 2.20. I live, yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me, who loved me, and gave himselfe for me. There he had a particular assurance that Christ loved him, and gave himself for him. So 2 Tim. 1.12. I know whom I have believed, and I am perswaded also, that what I have committed to him, he will keep till the last day. So 2 Tim. 4.8. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is a Crown laid up for me. Nay not onely Paul, but Job also, Job 19.25. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and I shall stand up before him at the last day: he knew Jesus Christ was his Redeemer. And so David also saith, Thou art my God, and I will praise thee. Psal. 118.28. and Psal. 23.6. Surely the goodnesse and mercy of God shall follow me all the da•es of my life. So that put these together: God commands it, it is the Spirits office to work assurance in the heart, and particular servants of God have had this assurance, therefore why may it not be obtained? But if you say, these were not ordinary servants of God, these were servants of a higher rank and form; but may ordinary weak Christians know this also? Yes. Therefore,
Fourthly, Not onely particular Saints have had this, but the people of God in General; they have declared in Scripture that they have enjoyed this particular assurance of their effectual calling, and safety of their condition by Christ. Instance in a few. Isa. 63.16. Doubtlesse thou art our Father. They made no doubt of it, they were so perswaded they feared it not. Isa. 45.24. Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousnesse and strength. Surely: a word of confidence, they were assured they had righteousnesse for their justification in Christ Jesus. So 2 Cor. 5.1. We know, that if our earthly Tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God eternal in the heavens. They knew that when they died, they should see God in Heaven; not only Paul, but other godly Christians with him. So Heb. 10.34. You know in your selves, that God hath provided for you a better and more enduring substance. They were assured within themselves, that when they should die, or lose their Estates here, God had provided for them a more enduring substance. So 1 John 3.19. Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before God. So ver. 14. We know we are translated from death to life, &c. So that what can be more clearly proved then this, that this assurance is to be attained in this life: because God commands it, it is the Spirits office to work it, particular Christians have had it; and the people of God in General they have enjoyed and profest this Temper.
*Is it so then that Assurance is attainable in this life? Then how much too blame are our Adversaries the Papists, who hold their followers in suspense, that they must live without the assurance of their own estate, that their soules must hang in fears and doubts all their dayes, that the most they can have is only a conjecture: Oh into what a gulph of discomfo•ts do they plunge them! Beloved, the Lord in the Book of Deuteronomy, chap. 29. did pronounce it as a curse, that their lives should hang in suspense, it’s a greater curse that mens souls should hang in suspense, that men shall not know whether they shall be save• or damned, it’s a hell on this side hell; and therefore they are much to be blamed, that hold their followers in hand with a peradventure th•y shall be saved, peradventure not; when the Scripture is so clear in this thing.
Secondly, Let not the thoughts either of the impossibility or the difficulty of attaining this assurance, discourage you from looking after it. It is not impossible, though it is difficult indeed; and the difficulty should be so far from discouraging you, that it should quicken your endeavours, to make your calling and election sure.
Thirdly, Seeing assurance is attainable in this life, enquire into the cause why you who are effectually called, have not attained this assurance before now. And this puts me upon handling of the second case of conscience, seeing this assurance is attainable, Therefore
Secondly, what is the reason that many Christians who are called effectually by Jesus Christ, do live in many doubts and fears about their effectual calling?
In Answer to this I shall lay down these three particulars, that the doubts that do arise in Christians about their calling they flow from this threefold fountain.
Either first from some seeming defect they apprehend in the manner of their calling. Or
Secondly, some seeming defect they apprehend to be in the means of their calling. Or e•se
Thirdly, some seeming defects they apprehend in the eff•cts of their calling; and these three grounds are the rise from whence many Christians effectually called, do doubt of their call, and are not assured of it,
First, it doth arise from some seeming defect they apprehend to be in the manner of their calling: They say, I am not called in such a manner a• I see others are. As thus. Think they, I see other men when they are converted, that their humiliations are great, I see that they have horrour of conscience, that they are wrought upon by the terrors of the Law, that they are exceedingly humbled before God: Now for my part, I never found this manner of Gods working in my soul, I never found that I could see my sins clearly, or could b• humbled for them greatly; I never found those humiliations and legal terrors which I hear many men talk of, and this makes me doubt whether I am eff•ctually called or no. Now to take off this, I shall onely speak three things by way of Answer.
First, That it is true; God doth proceed after this manner with some, yet God is not ti•d and confin•d to one and the same way of working with all. What if he come to you in a calm, when he comes to others in a Tempest, if God come to me to you in a more peaceable and peaceable and quiet way? What if God do not pierce your heart, as he did those 3000 in the Acts, if he kindly open thy heart like Lidia’s without noise? God is not to be tied to one and the same way in converting all. As ’tis said John 3.8. The wind bloweth where it listeth, so how it listeth also.
Secondly, You have no cause to doubt for this; because it’s Gods usual manner to proceed after this way, only with such men who have been loose in their lives, who have been obstina•e in their wils, who have been very scandalous in conversation before their conversion and call. But it is not Gods usual way to work thus upon Christians who have been religiously brought up from their youth; it is not Gods way to dowse them into such a pit of horror, and plunge them into such a depth of fears, that have been of a fair and ingenuous and moral life before their call. As you know it is with Carpenters, they give more blows to knot•y Timber, then they will do to smooth and tender wood; thus doth God when he meets with a knotty sinner, a wretched stout-hearted sinner, God must give many blows by humiliation, before he will be humbled, before he can bring him to be a serviceable piece in Gods building, whereas Christians of a milde and softer temper, they shall have fewer blows, and shall not have the terrors of God stick so fast in their hearts, as others shall. Hence you read that phrase, Hos. 6.5. saith the Lord, I will hew them by my Prophets, &c. God doth hew some men, hew them with judgments, and hew them with terrour: Yea, but others that are not so loose as they: I taught Ephraim to go, I led Ephraim by the Arms, and I drew him with cords of a man, and with the bands of love, Hos. 11.4. God you see would hack and hew some men with terrour and wrath, but others he would draw with love, and the cords of a man▪ Now suppose God hath not hacked and hewed thee with judgments, if God melt thee with loving kindnesse, and if God gain upon thy soul with mercy, and with love and grace, thou must not blame God, thou must not confine God; for this is Gods way of working sometimes, as well as by wrath. God works upon some with wrath; •he will allure others with loving kindnesse; so that you have no cause or ground of fear that you are not effectually called, because you apprehend some defects in the manner of your call; because it is Gods usual way to plunge them in most humiliation, and most terrour, that have been most wicked liv’d men before their call, and so ordinarily with men religiously trained up from their youth.
Thirdly, God when he goes to call a sinner to conversion, he looks upon the temper of those that are to be called, and God sees some men of a rugged temper, that their tempers will not be won but by wrath, and by fire, and by hell, and by judgment. And so it’s like Felix was, his temper was such that nothing could conve•t him but wrath and judgement to come, terrible Doctrines. Some are of this temper, that nothing but wrath and hel-fire can work upon them. As children, there are some that are of such soft and tender tempers that the shaking of a rod may doe them good; there are other children, if a man should whip them every day, they would never leave their childish tricks: It is so with sinners, God sees some of a more tender and soft temper, that love will gain upon them; others are of a rugged disposition, that nothing but wrath can affright them: Now God in the dispensations of his grace, he observes their temper, and if he seeth love will gain more upon them then wrath will do, he will take that course; but if God see nothing but wrath, and fire, and horrour wil doe it, then he wil work that way. This you read in the Epistle of Jude, ver. 22, 23. On some, saith the Holy Ghost, have compassion, making a difference; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire. The meaning is this, There are some that you must shew tendernesse and compassion to; in calling and working upon them, they are of a tend•r temper; but others there are that you must save with fear, that is, preach terrible Sermons to them, and fright them with hel-fire and judgment to come. For God doth observe the different tempers in men, and hereupon doth proceed in different wayes of Administration in working upon them. Now it may be, thou that dost thus complain, thou never hadst these terrours in thy soul, and yet art effectually called, it may be God saw thy temper more to be won by kindnesse, and more gained upon in a way of love, therefore wrought upon thee this way; God is not bound to one way: And therefore we may justly count them blame-worthy who preach onely free grace, and Gods love, and so tie God to one Method: and they are too blame on the other side likewise (if there be any such) that preach only terror and wrath; for God observes the temper of mens dispositions, some to be knotty, and some soft, and accordingly proceeds ceeds in his way of working with them. This ground therefore for your doubts is insufficient.
Secondly, A second ground that makes men doubt of their effectual calling, is upon the apprehension of some seeming defect that may be in the means of their calling. As thus: Think they, I have read in the Word, that it doth please God to use preaching as the ordinary means to call and convert sinners to Christ. It pleased God by preaching to save them that beleeve. I read this also that faith comes by hearing. (Now many a poor soul hath this that gravels his conscience, and troubles his spirit) but alas I finde a defect in this means. For my part I cannot say I was converted by hearing a Sermon, that which did work upon me was some other means. One of these three, either I was converted (saith one) by living in a godly family, among good Christians, seeing their example, that first gained upon me: Or, saith another, I was gained upon by reading a Chapter in the Bible, or in some good Book, and that first wrought upon me: Or, saith a third, it may be, if it was the Word, it was the Word preached by a wicked man, that is now turned either erroneous in judgment, or prophane in practice: and this occasioneth a great deal of jealousie. The word preacht by the mouth of a godly Minister is Gods ordinary way, but I was altogether out of this way, and therefore this doth make him suspect the truth of his effectual calling. Now Beloved, I beseech you lend me your thoughts a little, for I would fain make this Doctrine as comfortable to every called one as I can. I shall speak of all these in order, and shew you, that put case either of these have been the meanes of thy calling, yet thou hast no reason to doubt of thine effectual calling.
First thou suspectest thy call, because the means hath been, sayest thou, not by hearing a Sermon, or the word preacht, but by living among good Christians, and seeing their example and their living, thou camest by this means to love the wayes of God; and this was the first meanes that converted thee. Beloved, I doubt not but I speak to a great many, that cannot say a Sermon ever converted them, but only, that they were gained to Gods wayes, to imbrace the truth, this way: now what shall I say to such men as these? why, I would say thus much; that though the Lord did not use his Word preached, the ordinary meanes of converting soules, in calling thee, yet God is not tied and bound up to his word preacht, but he may use other means to convert thy soul.
Secondly, and more particularly, that living among good people, and seeing of their example both in life and worship, we finde in Scripture to be a very efficatious meanes oftentimes to convince, sometimes to convert; and if you can finde out this in Scripture, you may have abundance of comfort. It hath been a means oftentimes to convince, 1 Pet. 3.16. They shall be ashamed to speak evil of you, while they behold your conversation in Christ. When they shall see that you live-in Christ, and walk according to Christ, they shall be ashae¦med; ashamed of what they have done, and what they have spoken; it shall convince them. So 1 Pet. 2.15. And the Apostle when he speaks of the orderly and regular managing the worship of God, 1 Cor. 14.23.25. If there comes an unbeliever among you, and he sees your order (saith he) he shall fall down in the midst of you, he shall be convinced, and shall say, Of a truth God is among you. Seeing this, (saith the Apostle) godly men holy in their lives, and holy in their worship, though he be an unbeleiver, he shall fall down and say, Of a truth God is among you: that is, by way of conviction. Nay further, sometimes God doth blesse the gracious lives, and blamelesse example of Christians to be a means to convert some, when the Gospel cannot do it; and you would think this very comfortable, could it be made good. I would commend but one Text of Scripture to you, to prove what a blessing it is to live in a good family, where either husband or wife, or any one in the family is godly, 1 Pet. 3.1. Wives be subject unto your husbands, what then? that your husbands that are not wonne by the Word, may be wonne without the Word, whilest they behold the conversation of their wives. A notable text, There were many wicked Husbands, that all the Sermons they heard would not convert them; yet the Apostle tells them, that if the wife did live a godly and holy life, their lives sometimes should be more efficatious to convert their Husbands, then the Word should be. And this, Beloved, doth clearly take off this first plea of yours, that because you were converted by example, and by living among good Christians, and seeing their walkings, this gained upon you; this is no cause of discouragement, because sometimes, (I say) the Lord doth blesse examples of gracious lives, to make them winne and gain upon men that are brought home to Jesus Christ.
Secondly, they go yet further, There is another poor soul brought home to Jesus Christ, and what saith he? I do misdoubt the means of my call, for a Sermon never wrought upon me; the first thing of all that ever gained upon me, it was the reading some Chapters in the Bible, or some other holy mans book, and that made me first to hate sin, and love the waies of God, and look after his Word for my salvation. And here I doubt not but many Christians have found the Word read the first means of gaining upon their hearts. And therefore to take off this likewise, I shall speak two or three things in way of Answer. As
First, that God is not tyed to any means, but can work with the meanest means to bring home people to Jesus Christ. If Peters conversion was by a Cock; a Cock crowing, and a look of Christs eye, why may not Christ use the Scriptures read to be a means of a mans call? If from stones God can raise up children unto Abraham, why cannot God do it by the Word also? to make the Word read a means in his own hands to effect it? God that can do all things with nothing, without means, can bring to passe great things by weak means.
Secondly, and more particularly, That though ordinarily preaching, and hearing of the Word preached be ordained by God, and crowned by him cheifly to be a means instrumental to convert souls, yet God sometimes hath blessed the reading of the Word to be a means of converting souls likewise. Yet, Beloved, I would not do as the Prelates did, who would fain have brought in reading to justle our preaching. Preaching is the more noble work, and must be highest in our thoughts, yet if God will go out in an unusual way, who can control him? If God will do it by a Chapter read, when not by a Sermon preached, who can resist God? if he will shew his power by weaker means. Who shal gainsay it? God sometimes honours the reading of the Word, to give encouragement to reading, to be a means of some mens call. I have read of S. Austine that he was converted, not by hearing a Sermon, but by opening the Bible, and reading that place, Rom. 13.13. Let us walk honestly as in the day time, not in rioting and drunkeness, not in chambering and wantounesse: and the reading of this verse wrought upon him. I have read of Cyprian, that he was converted by reading the Prophesie of Jonas, hearing of Gods mercy to save such a wicked people, and of Gods mercy to Jonas, when he was in so pettis• a mood as to be angry with God. I have known likewise another famous Minister, that going by a Book-binders shop, he was converted by reading a Sermon of Repentance that cost but two pence; and hath been a famous Minister since for the conversion of many hundreds to Jesus Christ. Junius was converted by reading the first of John; so the Eunuch was converted by reading Isa. 53.7. Beloved, God is not bound to any one way in saving man; He that wrought upon Austin by a verse reading, and upon another by a Sermon, he can do so by thee. Reading is an ordinance of God, and God is not bound up, but may use that as a means of thy effectual call likewise.
Thirdly, Yea but, saith another doubting soul, Peradventure I was never wrought upon, neither by seeing godly people among whom I lived, and observing their example, nor was I wrought upon by reading good books; but I was first wrought upon by hearing such a Minister, that I now see is run into error; or a Minister that is grown loose in his practice, (hapily in these present times gone to joyn with the enemy against the Kingdom) and become a vile liver; and the Minister being bad that wrought upon me, makes me question, whether the work be not an unsound and bad work also, and this gravels many a Christian likewise. To which I answer briefly.
First, That suppose the Minister were bad that wrought upon thee, yet the badnesse of the Minister is no just ground of making us suspect our calling. For then we should never be sure of our call. A man may be sure of his own conversion, though a man may not be sure of the conversion of him by whose means he was called.
Secondly, Again in is clear in Scripture, God may use Ministers that are wicked themselves to convert others. The Ministers of the seven Churches of Asia, doubtlesse some of them were bad men; Paul tells you, 1 Cor. 9.17. I keep under my body, lest when I preach to others, I my self may be a castaway. Intimating, that a man may preach to others, and may be a means to save others, and yet not be saved himself. So 1 Cor. 13.1. Ministers in this case may be as Cooks are. A Cook may dresse many a dish, and let them go through his hands to furnish a large and stately Table, yet of all these dishes himself hardly taste one; So Ministers, they may dresse many a dish for their hearers, yet they not lick their fingers, or taste of this spiritual food themselves. As in the building of the Ark, there were many men built Noahs Ark, to save others, that were drowned themselves; so many men may build an Ark by preaching the Word, and the waies of God to save other mens souls, when they may be drowned themselves. Hence it is the Scripture tells us of Stars that fell from heaven; many Ministers, that seemed godly Ministers, like Stars in their Generation, yet they fell, and became wicked and loose. And I remember Doctor Pembleton a famous Minister in the daies of Queen Mary; and a man whose Ministry had converted many Christians, yet at length he himself turned to be a Papist. Now these Christians did never misdoubt or suspect their conversion, because the man that converted them, was a bad man; They might be good people, though he was a bad Minister: so that this is no ground in the world; though I confesse it is not ordinary, that God makes wicked men means of conversion, but God ordinarily crowns the Word most in the mouth of a godly Minister, yet sometimes I say, God may use a means to convert souls. And I would give you these reasons to prove, that a wicked man may convert souls, and that God ties not conversion to a godly Minister. Because first, the efficacy of the word doth not depend upon men, but upon Jesus Christ; and Christ may make use of whom he pleaseth.
Secondly, If only a good man could convert, then this would follow, that we could be as well sure of another mans conversion, as we are of our own; which is a thing most untrue. For if only a godly man could convert, then if I were sure of my own conversion, I were as well sure of his conversion that wrought upon me also; which cannot be, so that clearly this should lay no block in your way because you discern the Minister that wrought upon you to be no good man, seeing conversion is not tied onely to a godly Minister.
Thirdly, a third ground from whence doubts arise in called ones, is from some seeming defects they apprehend to be in the concomitants that acompany, or in the effects that should follow effectual calling: and this makes them fear, that sure they are not effectually called. I will name to you three or four.
First, (saith a doubting Christian) I do hear in Scripture what effects will follow, and what will accompany a man effectually called, and I finde them not wrought in my soul. As now first, I apprehend that when a man is effectually called, he shall be inabled by God to call upon him in prayer: I finde in Scripture, 1 Cor. 1.2. That all that are called to be Saints, they shall call upon the Lord in every place; but alas, woe is me, I do not finde this in my soul. I finde I have a dull, dead, listlesse, unpraying heart all the daies of my life; and therefore I doubt whether I am effectually called or no. Now to this I shall lay down three things for answer.
First, peradventure you judge that you are not enabled to pray, because you want expressions in prayer, though you have affections. Now if you judge your inability to pray, because you want expressions only, you judge amisse, because prayer is to be judged by the affections, not by the expressions. Expressions they are but the breath of nature, a natural voluble tongue may tumble out expressions; whereas affections in prayer, they are the breath and fruit of the holy Spirit. Therefore do not judge you cannot pray, because you have not such fluent expressions as others use, for the very essence of a prayer lies in the heart, and therefore it is said, when the Spirit of God teacheth men to pray, it teacheth them not onely in expressions, but with sighs and groans that cannot be uttered. Rom. 8.26. When the Spirit moves the heart, and makes you sigh out your requests, and sorrow out your supplications, you pray best of all.
Secondly, you that judge your inablity to pray, and therefore think you are not called, because you cannot call upon God, I would say this unto you: That the best of Gods children have found a great difference in their spirits in reference to paying duties; the best of Gods children do not alwaies pray alike. Sometimes the affections of godly men are as swift in prayer, as the Chariots of Aminadab; otherwhiles they drive as heavily as Pharaohs Chariots when the wheels were off. Sometime the people of God are burning in their affections, hot as fire; otherwhiles they are frozen in their affections, cold as ice. None of Gods people are in their carriage alwaies alike towards God in prayer. Psal. 77.4. It is the speech of Asaph, O Lord, my spirit is overwhelmed within me, I am sore troubled, I cannot speak. The man was so troubled, he could not speak, yet Asaph spake these words with his mouth; but the meaning is, though Asaph was a godly man, yet he was so overwhelmed with trouble, he could not speak to God, he could not call upon God with that inward vigor of spirit. Though thou mayest sometime call upon God with affection, yet when trouble rests upon thee, thy heart may be out of frame.
Thirdly, many times Gods people are subject to a state of desertion, and abatements in their s•iritual affections, and then they are out of a praying vein; when you loose affections, the wheels of prayer are knocked off. Many times it falls out with Gods people, that they are even brought into a languishing and low condition, they are in such a swoune as if they had neither a principle, nor the actings of spiritual life. Rev. 3.2. Strengthen that which remaines, saith the holy Ghost; that is ready to die. Godly people may be a dying people, and then the tongue failes, when it is a dying: the people of God may be in a dying condition; though they never die wholly in grace, yet they may be so weakned in their spirits, that they cannot pour out their requests to God as in wonted time, 2 Chron. 17.3. Jehosophat he walked in the first waies of David his father: implying that Davids first waies were better then his last. So many men may have their first waies good, yet sometime in the end before they die, they may have much failing, and deadness of spirit upon them.
Fourthly, If a man doth but mourn, that he cannot call upon God, God looks upon that as calling upon him. If you can but sigh out your requests, and mourn that you cannot mourn, and pray that you might pray; the Lord hears your prayer. This is the most melodious musick you can make in the ears of God. Therefore David saith, Psal. 6.8. The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping: There is a voice in Teares, as well as in Words. If the Lord see thee to weep over thine own streightnesse, and mourn over thine own deadnesse, the Lord looks upon this with a more pleasing eye, then if thou couldst pour out the enlargements of thy tongue, with most fluent and voluble expressions.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Callin• and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon, is this, That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their soules, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the prosecution of which I have gone over many particulars, and answered some doubts, in reference to godly men who are effectually called. As first, in regard of some seeming defects they apprehend to be in the manner of their calling. Secondly, in the means of their calling. And thirdly, (which I am yet upon,) of some defects they apprehend about the concomitants that accompany those that are effectually called, of which I have spoken onely of one in particular, to wit, that they cannot call upon God in prayer; I now passe to the second.
Secondly, They apprehend that those that are effectually called, they have this to accompany their calling, that they are brought out of a state of ignorance into a state of knowledge, out of a state of darknesse into a state of light; hence they will urge this against themselves, 1 Pet. 2.9. Ye are to shew forth the praises of him, who hath cal•’d you out of darkn•sse into his marvellous light. And Acts 26.18. He sent forth his Word to call them from darkness to light, and from the Power of Satan unto God. Now saith the poor soul, Alas, I do not finde this concomitant to be in my heart, I do not finde this marvellous light the Scripture here speaks of, 2 Cor. 4.6. Alas, my heart is like a dungeon of darknesse, and like a house that hath no inlets, no windows to let in the Sun-shine of the Gospel upon it: and many times this gravelleth many a godly minde. Now to those that make this doubt, I shall onely speak two or three things to take it off.
Fir•t, to you that make this complaint, I would say this: that those that know most, they know but little in the mysteries of Jesus Christ; as you are not perfect in other graces, so you are not here perfect in knowledge; You know but in part. 1 Cor. 13.9. therefore you have no need to be discouraged at this.
Secondly, and more particularly, you that complain of ignorance; though you are ignorant, and cannot finde that marvellous light shine in your souls, which you exspect, yet if your ignorance have not these three ill qualities, you may rest confident your ignorance will never prove a damning sin unto you, but it may be consistent with your effectual calling; As
First, If your ignorance be not a stubborn and wilful ignorance. Secondly, If it be not a sottish and brutish ignorance. And thirdly, If it be not a fundamental ignorance.
First, If it be not a stubborn and wilful ignorance. Though you are ignorant, yet if you are willing to learn, and know the waies of God revealed in his Word, such an ignorance will never damn you: But when ignorance comes to be wilful, that a man doth not know, and he will not learn; a man is an ignorant man yet he thinks he knows more then all the Preachers can tell him; this is a sad sign you are not effectually called Hence you read, Prov. 1.22. How long, ye simple ones, will you lov• simplicity, &c? Godly people may be in a state of ignorancee but they love it not; therefore, 2 Pet. 3.5. the Scripture tells, us of wicked men, that they are wilfully ignorant. So that if your ignorance have not this bad quality in it, to be a stubborn and wilful ignorance, it may stand with your effectual calling.
Secondly, Provided that your ignorance be not a sottish and brutish ignorance; that is, that you do not so lie clouded in a state of darknesse, that you are uncapable to discerne the goodnesse of the Word, and uncapable to apprehend any thing that is taught you; that you are not like those, Jer. 4.22. My people have no understanding, they are a sottish people, wise to do evil, but to do good they have no understanding. Many men are ignorant men, yet not so sottishly ignorant, as not to be capable of learning; if you will teach him, he is willing to be instructed; but some men are so ignorant, they are not capab•e of learning; you may as well ••ach a block as them. Hence it is the Prophet complains Esa. 1.4. The Oxe knows his owne, and the Asse his Masters Crib, but Is•ael knows not the Lord his God.
Thirdly, In case your ignorance be not a fundamental ignorance, I mean such an ignorance, as not to know those necessary and fundamental points in the Word, that must be known, if ever you be saved; as about Jesus Christ and salvation, and justification by his blood, and faith in his Na•e, &c. though you may be ignorant about circumstantials, yet if it be not in fundamentals your ignorance may be consistent with effectual calling. But now
Thirdly, If a godly man be satisfied in these two points, and thinks happily I may have the first concomitant to call upon God, and so evidence my effectual call; and then happily the second may not be wanting in me, that I do not lie under the state of a wilful sottish & fundamental ignorance. But alas saith he, I want a third concomitant that accompanies effectually calling, and that is; I finde in the Word, that they that are effectually called, they are brought into an Obediential frame of heart to all the wayes of God, that what ever God commands them to do, their hearts can readily obey, and this I finde, Rom. 1.5.6. God hath called them by his grace unto the obedience of faith. Now alas, saith a poore soul I finde a defect in this concomitant likewise, I cannot discern that I am called to an obedience flowing from faith as its prin¦ciple, I cannot finde this frame of heart to be in me, and therefore I doubt of my effectual calling. This I shall labour to take off likewise.
First, When I say that obedience is a concomitant that will accompany one effectually called, I do not say nor intend it of obedience in the actings of it, but of obediential frame of spirit in the purposes of it. Many men may be effectually called, when they may not alwayes live in the acting of obedience to Christ, but every man effectually called hath an obedient frame of heart; that is, he hath purposes & intentions and resolutions to obey God, though he cannot act what he would do; he hath obedience in the habit, and obedience in his purposes and resolutions always attending him.
Secondly, you find in Scripture, that the strongest and ablest Christians who have done most for God, have sometimes been very defective in the Actings of obedience, that they could not do what they would do for God. And therfore Paul complaines, Rom. 7. The good that we would do, we cannot do. Paul himself that was a pillar in Gods house, yet he tels you, he could not go out in those Actings of obedience which in his heart he would do; & therefore if you would willingly do more then you do, God accepts of the little you do.
Thirdly, Though you can not put forth many Actings of obedience to God; where there is readinesse of mind and heart, God accepts the p•rposes of the mind for the Action it self, 2. Cor. 8.12. Where there is a willing mind; it is accepted of God, as if the deed were done. And thus much be spoken to the second case of conscience, why men effectually called do so much doubt of their own call.
Thirdly,* Seeing Christians must put forth diligence in making their calling sure; therefore now whereabouts must this diligence of ours be conversant? or in what Channel must our diligence run, that we might be sure of our effectual calling? This is a very mate•ial question; and in resolving of it▪ I shall answer it in these two generals.
First, if you would get assurance of your effectual calling, you must put forth diligence to remove those things that will hinder you in making sure your calling. And
Secondly, use diligence to set upon the practice of those duties that may further you in making this sure, that you are effectually called.
First, You must remove those things which do much hinder you from being assured, and those hinderance that are to be removed I shall comprize under six heads; As
First, you must use diligence to remove Melancholy from your Thoughts; This i• a natural hinderance of assurance: Melancholy is a temper in man arising from a black blood running about the body, that doth naturaly occasion distrust and fear in mens mindes; this temper being in the body, doth work much upon the disposition of the •oul. Now if your temper Melancholy, and so dispose you to distrust and fear, this will be a great stop to your having of the joyes and comforts of the Lord in your hearts, in assurance of his love. It is a note Perkins hath upon Nebuchadnezzar, when he ate grasse like a beast; he writing upon that place thinks, that Nebuchadnezzar was in a deep Melancholy, and that did so poss•sse him, that he could not tell whether he was a man or a beast, though saith he, he did not eat grasse, but his deep perplexity seazing upon him did make him think that he was from a man turned into a Beast. Beloved, Melancholy in a Christian, it will make him think himself an Hypocrite, when he is a Saint; and therefore take heed of a Melancholy, lumpish and sad temper; it is a very great hinderance to this grace of assurance. This I lay down only as a Natural remedy.
Secondly, A mind filled with worldly cares, and running into incumbring imployments in the world, this is a great hindrance of assurance. The cares of this life, Mat. 13.15. are compared to thorns: Now thornes they choake the seed, by drawing the juyce that is in the seed to themselves, and so the Corn doth not grow, where thorns spring. The cares of this life they are like thorns in this, they are of an attractive power to suck and draw the juyce of your spirits and comforts to themselves, so that you cannot have the juyce of your spirits in gathering your evidences for heaven; the more incumbred you are in the world, the lesse clear you will be touching the evidence of your elerlasting condition; The cares of this life, they peirce the soul through with many sorrowes. Now when a man is pierced through with many sorrows, he is in a very unfit temper to be raised up in spiritual joy; the more you incumber your selves in the employments of this world, the lesse you will be in the comforts of heaven. I remember it was the speech of a Pope when he lay a dying, When I was a painful preaching Minister, then I had hopes of my salvation; when I came to be a Cardinal, I doubted of it: but when I came to be a Pope, I despaired of it; I was so entangled in the Aff•irs of this life: Beloved, so I may say to you, When you were but ordinarie Christians in the world, you were in a way to get assurance of your salvation, but since you have been taken up with the affairs of the world, it doth so distract your minde, that y•u may •• in no compos•d temper to have any setlednesse of heart about your everlasting estate. It is the observation of Philosophers, that the Sun is eclipsed by the interposition of the Moon, the Moon coming between the Sun and our sight: Beloved, the Sun of your comforts comes to be eclipsed by the Moon, (which is made an Emblem of the world, Rev. 12.9.) Now if the Moon of the world comes between your comforts and you, it will miserably darken and eclipse your comforts to you. Nothing in the world doth so much impede your comfort in assurance, as incumbring and carking cares about the things of this world.
Thirdly, Take heed you do not harbour the guilt of any one known sin upon your conscience. Keeping of sin upon the conscience, is a great impediment to your inward comforts. You will never be assured while you do thus; and therefore if ever you would have assurance, remove this. It is an observation of Mr. Hildersham upon Psal. 51.12, 14. What doth David do, when he prayes for assurance? saying, Restore to me the joyes of thy salvation, establish me with thy free Spirit; Restore my comforts, and my evidences to me. And what course doth he take? Read verse 14. Deliver me from blood-guiltinesse, O Lord: As much as if he should say, All the while that sin lay upon conscience unrepented of, (as it did for nine monthes together) all that while David lost the joyes of the Spirit, and lost the comforts of Heaven; And therefore when he comes to renew his comforts, and restore his assurance, he doth with begging of God for assurance, beg of God also to deliver him from blood-guiltinesse; as knowing, that if this sin should be upon conscience unrepented of, and unpardoned, he should never have the joyes of Gods Spirit restored. Beloved, you will never have assurance of your effectual calling, till your consciences are freed from having sin upon them with approbation. It is an observation that Aristotle hath about earth-quakes, that they are occasioned by winde got into the Caverns and hollow places of the earth; which having no place for vent again, it makes rupturs, and overturns houses and mountains and all before it: Sin upon the conscience unrepented of, is like winde in the earth, it will make a heart quake there, that there shall not be that calmness, and quietnesse, and setlednesse of minde which there would be, were sin away. Hence we read, Esa. 33.•6. The sinners in Sion are afraid, and fearfullness hath surprised the Hypocrite. The sinners are afraid; those who had guilt upon them, their sins bred terrour and fear; and hypocrites that are conscious to themselves of their own guilt, fearfulnesse surpr•zeth them, but the upright and sincere in heart were not so; To note that this is a great enemy to inward peace, and to assurance about your everlasting estate, if so be you harbour sin upon the conscience unrepented of. And it is just with God it should be so; because if you keep sin in your hearts, that will be ever jarring with Heaven, it is just with God to be at oddes with you.
Fourthly, Avoid the easting of your eye, in a way of dejection, upon others, who are more eminent in grace then you, and have got a precedency of you in the wayes of godlinesse. ‘Tis true indeed, a man that is given to spiritual pride, and self-conceitednesse touching his own goodnesse, it is fit that he should look upon those that have a precedency before him in grace, the more to humble him: But for a man that lies under trouble of minde, and doubtings touching his everlasting estate, that man should not look upon others more eminent then he in grace, because it will rather increase discomforts, then any way work assurance in you. If you look up-the glittering beames of the Sun shinning in its full strength, the more you look upon that orient and resplendent body, the more it will dazle your eyes, that you can behold but dimly things upon the earth: It is so with Christians; some Christians they shine like so many Suns in the firmament, their graces do so shine and sparkle, that if you look upon them, they will even dazle your eyes, and make you blinde, that you cannot see those small scantlings and sparks of grace that are in your own hearts. In case therefore you would get assurance, avoid the casting of your eye too much upon those that have a precedency in grace before you.
Fifthly, Take heed you make not sense and feeling the Touchstone to try your effectual calling by; sense and feeling will deceive you in the matters of your calling. I may allude •o ••a• p••s•g• in the b•ok of Ge••sis: yo• know old Isaac was •imm• sig•ed, and by reason of his old age, he ran into a mis•••e by ••eling; H• had Jacob by th• hand, and by feeling thought it •ad been E•au. Beloved, many of us are dimmesighted in our comforts, and in our graces, and if we trust to feeling, we may be deceived as Isaac was. You may think when you have Jacob by the hand, I mean grace in the heart, that it is but an Esau, it is but a reprobate. Therefore take heed of making sense and feeling the Touchstone to try your calling by. A childe is born, yet knows not that it is born; lives yet knowes not that it lives; but those about it do: so a Christian may be born again, live the life of grace, and yet not be sensible of it.
Sixtly, Give diligence to remove this hinderance, to wit, Pride in your guifts, and dependance upon you graces. Pride and dependance, they are not onely murderers of comforts, but they murder our graces also; and if God sees you swell with pride, because you abound in grace, he will soon prick that swelling bladder. It is the observation of a Modern Divine, that exaltings of spirit after assurance attained, it will inevitably expose a Christian, either to great discomforts, or to great sins. Hence the Scripture makes mention, that pride of your gifts is not onely an enemy to the comfort, but an enemy to grace; not onely an enemy to the comforts from grace, but to the very having of grace. Hab. 2.4. If a mans heart be exalted, his spirit is not upright within him. James 4.6. God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. So that pride is not onely an enemy to your comforts, but to the very getting of grace likewise; when the branches of a Vine grow luxuriant, they shall have the pruning hook. And thus you have the first sort of helps laid down to you; In case you would get assurance, you must use diligence to avoid those things that may be a hinderance to you in getting assurance of your call.
Secondly, A second sort of helps in case you would get assurance, is to use diligence in the practice of those things that may be helps and furtherances to the obtaining of assurance about your effectual calling. And here I shall name onely six or seven particulars.
First Exalt arguments of faith against presen• feelings, If so be that you will once enter the lists to dispute with the devil, he will out-cavill you, and Non-plus you. The devil is a cunning Logician, and it is not safe, saith Dr. Preston, to argue with the devil; the devil will out-dispute, and out-argue you. It is a Christians work to exalt arguments of Faith against present feelings. In case you would get assurance, you are to do as Abraham the father of the faithful did, when he was to believe a thing that sense and reason would tell him should never come to passe; It is said of Abraham, Rom. 4.18, 19. That in hope he believed against hope. He would exalt faith against sense. And how was it? God promised Abraham a childe; reason and sense would have told Abraham, Abraham, thou art a hundred years old, thy wife ninety nine, her womb is barren, and it is not likely you should have children; but Abraham would not argue thus, but would exalt arguments of faith, and apply Gods Promises, and Gods Word, exalting these; Abraham did believe in hope against hope. Beloved, so must you: though you say you have barren womb, Grace is not likely to grow in you, and though you are old, and decrepit, and feeble Christians, yet advance arguments of faith from Gods love, and from Gods power, and from Gods Providence, and Gods Promises, and that’s the way to get your comforts clear and full. I may apply what Fox in his Acts and Monuments reports of a good woman, that was called before Bonner, and the rest in Queen Maries Reign that sate in Judgement about her Religion; they see her, though a poor and silly woman, yet keep firm to her principles, and would not deny her Religion. At length Bonner sent some learned Doctors to dispute with her, and argue the case about some points she held; they coming to see her she puts them off with this saying, Well, you are Scholars, and you come to dispute; I must needs tell you, I cannot dispute, but I can burn for my Religion. Beloved I would have you answer the devil thus. If he comes to outwit and cavill with you about your comforts, say you cannot dispute, but you can believe; you can lay your help on Jesus Christ, upon one that is mighty, and exalt arguments of faith, and this will much strengthen your comforts. Luke 8.42. There came a •uler to Jesus Christ, and besought him for his daughter that lay a dying: And while he was telling Christ this, there came another messenger after, him, Thy daughter is dead, •rouble the man no farther: What saith Christ, hearing this? Fear not, onely b•lieve. As if he should say, sense and reason would have told him it were a needlesse thing to beg of Christ for his daughter when she was dead; but saith Christ, Doe not stoop to sense and reason, Fear not, onely beleeve, and the work shall be done: So I say to you, Consult not with flesh and blood, but exalt arguments of faith against present feelings; and this is the way to get assurance of your comforts.
Secondly, Keep conscience clear, that no sin be harboured there, and you are in the way to get your comforts full. God, saith David, will speak peace to his people, but they must not returne unto folly. As if he should say, though God doth speak peace, and assure you of your pardon and salvation; yet if you return to sin, God can tell how to break your peace, and turn his smiles into frowns and angry looks. Take heed of sin, and keep your conscience clear, and thats the way to have peace setled in thine heart. Job 11.14, 15. If iniquity be in thy hand, put it far away, and let not wickednesse dwell in thy Tabernacle. What follows? and then shalt thou lift up thy face before God without spot, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear. A strange expression, That if you will keep sin far away, then you shall be stedfast before God, and not fear; that is, you shall not be exposed to those fears and doubts and anxieties which other men are exposed to. Heb. 10.22. Let us draw neer to God with an upright heart, in full assurance of faith. Now what shall a man doe to come to God in full assurance? Mark the next words, Draw nigh to God in full assurance of faith, having your hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. Here is the way, if you are sprinkled from an evil conscience, you may be bold to come to God in full assurance. Whereas, alas, if thy conscience tell thee thou art a Whoremaster, and thou art a deceiver, and a liar, and loose liver, thou canst not come with full assurance; thou mayest come in presumption indeed, but not with the assurance of faith: and therfore keep a conscience clear from harbouring guilt upon it, and that’s the way to have the heart full of joy.
Thirdly, Be diligent in keeping company with the most godly experienced Christians where you live, this is a very special way to encrease your comforts. Ye read an excellent passage, 2 Cor. 1.4. We are c•mforted of God, saith the Apostle, that we might comfort others with the comfort wherewith we are comforted of God. Godly Christians they will comfort you with the same comforts wherewith they themselves are comforted. If we are comforted, it is for your consolation. Godly men, if they have any inward comfort from God, they will impart their experiences to you, and tell you as David did, Psal. 66.16. What God hath done for their soul. There is no way better then this, to keep in communion with godly and knowing Christians. Mr. Bradford that famous Martyr, who was in prison about his profession of Christ, the story saith, he lay a long time under trouble of minde, and horrour of conscience, that he could not finde a real and clear evidence of his effectual calling: there came many men to him, and could not settle him. Yet a poor Weaver, an ancient and experienced Christian, that did usually accompany Mr. Bradford in prison, by his frequent communion with this poor man, he got more inward comfort then ever he got all his life before. Beloved, this I speak to you to make you the mor• to study the the worth of godly society, and the more you are conversant with Christians that live in the enjoyment of the light of Gods countenanc•, and in the assurance of his favour all the day long, the more you are in the ready way to encrease your comforts and assurance.
Fourthly, Submit thy selfe to the approbation of others, and be willing to have them passe a verdict upon thee. When thou art asleep or in a swoun, then thou canst not tell thy self what thou dost, but others must tell thee; So it may fall out with the godly; they may be in such a spiritual swoun, that they are not fit judges of their own condition; in this case submi• to the judgment of others, they may see grace in thee, when thou thy self canst not see it; so Mr. Throgmorton was comforted by the testimony of a company of godly Ministers.
Fifthly, live in the dayly improvement of grace, and that’s the way to get assurance. And this meanes the Holy Ghost layes down in the Chapter out of which my Text is taken, Adde grace to grace. And I remember that Beza upon this Text doth write, that in the Greek Translations these words are put in, Give diligence by good works to make your calling sure: whether it be so or no, I cannot affirm, but this I am sure of, and the context will clearly prove it, that the way to make your calling sure, is to adde grace to grace. For after the Apostle had spoken of adding grace to grace, he comes in with this, Give diligence to make your calling sure: Implying, that the more you live in the actings of grace, the more you shall live in the enjoyment of comforts. Isa. 32.17. The works of righteousness shall be peace. Not the habit, but the work; if you act righteousnesse, and live in the workings and thrivings in grace, this shall be peace, and the effect of it quietnesse and assurance for ever. So John 16.24. The more you pray, the more you encrease your joy. So that the more you live in the improvement of grace, the more likely way you are in to get assurance.
Sixthly, If you would get assurance, spend more time in strengthening your evidences for heaven, then in questioning of them. It is the great fault of many Christians, they will spend much time in questioning and not in strengthening their comforts. They will reason themselves into unbeliefe, and say, Lord, why should I beleeve? why should I take hold of a promise, that am so unholy and so unmortified a creature? And so by this they reason themselves to such a passe, that they dare not lay hold upon Christ; whereas it should be your work to reason your selves into Christ as much as you can. Labour to strengthen your comforts, and reason thus, Why should I not beleeve in Christ? Thus David did, Psal. 42. Why art thou troubled O my soule, and why art thou cast down within me? Is not the mercy of God more then sin in the creature? Is not there free grace where there is guilt? Are not there pardoning mercies, where condemnation is deserved? you should reason up your comforts, rather then reason them down, and spend more time in strengthening, then in questioning of them. You would count him a very unwise man, that hath a Leafe of much land, and he himselfe shall create scruples and doubts, and shall use no meanes to make his Title good: And truly many Christians are as unwise for heaven; they have, as I may say, good bond and seal that God will bring them to heaven, and yet they will question, and cavil themselves into unbeliefe. Beloved, this should not be, but you ought rather to strengthen your comforts, then question them.
Seventhly, Be diligent in the earnest study of the Covenant of grace: Beloved, all a Christians doubts arise from ignorance of the Covenant of grace. And here that I may speak a little to it, I beseech you follow me, study the Covenant of grace; which if you do, you shall discern five particular props in it to bear up your hearts against discomforts, and to strengthen you in a way of assurance touching your effectuall call.
First, the Covenant of works it commands perfect obedience upon pain of damnation; but the Covenant of grace doth command and accept of imperfect obedience, if it be sincere: there’s your first prop.
Secondly, the Covenant of works is not contented with good desires, unlesse there be good works; the Covenant of grace áccepts the good will and good des•res; when the deed is wanting, and is content with the will for the deed.
Thirdly, the Covenant of works doth require that you should obey the will of God perfectly in your own person; the Covenant of grace requires onely that you obey in the person of Christ; so Christ obeys for you, it is accepted, though you do not.
Fourthly, the Covenant of works requires you to obey the whole will of God by your own strength; the Covenant of grace accepts of it, though not our own strength, but the strength of Christ be put forth in doing any spiritual action.
Fifthly, the Covenant of works requires the performance of the condition, before it gives the Promise; As, Do this and live; you cannot live, saith the covenant of works, without you doe this: but the covenant of grace, it first tenders the Promise, and then requires the condition: Bids you first take Christ, and first believe, and then shew forth the effects of faith. First, lay hold upon the promise, and then hold forth and practice the condition of that Promise. First believe, and then take Christ, though thou art unworthy, and a wretched creature, if after taking of him thou wilt be consciencious to practice those obligations that lies upon thee, and I will accept thee. Now would you lay these to your heart, to study that vast difference between the Covenant of works, and the Covenant of grace, doubtlesse these would be great props for your inward comforts.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE point of Doctrine I am yet upon in the prosecution of these words, is this: That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to th•ir soules, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the handling of which I have gone over many particulars, and resolved several cases of conscience. I have yet two cases more to resolve, and then shall winde up all in a general use. Therefore
Fourthly, When, or at what time doth God fill the souls of his people most with the assurance of their effectual calling? And then
Fifthly, Wherein lies the difference between that assurance a godly man hath of his effectual calling, and those presumptuous perswasions that wicked men have, that the• are called effectually, when they are not.
First, when, or at what time doth God give to his people most and strongest assurance of their effectuall calling? And here in answer to this, I shall comprize all I have to say under four heads; that in four cases or times God doth usually give to his people most strong assurance.
First, After the Lord hath greatly humbled the hearts of his people, a•d broken them for sin, then doth he usualy give in most assurance of a mans effectual calling, and of the happinesse of his future condition. When you can say as David did, Psal.•8.3, There is no rest in my bones, by reason of my sinne. When you can say as the Psalmist doth Psal. 51.8. Let the bones which thou hast broken rejoyce. Then is the time for God to make you break forth with joy, when he hath broken your hearts with sorrow. God had broken Davids heart under the sense of that uncleannesse he had committed: O saith David, Thou hast broken my heart, now let my broken spirit rejoyce; and God gave him comfort, and did restore the joy of his salvation to him. You have a phrase, Psal. 34.18. The Lord is nigh to them that are of a broken heart, to save them that are of a contrite spirit. The Lord is nigh to them. Nigh, what to do? not onely to give them deliverance from outward trouble, but from inward sorrows; to give them inward joy, and inward comforts, that the bones which he hath broken might rejoyce. The Lord is nigh to them that are of a broken spirit, to give them comfort. Luke 4.18. It’s said there, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Christ, what to do? It was to binde up the broken in heart, and to comfort those that mourn. So Esa. 61.1, 2, 3. To those that mourn, he should preach comfort, and binde up the broken-hearted. When the Lord hath broken you under sin, and humbled you under the sight of your evils, then is the time when God will break in upon you with great joy. Mat. 11.28. Come unto me all you that are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you rest; Rest, there hath not onely reference to our rest in heaven, that we shall rest there from sin, and rest there from sorrow, and rest there from temptation, but I will give you rest; it hath reference also to a promise in this life, that if you are heavy laden, that you count your iniquities a burden too heavy for you to bear, Christ hath promised you peace, inward peace in your own consciences, in the assurance of your everlasting estate, in assurance that you are called to a state of grace, and shall come to a state of glory. You know when the ground is plowed, the clods are broken, and the breaking of the clods makes way for the deeper rooting of the corn, and that it may spring up with greater increase. It is so when ye plow up, in the Prophets language, Jer. 4. the fallow ground of your hearts; when you break the clods of your hearts by humiliations, this makes way for the corn and grain, that precious grain of assurance to spring and grow up to a fuller measure; so that you are out of Gods way then to have strong assurance, that never have been humbled in the sight of sin. I say it’s Gods ordinary way. I doe not deny but God may bring you to heaven, though you have no legal workings and horrors upon you; yet God will never give you such strong assurance, and such ravishing comforts, as he gives them that are most broken in spirit. Look through the whole verge of Scripture, and you shall finde that those that were most broken in heart, they were most strong in comfort. That house that hath the deepest foundation, is like to be the most beautiful Fabrick and Building; whereas your tents and lesser cottages, a little rooting in the earth will serve their turn: It is likely God may make thee as a little cottage, though not deeply rooted; but thou wilt never be reared up a beautifull building, to become an amiable Christian in point of comfort and assurance, if God have not bottomed thee low in humiliation. It’s a true rule in grace, They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. The deeper you are in sorrow, the higher you shall be lifted up in joy.
Secondly, after the people of God have been tossed and tumbled, and turmoiled with the violent assaults and temptations of the devil, then is Gods time of filling his people with greatest joy and most comfort. You know at the Mill, at the Flood-gate, when the stream goes strongest, then the Mill goes fastest. Beloved, God lets the stream of temptation grow strong against thee, but to make thy Mill to go, to make thee grinde thy lusts to powder, and to make thee grinde thy sinnes as corne under the Milstone. God doth but make the flood to be strong at the gate, to make thy comforts to be more strong, and thy graces to be more firm. When God lets in a flood of temptation, and tosseth thee upon those waves and billows, then is the time for God to give thee in strongest comforts. Esa. 54.10, 11, 12, 13, 14. O thou afflicted, tossed with Tempest, and not comforted. Mark their estate. Now what will God do with a soul thus tossed with a Temptation? Read the verse before, My Covenant of peace shall not depart from thee, O thou afflicted. God doth here speak most peace, and tenders most freely his Covenant in this condition, when they were most tossed and tumbled. And verse 13. Thy children shall be all taught of God, and great shall be their peace. And verse 14. In righteousness thou shalt be established, and thou shalt not fear. Here you see how God as it were boulsters and bears up a dejected heart; O thou tossed with a Tempest, Behold, I have made a Covenant of peace with thee, and Behold, thou shalt not fear. See how God keeps up the hearts of his people in this condition; when you are most tossed and tumbled with the tempest of temptation, then doth God ordinarily speak to you most inward peace and strongest assurance. As you know it is with an Oake, the more they are shaken by tempestuous windes, the firmer and faster are they rooted in the bowels of the earth: It is so with Christians; they are compared in Scripture to an Oak, whose fruit and sap is in them: Now a Christian, the more he is shaken by a tempestuous temptation, the Lord makes him by that to be the more firm, and to be the more fastened and setled in strong comforts and assurance.
Thirdly, when God hath any extraordinary work for his people, either to do or suffer, this is a time when he fills his people with most assurance. Should God put his people upon outward sufferings, and give them inward fears, they were not in a capacity to undergoe the condition with joy or patience: and therefore when he calls his people to some extraordinary measure of suffering, this is the time when God will fill them with more then ordinary comforts. I have read in the book of Martyrs of Mr. Robert Glover, a famous man in his generation, who during the time of his imprisonment, was much troubled in minde for want of his assurance, yet the story tells us, when he was brought to the stake to be burnt, assoon as ever he saw the fire, he broke out in the hearing of the people and said, He is corne, he is come; I am now as full of joy as my heart can hold. All the while he was in prison, he was blubbring and much troubled, till God brought him to an eminent suffering, to suffer death for him, and then he was full of comfort. I have read also of one Adolphus Clarebachius, who was a man subject to Melancholy, and lay under many doubts and fears, yet assoon as ever he was brought to the stake he openly declared to the people, I have been naturally of a sad Temper, but now I professe before you all, I think there is not a merrier heart in all the World then mine is. Thus they being to goe through extraordinary sufferings, God gave them extraordinary assurance. Beloved, this is Gods time, when he will give you most assurance, when he calls you to most sufferings. When you are to goe through an Ocean of sufferings and afflictions, the Lord will make you swim in a Sea of inward peace and spiritual joyes.
Fourthly, God gives his people most strong assurance, when they walk most closely in communion with their God. Great peace shall they have, saith David, that love thy Law; they shall have peace, and great peace, while they walk in love to God and his wayes. Keep in communion with your God, and that’s the time for God to give you greatest comfort; If ye lash out from God and break his Law, he will break your hearts. When the shepherd hath a Lamb, or a Sheep, that straggles from the fold, it shall meet with a Crook, happly with the bite of a dog. It may be God may catch you with his hook, happily you shall be bitten with a Temptation, and bitten with desertion, if you straggle from his fold; but the more you keep in communion with God, the more likely you are to keep in your comforts; walking with God is the very fewel that kindles the fire of comfort in a Christians brest, that keeps comfort alive. The more you flag in your communion, the more shall you flag in your assurance, and the more shall your comforts die. Communion with your God, it hath two particulars in it. First, in keeping you free from sin, Jo•. 11.14, 15. Secondly, in keeping in the exercise of grace, Esa. 32.17. Now, the more you keep out sin, the more you keep in comforts; the more you increase in grace, the more you increase in comforts. Grace and comfort, the one promotes the other; Grace promotes comfort, and comfort heightens you in the increase of grace: Therefore Paul in his salutations puts them both together, 1 Cor. 1.3. And t•us having finished this Query, there is onely one more, which (God willing) I shall dispatch at this time; And that is
Fiftly, VVherein appears the difference between that man that hath assurance of his effectual calling upon good ground, and between those men that onely have presumptuous perswasions of their effectual c•lling, when they are not? Beloved, this question is worthy the discussion; and to resolve it, I shall lay down nine or ten differences; As
First, That man that hath sound and true assurance of his effectual calling, he is very careful to take heed of s•n, that so he might not eclipse his comforts, or lose his assurance. He is careful (I say) to free his heart from sin as much as may be, as considering, that though he cannot sin away his soul, he may sin away hi• comforts; though he cannot sin away his salvation, he may sin away his consolation. A man that hath this assurance, he knowes the worth of assurance, and he knowes how soon it i• lost, and how hardly it is gained; and that makes him very tender of sin, 2 Cor. 7.1. Having these Promises, let us cleanse our selves. When a godly man knowes that God is his God, (For that’s the Promise spoken of in the verse before) knowing that he belongs to God, and the Promises belong to him; he knowing this, it makes him cleanse himselfe from all filthinesse, both of flesh and spirit; that he keep no sin in the spirit, nor no sin in the body. A man that hath assurance, it makes him very t•nder of every sin: But now, a man that hath presump•uous perswasions of his own goodn•sse, his perswasions will make him more bold, and more •enturous to run into sin, he will make no bones of sin, and he cares not for falling into one sin to day, and another sin to morrow, and commi• wickednesse day after day; he is bold and venturous upon every sin. Jer. 3.4, 5. Thou hast cried to me, My Father, my Father: thou art the guid of my youth; wilt thou reserve anger for ever, and shall there be no end of thy indignation? Yet what saith God? Yet thou didst evil as much as thou couldst: As if he should say, You cry, My Father; you perswade your selves God is your Father, and yet you will speak and do evil as much as you can: Here God brands them for a presumptuous people. To perswade your selves that God is your Father, and yet to do wickednesse as much as you can, and to be drunk as often as you can, and swear as often as you can; alas, you deceive your own hearts in this: for God cannot be your Father in this sense. And Beloved, I beseech you in my going over these heads, that you would lay them to your own hearts, and see if you my be distinguished from those presumptuous perswasions, that goe over the world.
Secondly, a man that hath reall assurance of his effectual calling, that man meets with more assaults and Temptations from the devil to annoy him in his peace, then other men do that have only a counterfeit assurance, As you know those shops that have the best wares, and richest Treasures, Goldsmiths shops, they are most exposed to Robbery; when men will not meddle with a petty stall. Those ships that are most richly laden, they are in most danger to meet with Pirats at Sea, when your smaller barks laden with goods of lesser value scape free: It is so with Christians. Those Christians, that are most richly laden with the Treasure of assurance, that have in their hearts this precious Jewel, they are in most danger of the devils temptations, to be as a Pirat or Robber by force to set upon them, to annoy them. It is those that have most assurance, that the devil doth envy most, that he will never let them alone, but hunts them as a Partridge over the Mountaines by dejections, and by suggestions, and by variety of Temptations. Satans fieriest darts; and by distrust, and by injected scruples, and by cavils of carnal reasonings, and by consulting with fl•sh and blood, and for want of comfortable feelings; the devil will be stil putting them on, to see if he can damp their comforts, and make them cast away their confidence, which hath a great recompence of reward. Hence it is the Apostle presseth that Christians should not cast away their confidence, (a Metaphor some think drawn from a Ship at Sea;* Merchants, when they are at Sea, when their ship by a storm and tempest is tossed upon the billows, and likely to suffer shipwrack, being heavy laden, they will cast away their wares, to save their lives. Now some in allusion to this, think that the devil so tosseth a poor soul in point of comfort, as a ship is tossed upon the Sea by the winde. Now if you are tossed upon the Sea of Temptation, and upon the waves of Trouble and Assaults, do not cast away your wares, do not throw away your comforts) which implies, that godly men are often set upon, and often assaulted; that though the devil cannot bring you to hell, he would fain have you to have a hell in your consciences while you live; he doth not onely envy your happinesse, but comforts also: Whereas on the contrary, men that harbour perswasions they are called, when they are not; the devil lulls them asleep, he lets them alone, and never troubles them. Luke 11.21. When the strong man possesseth the house, the goods are at peace: That is, when the devil of hell hath whole possession of the soul of a man, he is no whit tempted, his thoughts are at quiet. When the devil sees a man build upon a sandy and corrupt foundation, he will never shake that by a Temptation lest you should by shaking be awakened to look after a better and more induring substance. VVhen the devil sees you lul’d asleep in a golden dream of presumption, he will never awaken you by temptation, but lets you sleep on, because he knows that sleep will be a sleep to death. As a man lying asleep on a steep rock, dreams merrily of Crowns and Kingdomes, but suddenly starting in joy, breaks his neck, and tumbles into the bottom of the Sea; so is it with a man▪ that harbours ungrounded perswasions of his good estate. That which a carnal man makes his evidence, that he is in a good condition, is an undoubted demonstration he is in a bad. You shall have a wicked man, when he hears a godly man to be troubled in minde and wounded in spirit, he will tell you, he thanks God he was never troubled since he was born, the devil never disturbed him, and he hath had a strong faith ever since he can remember. Alas, Beloved, this is a sad signe; thou makest •his a sign of thy comfort, whereas indeed it is a demonstration of thy want of a sound assurance; for were thy assurance good, the Devil would never let thee alone, but would still be labouring to make thee cast away thy confidence; but being bad; he would have thee nourish it stil. We say those Oxen that are fed in greenest pastures, they are neerest the slaughter; when the poor lean Oxe that hath the yoke & whip every day, and is at daily labour, is long-liv’d, and in a better condition. Those men that the Devil lets alone, and never tempts, that are as fatted Oxen, never come under the whip and yoke, and never are troubled; it is an argument they are neer the slaughter, and under a great deal of danger of their souls: but those that are under the yoke, that are often tempted, and the pricks of Satan lie upon them; this is an argument their comforts are right, and their evidence good, because so assaulted and opposed by the Devil.
Thirdly, true assurance is more or lesse in a mans spirit, by how much more or lesse that man keeps in communion with God. If a man doth remit in his converse with God, and grow carelesse and formal, and a stranger to God, he shall grow a stranger to himselfe in the end, and to his comforts also: but if a man keep close to God, and keep close to duties, can retire and recollect himselfe to converse with God in a more solemn and serious manner, is preparedly and fruitfully exercised in Ordinances, can poure out his soule into Gods bosome; that man is in the way to have his comforts raised up. Whereas now for men that have false comfort and perswasions, whether they are much or little with God, all is one to them, their comforts are at the same stand still. Come to a man that hath false comforts, and at all times he is alike peremptory, he is in the same perswasion he was 3.4.7. years ago. Ask him any week in the year, any day in the week, any hour in the day, and he will tell you he hath the same comforts, and the same evidences still: he had a strong faith in God, and he hath it still; he had strong hopes to be saved, and so he hath still; he is still peremptory in his comforts, though he never so much alter in communion with his God: this is an argument thy perswasions are false, because a Christians communion and converse with God doth feed his comforts. Now as the body, by how much the more or lesse it is fed, by so much the more it is weakened or strengthened: so it is with your comforts; so much as they are cherished by your walking with God, so much they grow weak or strong. Now let a wicked man grow never so vile, and never so sinfull, it interrupts not his peace; he hath hopes and assurance still, and he will trust in God still, though he sin ever; this is an argument his comforts are unsound. You have a lively picture of this, Mic. 3.11. The heads of the people judge for reward, the Priests teach for hire, and the Prophets divine for money: and yet they will lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? That is, though they have these sins among them, and did walk thus and thus, yet they would hope in God God to be saved for all this. Why, Beloved, thou wilt finde God to fail thee; though he never faild an assured Christian, yet he will fail that man that leans upon him, when he belongs not to him. When thou dost intermit walking with God and dost lanch forth into a gulph and sea of lusts, and yet canst still say thou art the same in thy comforts, and the same in thy perswasions; it is an argument all thy comforts are but false, and thy evidence unsound.
Fourthly, Reall assurance of your estate, it doth bear up the soule under the greatest outward sorrow and sufferings that it can meet with in this world. Heb. 10:34. Th•y suffered joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and more enduring substance. What made them so to rejoyce to see their houses plundered before them, their estates taken from them, but this, they knew in their own selves, and had assurance in their own hearts that Christ was theirs, and heaven was theirs; and this made them suffer joyfully the spoiling of their goods. So Psal. 119.50: This is my comfort in affliction, that thy word doth quicken me: That is, this bears up my heart when I am afflicted, that I have a word to build upon, that I have assurance, I have interest in a promise to build upon; this quickens and bears me up under my sorrows. So Psal. 119.81. My spirit had fainted within me, onely that I hoped in thy word. That is, I had hope and confidence built upon thy Word, and that kept me from fears, and fainting, and discouragement under my affliction. So Isa. 33.24. The Inhabitant shall not say, I am sick; the people that dwell therein, shall be forgiven their iniquity.* Beloved, Assurance will lift up and bear up the heart under all sorrowes. Assurance in a Christian is like oile. Now pour oile into a sea or ocean of water, and the oile will never be kept under, but still be uppermost; so this oile of comfort, and this oile assurance, it will bear thee up on the top, though thou shouldst be cast into a flood of troubles, and an ocean of sorrowes. I have read in Latimers writings a notable saying of his to Ridley that famous Martyr. Sometime, saith he, when I live in a setled and stedfast assurance about the state of my soule, me thinks then I am as bold as a Lion, I can can laugh at all trouble, no affliction daunts me; but when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearfull a spirit, that I could run into a very mouse-hole. Beloved, it is so with godly men, when they want assurance of their estate, and the soundnesse of their call, every affliction daunts, and every trouble startles them. O but when they can live in a setled assurance of their interest in Christ, and calling by him; they are as bold as Lions and they are born up with comfort, under all the sorrows, and sufferings they meet withal. But now men that have false perswasions, their perswasions can never bear up the heart under a trouble, and at a losse, and a• a pinch; because it is not a saving and inward comfort, it can never create inward peace. The co•forts of wicked men when they come to suffer, they are like cloth that is ill woven. Cloth that is well made, let a man be in a showre of rain, it will never shrink; but ill woven cloth, let it be but in a show•e, it shrinks presently: It is so with mens comforts; Bring comforts wel wrought into a showre of tr•uble, and that man will not shrink under his trouble; but bring an ill wrought & unsound assurance, and that will shrink, and fail, and pull in, and will not bear up the heart under the sorrows and sufferings he may meet withall. Presuming Pindleton, that boasted his fat flesh should fry in the fire before he would forsake his Relgion; when he came to the trial, flagged presently.
Fifthly, Sound assurance, whereever it is, makes the heart more humble towards God and man, and makes men more vile in their own eyes. Gal. 2.20. There you have this character; I live, saith Paul, by the faith of the Son of God; and Christ hath loved me, and given himselfe for me. Here is his assurance: what then? Doth this lift up Paul? No, it makes him more vile; I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: Paul recollects himselfe, I live, no; it is not I that live, but Christ that liveth in me. See how Paul was beaten off from a supercilious pride and exaltation of spirit in himselfe. It is not I that live. The thoughts of his comforts made him recollect himselfe, and seem vile in his own eyes: Whereas (alas) false perswasions puffe up the soul with pride, and makes a man supercilious, and high conceited, crying out as Jehu did, Jonadab, is thy heart like mine? Come see my zeale for the Lord; they make him proud like Jehu in his false perswasions.
Sixthly, sound comforts, and real assurance do engage the soule to walk before God in a course of holinesse, Psal. 26.3. Thy loving kindnesse is before mine eyes; that is, I am assured, if I saw the thing with mine eye, that Gods loving kindnesse is towards me. What then? and I will walk in thy truth. I will walk before thee with a holy and sincere heart; and I wil not haunt with vain persons, ver. 4, And I will wash my hands in innocency, ver. 6 &c. So that you see David would walk in a course of holinesse, because he had an evidence and assurance of Gods love to him. So 1 John 3.3. He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himselfe, even as Christ is pure; that is, a man that doth nourish hopes and perswasions of heaven, his hopes will make him a Christian endeavouring to purifie his owne heart, and to be holy as Christ is holy. This is the nature of true assurance. But now for false assurance, the man that hath it, doth not look after holinesse at all; he thinks himself well enough,* that he hath attained that which every wise man should rest in, without medling any furth•r; nay, he is so far laying bonds upon himselfe to walk in a course of holinesse, that he will rather take encouragement from thence to walk in a way of loosenesse and profanenesse: Because grace abounds, he will abound in sin; this is the ill use that false comfort makes of Gods grace. And therefore, Beloved, look over your hearts. Do the comforts you pretend to have, and the assurance you pretend to enjoy, make you more to pursue holinesse? that you can say as David did, I see thy loving kindnesse is before me, and therefore I will love thy wayes; and hate sinfulnesse; or can you say, you have comforts, therefore yo• will run into sin, and wallow in wickedness? this is an argument thy comforts are not true.
Seventhly, True assurance, it is got and kept with a great deal of diligence and industry. Your best things are hardest to get, and hardest to keep. Stones are to be had in every place; but gold you must dig deep, and take paines to dive into the bowels of the earth, before you can get that. Weeds grow easily, but your fine garden-flowers, they must be often watered, and carefully looked unto, or else they will not grow: Beloved, this weed of false perswasion and assurance, it is a weed that will grow under every hedge, and thrive in every garden without looking after; whereas alas, the flower of true comforts and saving assurance, it is hard to make it grow; and when it is grown, it is hard to keep it from withering and blasting. Assurance it costs a man the waiting many a yeare, the shedding many a teare, the making of many a prayer, before he can get or keep it; whereas alas, false assurance it is easily gotten, and easily kept. A man may get presumption without any paines at all; the Devil will egge you on both to get and keep it: Therefore you that easily get your comforts without prayers, and keep your comforts without pains, you may be sure your comforts are but false.
Eighthly, True assurance it is gotten by the Word, and grounded upon the Word. It is got by the Word, Isa. 57.19. I create the fruit of the lip, peace, peace, to them that are nigh, and to them that are afar off. The fruit of the lips, that is, the fruit of the Ministers preaching; the word which falls from the lips of a godly Minister, God hath ordained and created that to be the way to work and create peace, peace; that is a sound peace in the hearts of his people. And it is not onely got, but it is bottomed upon the Word also. It is the Word, and somewhat in the Word, that beares up the hearts of the people of God, Psal. 119.49. Good is the Word of the Lord, wherein thou hast caused thy servant to hope. So ver. 50, 51. It is the Word of God that bottoms the comforts of the people of God; whereas look now upon wicked men, and they neither got their comforts by the Word, nor do they ground upon the Word; but first, they have had strong hopes in God ever since they could remember; and secondly, they keep and ground them either upon their good meaning, that they mean well towards God; or else thirdly, they ground them upon this, that they are not so bad as other men are. A poor weak ground. The Pharisee could say so; I am no extortioner, no drunkard, no adulterer, and the like: yet never came to heaven for all this. Or else fourthly, they ground their comforts on this, because they receive from God abundance of outward mercies. And this you finde was their ground of presumption, Hos. 12.8. Ephraim said, I am become rich, and I have found me out substance; in all my labour they shall finde no iniquity in me, that is, sin. Ephraim would say, I am become rich, and have gotten me an estate, and now I am an honest man, and they shall finde no sin in me: yet this was a meer presumption, because God tels us, Eccl. 9.1. No man knows either love or hatred by the things that are before him. And sometimes, saith Solomon, God gives m•n riches to their hurt; And therefore this can be no evidence of a grounded assurance.
Ninthly, That man that hath a good assurance, he is willing to be tried either by God or man, touching the truth of his assurance. This you finde, Psal, 26.2, 3. Try me, O Lord, examine me, prove me; and try my •ei•es, and my heart, for thy loving kindnesse is before me. As if he should say, Lord, I make a profession, that I have thy loving kindnesse in mine eye, that I am assured thou lovest me; Lord, I put my soule upon the trial: Doe thou try me, if my heart be not right in my assurance. And not by God onely, but they are willing to be tried by man also. And therefore you have that phrase of the Apostle, 1 Pet. 3.15. that when men ask you an account of the hope that is in you, you should be ready to give answer; that is, when men ask you what hopes you have of heaven, and upon what ground do you hope to be saved? the Apostle saith, you should be ready to give answer of that hope that is in you. And who were they that should do so? they were those that had a good conscience, those men that had consciences free from sin, and had evidence in their own consciences, that they belonged to God, they were ready, whoever asked them, to give a reason why they hoped for heaven. Whereas a man that hath false perswasions of heaven and of his effectual calling, that man cannot endure to be tried either by God or man. He is like the man that hath stolen goods in his house. A man that is an honest man, let the Constable come, let search be made, it never troubles him, because they are his own goods that he hath bought with his own money: but the Thief, when the Constable comes, and search is made, every Trunk that is opened, his heart trembles: It is so with an unsound-hearted man; a man that hath false assurance, lest there should be a flaw found in it. Come to a man that hath false perswasions, (as to you Formalists, and those that are presumptuous wretches) come to these men, and put this question unto them, Upon what ground do you hope for salvation? What evidence can you give of your effectual calling? How can you make out upon Scripture-grounds, that you shall goe to heaven? Such questions as these will puzzle an unsound heart, that he cannot give you any reasonable answer at all. And herein the difference is palpable between a grounded assurance and those false perswasions that wicked men have.
Tenthly, True assurance, wherever it is, it makes a man so to value the comforts of the Spirit of God, that he doth undervalue all other comforts in the world in comparison of them, Psal. 4.6. Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me; what then? and this shall more glad my heart, then when my corn and wine and oile increaseth. Beloved, assurance, it doth so transport and raise up the heart, that it makes all things in the world, all comforts here below to be nothing in comparison of that. The favour of Princes is nothing to that man that hath the favour of God; Life, and all the comforts of life, are nothing to that man that hath comfort in referrence to his eternal life; Psal. 63.3. Thy loving kindness, O Lord, is better then life. David did not value his life, nor all the comforts of it, so as he valued the loving kindnesse of his God. But now, a man that hath false perswasions, these do not so transport his spirit, and take up the whole man, and fill the soul with j•y unspeakable and full of glory; these do no whit abate his comforts in the world. A man you know that hath tasted hony, other things are of an unpleasant taste to him that are eaten after: Beloved, assurance is like hony; nothing so sweet to a godly palate, as that is. Now when a godly person taste• of the hony of assurance, all other outward comforts, they are but as gall and wormwood, things unpleasant to his taste and palate. And thus you see I have laid down ten particulars to you. I would intreat you to distinguish in your own hearts, whether you are the people that have a true assurance, or onely false perswasions of your effectual calling. And let me tell you, the reason why I speak of this, is, because the most of men in the world do misse of heaven by false perswasions. VVhere desperation damnes one soul, presumption damnes a thousand. I might say of this, as it was sung in the Triumphant song of David and Saul, Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands: So I might say, desparation hath slain a thousand, but presumption ten thousand. Thousands and ten thousands are slain and undone for ever, by harbouring presumptuous and groundlesse perswasions of their effectual calling, when they are not.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, Give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon, drawn from these words is this, That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the prosecution of which I have handled many particulars, I now come in the close of this Point to make a particular use of all that hath been said, and so passe on to that other branch, to make your Election sure. And the Use I shall speak of, shall onely be an Use of Exhortation, and Direction. My Exhortation shall be directed to two sorts of men. First, to them that do enjoy and are assured of their effectual Calling; who are called, and are assured they are so. Secondly, to them that have sometime enjoyed this assurance, but now have lost or eclipsed the comfortable feeling of their assurance. Into these two heads I shall branch my discourse.
And first, the exhortation or counsel I am to give,* is to them that are assured of their effectual calling; that have done the work the Apostle here injoynes them; that have made sure their Vocation, and by unquestionable evidence can say so. And these I would advise to three particular duties.
Fi•st you should be directed rightly to use your assurance.
Secondly, Carefully to preserve your assurance.
Thirdly, Daily to improve your assurance. This is the three f•ld task that lies upon you, that enjoy this rich Jewel of ass•rance.
First, You are •o take care, that you rightly use and manage your assurance. A thing hardly gotten, if it be not well managed, a man may enjoy it in a way of losse to himselfe. To use assurance well is the great Art of a Christian. And here (that I might speak distinctly to this direction) I shall lay down •ight particulars, as concomitants, or gracious qualifications, which must accompany you in a condition of assurance; As
First, You must use and manage your assurance with humility, in case you use it well. Assured Christians must be humble Christians. The more high you are in comforts, the more low you should be in Spirit. You know the fullest eares of corn hang down their head lowest, when light and flashy darnel that hath nothing of worth in it, lifts up its head on high. Assured Christians, they are like your full and ripe eares of corn; the more full they are of this fruit of the Spirit, assurance, the more low do they, and should they hang down their heads. It is your empty barrels make a noise, when your full vessels though you strike them, will not sound: It is those Christians that are most empty of faith, and most empty of assurance, that make most noise, and are most proud of their guifts and graces; when your assured Christians they are like vessels full of the best liquor; that make the least noise. The fuller God hath fil’d you with this comfort, the more you should shine forth in humility. As Paul when he saith, Christ loved him, and gave himselfe for him; when he was most full of comforts, he was most fill’d with humility, and said, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.
Secondly, You must manage your assurance with a high valuation of the comforts of God in you. A man that hath received a benefit, if he do not value it, it is a provocation to the man that gave it, either to repent of his gift, or take it away. David when he had assurance, mark how he values it: Psal. 63.3. Thy loving kindness is better then life. He valued the comforts of his God, and the shinings of Gods countenance better then life. And Psal. 4.6. Lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me, and that shall more glad me, then when my corn and wine and oile increaseth. David would more value the comforts of Gods Spirit, then any other comfort in the world. Assured Christians, that use assurance rightly, they must put a high valuation and worth upon it. And the reason is, Because you will not then easily part with your assurance for a base and beggerly lust, and for a fruitlesse sin, if once you know the value and worth of it.
Thirdly, Your assurance must make you to live with a weaned heart from the comforts of this world, 2 Cor. 4. the last verse, compared with Chapt. 5.1. The Apostle tells you, We do not look after the things that are seen, that are temporal. What made the Apostle not to look after worldly things; he gives the reason, For when this house of ours is dissolved, we have a dwelling with God, eternall in the heavens. As if he should say, That’s the reason we do not look after the world as worldly men do; for we know that when we leave this world, we have a heaven to go to. The assurance of the blessednesse of their future being, did make them undervalue the world, as a thing not worthy the glance of the eye; Persons that have assurance, can say as Philip said to Christ, John 14.8. Shew us saith Philip, the Father, and it sufficeth us. Thus saith a gracious heart, O sweet Jesus, shew us but thy favour; assure but my soul, that thy Father is a reconciled Father to me in thy selfe, that he is my Father as well as thy Father; Shew me but the Father, and it sufficeth me; though I have little or nothing in the world, this shall suffice me. Gracious hearts, that live in the enjoyment of assurance, they ought to live with a weaned heart from the comforts of this world. Men that have tasted hony or some other sweet morsel, they do distaste all other things, though of themselves very pleasant: So men that have tasted of this hony of Gods love, and the sweetnesse of this grace of assurance; it will make them distaste and disrelish all the things of this world, though of themselves pleasant and good. If a man look on the Sun it dazles hi• eyes, that he cannot discern colours about him; so he that beholds the light of Gods countenance, will not look upon the things here below. I may allude to that place, Luke 5.39. No man saith Christ, having drunk old wine, straight way desireth new; for he saith, The old is better. His meaning is this, No man that hath had a taste of Jesus Christ, and hath had communion and fellowship with Jesus Christ, and lain under the Ministery of Jesus Christ; no man that hath drunk of this old wine, will say, new is better; to have other comforts, and other pleasures, is better; no man will say this, saith Christ. And so he compares his Ministery, and his Doctrine, and the comfort Gods people have thereby, to old wine: Beloved, so I say, men that have drunk draughts of this wine of consolation, and men that are setledly assured, and have had a taste that the Lord is gracious, no man will now say, that the world is better, and the comforts below better. No, the assuance of Gods love should wean a mans heart from all the comforts of the world. As old Jacob said, when he saw his sonne Joseph in his old age, after he had made many a prayer, and shed many a tear; O Joseph my sonne is yet alive, I have enough. As was the carriage of Jacob to Joseph, the same should be the carriage of a Christian towards Christ. If he can say, My Joseph, my Jesus is alive in my heart; I having him, have enough; this comfort should ravish his spirit. Paul when he was rapt up into the third heaven, was so transported that he knew not whether he was in the body or no; so are the people of God ravished with heavenly consolations,* that they minde not these earthly things. It is a speech that Bernard, hath, That to whosoever Jesus Christ once becomes sweet, that he can taste the sweetnesse of his love, and the sweetnesse of his mercy, the very sweetnesse in Christs love will imbitter the world unto him.
Fourthly, you are to manage and use your assurance with tenderness of conscience against sin. Assured Christians should be tender-conscienced Christians. Psal. 85.8. God will speak peace to his people; but mark the duty: they must not turn again unto folly. They must not •un again into sin, they must be tender of sin, and then God will speak peace to his people. Sin (as I once told you) will be like winde in the bowels of the earth. Philosophers say, E•rthquakes and ruptures are occasioned by winde got into the bowels and cavernes of the earth, which having no place for vent, it overturnes Mountains and Buildings: Beloved, sin in the heart will do the like; it will make the heart quake and tremble if it be there; it will prove the grave of thy comforts, and the resurrection of thy fears. Therefore Christians that are assured, they must take he•d of sin; if they would keep their comforts, they must keep their hearts that sin get not into their consciences. Beloved, they that are assured Christians, they know how difficultly they did attain this assurance, and they know how sweetly they enjoy this assurance, and that will make them very tender, that they do not lose a thing so hardly gotten and sweetly enjoyed for a trivial lust; that thy lose not their former evidences, and revive former ter•ors.
Fiftly, Assurance mus• be managed with patience in bearing any outward affliction that you may meet with in the world. Assured Christians must be patient Christians, Heb. 10.34. They suffered joyfully the spoyling of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a b•tter and more enduring substance; and that made the Saints of God tush and scorn at all the losses they met with in the world. Suppose a man be at Sea, and have precious Jewels and Pearles aboard with him; if the man can be but sure he shall save his own life, and save his Jewels, though he lose the Casket, though he lose the box, that will not much trouble him: Thou that art sure of heaven, thou canst never lose that Pearle, thy soul; thou maiest lose the shell, thy life; thou maist lose the Casket, thou shalt never lose the Jewel; and shall that trouble thee? If thou art an assured Christian, be sure whatever storme of Temptation blow upon thee, thou shalt onely lose the box, never lose the Pearle. This therefore should make assured Christians to be patient Christians, what ev•r they shall undergoe here in the world. I have read a story in Fox his Acts and Monuments, of a woman, who when she came to be tried for her Religion before Bonner, that bloody Bishop; he threatened her, he would take away her husband from her; saith she, Christ is my husband; I will take away thy childe: Christ, saith she, is better to me then ten sonnes; I will strip thee, saith he, of all thy outward comforts: yea but Christ is mine, and you cannot strip me of him, saith sh•. The thoughts of this bore up the womans heart, spoile her of all, and take away all, yet Christ was hers, and they could not take him away. O Beloved, when thy soul lives in the assurance of Gods love, and of thy calling to grace and glory; this shall make you wonde•ful patient to endure what ever you should meet with here below. It was the speech of that famous servant of God, holy Bradford, when a company of his fellow-prisoners were that morning to goe to be burnt, saith Bradford, O my fellow-suff•rers, be cheerful, for though we are all of us to have a bitter breakfast, yet truly we shall have a cheerful dinner. Here you see how assured Christians, their comforts in God did so transport their hearts, that it made them overlook, and with patience bear all afflictions they were to meet with. You have a remarkable phrase, Isa. 33.2•. The Inhabitants of Sion shall not say, I am sick, the people that dwel therein, shall be forgiven their iniquity. A strange passage; he doth not say, they were not sick, but the Text saith, they should not say so. And what’s the reason? why should the people forget their sorrows, and forget their pains? this should make them, the Lord had forgiven them their iniquities. The sense of pardon took away the sense of pain. And Beloved, Christians should walk thus to shew that trouble should not daunt them, and afflictions never startle them; you that are assured Christians, you should be patient Christians under all sufferings. And take this for a rule, that God takes impatience more unkindly at assured Christians hands, then at the hands of any men in the world besides: Because if God give thee assurance, he hath given thee a seal in thy own brest, that all shall work for thy good; and wilt thou be impatient? He hath given thee a seale in thy own brest, that heaven shall make amends for all; and wilt thou be angry? God will take this more unkindly at them then any.
Sixthly, Assurance should be managed with indeared love to Jesus Christ. Assured Christians should be Christ-loving Christians: When Christ told Mary Magdalen, Thy sins which are m•ny are forgiven thee. When she had assurance her sins were pardoned, what saith Christ? Much was forgiven her therefore she loved much: because she was sensible much was forgiven her, she would shew forth much love to Jesus Christ. And the reason is, because it was Christs love brought those Christians into a state of salvation, and his love likewise that gave them assurance of their own call, and this should indear their hearts to Jesus Christ.
Seventhly, Assurance should be managed with abundance of compassion towards those Christians that are tempted and troubled by Satan. Assured Christians should be compassionate Christians. If God have given you assurance of his love, you should carry compassionate brests towards your Brethren, who remain behinde in great distress and perplexity, that lie tossed and turmoiled by Temptations. When a ship is brought safe to the Haven, if they have any bowels, when they see another ship in the main Ocean strugling for life in the midst of the waters, they will pity them: You that have got assurance, you are come to a safe harbour; but your tempted brethren, they are tossed upon the waves and tempests of temptation, you should now have compassionate hearts towards tempted Christians. 2 Cor. 1.4. The Apostle tells us, The Lord hath comforted us in all our tribulation, that we might comfort others with the same comforts, wherewith we our selves are comforted of God, It was the work and task of the Apostle, and them with him, that they having comforts and assurance from God, they would labour to comfort others, and bear up others, and establish others, that they might rejoyce, and receive the same comforts with themselves. Hence you read, 1 Pet. 3.8, 9. Be pitifull, be compassionate to your Brethren, love as Brethren. Now upon what ground doth the Apostle presse this compassion? Read verse 9. Knowing, saith he, that as you are hereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing. As if he should say, upon this ground I woo you to be compassionate, because you are called to inherit a blessing; that is, you know and are assured that you are a blessed people, and you shall be a saved people, therefore have compassion on your Brethren, who are tempted and troubled, that you might bring them to the same pitch of comfort you are brought to.
Eighthly, Assurance should be managed with cheerfulness of heart: Assured Christians should be cheerfull Christians. We read Nehem. 2.1, 2. That Nehemiah all the while he was before the face of the King, and in the presence of the K•ng, the Text saith, Nehemiah for a long time was no• sad: t•e Kings presence did so cheer up Nehemiahs heart. Now to this I would allude: If the presence and face of King Artaxerxes did make Nehemiah, that for a long time he was not sad before him; Oh how much more should the face of God, and the presence of God in a mans soul, and the favour of God towards a man, how much more should this keep thee from being sad in Gods presence, from a lumpish and melancholy and sad spirit? Thou art in the presence of a King, in •he favour of God, and this should keep thee from being sad and heavy. None in the world have greater grounds of joy then those that live in a constant assurance of the love of God towards them. It is for condemned men, that are condemned to the gallows, to hang down their heads and wring their hands; but let the pardoned people of the Lord rejoyce. The man that is condemned, he hangs down his head; but the man that comes pardoned from the bar, with what a cheerful countenance will that man come? You are all a people pardoned by your God, you may well be a rejoycing people: I remember a passage I have read in D. Halls Works, in his Meditations upon the Creatures, speaking of a little Bird called Robbin-red-brest, that when he was in his study, came chirping at the window, and leaping upon his book, and singing a great while together; upon this fight he breaks out into this contemplation. O this little silly Bird, that doth not know where to pick up the next crum, that doth not know where •o pitch and rest it selfe for the next night, yet behold, how cheerfully doth this Bird sing, when man, and a Christian man that knows God to be his Father, that hath not only crumbs of outward blessings, but whole morsels of inward comfort, and can drink draughts of inward consolation: Christians, that have a God, and a heaven, that have Christ and glory, yet they cannot be merry, as a poor Bird can be: and truly it is a good Meditation. Many times people that are ca•led by Jesus Christ, and have ground and assurance of their everlasting happinesse by him, yet they cannot be so merry as a poor Bird will be: Birds in the morning will be chirping a•d singi•g 〈◊〉••t••ng l•y •t th• Lea••, wh•n • Christian i•••d▪ and •••ing, an••••a•yin•〈◊〉 his 〈◊〉 in di••ont•nts and 〈…〉 b•comes not a Chr•••ian. Ass•red Christians they sho••• be cheerful Christ•••s.
Ninthly, ••sured Ch••stians they should b••hankfull Christians. F•r one to give a man a pro•••e▪ it is •orth thanks, but when a man shall not •nly give, but •ssure that promise, that he will m•ke i• good; that is •ore t•anks-worthy. Beloved, if God had only promis•d you a heaven, and had given no assurance, it was thanks-worthy; but wh•n God shall give thee his Broad Seal, that shall seal thee up to the day of Redemption, and whe• God shall give the• an assurance in thy own brest thou shalt go to heaven, and go to God, this should much more make thee in thy spirit blesse thy God. It is a speech of the Prophet David, My soule, blesse thou the Lord for his marvellous loving kindnesse. Thou hast kindness, and thou hast marvellous loving kindnesse; My soule bless God for this. David would not keep back Gods praises, seeing God would not keep back Davids comforts. In heaven we shall break forth into admiration, because we have good things in possession; here we should break forth into thanksgiving, because we have them in expectation. And thus I have done with the first part of my direction to you that are assured Christians, you should labour first rightly to use your assurance
Secondly, All you that are assured Christians, you are to be directed carfully to keep and preserve your assurance. There is no less skill, saith the Poet, to be put forth in keeping vertue, then in getting of it. It is said of Hannibal,* he was a a skilful Souldier to get Victories, but he had no skill to keep them, when gotten: It may be said so of us, Christians can get assurance, but they have not the skill to keep it when they have got it. This therefore therefore I am now to press, that you would be car•full to preserve your assurance. And here in speaking of this, I shall lay down two particulars; that in case you would keep your assurance, there are some things you must doe; and some things you must avoid and take heed of.
First, There are some things you must do, and those I shall comprize under two or three heads.
First, In case you would keep assurance, you are to keep close in communion with your God, in the exercise of the duty of godliness. The more you keep grace, the more you will keep your comforts. And here that I may branch out this direction, I shall comprize these duties under four heads, and shew you from Scripture, that keeping close to God in the use of four duties, will be a ready way to keep your assurance in you.
As first, keep close to God in the duty of prayer, John 16.24. Ask, saith Christ, and your joy shall be full. Ask, that your joy may be full; implying that if you keep close to God in the duty of prayer, after assurance; your spirits shall be compleat and full.
Secondly, keep close to God, in the duty of reading the Word often. By often reading the Word you will often meet with Promises and Supports for your comfort. That’s the reason men lessen in comforts, because men do not frequently read the Word; you cannot read a Chapter, but you will finde there a prop for faith, and a prop for assurance. Keeping constant to the Word, and that’s the way to keep your assurance, 1 John 5.13. These things have I written to you that believe, that you might know that you have eternal life. These things have I writ, not only that you have life, but that you might know it. By reading the writings of John, John tels them they might the better know they should live for ever, and everlastingly be saved. Keep close to God in reading his written Word, and this will be of great use. Because there are promises scattered throughout the veins of Scripture. Not a Scripture almost you can read, but there is a promise or support for your faith one way or other,
Thirdly, Keep close to God in a constant and conscientious hearing of his Word, and •his is a great meanes to get assurance, Luk. 1.76. Thou shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest, for thou shalt goe before the face of the Lord, to prepare hi• way; that is, thou shalt goe to prepare •he peoples hearts that they may receive Jesus Christ that follow••••er. This is •poken of John Baptist. And what was the effect of hearing John preach? To give knowledge of salvation to his pe•ple, for the remission of their sins; not only to give them salvation, but to give them knowledge and assurance of this salvation. O live under the Ministery, and under Iohn Baptists Ministery, that preacheth repentance and humiliation, and that is the Ministery will give most assurance of your salvation.
Fourthly, Keep in communion with God, in a daily trying and examining your own hearts, Gal. 6.4. If any man think himself to be somewhat, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself; but let every man prove his own works, and then he shall have rejoycing in himselfe. That is, let a man examine himselfe, and prove his heart, and this will be a meanes to work joy in the heart, that they shall have comfort and joy in themselves in the assurance of their happiness. Beloved, what’s the reason you do not keep assurance? the reason is, you keep not close to God in a way of communion in these duties of holiness, you keep not to God in a way of prayer, and reading, and examining your hearts, and proving your comforts, and your own estate, and that’s the reason you are no more full, and no more firm.
Secondly, if you would keep your comforts, keep your conscience clear from harbouring the guilt of sinne, Iob 11.14, 15. If iniquity be in thy hands, put it far away; if sinne be in thy conversation, away with it. Let not sinne be in thy heart, nor in thy house, then shalt thou lift up thy face to God without spot, thou shalt be stedfast before him, and not feare. This will ballance thy spirit, and keep thy heart from feare, and keep thee in a stedfast assurance, if thou keep thy conscience clear.
Thirdly, if thou wouldst keep assurance, gather and heap together all the experiences thou hast had of God in thy heart in times past. I called to •emembrance the dayes of old, Psal. 77.7. Call to remembrance all the experiences thou hast had of God, and had of Christ, and of thy own grace, and the fruits of Gods Spiri••n •hy own soul, and this will wonderfully keep up thy assurance Rom. 5.4. The Apostle tels us, Experience worketh hope. The more experimental you are, and the more you gather experience together, the more you strengthen hope, and th• m•r• hope is strengthened, the more assurance is gained. The•e are the particulars you must practice, in case you would preserve in your brests this assurance of your effectual calling.
Secondly, there are some things you are to avoid and take heed of, in case you would perpetuate assurance in your hearts, and those I shall comprize under six heads.
First, Take heed you do not wallow in, and give your selves to sensual joy and pleasure. There is nothing in the world will more eat out spiritual joy and that effectual assurance in your hearts, then giving your selyes too much to carnal joy and sensual pleasure, which takes away the hearts. The more your joy runs in that channel after sensual pleasure, the less it runs towards God, and the comforts that are above; godly sorrow is the seed-plot of spiritual joy.
Secondly, The evil of earthly-mindedness, take heed of that, if ever you would keep your comforts. There is nothing in the world will more blast your comforts, then an earthly minde to be still poring upon the things of the world. What the Philosophers say of the Eclipse of the Sun, that it is occasioned by the intervening of the Moon between the Sun and our sight is is true in this case. The Moon is an Embleme of the world. If the world get between Christ the Sun of righteousnesse and our fight, it will darken our sight of Jesus Christ, and bring Eclipses upon our comforts and graces. Those men that dig deep nito the bowels of the earth, they are oftentimes choaked and stifled by damps that come from the earth: So it is with Christians, those that will be ever poring and digging about the things of this world, it is a thousand to one if from worldly things a damp doth not arise to smother their comforts, and quench their graces; the world pierceth with sorrow, therefore must needs damp your joyes. A candle, though it may shine to the view of all, yet put it but under ground, and (though there be not a puff of wind) the very damps will stifle the light of the flame. Beloved, though you shine like candles in your comforts, yet bring them but under the earth, and a clod of earth will stifle your candle, will damp your comforts. There is nothing lays a Christian under more loss in his assurance then worldly-mindedness.
Thirdly, avoid remisseness in Religious duties. If you slack in duties, you will slack in comforts; less duties and less comforts goe together. If a man doth let loose the tacklings of his ship, and let slack the sailes, that ship cannot goe with so swift a motion; specially if wind and tide be against it, the ship must needs goe backward: Believers that are assured Christians, they are like a ship under saile; you goe against wind and tide, against nature, and against corruption, against temptation and the devil and all: now if you let slack your sails, and grow remiss in duties, you will quickly slack in your comforts; whatever weakens your graces, and straitens your duties, will impaire your assurances, and eclipse your comforts; and therefore take heed of remisseness in a way of duties; oh do not less work, when you have most encouragement.
Fourthly, Take heed of spiritual pride. If once you begin to admire your selves, then you lose your selves. If once you are proud of your graces, it is a provocation to make God take away your comforts, and to make you lose your graces; I mean, lose them, not in the very being, but in the comfort and exercise of them; pride it is the great murderer of a Christians comforts.
Fifthly, Take heed of grieving the spirit of God; Grieve not the holy spirit, saith the Apostle, whereby you are seal•d to the day of Redemption. The Spirit of God is a sealing Spirit; O grieve not this Spirit. The Spirit deals with us, as we deale with it; if we grieve the spirit of God, God will grieve you, and your spirits shall be grieved, that you shall not keep the joyes of the Lord in your br•st in the assurance of his love and favour to you. You read Isa. 63.10. They grieved his Spirit, so he was turned to be their enemy, and fought against them. Beloved, though God may be your friend, yet he will frown upon you as an enemy, and seem to fight against you too, in case you grieve his Spirit; if thou grieve Gods Spirit, God will grieve thine, and when thy spirit is grieved, thou must needs lose thy comforts.
Sixthly, Take heed of the sin of hypocrisie, false grace will breed a false joy. False hearts must needs have false comforts. You will never keep true comforts, if you have an unsound heart, The upright in heart they shall shout upon their beds for joy; they shall doe it, but hypocrites shall not. Take heed therefore of this evil, and you are in a way to preserve your assurance.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon is this, That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their soules, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ. In the managing of which I came to an use of direction, to those who are assured of their effectual calling, and to them I gave three directions. First, That you would rightly manage your assurance. Secondly, Carefully preserve your assurance. Thirdly, Daily improve your assurance; the last of which I have yet to handle. And touching this third direction, daily to improve your assurance, I shall give you but three heads; which if you make use of, you may every day improve your assurance, and bring it from a little to a great measure, As
First, In case you would doe this, improve your graces. The more you encrease in grace, the more you will grow in comfort. Grace and comfort, they are two Twins, that the more one growes, the better the other thrives. Hence you read, that in the salutation of every Epistle, the Apostle puts both together, Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you in Christ Jesus, 1 Cor. 1.3. There the Apostle makes the multiplying of grace to be the multiplying of peace. The more you multiply and grow in grace, the more you will increase peace, inward peace of conscience: they are both joyned together. You have a passage, 2 Pet. 1.5, 11. compared together, Adde to your faith vertue, &c. The Apostle there urgeth our diligence to adde grace to grace; that is, to live in the improvement of grace. And what wil follow? ver. 11. If you doe these things, you shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministred unto you abundantly into the everlasting Kingdome of our Lord Iesus Christ. You shall not onely goe to heaven, but you shall have an abundant entrance ministred before you come there; you shall have abundance of assurance and inward peace before you come there. And here to give you a more particular direction, there are these foure graces chiefly you are to improve.
First; Improve the grace of humility, Isa. 57.15. The Lord doth promise there to revive the spirit of the humble. It is a particular promise to that grace, that God will revive you, and give you a new life if you have it. And reviving there, is not meant of the first life of grace, but of a life of comfort. They had grace before, but God would give them a life of comfort, he will restore your consolation to you in case you are an humble people. Hence it is, Iam. 4.6. The Lord gives grace to the humble. Yea, he gives more grace. The Lord gives more grace to the humble person then to any man in the world. Now the more grace you have, the more comfort you must needs have. Humility is a foundation of more grace, therefore needs must be a foundation of more comfort.
That building whose foundation is laid lowest, is of all the most beautiful and comely Fabrick above ground: So those Christians that lay a foundation low in humility, they are likely to reare up a most beautiful Building in way of comfort.
Secondly, Improve the grace of faith in beleeving, and that is the way to increase comfort. 1 Peter. 1.8. Whom though you have not seen, yet believing, you rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Though they did never see Christ, yet believing in Christ, and improving their faith, they had not onely an ordinary measure of comfort, but they had more comfort in their hearts, then they could utter with their Tongue; They rejoyce with joy unspeakable and full of glory, So Rom. 15.13. The God of peace fill you with all joy and peace in Believing, that you may abound in hope through the Holy Ghost. Believing makes you full of all joy, and makes you abound in it. The more you are in Believing, the more you will be in assurance.
Thirdly, Improve the grace of love to Jesus Christ. John 14.23. If any man love me, my Father shall love him, and we will come in unto him, and make our abode with him. If you improve in your love to Jesus Christ, God the Father and God the Son will make their dwelling in your hearts. Now he must needs be a comfortable Christian, that hath so good a guest as God the Father and Jesus Christ to come in, and make their abode with him. As you know, to your bosome-friend whom you love, and you know loves you, you will communicate all your secrets: Thus will God the Father, if he knowes you are his bosome-friends, and seeth you love him, he will communicate all his comforts to you; you shall never want comforts, if you increase in love to Jesus Christ.
Fourthly, Improve the grace of godly sorrow; you will never finde sweeter musick in comfort, then when you are laid down in teares. As the sound of the Trumpet is never more pleasant then when they are upon the water; so when God seeth you flow with the water of repentance and godly sorrow, then you are likely to hear the most melodious harmony in the apprehension of Gods love; Psal. 126. They that sow in teares, shall reap in joy. You shall not onely have a dram, but a handful of joy; as Reapers they cut down handfuls of corn at once. And as you know in seed, though you sowe but one grain of corn, there may a dozen eares come from that one seed: so if you sowe but a little godly sorrow, a grain of godly sorrow may be a root to a great deal of spiritual joy.
Secondly. If you would improve your assurance, preserve a clear conscience, both towards God and man. A good conscience is a continual Feast, Prov. 15.15. Assurance, I may say of it as the Father speaks of the Holy Ghost, and the comforts thereof, The Spirit of God is a very nice thing, every thing will give the comforts of Gods Spirit a check and distaste;* now if you harbour sin upon conscience, you will never thrive in comfort; every thing will give comfortable motions a check. And as Philosophers say when the Aire is foggy, it ariseth from vapours that are exhaled from the earth, which makes the Aire so cloudy as it is; So it is filth drawn from our earthly hearts, that makes such foggy mists to arise between our comforts and us, and between God and us. You must keep conscience clear, else you will never keep heaven clear. Heaven will be clouded, if the heart be filthy. Job. 11.14, 15. If iniquity be in thy hand, put it far away; If sin be upon the conscience, harbour it not; for then thou shalt lift up thy face before God, thou shalt be stedfast, and not fear. You shall not onely not fear but you shall have a degree of assurance. You shall be stedfast, if you put sin far away from you. A sullied and a polluted conscience shall never be in a Christian strong in assurance. You will not grow in assurance, if your conscience harbour guilt.
Thirdly, If you would improve your assurance, keep close in communion with God. Nothing that feeds comforts so much as a Christians holy walking. Esa. 32.17. The work of righteousnesse shall be peace, and the effect thereof quietnesse and assurance for ever. If you walk in works of righteousnesse, and in a way of keeping lose communion with God; this shall be peace, and this shall be quietnesse, and great assurance. Mark how the Holy Ghost makes a g•adation; not onely peace and quietnesse, but assurance also: you shall have the highest degree of peace, and the highest step of comfort, if you walk diligently in a way of holinesse with your God. And thus much be spoken to the first sort of men, those that live in the enjoyment of the assurance of their effectual calling.
I have now a word to those men that live in the want of this assurance, who happily have in times past had some glimmering, and some dimme sight of comfort, touching their everlasting estate, and yet are now much clouded and eclipsed in their comforts, or have lost the comforts they once h•d, what they should do to recover it. And to these I •hall by way of direction speak onely four things.
First, That you would set upon searching work. Secondly, Upon humbling work. Thirdly, Upon praying work. And fourthly, that you would set upon meditating work: These four helps will through Gods blessing be very conducible to restore your wonted comforts to you.
First, My counsel shall be to you, that you would set upon searching and examining work. When you have lost any thing, the first thing you do is to look after it, where you have lost it, that you may finde it again. If you have lost this precious Jewel of assurance, be thus wise for your selves; O set upon seeking and searching work. The Scripture gives you this hint, Gal. 6.4. Let every man search his own work, and then he shall have rejoycing in himselfe. This is the way to bring in spiritual joy and spiritual comfort, to be often dealing with your own hearts. David when he lay under some foul distemper, mark how he deales with his own soul: Why art thou troubled, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? he puts his heart upon the trial. And here in your searching work, I would commend five things to your examination.
First, Search how you got your assurance.
Secondly, Search how you grounded your assurance.
Thirdly, Search how you managed your assurance.
Fourthly, Search what should provoke God to take away your assurance.
Fifthly, and lastly, Search what you would give to God, so you might regain your former and wonted assurance. Put these questions to your hearts; As
First, Put upon the search, how you go• your assurance. It may be it was such an assurance as you have had ever since you were born from your mothers womb: that you got without care, and without pain; and if so, this is presumption, not assurance: and if you have lost this, it is well. It is better to be in a state of discouragement, then in a state of presumption.
Secondly, Examine how you grounded your assurance. It may be you bottomed it but upon self, not upon Christ. It may be, you bottom•d it but upon the fantastical delusions of your own hearts, and not upon the grounded evidence of Gods Word; if so, that your assurance have had an ill bottome, it is no wonder if God turn it upside-down. If it be not rightly grounded, it will never long be continu•d. Examine therefore upon what grounds you have bottomed your assurance, and if you finde the fou•dation of your comforts to be ill laid, you must pluck up all again.
Thirdly, Search how you managed your assurance. It may be you managed your assurance with pride, not humility; it may be with unwatchfulness, and carelesnesse of spirit, and did not take notice of those temptations and suggestions that might impair your comforts; & if so, it is no wonder if the devil sows tares among your wheat; it is no wonder if the devil have stolen away your comforts, if you have laid down your watch.
Fourthly, Examine what special cause there was in your hearts, that might provoke God to cloud you in your comforts, and to take away your assurance from you. And here that you might a little be directed in this search, you may reduce the caus• of your eclipse, and of the removal of your assurance, unto this twofold head. Either it hath been the commission of some great transgression, or else the omission of some weighty duty, that may provoke God to darken your comforts. As,
First, the commission of some great transgression. Great sins they lay a foundation for great discomforts in tender consciences. Great sins they lay the conscience waste; to make it that was as a well-trimmed and impaled garden, to be as a ruinous wildernesse. Great relapses they bring ordinarily dark eclipses upon the soul. And here that I might put you on this search, I would advise you to seach what particular sin it was, and how you might know the transgression that might provoke God, to take away your comforts from you. As,
First, if so be God did take away your comforts immediately after the committing of any grosse sin, then you may be sure that sin was the occasion. Or,
Secondly, If the commission of one sin, do bring upon you more then an ordinary measure of hardness of heart, then you may be sure that was the sin, Or,
Thirdly, If any sin makes you remisse in spiritual duties, that was the sin provoked God to take away your comforts from you. And by such a search as this, you might finde out, and give a shrewd guess at the particular provocation.
And here the particular transgressions I would have you search about, they are ordinarily these four, that ingages God to take away comforts from a people. As,
First, the sin of superciliousness, and uncompassionateness of spirit towards doubting Christians. If a soul carries a proud and supercilious eye over poor Christians, and carries no compassion towards doubting souls. God for that sin of wanting bowels of compassion, may bring him to the same estate, which he could not compassionate in other men.
Secondly, the sin of grieving the Spirit; if you grieve Gods Spirit, God will grieve yours, Esa. 63.10. Or,
Thirdly, The sin of spiritual pride; ordinarily this may be the sin. Or,
Fourthly, The sin of worldly-mindednesse, or eager pursuit after the things of this world. As digging in the earth doth endanger a man to be stifled with damps; so digging and poring in the world brings but a damp upon a Christians comforts, and many times stifles their assurance. As the Sun is eclipsed by the interposition of the Moon between it and our sight, so if the world once get between the Sunne of righteousnesse and you, it will eclipse the Sun that you shall not see the glory of Jesus Christ, and shall not perceive nor gain that interest in Jesus Christ you had in former time.
Secondly, Another cause you are to search; If it be not the commission of some great transgression, yet it may be the omission of necessary and weighty duty, and the Lord may bring you upon the stage of discomfort for omission as well as commission. If a man do let but a wound go undressed, he may as well die, as if you knock him with a Beetle upon the head: Beloved, If you let your wounds be undressed, and let your discomforts be unlooked after, and let all run at sixes and sevens; if you interrupt in your duties, it is just with God to interrupt you in your comforts. If you keep not your watch, ’tis no wonder if you are surprized. There are many Christians that grow carelesse in keeping communion with God, that love seldome reading, and seldome praying, and seldome examining their own hearts; (alas) men casting away their duties, it makes God in judgement make stoppage in a way of comfort.
Fifthly, In your searching work examine your selves what you would do in case God should restore to you your former evidences; could you bring your hearts to this temper, that you would think no pain; too much to take, no cost too much to give, nothing should be irksom to you that God would have you perform, in case he would give you your wonted comforts? If you finde this temper of spirit in you, this is a very ready way to bring on your comforts, and restore the joyes of your salvation to you.
Secondly, Set upon humbling work: the onely way to gain what you have lost, is to mourn over your losses. Jer. 31.18, 19, 20. See how Ephraim comes to have his comforts restored, when he wept over his own discomforts: I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himselfe, saith God, and I said, Is Ephraim my dear sonne, I saw him smitting upon his thigh, humbling his soul for his sins; and since I saw him, I do earnestly remember him, and I will shew mercy to him. Here you see lamenting Ephraim; God in the very time of his bemoaning himselfe, restored his comforts to him: we hear many lament for their outward losses, but who laments for the losse of inward comforts? And David after he had lost his comforts by that great sin of adultery, makes seven penitential Psalmes, Psalmes of lamentation or repentance; and he calls one of them, A Psalm to call to remembrance. And as an Author well notes, when David came to renew his comforts, he makes a Psalm to call to remembrance those sins that might provoke God to take away his comforts from him: So Beloved, let it be your work to make such Psalmes in your Closets, and make it your practice to call to remembrance those evils that provoke God to eclipse your comforts to you, and let that humble you. If you cannot 〈1 page duplicate〉 〈1 page duplicate〉 〈1 page duplicate〉 〈1 page duplicate〉 finde out the Particular sin, labour to humble your soules for every sin, and then to be sure you cannot misse that.
Thirdly, Would you restore your wonted comforts? then set upon praying work. This course you sinde David took; Psal. 51.8. Make me, O Lord, to hear the voice of joy and gladnesse, that the bones which thou hast broken might rejoyce. Create in me a new heart, and establish me with thy free Spirit, verse 12. Here you read of Davids praying work, how he poured forth his soul in prayer, that God would restore to him the joyes of his salvation. And here in your praying work I would onely cast in three directions.
First, pray for a distinct sight of those evils that provoked God to take your comforts from you.
Secondly, After you have got a sight, bend the strength of your prayers most against those evils that did so provoke God to cloud your comforts. Pray against them, as against the deadliest enemy you have in the world.
Thirdly, Pray for attaining those graces that may be inlets to spiritual comfort, as the graces before named: the grace of godly sorrow, the grace of humiliation, the grace of faith, and of love to Jesus Christ. Thus if you set upon searching, upon humbling, and upon praying work, you are in a likely way to have your comforts restored.
Fourthly, Set upon the work of Meditation; and in this work, I shall commend four meditations you are to take into your thoughts, which may be very helpful and useful to you in restoring your comforts. As,
First, Let your meditations run upon this, that sometimes you are not so competent Judges of your own spiritual estate, as others may be; As,
First In a time of desertion, when God hath left you and frownes upon you.
Secondly, In times of temptation, when the devils temptations are violent against you.
Thirdly, In times of Relapse, when you are fallen into some great sin; at this time you are not so competent Judges of your own estate, but standers by may see more of your own good, and your own sincerity, then your selves may do; as the Proverb is: Many tim•s Lookers on see more then he that playes the game; it is true in this. A Looker on may see sincerity sparkle in thy practice, and thy graces shine in thy conversatio•, when thou canst not do it thy selfe. A childe when it blubbers and cries, can see nothing of his book: So when Christians are sad, and sullen, and lumpish, they can hardly read any thing of their evidence. Mr. Throgmorten got his assurance this way, by the Testimony of a company of godly M•nisters that they could lay their soules in his souls stead. Let this therefore run in your Meditations, that many times standers by and Christians that behold your walkings, and see your Actions, they may see more ground of comfort in you then your selves can do.
Secondly, Meditate and think upon the comforts God gave you in wonted time, and call them to minde. Do as David did, Psal. 77. I called to minde the dayes of old, and the years of many generations. Call to minde ancient dayes, did not God shew thee his face? did not God bear thee in the palmes of his hands? did not God give thee many a smile of his countenance, and many a pledge of his love, even by affliction it selfe? did not God set many a seal upon thy heart, that thy comforts were true, thy evidence clear, and thy ends sincere towards God? Beloved, call to minde the former frame of thy spirit, how thou waft in wonted times, and this Meditation being backed by Gods Spirit, may be a great meanes to restore thy comforts to thee; past goodnesse should be present encouragement.
Thirdly, Meditate what way it was that you got your former comforts and assurance;* and the same way God will sanctifie to restore you your comforts again. What Physicians say of the body, We are nourished of those things, of which we are begotten and generated. So I say of comforts: The very same thing that begot comforts, the same will restore your comforts again. Now think upon this in your practice, and consider, What way did I gain my comforts in yeares past? did I gain my comforts by godly sorrow, and by lamenting after God, and by mourning over those abominable failings in my practice? now take the same course to restore thy evidences. Goe and mourn in thy closet over thy uneven walking before God. Goe lament for thy sins, mourn after thy Father, and tell him thou art grieved at the heart that he is so great a stranger to thy soul. Didst thou gain thy assurance in dayes past by humbling thy soul often before God? Set upon humbling work again. Didst thou gain thy comforts in dayes past by walking closely with thy God? Amend thy paths, and direct thy waies unto thy Maker for daies to come there is the very same way to restore your comforts, that was at first to gain your comforts.
Fourthly, Let your Meditations work upon those comforting Promises in the Gospel, that hold forth most comfort to a dejected soule. And truly I am perswaded, Christians Meditations running more upon their own failings, and their own jealousies, and upon their own mistakes, then upon Gospel-promises, hath been the great occasion they have layn so long under a spirit of bondage, and under a dark eclipse in the want of the comforts of Gods Spirit. Therefore now let your Meditations work upon those Promises that hold forth most comfort to a dejected and deserted soule. And here I shall name five or six most comforatble Promises in the Word; As Isa. 57.15 The Lord that dwels in the high and holy places, he doth revive the spirit of the humble, and of the contrite one. So Isa. 66.2. The Lord dwels in the Heavens, and yet with him also that is of an humble and contrite spirit, that trembles at his Word; with him will God dwell. So Psal. 34.18. The Lord is nigh to them that are •f a broken heart, even them that are contrite in spirit. So Luke 4.18. Jesus Christ was anointed, that is, appointed by God the Father, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to binde up the broken in heart, and to comfort them that mourn. So Isa. 66.10. The Lord will restore comfort to thee, and to thy Mourners. And Heb. 12.12. The Lord will stre•gthen the weak hands and feeble knees. And with that remarkable and most glorious Gospel-promise I shal end, Isa. 353, 4, 5, 6. Strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. This, saith God, to weaken Christians, whose legs can hardly carry their bodies, and their hands hardly reach to their mouths. Say unto the weak Christian in grace, comfort, and confirm and strengthen them: And say unto them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong; Poor fearfull doubting soules, that feare every temptation, and feare every corruption, and feare they shall lose the recompence of their reward: Say unto that fearful heart, Be strong and fear not. For your God will come with vengeance, even God will come with recompence and save you. And then the eyes of the blinde shall be open, and the eares of the deaf shall be unstopped; it is not meant of the bodily eye, but those that were blinde, and could not see the myste•ies of Christ, and could not read their own comforts; then their eyes shall be open. And the deaf that, as Isaiah saith, refused to be comforted, that would not hearken to comfort, but would stop their eares against all comfortable doctrines, and onely give way to sorrow, their eares shall be unstopped. And the lame men shall leap like a Hart; the poor halting Christian, that halts in his comforts, that is now believing, anon staggering; now rejoycing, anon despairing; the poor lame man shall leap like a Hart: And the tongue of the dumb shall sing: the poor man that could not speak one word of his own graces, and of his own comforts, and touching his own evidence, The tongue of the dumb shal sing. O Beloved, here is your work, in case you would be Christians to restore your comforts again; set upon the work of Meditation, to think upon these precious Promises of the Gospel, that hold forth most comfort to a drooping and dejected sinner.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, Give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon is this, That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are effectually called by Jesus Christ to grace and glory. In the prosecution of which I have gone over many particulars.
*There remains now onely one Use more to dispatch about this subject, and then I passe to the third point drawn from these words. And the Use shall be of Consolation; from all that hath been said touching the assurance of our effectual calling, I shall only direct my discourse to lay down six or seven Consolatory Conclusions to those Christians who are effectually called, yet happily have not a sensible assurance of their own calling.
First, take this for a truth, that Assurance is necessary, not for the being▪ but for the wel-being of a Christian. It is not necessary to his estate, but to his comfort. It is not necessary as food is to the life, but only as Physick is to the body. A man cannot live without food; a man may live without Physick. Assurance is but as a comfortable cordial to the soul; Grace is as food to keep the soul alive; though you doe want assurance, this Cordial to bear you up.
Secondly, that many of Gods dear children, they may lie a very long time in the want of this assurance, touching their effectual calling. Psal. 88. It is said of Heman, 14, 15, 16. verses Lord, why hast thou cas••ff my soule? and why hast thou hid thy face from me? Mark his complaint: I am ready to die. And was this only a fit of desertion, or was it a continued act? yes; Vers. 16. From my youth up I suffer thy terrours, I am distracted, and thy fierce wrath goes over me. Heman lay under the state of desertion from his childhood; for here he tels you his estate, that he was not troubled for a day, or two, or three, and then his troubles were over; but from his youth up he lay under this perplexity, that he thought God had cast off his soule, and the terrours of God lay upon him: And yet this man none questions his goodnesse. For he was the man, as Ainsworth thinks, that made this Psalm; and sure God would never honour a wicked man to be a Pen-man of the Scripture. The Psalm is called a golden Psalm; and it is so called, because hereby he would teach afflicted consciences, that they may from their youth up lie under great horrour, and lie under sad suspence▪ concerning their everlasting estate, and yet they may have grace at the root for all this. And Heman doth not only expresse it, as if he had an ordinary trouble of minde; but he expresseth it, that he lay under an extraordinary weight of Gods wrath, Vers. 7. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit of darkness, and in the deep, and thy wrath it lies heavy upon me. He did even lie, and sink, in his own thoughts under the sense af Gods wrath upon him. This therefor is another comfortable conclusion, That godly men may not onely by fits and starts, but for a long time, for many years together lie under a state of spiritual desertion. For some men think of Heman, that he was above threescore yeares of age, when he wrote this Psalm; yet from his youth up till that age, he lay under this horror and perplexity.
Thirdly, That many of Gods dear children may be so long plunged under desertion, and under the want of Assurance, that they may refuse and withstand comforts, when God offers it to them in the Gospel, and yet may have grace still. As a man in a feaver, or distracted by some violent disease, though you bring him a Cordial that may abate his disease, the man in a fit will through the glasse against the wall, though it be the only meanes of his remedy. It is so with godly men; many times they are so accustomed to sadnesse in the want of assurance, that they may refuse comforts when God offers them. Psal. 77.2. It is the speech of Asaph, my soule refuseth to be comforted; a strange speech: Though he was offered comfort, yet his soule refused it. Here then, Beloved, this may be a very great prop to thee, that thou mayst so long be accustomed to a course of doubting, that thou mayst refuse comfort when God tenders it, and yet be a gracious heart still.
Fourthly, and this is more comfortable yet. That rather then God will let his people live and die without assurance, he will work assurance in you by a miracle, or by some unusual or extraordinary way. A famous instance you have for this, of a Gentlewoman that once lived in this City, (its Mr. Bolton that relates the story) one Mris Honywood; who was a famous professor of Religion, and a woman that for many yeares was much troubled in mind for the want of her assurance. At length there came a Minister to her, who endeavoured to settle her hopes and comforts in Jesus Christ; and he urging promises to her, she took it with a kind of indignation and anger, that he should offer to present any promise to her, to whom she thought it did not belong; and having • Venice glass in her hand, she holds up the glasse and said, Speak no more to me of salvation, for I shall as surely be damned as this poor Venice glass shall be broken against the wall, throwing it with all her force to break it. But it pleased God, by a miraculous providence to preserve the glasse whole. The Minister seeing this, took up the glass, and said, Behold, God must by a miracle work faith in you, before you will believe. And from that day, the story saith, she was a woman very strong in the assurance of Gods love. Here you see how God did indulge the infirmity of his poor servant. Rather then thou shalt live and die without assurance, God will bring it about even by a Miracle, this woman, it may be, had died unassured, if God had not confirmed her by some unusual way. I have read likewise in the Book of Martyrs, of Mr. Glove•, that all the while he was in prison, he was under a state of desertion, and very much clouded in his comforts, and could not have any apprehe•sion of Gods love to his soule. Yet when he came to Smithfield, and saw the stake, and the fire in which he was to be burnt, he cried out, I have found him, I have found him; and profest of himselfe, he was as full of joy as his heart could hold. The Lord made the very sight of the stake to be an inlet to present joy. One would have thought that the sight of the stake should have daunted him; whereas he then grew most confident.
Fifthly, That though grace in thy heart be unchangeable, yet the sense and feeling of thy own graces is subject to great variation and change. Grace in it selfe is unchangeable. All the Devils in hell cannot pluck the meanest believer out of Christs hand. Those whom thou hast given me, I will keep, saith Christ, and none shall take them from me. The foundation of God stands sure; though thy knowledge that thou buildest upon that foundation may not be sure to thee. The Lord knows who are his, though thou mayst not. Grace it selfe is not changeable, though thy feeling of grace is subject to many alterations and changes. Though grace it selfe be an unshaken foundation, yet our feeling of grace is not so. In our feeling of grace, we are like the aire, sometimes clear, sometimes cloudy; we are like the Sea, sometimes ebbing, sometimes flowing; ebbing in your comforts, as well as flowing in your graces. Believers in their feeling of grace, are like the trees of the field, sometimes flourishing green and growing; another time at the fall of the leafe, like a withered stump. So are Christians touching their own feeling; their apprehension of their graces is subject to much change, though their graces be not so.
Sixthly, That the want of Assurance is not simply prejudicial to the salvation of a Christian, though it be prejudicial to the consolation of a Christian. It is no way prejudicial to your salvation, but you may be saved, though you are not assured. For first, this want of assurance is no prejudice to your free accesse to the Throne of grace: you may come freely to present your requests to God, though you are not assured of acceptance. As it is the saying of an Authour: Though God shewes thee not his face, yet he may lend thee his eare, when thou commest to him in prayer; God lends many a Christian an ear in prayer, though they see not his face, nor the glimpse of his favour. Secondly, Thy want of Assurance shall not hinder thy success in prayer, but thou maist go away with an ample returne, though thou doest not go away with fulness of comfort. Benjamin when he was with Joseph in Aegypt, he had a token of love from Joseph, a golden Cup in his sack, though he knew it not. This is a lively Embleme of the carriage of our Joseph, Jesus Christ, to his young Benjamins, who may put a love token in your hearts, and may give you a golden cup, and give you grace, and you not know that grace is there. And lastly, It doth not hinder your reconciliation, but you may be at peace with God, though you know not that the agreement is made up; there may be reall friendship between God and a Believer, though there may be some seeming enmitie. Thou holdest me for thine enemy, satth Job, yet God did not, though he thought so. Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me, Isa. 49.14. But God had not done so, for he tels them a little before, almost in one breath, Though a Mother may forget her sucking childe, yet will I not forget you: So that there may be some seeming jars when there is no enmity at all between God and you.
Seventhly, That Christians, who have attained the strongest and highest degree of faith, have yet had many defects and doubtings mingled with their faith. Lord, I believe, Mark 9. Yet help my unbeliefe, yet that man attained to a high pitch of faith, 1 Thes. 3.10. Night and day we pray exceedingly for you, that we may see your face, and perfect that which is wanting in your faith. Now you must not take these Thessalonians, as if they were new Converts, o• a people weak in the f•ith; but herein lies the Emphasis, that though these Thessalonians were the most eminent Christians of all the world, yet they had a great defect in their faith. Therefore compare this with 1 Thes. 1.7, 8. You were examples to all that believe in Macedonia, and Achaia, for from you sounded out the word of the Lord not onely in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to Godward is spread abroad. The people in every place spake of the great measure of faith that was in the godly people of this Church, and yet though their faith was so eminent, and they Christians so eminent as they were, yet they had some defects, and they had somewhat lacking in their faith for all this. See also Psal. 55.5. and Psal. 77. So that here is very great comfort for Believers, that the strongest Christians in the Faith have had great defects that have attended their graces.
Thus having finished these seven comfortable Conclusions, because I would have no deluded sinner nuzzled up in presumptuous perswasions of his own blessednesse, when he is a cursed man, and designed for hell; I have two or three sad conclusions to lay down, for all you that harbour groundlesse and presumptuous perswasions of your effectual calling, when you are not. As,
First, You that nourish presumptuous perswasions of your effectual calling, when you are not, take this conclusion to dread your hearts, That it is likely you shall never be effectually called by Jesus Christ. There is no man so unlikely to be truly called by Christ, as that man that thinks he is called, when he is not. Matth. 9. I came not to call the Righteous, but sinners to repentance. Righteous men i.e. that thought they were righteous, and in their own eye thought they had grace, and were as good as the best, I came not, saith Christ, to call them, but sinners, i.e. sinners that see their sin, and see their need of a Saviour, and are sensible of their lost and undone condition without Christ, Christ came to save them, and to call them to repentance: Of all men in the world, you are most unlikely to be called that nourish ungrounded perswasions of your effectual calling.
Secondly, whilst you live in this world, you are meere strangers to that inward and spiritual joy which every true Believer feeles and findeth by Jesus Christ. You do not intermeddle with those inward solaces, and sweet enjoyments of heart, which every sincere Believer hath in Jesus Christ. A man that hath assurance upon good ground, he is so filled with joy, that it will bear him up against all the sufferings and sorrowes he may meet with here in the world. He that hath assurance, no suffering can daunt him. As Adolphus Clarebachius, when he was burning at the stake, he was so filled with the assurance of Gods love▪ that he saith of himself, I think in my heart, there is not a merrier heart in the world, then mine is. And so another Martyr burning at the stake saith, I taste as much sweetness, and finde as much ease now I am in the flames, as if I lay upon a bed of Roses. The fulness of his joy in the assurance of Gods love, made him willingly undergoe any torment. Mr. Sanders was in prison, till he was in prison; Bainam said when he was in the fire, I feel no more then if I were in a bed of down. Whereas, thou that harbourest false perswasions, thy hopes will shrink when thou commest to suffer, like cloth not well woven, on a rainy day; thy delusions will never bear up thy spirit to so high a pitch as these are, This is thy misery, thou wilt never have that sweet peace and rejoycing in thy heart Believers have, who are assured upon Scripture grounds.
Thirdly, take this for thy dread, that thou wilt be thrown into hell before thou art aware. It is the speech of Mr. Bolton. That man that takes up a false perswasion of his effectual calling, when he is not, he is like unto a man that is in a pleasant dream, who dreames he is a King, and hath a Kingdome, and hath Treasures full of Silver and Gold; yet when he awakes, behold the man hath nothing. He compares him likewise to a man that is asleep upon the Mast of a Ship; he is in a golden dream, and dreams of Kingdoms, and of thousands which he hath, and happily in a moment the wind ariseth, the ship is tossed upon the waves, and the man is tumbled into the Ocean and drowned. It is so with many men, who nourish golden dreames and hopes that heaven is theirs, and Christ theirs; when as (alas) they are tumbled and thrown into hell, before they are aware. And this should be a dreadful meditation to thy heart, that harbourest presumptuous perswasions of thy effectual calling, when thou art not.
Thus I have done in eleven Sermons with this Doctrine, touching effectual calling. I pass now to the third and last point, drawn from these word: and that is,
That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are eternally elected by God to life and salvation. Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.
There are many profitable points to be handled in the dispatch of this Doctrine, I shall only in this remnant of time prosecute a few. And first I shall shew you what rlection is:
Secondly, whether a man may be sure of his own Election, seeing election is an act from eternity. How can a man be sure of that which was done in Gods councel before we had a being? Thirdly, by what discoveries may a man infallibly judge that he is elected.
In the discussion of this Doctrine, I begin with the first, What election is?
Which that you may know, I shall lay down this brief description of it.
Election is an eternal decree or purpose of God, whereby he hath freely chosen out of the mass of mankinde, a small eompany of men and women, that shall come to everlasting life and salvation by Jesus Christ. This is election.
And here in this description there are these things to be taken notice of. First, I call it an eternal purpose; because, though a man be not justified from eternity; yet he is elected from eternity. God from eternity had a purpose that man should be justified, and should be called, and should be saved. Election is from eternity, though vocation, justification, and glorification be not so. Hence you read in Scripture, when it speaks of Election, Eph. 1.4. He hath elected us in Christ, before the foundation of the world. But it is never said so of Justification. God had a purpose to make us happy, and a purpose to call us in time, and a purpose to justifie us from •ternity, though the acting of this purpose is in due time fulfilled. Secondly, I call it a purpose, whereby he doth freely chuse. And this I doe in opposition to that Papistical Tenet, that God doth predestinate or elect men to salvation upon the foresight of good works. A most abominable opinion, and takes off the freenesse of this act of Gods election, 2 Tim. 1.9. Not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace: so I say thirdly, Whereby God doth freely chuse out of the masse of mankinde a few to obtain life and salvation. In opposition to those that hold for universal redemption, and universal Grace; As Origen, and from him many more have been tainted with this error, to hold Election universal. And so many of the Papists: Now the Scripture tells us, that many are called, but few are chosen. Election signifies a choice; now a choice, the very word emports a rejecting of some, and a culling out of others. The word Election imports, that all shall not be saved. Origen held this, that all men should be saved; that Election shall extend to every man. Yea, the very Devils at the day of judgment shall be saved: which is an opinion among Christians not to be named; for Election belongs but to a few. Fourthly, I say, that tis to bring them to eternal life and salvation; therefore called ordination to eternal life, Act. 13.48.
*Secondly, Whether may a Christian in this life be assured of his eternal Election; forasmuch as Election was done in the decree of God, before ever he had a being, or the world was? Therefore seeing we are not privy to Gods decree and councel, how can it be said, that we may know and be assured of our Eternal Election? Indeed the Papists they beat down this Doctrine. And hence it is that in the Councell of Trent there was this Canon made, that if any man should say he was bound to believe that he was of the number of them that God hath predestinated, or elected to life, let him be an accursed man. They did endeavour to beat down assurance, and held, that all that a man could have, must be onely a conjectural assurance, or some kinde of hopes of salvaiton, and no other. Now that you might not erre in this point, see what the Scripture speaks in this case. That though Election be an act of God from eternity, yet a believer may firmly and fully know his own election: And this I shall make good by several places of Scripture. Read Luke 10.20. Rejoyce not, saith Christ to his disciples, that you have power to cast out Devils, that they are subject to you, but rather rejoyce in this, that your names are written in the book of life. That is, rejoice not that you can work miracles; that wicked men can doe that are not elected; but rather rejoyce that your names are written in the book of life; that is, that in Gods decree you are elected to salvation. Now, how could they rejoyce, unlesse they knew this? So, 1 Thess. 1.4. Knowing brethren, beloved, your election of God. The Apostle takes it for granted, that believers did know they were elected. So Ephes. 1.3, 4, 5. The Lord hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world was, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ. Many more Scriptures I might urge, but in the mouth of two or three witnesses, it is enough to confirme every truth:
But now, though the Scripture be thus clear, yet there are some objections that seemingly oppose this truth, which I must satisfie. The Papists, as far as I have read in their writings, I finde five objections they draw from Scripture against this truth, that a man may be assured of his Election: for, say they, it was an act of Gods, done before we had a being, and how can we be assured of that? I will therefore, beloved, first produce those Scriptures that they pretend wil overthrow this point, and then take off what seemes to make against it. The first Text they urge, is 1 Pet. 1.17. Passe the time of your sojourning here in fear. This Scripture (say they) bids us passe our time in fear; and if so, then we cannot be assured of our Election, but we must fear all the daies of our life, whether we are elected or no.
To this I shall answer briefly. You must know the fear that the holy Ghost here presseth, that men should passe their time in fear, is not meant of a fear about our election; but it is meant of a feare of sin; that we must not sinne against God, but feare God, and feare to provoke God by our sinne. And if you ask how this appeares, I make it appear plainly thus; for vers. 18. it is said, Knowing beloved, that you are not redeemed with corruptible things, as Silver and Gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, &c. Now this verse proves clearly, that they knew they were redeemed by Christs blood, and so by consequence knew their Election. Therefore the Apostle did not presse a fear, to beat down the knowledge of their election; b•t, passe your time in fear, i.e. fear to offend God, and fear to sin against him.
Another objection they urge •s this: The Scripture, say they doth often commend feare to us; and surely fear and assurance cannot stand together. Prov. 28.14. Blessed is the man that feareth alwaies. Now, if a man must alwaies fear, then the m•st a man can have is hope; and so hang between hope and fear all our daies. To which I answer.
That the fearing alwaies, iwhich Solomon annexed blessednesse unto▪ is not meant of the fear about a mans election, but only a fear to sin against God. And if you ask me how that appeares, read the whole verse, Blessed is the man that feareth alwayes, but he thaet hardens his heart shall run into mischiefe. Now mark, by the Antithesis it is apparent, that fear there, is not a fear of our everlasting estate, but onely a feare in opposition to hardnesse of heart in wicked men, that go on in a course of sin.
Another place they urge is 1 Cor. 10.12. Wherefore let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. Now, say they, the Scripture tells us, that every man, though never so firm, as he thinks, about his election; yet he must take heed, he may fall from grace, and be damned for all this. Now by way of answer to this, I would lay down two things.
First, The Apostle doth not speak of men that have a grounded assurance of their election; but to men that lie in carnal security, and have deluded perswasions of their good estate, and this appeares by the Text; for he saith, let him that thinks he stands. He doth not say, let him that stands; for he cannot fall, but he that thinks he stands. Those men that nourish presumptuous and ungrounded perswasions, that they are in a good estate, and in a happy condition, let them take heed; lest they fall.
Secondly, the falling here is not meant a falling away from grace, or a falling away finally after election, for that is impossible; but it is onely meant of a falling into sin: and so the meaning is this, Let him that thinks he stands, i. e. that thinks he is strong in grace, and stands upon his own legs, let that man take heed lest he fall into sinne. Now a man may take heed of falling into sinne, yet no way question his assurance. And if you ask how I make it appear that this is the intendment and scope of the place; I answer, by the Context. Read the foregoing verse, Let us not tempt Christ, as they tempted him; let us not us murmur, as some of them murmured, for these thing• hapned to •h•m for ensamples, and are written for our admonition. Therefore let him that thi•keth he stands, take heed lest he fall. As much as if he should say, you have here seen some men fall into sinne, you have heard some men murmur, so•e men tempt Christ; this sho••• make you afraid, lest you fall into sinne, and suffer the punishment they did. But what is this •o the denying of assurance, that m•n cannot be assured of their Election?
Another place th•y urge also, is Phil. 2.12. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Now say they, if a man must work out, and ca•ry on the business of his salvation with fear and trembling, then •urely a man can never be assured in this life of his election. To which I answer.
That fear a•d trembling •here spoken of, is not a fear and trembling in opposition to the assurance of our election; but in opposition to that carnal security, and sinfull dependance upon our own strength; This is apparent in the next words, For it is God that worketh in you the will and the deed: And therefore, because you have no strength of your own, and no power of your own to doe any thing, therefore fear and tremble in that regard.
Secondly, fear and trembling may very well be consistent with this grace of assurance; for we read, Psal. 2.11. Rejoyce in the Lord with trembling. You may fear, and yet rejoyce also. So Psal. 5.7. As for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercies, and in thy fear I will worship towards thine holy Temple. Here is fear, and confidence in the mercies of God joyned together; to shew, that feare and assurance may very well be consistent each with other. But then they object, how can this be? for John saith, perfect love casteth out feare. I answer, that though Iohn saith, perfect love casteth out fear: yet John doth not say, that imperfect love casteth out feare. Now in this life our love is imperfect, and therefore mixt with feare; but in Heaven our love is perfect, and so casts out all feare. So that still this mak•s nothing against us, but that • man may have a grounded assurance of his eternal Election.
Another place they object is Rom. 11.20. Be not high minded, but fear. To this I answer: These words are not spoken of fea•ing our Election, that we should fear whether we are elected or no. But serves to beat down any opinion of our own •ighteousness, as if we were therefore accepted of God; and to ke•p us from insulting over the rejected Jewes; now that we are taken in, in their room.
One Scripture more (which indeed is the main Pillar they rest upon) is, Rom. 11 34. Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his Counsellour? Here, say the Papists, the Scripture challengeth any man in the world to come forth, and say that he knows Gods mind; by Gods mind is meant Gods decree. And here Paul challengeth all, that no man knows the decree of God from eternity. Therefore, if no man knowes the minde of God, then certainly none know their own Election, for that is Gods minde, and Gods decree: this they hold an undeniable Argument.
And here to satisfie you in this Scripture, I shall lay down •hree things.
First, When it is said, No man knows the minde of God; nor no man is his Counsellour: this doth hold true, that no man knows the minde or decree of the Lord, touching other mens Election. The Apostle doth not speak this, as if no man knew Gods minde about his own, but about other mens Election, who are elected, and who are not; for that is the scope of the place. The Gentiles, they thought all the Iewes were damned men; and they censured and vaunted over them. Now, saith Paul, None knows Gods minde concerning others, whether •hey shall be saved or damned, while they are in this world.
Secondly, no man knows the mind of the Lord in this sense, that is, so as to give a reason of Gods decree; why God did decree this, and decree that; why God did chuse Peter, and not elect Iudas; no man knows the reason of Gods decree, and of his wayes.
Thirdly, No man knows the mind of the Lord, that is, no man knows Gods decree, by looking upon it alone; but by bringing down Gods secret will to his revealed will; and so we may know his decree. I may make use of that place, Rom. 10.8. Let no man say, I will ascend up to heaven to fetch Christ thence, but what saith the word? the word is is nigh thee, even in thy mouth. Trust to that. As if he should say, Let no man think to know Gods decrees by going into heaven, and there searching into Gods decrees, for that he cannot doe; but look upon the word, and there he shall finde whom God hath elected, and decreed to save, 1 Cor. 2.16. No man can know by looking barely upon the decree; but if we compare Gods decree with his word, and from the word look upon them that are elected, we may easily know whether we are elected or no. Which puts me upon the third head premised, How a man may be assured in his own soule, that he is elected to life and salvation by God the Father.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, Give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
IN the prosecution of this subject, you may remember the last Doctrine I drew forth was this, That Christians should put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are eternally elected by God the Father. In the handling of which, I have shewn you, 1. What Election is. 2. That the people of God may make sure their owne Election, though done from all eternity.
I come now to shew you how the people of God may be assured in their owne hearts that they are eternally elected. And h•r•, to compasse this knowledge or assurance of our Election, I doe not onely carry it so farre as the Papists doe, that say, you may have a perswasion, which they call Fides conjecturalis, a conjectural faith, or hope you may be sav•d; but will not come up so farre as the words of my Text, to be sure of it. Now should a man use no more then the words of the Text, in that it is pressed as a command, it is an argument it may be made sure to a mans own self. For no man is bound to an impossible thing; and in that it is a thing required, to be assured of our election,* the Scripture would never oblige our obedience to that which is impossible in it selfe. I doe not drive so far onely, but further. What should an elect man doe to be certainly perswaded that he is eternally elected by God to obtain life and salvation. I am now handing a doctrine to be trembled at, while you are attending to it. And in the resolving this quere, you must take this rule; that you cannot get assurance by ascending into Gods decree, but by descending into your own hearts, searching them by the word whether those saving effects, which God doth work in an elect person, be wrought in your soules or no: and that is t•e way to come to a sure and certain knowledge of your elec•ion. The knowledge of your election is not attainable by ascending into Gods decree; for who hath made you his Counsellors. Nor is it enjoyned you by way of Revelation, That is an unsure ground, and you may runne into Enthusiasme, as well as perswasion about your election. It is not done by Revelation, neither against nor without the word. What ever t•stimony there is, if it come not from the word, you may suspect it to be a delusion. Now the safest way, (though I know much cried down) for you to go by in searching wheth•r you are in the number of Gods elect, is to search into your own hearts, whether those things be wrought in you, which are wrought in those whom God hath elected to life and salvation: and here I shal content my self with the naming of six saving effects.
First, every man that is elected, sooner or later, shall be effectually called, and savingly converted by the power of the word. This the Apostle laies down, 1 Thes. 1.4, 5. Knowing brethren, beloved, your election of God. How should this be known? Vers. 5. For our word came not to you in word onely, but in power, and in the holy Gh•st: that is, o•• Gospel did not come in word onel•, to affect you• e•rs, and rest there; but our word came with powe•, being b••k• with the operation of the Spirit, for your conve••ion. This work all men that are elected, sooner or later must come under, to have the power of the word come with auth•rity upon Conscience, for his effectual calling. So Rom. 8.30. Whom he predestinated, whom he appointed to life, t•e• he called. And therefore, Beloved, who ever you are, if you live and die without having the power of the Word to pass upon your soule, for your •ffectual Calling, you may lay your h•ar•s under this Conclusion, that you are no elected by God to ob•ain life and salvation. For, Whom he hath predestinated, them he calls.
Secondly, a man that is elected by God to life, sooner or later God will sanctifie him by renewing and regenerating grace: And this is onely different from the former in degree; for calling is sanctifica•ion begun. Now, when God elects a man, he doth not onely begin the work of grace, but he carries it on in a course of sanctification. And of this your read 2 Thes. 2.12, 13. We are bold to give thanks to God alwaies for you, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and beliefe of the truth. If God hath from the beginning chosen a man to salvation, the Lord doth it through sanctification; not for sanctification, as the Papists say, or for faith foreseen, but it is through it, as a means whereby we are brought to salvation; sanctifica•ion sh•ll runne through our lives, as water through a channel. So, 1 Pet. 1.2. They that are elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by Christ, through sanctification. So 2 Tim. 2.21. And therefore beloved, if men live and die, and have not the power of sanctifying grace upon their hearts and consciences, and working in their lives, doubtless those men are not elected; because this you see clearly, that at one time or other God will work this in such men. Jude 4.
Thirdly, men elected by God to life and salvation shal sooner or later be brought into a state of believing, Acts 13.48. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. No man that is ordained to eternal life, but shall be brought to a believing estate. And therefore men living and dying in a state of unbeliefe, are not elected. Hence you read, Tit. 1.1. it is called, the faith of Gods elect; implying, that all that are elected, before they die shall have faith; and none shall have faith, but onely they; and therefore in a peculiar manner, called the faith of Gods elect, appropriated only to them.
Fourthly, That man that is elected, sooner, or later before he dies, God will work in his heart a special delight in, and an intire love to the word preached. This you have expressed, John 8.47. He that is of God, heareth Gods word; therefore ye are not of God, because ye hear not his words. To be of God, that is, to belong to God by election. Now, he that is of God, God will in time make him hear his word with delight and love; but he that takes no delight therein, is no• elected of God. 1 John 4.5, 6.
Fifthly, The Lord will sooner or later work in the heart of an elect man, love to the people of God, and compassion to those who are not the elect and chosen one of God, Col. 3.12. Put on as the elect of God, bowels of mercy and loving kindness. The Apostle there by the manner of phrase doth seem to intimate thus much, Put on as the elect of God, &c. As if it were a thing ordained to, and inseparable from an elect man, after his effectual calling, that he should have bowels of mercy towards those that are not called, and that he should have loving kindness towards those that are called. For a man that is once elected, and hath the execution of that decree in effectual calling, it is proper to him to have bowels of mercy.
Sixthly, God will sooner or later work an elect man into a new course of living, and of obedience, from what he had in times past. 1 Pet. 1.2. You are elected according to the foreknowledg of God through sanctification to obedience; that though you were disobedient before, serving divers lusts, yet God, if he hath chosen you, will bring you in a course of obedience, Rom. 8.29 He hath predestinated us. What to doe? that we might be conformable to the image of his Son. God intends, that that person whom he chooseth to life, should be conformable to Jesus Christ, and that he shall live another manner of life then before; that though he hath formerly been subject to sinne and satan, yet then he shall walk in waies of obedience to Jesus Christ.
Thus having briefly finisht these heads, I have onely foure or five cautions to lay down, to bound what hath been said within the limits of truth. As,
First, Take notice, that these six defects do not extend to children who die while they are children, but to men and women that are grown in years. A childe that cannot act reason, as he is a childe, cannot have any of these particulars wrough in him, at least in that way and manner men of years have. A childe, as it is an infant, hath not conversion in that way a man hath, though it hath somewhat equivalent to it; as somewhat like sanctification, and somewhat like that faith men of years have; but what that is, and how wrought, man cannot determine. In pressing of this therefore, I say, it doth not extend to children who die in their infancy, but onely to men come to years of discretion, if they live and die without having these six effects, they may conclude, they cannot be elected.
Secondly, that the want of these six particulars for a time, is no Argument of a mans non-election; for before conversion (which is Gods first dealing with a sinner) an elect man may be as vile, and as bad as any wicked man alive. As the Apostle Paul tells us, Titus 3.3. In times past we were also disobedient, and served divers lusts, and lived in pleasure and excess, &c. So 1 Tim. 1.12. So that the want of this for a time, is no argument of a mans non-election, for then it would follow, a man unconverted is no elect man, which would crosse the whole tenour of Scripture: But a man living and dying without these, doth not belong to the election of grace.
Thirdly, I do not presse the having of these effects actually, if you have them habitually. My meaning is this: A man may be elected, and yet may not act any thing answerable to effectual calling, nor act with any delight and love to the word, nor act any thing in a way of sanctification; yet, if you have these habitually, in the habit of them, these may be testimonies or evidences of election.
Fourthly, I do not presse the having of these effects sensibly to be an evidence of election, if so be you have them really. There are many men have these really, when they have them not in their own apprehension.
Fifthly, I do not presse the having of these effects gradually, so you have them sincerely. My meaning is this, that a man may be elected; yea, and he may not onely be chosen in Gods eternal decree, but the execution of that decree may be passed upon him, that he may be effectually called, and yet he may not have all these six effects in a great measure in the highest degree, yet he may have them sincerely, and so be a pledge to his own heart of his eternal election.
And thus having finished this third Quere, I come now to enter upon another, depending upon the former; which indeed is a very dreadful subject, and a point to be trembled at, while it is handling, and that is this: what probable guesse may be given of a man, that he is not within the compasse of Gods election? This is a very high point, and must be handled with a great deal of seariousnesse, and sadnesse; it being a point concerning the salvation or damnation of all the men upon earth. And therefore I would intreat you to look about you. Gods decrees they are in Heaven, and it is onely a reall, work of grace upon your hearts on earth, that can give you evidence that those decrees are for good to you, As good wrought is an evidence of Gods purpose to save you; so the contrary work may be an evidence of Gods purpose never to save you, but of leaving you without the compasse of his eternal election. There can be nothing laid down absolutely and certainly, yet there may be many probable guesses given of the men that are not within the compasse of Gods election: Of which I shal name but six or seven sorts. And I wish to God that none of you that are before the Lord this day, have your names written in this black book▪ lest you have just cause to fear your names are no written in the book of life.
First, That man that falls back from a course of profession to a course of profanenesse, without timely returning; the Scripture gives a shrewd guesse of such a man, that he is not within the compasse of Gods purpose to save. I do not say, every backsliding, and every decaying affection, but a total and final relapse; when a man falls, and riseth not again; w•e• a mans runs from God, and •eturns not again; the Scripture gives a guesse at him, that he is not within the compasse of Gods election. Heb. 10.38, 39. If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. Interpreters observe, that in these words there is a figure, wherein there is lesse expressed, then is intended, My soul shall have no pleasure in him. It is as much as if God should have said, My soule shall hate, or I will exceedingly hate him. But we are not of them that draw back to perdition; but of them that believe, to the saving of their souls: which words clearly import, that men that draw back without returning, they draw back to perdition, to damnation; but we are not of them, saith the Apostle. And here then, beloved, doth this word fall upon any man before God this day? Hast thou left a course of strictnesse, and fallen into a course of prophanesse and loosnesse? Hast thou fallen from thy God, and never thinkest of a returning? I shall not censure thee now, but if thou livest and diest in this estate, it is an undoubted argument, thou art not within the compasse of Gods decree to save.
Secondly, Men that do make the mercies and goodness of God as arguments to embolden them the more in sin, such men are not likely to be the persons whom God hath elected to life and glory. In the Epistle of Jude, v. 4. It is spoken there of men, that turned the grace of God into wantonness. And what saith the Apostle of them, they are men ordained of old to damnation. The Scripture there makes it the badge of a man ordained of old to damnation, when he shall persist in this sinful temper, to turn Gods grace into laciviousnesse; that is, to take arguments from the grace, and mercy, and goodnesse of God, to walk in waies of sin. And therefore look to it, and with your hearts bewaile it, all you that are apt to abuse doctrins of grace; and because God is good you will be evil; because God is merciful, therefore you will be sinful; if you die in this temper, the Scripture declares, that you are the men ordained of old to condemnation.
Thirdly, a man that doth walk in a course of sin, wilfully, with malice, and knowingly against conscience, and obstinately without reluctancy; and persist in this, and live and die thus, that man is not within the compasse of Gods election. There is a phrase, Psal. 59.5. Be not merciful, O Lord, unto wicked transgressors. It is in some translations, be not merciful to them that sin of wicked malice, or of malicious wickedness. Now there is this rule which Divines give; that those prayers which were made by David, they are rather Prophesies of what should be, then meere prayers that this might be. As David prayed against the Jewes, Psal. 69.2•. that their table might be a snare to them, and that they should alway bow down under their prayes which was a prophecie, and they did so. And so he burden: here, that God would not be merciful to men that s•n of wicked malice; which is as much as a prophecie, that God will not be merciful to men that sin of malicious wickednesse. And therefore, beloved, all you that so live, and resolve you will die, and haply do die, and yet sin obstinately; that, let God command what he can, you wil do what you please; let the Minister say what he will, you will do what you lift; that sin against knowledge, and against conscience, and without any reluctancy; resolve to live and die in a course of sin: the Lord be merciful to such persons; for certainly there must be no Bible, if such men fall within the compasse of Gods election.
Fourthly, That man that by living under the powerful Ministry of the Word, is more hard in heart, and worse in life; if a man grows thus, it is an argument, he is not within the purpose of Gods election. Matth. 13.14, 15. By hearing, you shall hear, but not understand; by seeing, you shall see, but not perceive; •his peoples heart is waxed gross, their ears dull in hearing, their eyes shut, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, hear with •heir ears, understand with their hearts, and be converted, and I •hould sa•e them. Here is the judgement God laies upon such •inne•s, that they shall have eyes, and not see, they shall be ig•orant, their hearts shall •axe grosse, they shall be uncapable •f taking any impression of t•e word upon them. And wha•’s •he end of all this? left they should be converted, and I should •ave •hem; implying, that if God lets you that live under the Mi•i••ry, to have dark eyes, and hard hearts, it is an argument God hath no intent to save you, and therefore his purpose is to condemn you. So John 12.40. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, and understand with their hearts, and be converted. Here is laid down as an act of Gods, that God did harden their hearts, and God did blind their eyes, lest they should be converted; Implying, that if men do live and die, in this temper, that they have lived year after year under a powerful Ministry, and yet they grow more blind in judgement, and more profane in life, and more hard in heart, after 20, 30, 40 years hearing, then they were before; that the word doth but draw out their wickedness, and makes them more profane, and more to oppose godliness; the Lord have mercy upon such soules, for certainly if God leave you thus, it is an argument he never intends to save you; for the Lord doth thus with such, that they might not be saved. There is a passage Rom. 11.7. Israel hath not obtained that which he seeks for, but the election hath obtained, and the rest were hardened. By election is meant the elected, (the Abstract put for the Concrete.) As often in Scripture, Circumcision put for Circumcised; and so here; Election put for elected, The elected have obtained it: what did they obtaine? they obtained salvation and glory; but the rest that were not elected, they were hardened. The Lord there makes it the badge of them that are not elected, that they are a blinded people, and a hardned people. Imitating, that men that are not elected, they shall live under the word, yet shall be blind in mind, shall be hard in heart, shall be wicked in life, and the Ministry of the word shall never reform them. And if any of you be such, O that the Lord would make you tremble this day, tremble lest you are not in Gods thoughts, to do you any good another day.
Fifthly, when God doth give up men to strong delusions, not only to believe lies themselves, but to teach lies to seduce others, when the Lord leaves them to live and die in that estate, the Scripture makes it an argument of them that are not chosen by God to life and glory. You shall read therefore in that great delusion of Antichrist, 2 Thes. 2.10, 11, 12. God gave them up to strong delusions, to believe lies, that all might be damned, that believe not the truth? It is made a brand of damnation, when God shall give them over to believe lies. Though a godly man may die in a corrupt opinion, for every errour is not a badge of damnation; but errou•s that are foundamental, that strike at the foundation of Religion, wherein men runne so far, as never to repent of their errour; that, the Scripture makes the badge of a man, whose soul is in a world of danger. Read that Text, 2. Pet. 2.1, 2, 3. There were false Prophets among the people, like as their shall be false teachers among you. And who are they? vers. 2. They shall deny the Lord that bought them, they shall bring in damnable heresies. (Every errour is not an heresie,) but these men shall bring in damnable heresies, and many shall follow their pernicious waies. Now what is their censure? whose judgement now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not. Their damnation was not asleep, but for a long time damnation did attend them, and they were in danger of it. So that, beloved, it is great danger for men to be patrons of errour, especially when they are grosse and palpable; and when in Scripture language they may be called damnable heresies. It is an argument, if men live and die thus, that they are not within the purpose of Gods Counsel to do them good.
Sixthly, Men that live and die in a continual spurning and opposition against the Gospel, and word of God powerfully preached, it is a dreadful sign they are not within the compass of Gods election. 1 John 4.5, 6. You are not of God, for you hear not his word. So John 12. He that heareth the word, is of God, but you hear not his word, therefore you are not of God. Therefore you belong not to him. But more pregnant to this purpose, is that place, Act. 13.46, 47, 48. It was necessary the word of God should first have been spoken to you, but seeing you put it from you, and judge your selves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. Now compare this with vers 48. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed. The opposition lies thus: As many as God purposed to save, they glorified God for his word, and they rejoyced, and were glad in his word: but those that were not decreed to salvation, they put off from them the word of the Lord, they spurned at it, and opposed it, and could not endure the word of the Lord. Therefore the Text saith, The Jewes stirred up the devout and honourable women, and they raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coast. It was said to Amaziah, 2 Chron. 25.16. By this I know, that the Lord hath purposed to destroy thee, because thou hast not harkned to my counsel. Thus you see, the Scripture makes it the badge of a man, that doth not fall within the compasse of Gods election, to bring him to life and glory, to live and die in opposition to the word of God.
Seventhly, and this we may speak more confidently and positively, that that man is not within the compasse of Gods election, who sinnes the sin against the holy Ghost, Matth. 12.32. He shall neither be forgiven in this life, nor in the life to come. This is an unpardonable sin, 1 John 5.16. Now I know there are many men, who confine this sin only to the Pharisees, as if they onely were guilty of it. There are others, that say this sin is seldome committed; and so many Divines speak favourably of it: but, Beloved, I am perswaded, this sin is oftner committed, then most men in the world dream of; and many men are plunged into this sin, that think well of their own souls. The sin against the holy Ghost is only this:
It is a wilful and deliberate act in a professor of Religion, whereby he doth not onely fall from his profession; but he runns into, a course of sin knowingly, against conscience; obstinately, against counsel; and maliciously, against Jesus Christ. This is briefly a descrption of this sin. Now I am perswaded there are many in the world that have professed Religion, that are, if not in this sin, yet at the very next door to it. And if a man be gone thus farre, this is called in Scripture, a sin unto death; a sin, which if a man fall into, he may be sure he shall be damned. And thus I have in breif given you an account of these seven particulars, whereby every man may give a guesse in his own thoughts, whether he be within the purpose of Gods election unto salvation or no.
I have now, from this sad Doctrine, only a few comfortable positions to lay down, and so conclude. As,
- That though these part•culars may give you a guesse of those that are not within the compasse of Gods election, yet no man is bound to make this sure to himselfe, that he is not elected. You are bound to make your election sure, but you are not bound to make your reprobation sure. For these heads I have given out, not to make any godly man question his election, but to startle wicked men, who live quite contrary, and opposite to the elect of God.
- That a man may come very nigh to the worst of these sins, and yet may be an elected man. We were (saith Paul) sometimes disobedient, deceived, and served divers lusts. Titus 3.3. And Eph. 2.2. In times past you walked according to the course of the world, according to the power of the Prince of the aire, who worketh mightily in the children of disobedience. In times past ye were children of wrath, as well as others. In times past before calling, you may come very neer to these evils, yet be within the compass of Gods election, Provided that you do not live and die in those evils. For if so, there is no hope of mercy.
- That for men to question their election, meerly because they do not finde the saving effects of election in their hearts and lives, is rather an argument of their being, then of their not being elected. Because men not elected, they never look after their election, to make it sure, they will trust all upon the mercy of God, and grace of God, and never look after holiness; sin never troubles them, profaneness never grieves them, want of holinesse perplexes not them. The questioning therefore of your election arising from the evils of your conversation, is rather a sign that God hath chosen you to life and glory.
- Election it runnes often times to those, that are the worst sort of men in the world. Election runnes to them that have been worst in their lives, before they were called. And thereby God magnifies the riches of his grace. Election passeth by civil honest men, and ingeniou••emperate m•n, and commonly runns to men, that have been scandalous, loose, Atheistical, profane livers, before they were called. Matth. 21.31. Whores and Harlots shall come to Heaven before you. Manasseh, that was a cruel murderer, and Idolater, yet election ran to him. Mary Magdalen, a common strumpet, out of whom Christ cast seven Devils, yet election ran to her. Rahab, a Harlot; Paul, a persecuter, a blasphemer, a man injurious to the Saints; yet Acts 9.15. He was a chosen vessel unto God, and obtained mercy. God, to magnifie the riches of his free grace, lets election run to the worst of men that are in the world. And this should be great comfort to you; though you have been drunkards, and though you have been Sabbath breakers and adulterers, and though you have been profane, yet if you can but now close with Jesus Christ, and look after heaven, if you can but now mourn over your condition, and repent of your former failings, and come in to Jesus Christ; Election hath run unto men as bad as you, and though you may be now men profane in your lives, yet you may be obj•cts of Gods election.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, Give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THe last Doctrin I drew from these words was this, That Christians should put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their souls, that they are eternally elected by God to life and glory. In the prosecution of which, I have gone over some queries. There are four difficulties or queries I am further to insist upon in treating of this point. As namely,
First, whether this election be universal, or no?
Secondly, whether a man that is once elected by God to salvation, may come to be damned, yea, or no?
Thirdly, whether God, in electing a man to life and glory, doth it out of any foresight of faith, or any other grace he sees in man?
And fourthly, whether this doctrine of election, that God in his own counsel hath determined who shall be damned, and who saved, doth not take men off from any endeavours after their own salvation, to make them desperate, and neglect the use of means; that they shall say, if I shall be damned, I shall be damned; and if saved, I shall be saved, let me live as I lift? whether this doctrine will favour this desperate conclusion, yea, or no?
First, whether election be universal, or no? This is that the Arminians and Papists do mightily, drive at. And here they lay down this conclusion, which they make unquestionable: That there is such a thing as a certain universal election of God, without limitation or restraint of persons, whereby God did determine to save all mankind by Christ, who were fallen in Adam. This opinion was first drawn from Origen, who held that all creatures should be saved; and the Papists and Arminians mincing the matter, to make it a little more plausible, then he did, they say, that God in his purpose did intend to save all mankind by Jesus Christ; but man falling away, and walking contrary to their principles, the defect lies in them, that they are not saved: and this Divines call universal redemption.
Now against this, I shall lay down several Scriptures and then take off the objections that seems to strengthen this opinion.
First, for Scripture. In the Epistle of Jude, vers 3. you read of some that were ordained of old to condemnation. Therefore sure all could not be saved. 1 Thes. 5.9. Some men are appointed to wrath, but we to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ. Therefore all men could not be within the purpose of Gods first intention to save. Matth. 22.14. Many are called, but few are chosen. So Rom. 11.7. The Jewes did not obtain what they sought for, but the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened. 2. Tim. 2.20. There are vessels of honour, and vessels of dishonour. The Scripture makes it a discriminating act in God, that some he chose to life; and others from eternity in his counsel he chose to wrath and condemnation. And these Scriptures will fully overthrow this opinion. And indeed the very word chusing confutes it, which intimates a taking off some, with an overlooking of others.
But now let us view a little the Arguments of Script••es they abuse, to strengthen this unsound opinion of theirs▪ ur
One is, 1 Cor. 15.22. As in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Now, say they, Every man did die in Adam; every mothers childe by Adams fall became subject to death: even so, in Christ shal every man be made alive; the Lord did intend that every man should have benefit by Jesus Christ.
Now to take off this; I shall answer it in shewing you the true intent and scope of this Scripture. This universal phrase of making alive, hath not reference to the saving of the soul, but to the resurrection of the body: And so the sence is this▪ That as in Adam, by vertue of his sin, every man came to die a natural death; So in Christ shall all be made alive; that is, so by Christs power shall every man rise from the dead. And if you aske how I make that appear to be the intendment of the Text. I answer, the words themselves will make it plain. Vers. 11. It is said, By man came death, by man also came the resurrection from the dead: that is, as by that man Adam came death, so by that man Christ shall come the resurrection from the dead: for as in Adam all died, &c. so that here you see, this is brought in as a proof of the 21. verse: Intimating, that this being made alive, hath no reference to the life of the soul, but onely to the Resurrection of the body; that as Adam by his sin brought death to all men, so Christ by his power shall raise all men from the dead; every man in his own order. However, should this be granted, that this making alive should have reference to the life of the soul; it would bear no more but this, that all that are damned, are damned as in Adams loines; and all that are saved, shall be saved as in the loins of Jesus Christ. And so make nothing at all to prove this which they call universal election.
Another Scripture (undeniable they think) is, Rom. 11.32. where it said, God hath concluded all men under unbeliefe, that he might have mercy upon all. Now say they, If God did do an act to make men see their unbeliefe, and did intend by this action to have mercy upon all, then God in his counsel intended to save all.
Now to this, that he might have mercy upon all; I answer: This phrase (all) is not to be taken in an unlimited sence, that God shut up all men in unbeliefe; that is, God made all believers see their own misery; that he might have mercy on all them that believe. And if you ask how I prove this to be the meaning of the Text, I answer: The Scripture makes it clear, Gal. 3.22. The Scripture hath concluded all men under sin. (The very words forequoted.) But what’s the limitation? Shall all men be saved? No, For mark the next words. The Scripture hath concluded all men under sin, that the faith of Jesus Christ should be given to them that believe. Now, though Paul doth not say thus to the Romans, yet the words being the same, the Restriction holds good in both places. So that it is clear, That he might save all, or have mercy upon all. It is not meant all universally; but all, with limitation of Paul here; all them that believe. Again,
Another objection, or Scripture, they abuse is, 1 Tim. 2.4. Who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. This Text Origen doth grosly abuse; holding hence, that it is the intendment and will of God, that all men should be saved. Now, to take off this objection; We must first distinguish here of Gods will, and then of this phrase, All. Who will have all men to be saved.
First, of Gods will; and the Schoolmen give this distinction about it. That there is a will of Gods good pleasure; and there is God signifying will.
Now the will of Gods good pleasure is, that real purpose in God to save a man. And there is no man that in this sence God wills to be saved, but he must be saved; but in this sence God wills not all men to be saved.
But secondly, there is Gods significative will, that is, wherby in Scriptures God tenders salvation to every man that will lay hold upon Jesus Christ: and so God• signifying will excludes no man from salvation; but the Ministers, if they preach to ten thousand people, they must tender Christ universally to all, because they know not which of them are elect, and which reprobate; which of them shall be saved, and which damned. This is Gods signifying will, and though God by this will tell you what Ministers must do, to tender Christ and salvation to all; yet this doth no way follow, that the determinate will of Gods good pleasure is involved under this, as if all men should be saved. Perkins in his writings hath this distinction of it. That there is Gods absolute will, and so he wills not all men to be saved: and Gods conditionate will, that in case every man did believe, they should be saved; for God envies no mans salvation; there is grace enough in God, to save every man in the world.
But secondly, there may be more distinct answer given to this place. God will have all men to be saved. All, is taken sometimes in a destributive sence, and sometimes in a collective sence. In a destributive sence, for every man under heaven; and so God wills not all men to be saved. But secondly, in a collective sence; for all sorts and degrees of men, and so God intends to save all; that is, some of all sorts, and of all degrees of men in the world. And this appears if you mark the context. He will have all men to be saved, that is, some of all sorts. Some Kings, some great men, some rich, and some poor, some Princes, and some beggars. And therefore the Apostle bids them pray for all men. Pray, saith he, for Kings and for them in authority: for God will have all men to be saved. As much as if he should say, Pray for Kings, because God of his grace may save Kings, as well as poorer men, that have lesse incumbrances, and lesse imployments in the world, and lesse withdrawings in their own soul, then they have. God will save all: salvation shall come to all sorts of men, and therefore you may lawfully pray for them. And so Calvin judiciously expounds this place; that God will have all sorts •f men to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ: but it is not to be extended universally, as if every individual man and woman should be saved. 3. These words are to be taken with those that follow after, God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowleg of the truth. Now that God will be willing to save those that come to the knowledge of the truth, is unquestionable all that repent, Acts 17.30. all opposition to the time of the old Testament, Rom. 16.25.
*Now, is this true, that election is not universal; but that some men are elected, and others reprobated? Then, to wrap up this quere in a short use; this should teach you all, who are in the Land of the living, not to deceive your selves; lull not your selves asleep in security, for it may be, you may be in Gods counsel to save, it may be not. Peradventure you may be in Gods thoughts for salvation, peradventure you may be in his counsel for damnation; and this should put you upon the work my text calls upon you for, to endeavour to make your calling and election sure.
- A second Queee is this, Whether may one that is an elect man, fall away from his election, and come to be a damned man, or no? This the Protestant Divines against the Arminians and Papists have had large controversies about, but I will not handle it in a controversal way; onely, as it best becomes a Pulpit shew you those positive Scriptures and reasons that may clear the truth, and then answer the strongest objections they produce to the contrary.
Whether may a man that is elected fall away, and afterward perish?* To this I answer. No. A man that is once elected by God can never perish. And this I shall give Scripture, and reason to plead for it. Matth. 24.24. Christ tels us of errour, that it came in so easily, that if it were possible, it would deceive the elect. Intimating, that it is impossible so to seduce the elect, as to make them finally fall away. So, John 6.37. All that the Father hath given me, shall come unto me: that is, all that God the Father hath decreed to save by Christ, shall come unto Christ. Vers. 39. This is the Fathers will, that ha•h sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose none. This is the Fathers will, and Commission to Christ, th•t of all those that by his decree he had given to Christ to •ave by r•demption, he should lose none. And saith Christ, I •ave lost nothing. So John 10 28, 29. I g•ve unto my sheep •ternal •ife, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man take •hem out of my hand•; my Father that gave them me, is greater then all, and no man shall pluk them out of my Fathers hands. By his Fathers hands, he me•ns his decree; God by his decree intended to save so many, and Christ to vindicate his Father, tels us, that so many as God The Father had decreed to salvation, neither man nor Devil should prevail to pluck them out of his Fathers hand. So Rom. 11.1. God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew. That is, whom God did predestinate, he casts none of them away, none of them shall perish. Many many more Scriptures I might multiply, to shew, that a man once elected, can never perish; as 2 Tim. 2.19. 1 Cor. 18.9.2 Thes. 3.3. But I would name reasons as well as Scriptures. And
First, if election were changeable, then God must be changeable; which to think, there is nothing more absurd. If Gods decree be changeable, Gods essence and nature were so also; election being nothing else, but God himself cusing: for every thing in God, is God. And this the Scripture tels us, is farre from him; for there is no variableness or shadow of change in God. Jam. 1.17. Isa 46.10. Mal. 3.6.
Secondly, if the elect could perish, then Jesus Christ should be very unfaithful to his father, because God the father hath given this charge to Christ, that whomsoever he elected, Christ should preserve them safe, to bring them to heaven. Now should not this be accomplished, Christ would be unfaithful to his father. John 6.39. This is the fathers will, which hath sent me into the world, that of all that he hath given me, I should l•se nothing, but that I should raise them up at the last day. This is the will of God, to save many by Christ. Now, should not this be made good, Christ must needs be unfaithful to the Commission of his father.
Thirdly, should this be true, then Pauls golden chain should be broken. P•••. 8.30. Whom he did predestinate, them he calls; whom he calls, t••••e justifies; whom he justifies, them he glorifies. Now, should this chain break, that whom he elects, them he calls, whom he call•, them he justifies, and there cease (as the Pap•sts hold) and m•n be after da•ned, then the great and main links would be lost, that whom he justifies, them glorifies, and so bring an obsu•dity upon •he Scripture thereby.
Now to answer some tex•s of Scripture they abuse, (which at first view you would think very plausible) to maintain, that a man may be an elect man, and brought into Christ, yet afterward damned. The first is, John 6.70. Have not I chosen twelve, and one of them is a Devil? Now say they, there were twelve chosen, or elected, and one of them is a devil, did perish; intimating, that men may be elected, yet perish for all this. To which I answer.
That there is a double Electing. First, a chusing to some peculiar Office. Secondly, there is an electing to grace, life, and glory. Now, when Christ saith, Have I not chosen you twelve? it is meant of his chusing of them to an Office, to the place of an Apostle, to be his disciples. Now it is true, that a man may be chosen to some peculiar Office in the Church of God, and yet be a perishing and damned man; but this phrase hath no relation to the decree of God from eternity, only to a temporal electing of twelve men to a temporal Office, to the Office of an Apostle.
Another Scripture they abuse is, Exod. 32.32. it was Moses prayer, If thou wilt not (saith Moses to God) forgive their sins, then blot my name out of the book of life. Now, say they, the book of life is Gods election: and here Moses prayed, that God would blot his name out of the book of life. Intimating, say they, a man may be elected and written in that book, and yet afterward blotted out and perish.
To which I answer. That this prayer of Moses is onely a wish or supposition, as Pauls was, when he wisht he were accursed from Christ, for his kindred in the flesh. Now a man may suppose mountains of Gold, and suppose things that never were, nor never shall be in being: bare suppositions put nothing in being; so here, that Moses makes a supposition in a pathetical prayer, this doth no way argue, as if his name could be blotted out of the book of life.
Secondly, Rivet he expounds it thus, that there is a double book of life. The book of life being sometimes taken for the eternal councel and decree of God, as Phil. 4.3. sometimes for the special providence of God over men, in preserving them amongst the living. So we read Psal. 139. In thy book, saith David, were all my members written: meaning, not in the book of Gods decree, but only in the book of his providence, that all the members of Davids body, they were all under the providence of God, that none could hurt him. And so Rivet, with others, think that by the book of life here is meant, that God, would blot out Moses from the book of his special protection and let him die as other men, rather then this evil should come upon the people of Israel. q.d. Destroy my name from among men, and do not protect me any longer.
Again, they object that in Psal. 69.28. it is said, Let them be blotted out of the book of life. Now, say they, That is Gods election, and to be blotted out, implies, that a man may be elected, and yet perish.
To this I answer, as formerly, that the book of life in that place hath no reference to the decree of Gods Election, but onely to his book of providence, that God would not protect wicked men, as he doth his own people, in a way of providence. And other phrases in Scripture will somewhat favour this interpretation. As Ezek. 13.9. They shall not be written in the writings of the house of Israel. Whats that? i. e. let them not any more be thought Israelites, nor numbred among the people. And Ainsworth, I remember compares Psal. 69.19. with this place in Ezek. 13.9. and he makes the sence to be one and the same; that to be blotted out of the book of life, is nothing else then to be out of Gods protection; to be blotted out of the catalogue of the living, and have ones life in danger to be brought to death. And this wish David wished for those wicked men.
But then they object further from Rev. 22.19. If any man shall take away from the words of this book, God shall take away his part in the book of life. Here, say they, by book of life is unquestionably meant Gods decree; and the Scripture saith, They that take any thing from this book, God will blot him out of the book of life, and will undoubtedly damn him.
To which I answer. I confesse in this place the book of life is taken for Gods decree; and that a man may be said to be blotted out of this book, and yet this no way follow, that a man elected may be damned. And here let me give you Austins words upon the place, which is a very clear and satisfactory answer. That a man may be said to be blotted out of the book of life in two regards: First, it is equivalent to this phrase, that this name shall never be written in the book of Life. And you have often such phrases in Scripture. As it is said in Matthew, He that doth evill himself, and teacheth men so to doe, he shall be least in the Kingdome of Heaven. Intimating, not as if he should come to heaven, but that he should not come there at all. To be least there, is never to be there. So here, to be blotted out is equivalent to this, that they were never in.
Secondly, A mans name may be said to be blotted out of the book of life, not as if it were there in deed and in truth, but in their own opinion; they thought they were elected, and thought their names were written there, they had strong conceits of this; and though they are now deluded, and mistaken, yet God will make them know one day, when they are in hell, that their names are blotted out of the book of life. Again,
Another Scripture they abuse is, 1 Cor. 10.12. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. Now, say they, if it were not possible for a man elected to fall, and fall finally, to what end is this caution of the Apostle? it were a needless caution, were it not possible to come to passe.
To which I answer two things. First, the Apostle doth not say, Let him that stands, take heed left, &c. but the Apostle saith, Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. Intimating, that men that think they are elected, and think they are in a good condition, they should take heed, lest they miscarry to all eternity.
Secondly, Take heed lest they fall. This falling here is not meant a falling from grace finally, and falling into hell, and perishing; but the falling here is onely a falling into sinne, and so an elect •an should doe. An elect man, though he stand firme in Gods decree, yet he should take heed all the dayes of his life, that he fall not into sinne. And if you aske me, how I make that appeare, I answer, from the context. This is a conclusion, or caution the Apostle gives upon the enumeration of several instances of the people of God, that in former ages did sin against God. As some that tempted Christ, and fell in one day 23000. Others that fell to fornication, and provoked him in the Wildern•sse. With many such sins reckoned up, and the summe of all is this, that seeing they that were Gods people fell into sinne, and were punished, therefore you that think you stand, and think you are elected, you should take heed you fall not into sinne, as they did. And thus I have done with resolving this second query.
Thirdly,* whether doth God elect any man to life and salvation upon foresight of his faith or good works? foreseeing that this man will believe, therefore I elect him to salvation; and the other man will not believe, therefore I chuse him to damnation. Whether, I say, doth God in his eternal decree elect any man to life upon foresight of works. Here the Papists and Arminians joyn both together in maintaining of this. The reason, say they, why God elects some, and not others, is because God did foresee from eternity that that man would be holy, and would believe in Christ, and therefore God elected him to salvation. These are the hard imputations they lay to Gods charge.
And in the resolving of this, I shall answer it in the Negative. That God, in electing a certain number of men to life and salvation, did not doe it upon the foresight of any good works he saw would be in them; whether Faith, Repentance, Sanctification, or any other grace. Indeed it is true, the Papists many of them doe not grosly say that it was foresight of good works in general, but the foresight of faith only, and so the Arminians.
But now, to overthrow this ungrounded opinion, First, I shall lay down Scriptures to confirm this, that God in electing of men to salvation, doth no• doe it upon foresight of good works, and then lay down reasons; and after that take off those objections which seem to darken this truth.
First, for the Scriptures that confirm this, we have Rom. 11.5. He hath saved a remnant according to the election of grace. Intimating, that the remnant that are saved, it is onely of grace, not of foreseen works. So Eph. 1.5, 11. He hath elected us according to the good pleasure of his will. Gods meer good will was the impulsive cause of mans e•ection, and nothing in man. So likewise, Rom. 2.11. That Gods election might stand, not according to our works, but according to the good pleasure of him that called us. So 2 Tim. 1.9. Not of works, but according to his owne purpose and grace. Upon his good pleasure, and his good will to mankinde, upon that ground election stands.
But now to adde some reasons why it cannot be that God should determine in his own councel, to save man upon the foresight of his works. I shall name four or five. A•,
First, because the inferiour priviledges that God bestowes upon his peoples, as vocation, and justification, are not for their good works (though they are in actual being) therefore much lesse is election for good works onely foreseen. First, for Vocation, 2 Tim. 1.19. We are called, not according to our owne works, but according to the purpose of his own grace. And then for Justification, we are not justified for works neither. Rom. 3.24. We are justified freely by his grace, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Now, if vocation and justification be not for works, much lesse is election for works, and for works foreseen, not being actually in us.
Secondly, because then it would follow, that children dying in infancy could not be elected; for the childe being in the mothers wombe, if it hath life, it hath a soule, and so must either be saved, or damned. But a childe, while it is in the wombe, neither acts good or evil. Now if God did elect persons to life upon foresight of works, then children dying in the wombe could not be elected; because there are no works God could foresee in them. And then this would be a very uncomfortable doctrine for parents that have children dying young.
Thirdly, then would man have somewhat whereof to boast before his God, as if he could lay claim to salvation from him. If God were bound to chuse men to salvation upon foresight of good works, then man might say, I thank not God, but I thank my believing, and thank my good works, for these were the motives for which he chose me to glory; and •hus would poor man boast against his Maker.
Fourthly, Because God hath elected the worst of men; when others that have more natural worth and goodnesse are passed by. 1 Cor. 1.27, 28. God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world, &c. and base things of the world, and things that are despised hath God chosen, &c. And Matth. 11.25. I thank thee O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Those that had the greatest worldly wisedome, and natural abilities, that most excelled in outward strictnesse, and moral vertues, are rejected, when those that are but babes in understanding, who many times are the worst for their moralities, are elected; which is a clear demonstration, that election is not grounded upon faith, or works foreseen; for then the best had been chosen before the rest.
Fifthly, Our works carry no proportion to what God hath elected us unto; we are elected to eter•al glory, but our works are finite, imperfect, no more then our duty, yea not done by our own strength, but by the power of Gods grace, and therefore cannot be that which moveth God to elect us.
Sixthly, because God doth not chuse men to life for the sake of Jesus Christ, therfore much less for their works sake.
It is true, and mistake me not, I confesse, (and so all Divines that are confesse this) that God saves a man for Christs sake, but God elects not a man for Christs sake, but meerly for his own good pleasure• sake. God in chusing a man to life, hath no reference to Christ, as if Christ were the motive. Christ was predestinated himselfe, therefore could not be the cause of our predestination, 1 Pet. 1.20. We are chosen in him, its true, Eph. 1.4. as the common person; God elected Christ first in order, and all believers in him, but it is not for Christs sake, but according to his own will. As suppose a Kingdome to be newly set up, a King is chosen, and his suecessors to follow after; why then all the succeeding Kings are chosen in him that was first elected: so are we chosen in Christ. God doth chuse a man as freely, as if Christ did never die; and yet God saves none, but for Christs sake; and this makes election on Gods part most free. God doth not consider Christ, nor the good works we have, but tis only his own good will engages him to save some, and neglect others. And thus much for proving this point. There are some objections now that lie in the way which must be removed.
God, say they, doth elect men upon the foresight of their good works; and they alledge four Scriptures to prove this. James 2.2. Hath not God ch•sed the poor of this world to be rich in faith? now, say they, their laying out their estates for good uses, and so becoming poor, that is the reason why God chuseth th•m, and neglects richer men.
To which I answer. That poor here is onely spoken of, as the quality of the persons that are chosen, not as the cause wherefore they are chosen. And this answer Mr. Perkins gives: that poverty is not the cause why, but the description of the persons that are chosen, that Gods decree of election doth commonly run among the poorer sort of men, the more to advance his own grace; that man shall not say, election is intailed upon works: for if poverty should be the cause of their election, then all that are poor should be elected, which is false. Again further they object,
2 Thes. 2.13. God from the beginning hath chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Now say they, sanctification, and faith is made as the channel, through which el•ction must runne, and therefore that is the cause or motive why God did elect them. To this we answer.
That it is true, God elects men through sanctification and faith, as the end God aimes at in elect persons, not as the motive for which he elects them. And this answer Rivet gives. All elect men shall be sanctified, and all elect men shall believe; though it is not for this sanctification and belief that they are elect•d. It is not for grace, but unto grace they are chosen. This distinction the Sc•ipture gives, 1 Pet. 1.2. Ye are elect according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification unto obedience. N•• for, as the motive; but to, as the end.
Ag•in T•t. 1.1. i• i• called the faith of Gods elect. Now, say they, i• is call•d so, b•cause God elects them foreseeing their faith. To wh•ch we answer.
That faith is h•re called, the faith of Gods Elect; not as if G•d forese•ing faith did elect men, but because all elect men shall believe; because faith is a peculiar priviledge belonging onely to elect men, therefore it is called their faith.
And then lastly, one Scripture more they alledge, 2 Tim. 2.20. If any •an shall purge himself from sin, he shall be a vessel of honour. Now here, say they, purging, that is, sanctification, and good works, it is made a condition of election, of being a vessel of honour. God makes this condition, if he foresee a man will purge himselfe, and will live holily, that man shall be elected, shall be a vessel of honour. To which we give this answer, That purging and san•tification is here lai• down, not as the cause, but as the signe of their election; not as the cause why men are vessels of honour, but the signe or evidence that they are so. If you are purg•d, you shall be v•ss•ls of honour; that is, if you are sanctified, it is a sign to you that you are elected.
2 Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, Give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE last Conclusion o• Doctrine drawn from these words was this, That Christians should put forth a great •eal of diligence to make this sure to their soules, that th•y are eternally elec•ed by God to life and glory. In the prosecution of which, I have dispatched several queries. I am now to proceed further in the dispatch of what yet remains to be spoken concerning this subject. A fourth query follows.
Fourt•ly, Whether the decree of El•ct•on,* or Gods purpose to •ave a company of men, being from eternity, and being immutable, whether doth not this give way to man to be secure, and carelesse in the use of the means of grace, that they take no care to get grace, and to get heaven, while they are in the world? This is a very useful point to insist upon, seeing the Arminians charge us with this, that if we hold election without respect to Gods foresight of works in men, then this laies open a gap for men to live as they list; that they say, If God hath determined they shall be saved, they shall be saved; if that they shall be damned, they shall be damned, whether they are holy, or profane; if God hath elected them to life, they shall be saved, let them live as they lift. Thus the Arminians plead. This therefore is the quere, whether this doctrine of election doth administer any ground for such a cavil as this to be in the minds of men?
To answer which, I shall first lay down this general Conclusion, That the decree, or the purpose of God about the election of man to life and salvation, doth no way administer any iust ground to men, to make them live as they list, and to make them neglect the means of grace and salvation. In the cl•aring of which, I shall lay down three particulars, to satisfie you about this matter. As,
First, that Gods decree about Civil and Temporal matters, doth no way give encouragement to men to neglect the use of means, & live carelesse of the accomplishment of his decree; and therefore not so in spiritual. As now for instance: God hath determined from all eternity, how long every one of us shall live in the world; our daies are numbred in his counsel. Now, though God hath determined how long we shall live, this no way gives us encouragement to say therefore I will never put on a rag of cloathes to cover me in Winter, and I will never put a morsel of meat in my mouth; for God hath determined how long I shall live, and therefore whether I eat or no, till then I shall not die. Again, God hath determined from all eternity, touching every one of us, whether we shall be poor or rich in this world, and therefore to draw this conclusion, that it is no matter whether I be industrious in following my calling, and looking after my trade, or whether I spend my estate in rioting and drunkenesse; God hath determined whet••• I sh••• be rich or poor; if he hath decreed I shall be poor, I shall be poor; or that I shall be rich, I shall be rich, let me live as I please: this reasoning is very fond and foolish in Temporal things, therefore much more in Spiritual. God hath determined from all eternity thou shalt be saved or damned, and the decree of God cannot be changed; but now to draw hence, that it is no matter how I live, whether in waies of holinesse, or in waies of sin, this is an abusive collection from Gods decree. Because, as Dr. Preston saith, if a man doth not use those means that may evidence to his soul that he is elected, it is an argument he is not elected. If thou say, if God hath determined it, he will save me, whether I am holy or prophane, and therefore I will never hear Sermon, never pray in my family, never use holy duties; Saith Preston, if thou neglect these means, it is an argument thou art not elected; because, as God hath elected thee to the end, he hath also ordained thee to use the means. I have read a story of an Italian, who lying upon his death-bed, fent for a Physician, the most exquisit and exact Artist in all Italy; and this man held this opinion I am now speaking of, that seeing Gods decrees were unal•erable, a man might live as he lift, and yet be saved; that let a man be as holy as he could be, if God had decreed his damnation, he should be damned; and let a man be never so wicked, if God have decreed his salvation, he should be saved; and that the decree of God took off the use of all means, that a man need not use any meanes, but onely trust in God. The Physician being a man acquainted in the mysteries of Religion, after he had asked him the state of his body, and where the disease lay, the party desiring him to prescribed some physick; the Physician gave him this answer: saith he, God hath determined how long you shall live; therefore, if I give you physick, if God hath determined you shall die, you shall die for all that; and if he hath decreed you shall live, though I give you no physick, yet you shall live. And this answer (saith the Historian) took such place with the Italian, that it converted him in this very principle, and he became a man very diligent in following the means of grace, upon this very saying. And indeed, a just and ground•d speech it is. This ••erefore is my answer, that if •uch r•asonings as these in temporal things are unreasonable, they are much more in spiri•ual.
Secondly, to you that make this plea, I would say this: That at that very instant wherein God did decree or determine to bring a man to life, at that very instant God did decree that that man would b• holy before he died; he shall use all holy and sanctified means conducible to his salvation. Rom. 8.29. Whom he did pred•stin•te, them he •id predes•in•te to be conformable to the Image of his son. God the Father, in that very decree wherein he doth ordain man to life, did ordain, that those men elected should live confo•mable to J•sus Christ. Ephes. 1.4. He hath chosen us in Chris•, •efore the foundation of the world was laid, that we should be holy and blamelesse before him in love. God did decree, that our lives should be holy; he ordains holiness as the means, as well as heaven as the end. So Ephes. 2.10. God hath created us in Christ Jesus unto good works, which he hath before ordained, that we should walk in them. 2 Thes. 2.13. God, before the world was, at that very instant wherein he ordained, and chose men to life, did also ordain, that men should live a holy and blamel•sse life here upon earth. Now then, for men to make this objection, that seeing God hath decreed men to life, therefore men may live as they list, is absurd: for if men do live as they list, it is an argument God did not decree them to life, because God in decreeing men to life and salvation, did decree they should walk in a course of sanctification, and holy living in this world.
Thirdly, suppose this should be taken for granted, that God had decreed to damn thee for me; that God in his purpose had appointed he would not save us; yet God, as a Creator, deserves thy service. God, as a Creator, may lay claim to thy duties. Though God should condemn us, yet he making us, deserves obedience, and deserves duties of thankfulnesse from us. And therefore, under this notion onely, though no other consideration be looked after, this should engage you to righteous living; and this should engage you in a way of duties, though he never save you. Adam, though he never should come to heaven, being in innocency, yet being made and created by God, was engaged to live a holy life. And so it is with every man alive, as we are creatures, and have a being from God, and the comfo•ts of this life from God, all this doth oblige us to a course of obedience, and righteous liv•ng toward God, though he should throw us into hell, when we have done. And thus much for resolving the fourth Quere, that the decree of God touching mans election to life, doth no way give encouragement to men to live as they list, upon the forementioned grounds. I now passe to the fifth Quere.
Fifthly, what temptations doth the devil suggest into the mindes of godly men, to make them doubt within themselves, that they are not elected by God, when indeed they are, to make them think they are reprobate silver, when they are vessels of honour, meet for their Masters use? Happily I may speak to some, whose spirits are perplexed in this case. And the answer hereunto, I shall reduce to three heads, and as I lay them down, labour to take them off, that they may be no just ground or reason to make you doubt of your election.
First, the devil tempts a godly man with this, that sure you cannot be elected, Because that before your calling you were so exceeding sinful and prophane in your lives; so exceedingly profane, vile, wicked liver•, that certainly (the devil will say) such as you could not fall with in the compass• of Gods purpose to save.
Secondly, the devil will tell you, that certainly you cannot be elected to life, because that after your calling into Jesus Christ, you have fallen so fouly into capital, and scandalous crimes and sins.
And thirdly, because that God doth continually pursue his people with outward and great afflctions; thence the devil will gather, you are not the chosen and beloved of God. These three grand temptations he doth many times fasten upon tender consciences, meerly to create a world of doubts and perplexities in the chosen vessels of mercy. I begin with the first.
First, the devil tempts you, that sure you are not elected, because your lives were so exceedingly profane, and you were such abominable ill livers, before you took upon you the profession of Jesus Christ, this the devil laies before many a poor soul to stumble at.
To satisfie you in this therefore, I shall lay down four particulars by way of answer.
First, Many of the servants of God before their calling, have been very lewd, wicked, notorious, profane livers, and yet have been within the compasse of Gods election to life and glory. Cast your eyes upon Paul, and there you shall finde what he was before his call. He tells you himself, I was a blasphemer, (a horrible sin) I was a persecuter, I was injurious to Gods Church. I haled men to prison for professing the name of Jesus. (These are great sins) Nay further, saith he, I was exceeding mad against the Church of God. A man enraged with malice against the people of God. Now what could be more vile then these? And yet you will finde this man, a choosen vessel of mercy. Nay, you shall finde, God to strengthen the confidence of men upon their election, puts a scandalous liver and election together, to make men see, that a scandalous life before conversion, is no prejudice to a mans election. Acts 9.13, 14. And Ananias said, Lord, we have heard of this man by many (speaking of Paul) how much evil he hath done to the Saints at Jerusalem. We have heard by many what an evil man this is, and that he hath •uthority from the cheif Priests to binde all that call upon thy Name; and that this man did do it, did execute his commission; here was a wicked liver: but now mark what the Lord saith, Goe thy way, for he is a chosen vessel to me. Here you see Ananias laies his offence, and his wickednesse before him; and yet, Goe thy way, saith God: Goe thy way, for he is a chosen vessel to me. The like instances we have in Manasseth and Mary Magdalen. This therefore is my first answer, that many of the servants of God have been men of very ill and notorious lives, before conversion, and yet they have been within the compasse of Gods election to salvation:
Secondly, though men have been notoriously wicked, in their lives before calling, yet if this notorious wickedness doth lay any engagement upon them, to make them labour to be more eminent in grace after calling; this is rather a sign of election, then reprobation. It is observable in Paul, he was a notorious wicked man before his call; but now this exceeding wickednesse of his before call, did engage him to labour to exceed all others in goodnesse after he was converted; and the more evil he was before, the more holy he labours to be after. As he laboured before to hale men to prison for professing Jesus Christ, he is now as zealous to draw men to Jesus Christ after his call; he was very industrious to do evil before his call, and this made him after his call, as he saith himself, I was in labours more aboundant then they all. And so Mary Magdalen, who before her calling was a vile woman, one that was a common harlot; a woman out of whom Jesus Christ cast seven devils; and yet this woman, after her calling, she laboured to be more eminent in godly sorrow, then any woman before or since; she washed Christs feet with her teares, and wiped them with the haires of her head. The like of which you do not read of any woman in Scripture. And this was a very good sign; when your notoriousness in waias of sin before calling, shall lay such an engagement upon you to become more eminent in grace after calling; this is a very good encouragement or evidence that you are within the compasse of Gods election; and therefore you have no cause to be discouraged. Suppose before the word laid hold upon your conscience, you were guilty of filthy sins, not fit to be named in the congregation; if you will the more honour God, and praise God now, and walk more humbly, and labour to excell each other in grace now, as you did in sin in times past. This is a great sign that you are in the compasse of Gods Elect ones.
Thirdly, you that have been scandalous in your lives before calling, for your comfort know, that God in his eternal counsel doth commonly make the profane and wicked and the worst of men, the objects of his election, rather then civil honest men, rather then men that are of an honest and civil, and moral conversation here in this world. And the Lord doth it upon this ground, the more to magnifie the freenesse, and the riches of his own grace in electing men to life. For should God only chuse moderate and civil honest men in the world, men would be apt to think it is that mans morality, and that mas civility, that was the motice which provoked God to elect them; and therefore God, to overthrow these thoughts, he lets electfon runne rather unto men that have been notoriously grosse and sinful in •heir lives, then other men; Manasseh a notorious bloody man, yet falls within the compass• of Gods election, when many a civil man is left out. Ma•y, a common harlot, yet chosen, when many a modest chaste woman was cast into hell. Matth. 21.31, 32. That Christ urgeth a parable of two men. One that said he would go and follow Christ, but did not; and the other said he would not go, but did; now which of these twain did the will of Christ? and they said, the first. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that publicans and harlots shall go into heaven before you. But you will say, was this common? this was onely one single time: therefore mark the next words, For Joh• came to you in the way of righteousness, and you believed not; but the publicans and harlots believed in Christ. John came preaching, and you would not believe, you Phrisees, strict moral men, that did not flie out into such scandals as other men did, you would not believe, saith Christ, but Publicans, men that were most addicted to extortion, and unconscionable gain, they imbraced Jesus Christ, when moral men would not. This therefore should be another comfort for you, that many times election runns rather to the profaner sort of men, then to men that are civil and righteous dealing men here in the world; and this God hoth to magnifie the riches of his own grace.
Fourthly, that it is no matter what you were before your call•ng, if you are a repentant and holy people after; your former miscarriages shall no way prejudice your future blessednesse, 1 Cor. 6.9, 10, 11. Neither Fornicator, nor Idolater, nor Adul•erer, nor envious, nor thiefe, nor covet•us, nor reviler shall enter •nto the Kingdome of Heaven: and such were some of you &c. Here you see a Catalogue of vile evils heaped together, and such w•re some of you; but now you are washed, now you are sanctified, &•. So that no matter what you were before conversion, though guilty of great sins, so you are now a reformed people, now a sanctified people, Titus 3.3. We our selves were sometime• foolish, dis•bedient, decieved, serving divers lusts and pleasures, and living in malice and envy, &c. You were so, but after the kindness & love of God appeared to you, after they were converted they were not so. So that these four particulars wil clearly take off this objection, that no matter what you were before conversion, if you are now a repentant people, and bewail your evils, and reform your waies, your former ill led life will be no hindrance at all to your election. Indeed this I must needs say, that you that have been most notorious in sin, God expects this at your hands, that you be most eminent in grace, most deep in humiliation, most eminent in godly sorrow, though your former evils do no way prejudice your election.
Secondly, if the devil cannot fasten this upon you, he will come upon you with this ass•ult, viz. your frequent falling into scandalous and foul, and grosse enormities, after you took upon you a profession of Jesus Christ. And this the devil will lay close: happily sin before conversion was not so great; but now since you have followed Sermons, and since you have professed Jesus Christ, since that time you have fallen foulely into grosse and scandalous sins, and surely this is inconsistent with grace, and cannot befal persons within the compasse of Gods election.
And I confesse this is both sad and hazardous; yet I shall lay down three things to uphold thee, that yet for all this thou maiest be within the compasse of Gods election. As,
First, that divers persons that were within the compasse of Gods election, have fallen foulely into grosse sins after their call. Lot, after he was called, fell to be incestuous, and fell to drunkenesse; David, after he was called, fell into Adultery; Peter, after he was called, fell to a denial of Jesus Christ. Yea, you read of Solomon, 1 Kings 11.9. That his heart was tu•ned from the Lord, after the Lord had revealed himself unto him twice. After God had revealed himself to Solomon, and converted him; after that time he did evil against his God. Nay, you read further, Nebem. 13.26 27. That Solomons wives turned away his heart from the Lord, though he was the beloved of his God. Though he were beloved by God, and were elected by him, yet his wives turned away his heart from the Lord. The like phras• you have Numb. 14.23. After all these works, I have done among them, and the miracles I have shewn them in Aegypt, and in the Wilderness, they have provoked me, saith the Lord, these ten times. After they were the Lords by covenant, and after they were a delivered people; after this they provoked him many a time, by sinning against him, and yet divers of them were elect vessels of mercy. So that, I say, many of Gods servants after their calling, are fallen foulely into scandalous sins, and yet have been within the compasse of Gods election.
Secondly, if you falling into grosse and scandalous sins, have not these four sinful ingredients, your falling into sin after calling, may be consistent with election. First, if you fall not into sin voluntarily. Secondly, if you fall not into the same sin frequently. Thirdly, if you fall not into sin with complacency. And fourthly, if you lie not under your fall impenitently. If these ingredients be mixed with your sinning after your call, they are inconsistent with election. First, if you fall into sin voluntarily, that you rush into sin, as a horse into the battel. Secondly, if you fall into the same sin frequently, then it is hazardous and dangerous. It is true Peter denied Christ, but it was but in one fit of a temptation. D•vid fell into Adultery, but it was never but once; Lot was guilty of drunkennesse, but onely in one fit: For the Servants of God, though they fall, yet they fall not frequently into the same sin, if grosse and scandalous. Thirdly, if you fall into sin with complacency, that you take pleasure in the evils you fall into; if you do as Job saith, wallow sin under your tongue, counting it sweet and delightsome to you. And lastly, if all this be joyned with impenitency, that you have not a heart to repent of the evils you fall into, the Lord have mercy upon you; for certainly, if you fall into sin with these ingredients, you are not within the compasse of Gods mercy to save. But now, though you do fall into sin, if it be not voluntary, but through the force of temptation: if it be not with complacency, but a dislike of the sins you fall into; and as soon as you do fall, and see your sins you repent and rise again, though you doe fall in this way, it will be no prejudice to your election.
Thirdly, falling into sinne after calling and profession made of Jesus Christ, may be consistent with Election in these foure cases. First, if the sins you fall into be clearly discerned. Secondly, if they are sensibly bewailed. Thirdly, if they are strongly resisted; and lastly, if they are dayly laboured, and prayed against. Though you doe fall into sinne, yet in these cases sin will not be damning to you, or be an impediment to your election. And thus I have done with the second case of conscience. Only let me urge this one thing before I leave it, (for I would not have you make this Doctrine a Doctrine of liberty; but I would have you lay this to heart) that if any of you fall foulely after conversion, believe it, God will make you smart for this, though not in hell, yet you shall have a hell in your conscience, you shall have the very pregustations of hell, a wounded conscience, and God will expect deep humiliation, and great repentance, if you sin after profession made of Jesus Christ. It may have that influence upon you, as upon David, who cried out, I have no quietnesse in my bones, by reason of my sin. God will give you no rest night nor day by reason of sin, if you run into it after profession made of Jesus Christ.
Thirdly, men do doubt of their election, because God pursues them with continual afflictions, and layes the continued strokes of his heavy wrath upon them; and this makes many a godly man think that he is not in the number of Gods elect ones. To which I shall briefly answer.
That this is nothing else but a temptation, and not a truth; and it was the very controversie that Jobs friends had with him; they would fasten this upon Job, that he was a Reprobate, and an Hypocrite, because God did so afflict him: yet Job maintained his sincerity, and shews his grounds, that God was his friend, and that he did not reject him, though he did afflict him. But to speak more particularly.
First, no man can infallibly and certainly judge of Gods purposes about mans election, or reprobation, by any of the dispensations of God toward their bodies in the things of this life. Eccl. 9.1, 2. No man knows either love or hatred by any thing that is before him. All things fall alike to all. The same event to him that feareth God, and to him that feareth him not, to him that sweareth, and to him that feareth an oath.
Secondly, Afflictions from God are so far from being grounds, or evidences that a man is not elected, that in some cases they may prove evidences that they are the very elect of God. Heb. 12.6, 7. He chasteneth every son whom he receiveth; they are bastards, and not sons, whom he chastiseth not. As •any as I love, I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent. Rev. 3.19. In some cases afflictions from God are rather tokens of love from God, then the contrary. As now, in case afflictions be as a spur to you, to make you quicken your pace in heavenway. 2. In case your afflictions be as pruning-hooks to you, to cut and lop off the luxuriant buddings and workings of sinne in the heart. 3. In case affliction be as a hedge to you to keep you in, and to make you walk in a close communion with God, and not to wander or goe astray from him: 4. In case affliction be as a file to you, to file off that rust that cleaves to your nature. 5. In case affliction proves a furnace to refine you from that drosse of corruption that is mixt with your services. In these cases afflictions are so farre from being grounds to doubt of your Election, that they may rather give you evidence, you are the very elect of God,
Thirdly, That God in his wisedome doth many times expose his own people to greater troubles in this life, then he lets wicked and reprobate men undergoe. God will not give reprobates their hell here, that so he might give them hell hereafter. God will not give the elect heaven here, to make heaven more desirable to them while they live here; and more welcome when they come there. It is Gods pleasure in the dispensations of his providence amongst men, to let his own people lie under more outward sorrows, then wicked men shall do, Psal. 73.5. Their eyes burst out with fatness, they are not in trouble, as other men, neither are they plagued as other men are. The Lord in his dispensations doth so deal with wicked men, that they are not plagued, they are not troubled as godly men are in this world. And therefore surely affliction is no argument of Gods displeasure, or of their not being within the compass of Gods purpose to do them good.
- Pet. 1.10.
Wherefore the rather, Brethren, give all diligence to make your Calling and Election sure.
THE Doctrine I am yet upon is this, That Christians ought to put forth a great deal of diligence to make this sure to their soules, that they are eternally called by God to life and salvation. In the prosecution of which Doctrine, I have gone over several particulars; and have now onely one Query more to satisfie about Election, and then to winde up this Doctrine, in laying down some explicatory propositions, very conducible to illustrate this Doctrine of Election. And the Quere to be resolved is this.
What are those delusions of the Devil whereby he nourisheth presumptuous perswasions in the minds of men, that they are elected by God, when they are not? And to answer this, I shall reduce all I have to say under these three heads.
First, The Devil perswades wicked men that they are elected upon this ground: Because they doe not break forth into such grosse and scandalous enormities in their lives, as many men that live about them doe: and therefore the Devil boulsters them up in this, Surely if you were not elected, you would be as bad as any, and as vile and exorbitant as any. Now seeing God keeps you in, that you act not such things in your lives, as other men doe; this may be a comfortable evidence to you, that you are in the number of Gods elect ones. And this delusion deceives thousands of people, especially morallized and civillized men; they run hoodwinkt to hell, nourishing hopes of life and salvation, and never feel the con•rary, till they come to death and hell. I shall declare this to be a delusion, in laying down four or five particulars. As
First, That there are many men, that are mentioned in Scripture, not to have been within the compasse of Gods election, who yet were men of very bl••lesse and honest lives, not bl•mished with any grosse and scandalous evils. Read Luke 18.11, 14. of the Pharisee. He tels you, he thanks God he was no extortioner, no adulterer, no covetous pers•n, no d•unkard, nor was he as wicked as the Publican was. Her• you see a man that spake vauntingly and truly, that he w•s not a man that broke out into those miscarriages other men did; yet what was this man? An elect vessel? No. Read ver. 14. and the Text tels you, the Publican went away justified rather the other; the Phasee, though he was free from scandalous and grosse enormities in his life, yet he was not a justified man, and so by consequence not an elect man. You read of hypocrites, Mat. 23. that cleansed the outside of the cup, and of the platter, that is, cleansed their conversations, and cleansed the outward man of grosse scandals, and yet within were full of filth; and Christ tels us, they were hypocrites, that should have their portion in hell. And should you view over Historians that write of the Scribes and Pharisees, and strict men among the Jewes, they will tell you what wonderful holy-lived men they were; they were often in duties, fasted twice a week, prayed every day in the corners of the streets; none so strict as they in observing the Sabbath; would goe vailed, left they should be ensnared by lascivions objects; and yet these very men so wonderful strict and cautious, were men that had no dram of grace in them at all. Though they were a people thus well dressed in their lives, yet the Scripture tels us of them, that Whores and Harlots should goe to Heaven before them. This therefore is the first, that many men have had their lives free from grosse scandals, and yet were men that were not elected by God to life and salvation.
Secondly, That a mans conversation may be free from scandalous sinnes, yet if this freedome from scandals proceed from a wrong principle, it may be in a person not elected. As I will make it appeare. There may be a freedome from grosse sins proceeding from a threefold principle, and yet a man be in a state of da•nation and of reprobation. As first, There may be a freedome from scandals, proceeding from religious education; secondly, from a natural disposition; and thirdly, from the power of restraining grace. First, there may be a freedome from grosse sinnes, proceeding from the power of education. So the young man in the Gospel, Matth. 19.18, 19, 20. when Christ told him what the Law was. Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy selfe, thou shalt doe no murder, thou shalt not beare false witnesse, &c. Saith the young man, All these have I kept from my youth. He was a Pharisee, and his parents strict in their course of living, and brought him up so from his youth; and yet this man no elect man, ver. 22. Secondly, a man may be free from scandalous sins, arising from an ingenious natural disposition. A mans disposition may sometimes be utterly averse to some sinnes. Plu•arch a heathen could say this, I had rather it were said, there were no such man as Plutarch in the world, then to say that Plutarch was unchaste, Plutarch was a drunkard, or Plutarch was a swearer. Mans natural temper may sometimes be free from grosse sinnes, and yet he not an elect person for all this. And then thirdly, a man may be free from grosse sinnes, as proceeding from the power of restraining grace, Gen. 20.6. I also withheld Abimelech from sinning against me. He was a Heathen, and a wicked man, and yet God, by the power of restraining grace, did keep Abimelech from running into that exorbitant course of sinning against him. So that if a man be free from grosse sinnes, and yet proceeding from false principles, a man may not be an elect man for all this. Unlesse your freedome from sinne proceed from a renewed nature, from a sanctified heart, and from the saving operation of the holy Ghost; unless it comes from these principl••, your freedome from grosse sinnes can be no pledge to your soules, that you are elected by God to life.
Thirdly, that a man having a good life, free from scandalous sinnes, if he have not a good heart, that is no argument of a man that is within the compasse of Gods election, Rom. 2.28, 29. He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; nor is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, whose praise is not of men, but of God. Intimating, that he is not a Christian; he is not an elect Jew, that was one outwardly; that is, that was conformable to the rites and customes of the Jewes; but he was one that was one inwardly, that had his sins mortified his nature changed, and his heart cleansed, he was an elect Jew. So that to have a holy life, if a man have not an holy heart, is no sign that a man is within the compasse of Gods election.
Fourthly, God in electing men to life, doth pass by moral and civil honest men, that trust and depend upon their own righteousnesse and strict living, rather then any sort of men in the world. Matth. 21:31, 33. saith Christ, John Baptist preached the Gospel of repentance, but you believed not, but Publicans and •arlots believed. Those Pharisees that did depend upon their own righteousness, and their own goodness, Christ did not call them, Christ did not own them, God made them not the objects of his election. Hence it is said, Matth. 9.13. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinn•rs to repentance: that is, men depending upon their own righteousnesse, and their own parts, they are left out by Christ, as if he came not for them; but Christ came to call sinners, that see their sinne, and were vile in their own eyes, Christ came to call such. Again,
- The second delusion, whereby the devil makes men think they are elected by God, is drawn from their external vocation; that they are not onely civilized and moralized ones, but they finde the power of the word to call them; and upon this vocation they bottome the hopes of their election. And they have Scripture for it, Rom. 8.30. Whom God predestinates he calls. Now God hath called them by the word, and they have found the word come with power upon t•eir conscience, to reforme the evils of their life. (And the power of vocation they deem higher (as indeed it is) then the power of education, or natural temper;) and therefore, think they, I having vocation, this is an evidence to me of my election. To this delusion I shal only say two things, by way of answer.
First, it is true indeed, the Scripture saith, all whom God predestinates, he calls; but the Scripture doth not say, that all whom he calls, he predestinates. No man that God appoints to life, but before he dies, God will call him by the word; but God doth not say any where, that those whom he calls, them he did predestinate to life.
Secondly, many men are outwardly called by the word into a profession of Christ, when they are not eternally elected by God to salvation. Mat. 22.14. Many are called, but few are chosen. Many are called, but all those that are externally called by the word, are not chosen, nor all ordained to life. A man may be called from ignorance to knowledge, yet not elected Heb. 6.4. After they were enlightned, and had tasted the word of God, and the power of the world to come, yet they fell away. A man may be called from profanesse to profession, from the world into the Church, as Simon Magus was, yet not elected, but remain in the gall of bitternesse, and bond of iniquity.
Thirdly, A third delusion whereby men are deceived by the Devil, to think they are elected, when they are not, is this. If they cannot plead their education, and moral manner of living, or if they cannot plead their vocation, their last plea is, the mercy of God, they hope God is a merciful God, and God made them not all to damn them; they are Gods creatures, made by him, and God that made them, will save them; and hereupon they fasten their hopes, that they are in the number of Gods elect ones. This is a strong delusion, especially amongst ignorant people. And to this I answer in two particulars.
First, when as men say, God is a merciful God, therefore they hope they are elected, I answer: It is true, God is a merciful God, yet God is as just as merciful; he is mercifully just, and justly merciful; his mercy cannot intench upon his Justice, nor sh•ll his Justice intrench upon his mercy; one Attribute shall not clash with another; he is no more merciful then he is just, nor is he more just then he is merciful.
Secondly, though God be a merciful God, yet Gods saving mercy is not so large as to extend to all creatures that live, that he hath made. You read Isay 27.11. This is a people of no understanding, therefore he that made them will not have mercy upon them, and be that formed them will shew them no favour. Here you see the Prophet tels them, that that God that made them, will damn them, and that God that formed them, that God will shew them no favour. So that Gods mercy extends not so far, as to reach to all the works of his hands; for if so, the devils might claim salvation as well as man; for God made them when they were glorious Angels, as well as man: and therefore, if all the works of Gods hands should plead for salvation, they might as well come within the compasse of Gods election as wicked men doe.
And thus you see in these several Sermons, I have finished the Doctrines of Effectual Vocation, and Eternal Election. I will now a little illustrate the point, by laying down •en Propositions, which will serve to clear the Doctrine of Election in many points about it, and so conclude.
First, That all men are not the objects of Gods election, or of Gods choice. And this proposition doth confute the opinion of Origen. Origen was of this minde, that all mankind should be saved, nay, the very devils themselves, they should all be saved by Christ. A most groundlesse and unheard of opinion; for all men are not elected to salvation. Jude tels us in his Epistle, there were some of old ordained to condemnation; and if so, surely they could not fall within the compass of Gods election, 1 Thes. 5.9. There are some ordained to wrath; but we are not amongst them, saith the Apostle, but we are ordained to obain salvation by Jesus Christ. All are not objects of Gods election to life.
Secondly, that the fewest sort of men and women that God hath made are the objects of his election. God in his owne councel hath elected to life and salvation the fewest sort of m•n and women in the world. And this is a very dreadful point. Many are called, but few are chosen. Matth. 22.14. Rom. 11.5. A remnant, according to the election of grace. And here in pursuing this head, I shall lay down two things under this proposition: First, that there are but few rich men chosen by God to life and salvation. Secondly, there are but few civil honest men chosen by God to life and salvation. There are but few rich men that fall within the compasse of Gods purpose to save, 1 Cor. 1.26. Not many mighty, (h• doth not say, not any; but not many mighty) not many noble, not many great ones of the world are chosen. You read Matth. 19.24. That it is as easie for a Camel to go thorou•h • N•edles eye, a• for a rich man to enter into the Kingdome of God. As easie for a Camel. It is not meant in this sense, as some expound it. That there was a gate in Hierusalem called the Needles eye; a little and low gate, which their Camels being lad•• could not go through and therefore they must unload the burden, and the Camel stoop before they could enter. Some •hink Christs speech had relation to that Beza saith, that instead of 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 a Camel, they read 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 a Cable, which, if untwisted may be put through the eye of a Needle, but the knot is not untied, but cut by this Exposition. But the words were a proverbial speech among the Jewes, who had this proverb amongst them, that when any one spake things either unlikely or unprobable, they would say, This can be as easily done, as a Camel can goe through a Needles eye. And Christ, alluding to this Proverb, saith, that rich men, that do•e upon their riches, and cleave to their wealth, and rather part with heaven and Christ, and soule and all, then part with their riches, Christ makes it an unpossible thing for such rich men to come into heaven. As I once told what Buchanan said, lying upon his death-bed in a message to King James, I am going to that place, where few Kings come. And Beloved, the speech is true, for not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble hath the Lord chosen. Secondly, few civil hon•st men doe fall within the compasse of Gods choice to save. Moral men, that trust upon their civility and moral honesty, and plain dealing; few or none of these come to heaven. Publicans and Harlots shall come to Heaven before you. Matth. 21.32. Whores and Harlots believe in me, when you do not, saith Christ.
Thirdly, That though God in his own counced hath determined, or made choice but of the fewest number of men & women men to life and salvation, yet this doth no way intrench upon the mercy of God, this doth no way lessen or impeach the mercy of God. Men may think, as if surely God had cast off all bowels, and cast off all mercy. What? God make such a world of men as he hath done, and save but a few of these? Man might think, as if God were a hard Master, that delighted in the destruction of man, that had forgotten to be gracious; such a hard charge will they be apt to lay upon God. But now, Beloved, that God hath elected so few a number to life, this doth no way impeach the mercy of God. And this I make appear thus: because God was bound to save none at all; therefore you cannot challenge God either with unmercifulnesse, or unfaithfulnesse, if he should save none. It was a meer act of his bounty and good will, that he would save any. Nay, secondly, there is that in man, in the best of men, that might justly provoke God not to save any: And therefore, if God save any, it is of grace. And this is a certain rule, that God doth shew more mercy in saving of one, then he would have done rigour of Justice, had he damned all. As may be made plaine by this comparison. Suppose forty men guilty of Rebellion were arraigned for their lives, and were condemned to die by the Law; if the Prince pardon foure of these forty he shewes more mercy in pardoning the foure, then he doth rigour of Justice in condemning the forty. Why? because the Fact deserved death in all alike. So it is with God: Every man upon earth deserves death and damnation; and if God cull out any of the mass of mankind, to save them, he shewes more mercy, then he had done rigorous Justice, should he have destroyed all, because he is bound to save none at all.
Fourthly, God in electing a certain number to life, doth it without foresight of any good works which he saw would be in them. Indeed the Papists and Arminians joyn their strength, to maintain this; God, say they, foresaw men would believe in Christ, and would be holy in their lives, and therefore God did chuse them to life. This you may remember I spent some time in overthowing formerly, and therefore pass it over now. viz. That God did not chuse men to life, with reference to any good works he foresaw in them. This indead is an undoubted truth; All men whom God did elect to life, he foresaw they would have good works in them; but Gods foreseeing of this, was no: the cause for which he did elect them. No, the motive was his own will, according to the pleasure of his own grace, Rom. 9.11. and Rom. 11.5. A remnant are saved according to the election of grace, for if it were of works, grace is no more grace. Were election upon foresight of good works, then it would follow, that infants dying in infancy were not within the compasse of Gods election, because an infant so dying, could not perform any good works; and so their case would be most miserable. Besides, we are not justified by actual works, therefore not elected upon works foreseen. Rom. 3.24. for there is the like reason of these two.
Fifthly, That Gods election is so free, that in chusing and electing men to life and salvation, he doth not do it for the sake of Jesus Christ himself. Understand this well, that therein you might both give Christ his due, and God the father his due: for mistake me not. God doth save none but by Christ, but God did elect men without reference to Jesus Christ as the motive of election, meerly according to the purpose of his own will. All modern and latter Divines lay down this for a truth, that it was the meer pleasure, and good will of God to man, that was the motive of Gods electing us, and not Christ. Christ could not be the cause, because he was the effect. Now what is the effect, cannot be the cause. Gods love in electing mankind, did produce Jesus Christ to be the means of our salvation, and of bringing about Gods election, therefore he being the effect of election cannot be the cause. The cause of election was eternal, but the merits of Christ were not so. Again, Christ was elected himself. 1 Pet. 1.20. He was preordained of God before the world was. Now he that was elected himself, could not be the cause of our election. Besides the elect are said to be given to Christ to be saved, John 17.2. therefore he was not the cause of our election. It is true, the Scripture tells us, Eph. 1.4 We are elected in Christ, i. we are elected in Christ as a common person. God first chose Christ, and then believers in Christ, as members of his body. But God elects no man for Christs sake, but man is chosen meerly of Gods bounty, without reference to Jesus Christ. And here Divines say, Gods love in electing man to life was as free, as if Christ had never died; and it was so free, that man was not beholding to Christ for his election; and yet Christs sufferings were so full, as if men were not bound to God for their election. Thus they are pleased to expresse it. And the reason why the Scripture speaks thus, that we are onely chosen in Christ, not for Christ, is to give God the Father his due in electing men to life: that God did it meerly of his own grace, and therei• Gods love and favour is apparent to all the world, that he did elect man without Christ, as the motive of his election: and yet Jesus Christ being come into the world, he carries on our salvation, and he is the cause of it; though he was not the cause of Gods first thoughts, in electing man to life.
Sixthly, All men that are elected by God to life and salvation shall sooner or later before they die be called into a state of conversion, and believing, Rom. 8.30. whom he did predestinate, them be also called: and Acts 13.48. As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. So that God the father, in ordaining man to life, hath ordained this also, that before they die, they shall be a converted and believing people, and therefore men remaining unconverted, uncalled, unbelieving, they are not the obiects of Gods election.
Seventhly, that God in chusing or electing men to life, doth let his election runne ordinarily unto the meanest, and unto the worst sort of men in the world, •en that have least natural endowments, least moral excellencies, least worldly gallantry; ordinarily election runs that way. God hath chosen the poor things of this world, and things dispised, and things that are not hath be chosen. 1 Cor. 1.27. Jam. 2.5. Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. Ordinarily the Lord chuse•h poor and mean men, that have no natural or moral excellencies. Hence it was that when Christ left the learned Pharisees, and Doctors among the Jewes, the ignorant and poor people, they flocked after Jesus Christ; they looked after Jesus Christ, when the rich and great men of the world had no sh•re in him.
Eightly, that a man may be an elect childe of God, and yet not expresse the fruit of his election in many years here in the world, and this is a very comfortable point. An instance you have of this in Paul. It is observable of Paul, the Scripture tells us he was a chosen vessel, Acts 9.15. and yet Paul lived many years, before the fruit of his election appeared in him. Some Historians say, Paul lived 37. the least say 30 years, before the fruit of election appeared in him, for he was converted the very year after Christs death; and all the while before, he did expresse fruit that was seemingly repugnant to an elect estate, as if a man could not be an elect vessel, that was so vile as he: he was a blasphemer, a persecuter, injurious to the Church, •aled men to prison, mad with rage against the professors of Jesus Christ. Nay, he was a man that had a hand in putting Steven the first Martyr to death. So long he lived in a course of iniquity, for 30. years together, and yet this man was an elect vessel then. So the Thiefe upon th• Crosse, an elect childe of God, yet did not expresse the fruit of his election in repentance and conversion, until the last hour of his life. So that I say a man may be an elect childe of God, and yet not expresse the fruit of his election in his life for many years.
Ninthly, that God for the great love he beares to his elect that are in the world, lets Reprobates and wicked men enjoy many mercies and outward deliverances, for their sakes▪ Mark 13.19, 20. There shall be tribulation, saith Christ, such as was not from the beginning of the world, nor shall be the end thereof: but for the elect sake those daies shall be shortned. For his elect sake, God did mitigate, did shorten, God did take away that trouble from them. So Esa. 1.9. Had not God left us a small remnant, we had been like Sodome, yea like unto Gomorrah. Had not God left a handful of his elect and godly men amongst them, all the rest had been destroyed. So Esa. 65.8. And the Lord said, destroy not the people, for a blessing is among them. That is, my people is among them, and my elect is among them, therefore destroy them not. God did not destroy the Nation of the Jewes, because God had his own people mixed among them. Lo Job. 22.30. And this conclusion administers matter of thankfulnesse, to all men upon earth, to make you blesse God, that he keeps his people alive among you, for it is for the elects sake you have all the outward blessings and mercies you do enjoy.
Tenthly and lastly, take in this conclusion: That this world shall continue no longer, then till the number of Gods elect be accomplished; when God hath accomplished, and brought in to Christ the number of his elect; the world shall not stand one minute longer after this work is done. God doth but uphold the world, till the full numbers of Jewes and Gentiles be come in. If the number were filled, Jesus Christ would surrender up the Kingdome to his Father. The Heavens should gather together like a scrowle, and the Elements should melt with fervent heat, and this world should come to a dissolution. It is the elect in the world, that keep up the world, that it doth not fall about our ears. And thus having spent these 16 Sermons touching mans Effectual calling, and eternal Election, I have now brought all unto a conclusion. And I earnestly intreat you, let it be your work, to put forth your diligence to make this sure to your own soules, that you are effectually called, and that you are eternally elected to obtain life and salvation by Jesus Christ.