Page images
PDF
EPUB

5

proper (previous to my reasoning against this wild opinion) to premise these observations:

1. That believers may have good satisfaction of their safe estate, and full persuasion of their interest in Christ; from their experience of a work of grace in their hearts, and from the fruits of faith in their affections and conversations. It is just reasoning, from the nature of the fruit to the quality of the tree that bears it. If, therefore, a man finds in himself a habitual, predominant desire after the Lord Jesus Christ, as the portion of his soul; if he feels his sins to be the burden of his soul, what he hates without reserve, what he strives, watches, and prays against, and never willingly and deliberately indulges; if he delights himself in the Lord, in near approaches to him, and communion with him in his ordinances; if he knows it to be the bent and disposition of his soul, to approve himself to God in a life of spiritualmindedness, and in all holy conversation and godliness, in self-denial, in piety towards God, in righteousness and charity towards men : though he may yet groan under many disallowed imperfections, he, nevertheless, may be, and ought to be, persuaded of his interest in Christ; and give the praise and glory of these divine influences upon his soul, to the blessed Author of them. This is the ordinary and standing evidence to the children of God of the safety of their state. By this they have a comfortable and joyful persuasion, that he who has begun a good work in them will perform it to the day of Christ. By this the children of God are manifest, both to themselves and others. In this sense, then, I do not deny to believers a persuasion, or manifestation of their own

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

i good estate. This persuasion is what they should

by no means contentedly rest short of. It is greatly needful, not only to their comfort and hope, but to their serving God with the dispositions becoming children, with enlargement of soul, and with cheerfulness and delight. But then you must remember, that this persuasion is not faith; but arises from the fruits and effects of faith upon the soul, and is what may (sometimes at least) be wanting in the best of the children of God. I must still further observe,

2. That God is sometimes pleased, in a more special manner, to “shed abroad his love in the hearts” of believers, by his Holy Spirit, with such superior light and evidence, that their gracious sincerity, so consequently their interest in Christ, and their title to the eternal inheritance, can at such times be no ways doubtful and questionable to them. “The Spirit of God witnesseth with their spirits, that they are his children.” And they “ are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” In this case, as in the other before-mentioned, their comfortable persuasion of their interest in Christ arises from an evident discovery of the exercise of the graces of his blessed Spirit. Herein this joyful persuasion in both cases agrees, that it is reasonable and well grounded. The Spirit of God never persuades the soul to believe a truth without its proper evidence, nor causes the believer to rejoice without rational grounds and motives. But, then, this latter persuasion differs from that before mentioned, in these following re

spects : It is produced in the soul with an incom- parably stronger and clearer light. In the other

case, satisfaction is obtained by a series of reason

ing, reflection, and self-examination ; distinctly considering the Scripture rule, and comparing it with the state, circumstances, and settled habit of the soul. Whereas, in this case, the soul has so clear a view and consciousness of its present exercise of faith in Christ, and love to God, that all clouds are dispersed, all mists and darkness vanish; and there is no room left for doubts and misgiving thoughts; but the soul sees itself safe in the hands of Christ, and can rest there with the greatest alacrity and pleasure. Moreover, as this persuasion, which I am now speaking of, makes its way into the soul with much greater light, so it has a much quicker and more sudden production. The soul is not exercised, in this case, for months and years together, with dificult inquiries into its own state; but, at once, before it is aware, overcomes all its fears, by feeling the possession and influence of the graces and consolations of the Spirit of God. I may yet add, that this persuasion is accompanied with such unspeakable joy, as those (even believers themselves) cannot have any idea of, who have not thus “ tasted that the Lord is gracious.” The divine light shines into the soul with a transporting and ravishing energy, till it is, as it were, lost in a joyful astonishment. By this the world vanishes out of sight, and death itself loses its terrors: by this the martyrs have been enabled to sing in the flames, and most joyfully to triumph over all that is most frightful and distressing to nature. To which I may also add, that this joyful persuasion, of which I now speak, has a transforming efficacy on the soul who is the happy subject of it. It purifies the heart, and promotes conformity

EIER

[ocr errors]

to God: it humbles the soul to nothing in its own

eyes; brings it down to an absolute subjection to in the will of God; and excites, in the most vigorous 15 exercise of the graces of the Spirit, and the duties

of Christianity, effects, which at least are not so count sensibly produced, and in such a degree, by the

satisfaction which the soul obtains of its own good olunan state, in the method first mentioned. I have in

El sisted the longer upon these heads, to obviate all aic misapprehensions of what I have yet to offer; and

to the same purpose I must add once more,

3. That we have no other claim to acceptance h gant with God, but by the righteousness of Christ im

puted to us and received by faith; and, therefore, that we can have no just persuasion of our being in favour with God, but from our interest in, and de

pendence upon, his righteousness, as the matter of 2. our justification. It is only on account of what

Christ has done and suffered for us, that we are justified before God, and entitled to eternal salvation. It is only by faith that we are interested in this righteousness; and it is only by the evidence of our having a true unfeigned faith, that we can safely enjoy the satisfaction and comfort of a justified state. That we cannot be justified before God by our own sincere obedience, either to the law of nature or to any imaginary law of grace, or even by faith itself, as it is an act of obedience, or any other way whatsoever, but by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to us, and on the account of what he did and suffered for us, will appear from the following consideration :

This appears evidently true, in that nothing can

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

be the matter of our justification before God, but what is a proper and adequate atonement and propitiation for our sins. That " we have all sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” is a truth, evident both from the light of nature and revelation. That God “ will by no means clear the guilty,” has the same evidence and certainty. Infinite justice and holiness cannot look upon those to be just, who are under the guilt of sin, and the damning sentence of the law. There is, therefore, a necessity, that the dishonour done to God by our sins be repaired, and the penal demands of his broken law be fulfilled; that our guilt may be removed from us, and God be “just in justifying the ungodly.” How else would 6 the Judge of all the earth do right,” in declaring the sinner righteous, while he remains under the pollution and guilt, both of original and actual sin? As far, then, as our obedience, considered in itself, can answer those ends, so far it may conduce to our justification before God, and no farther.

If we can answer the demands of the justice and law of God for our past sins; if we can pay ten thousand talents with less than nothing; and it, by committing new sin, (as we always do in the best of our imperfect obedience,) we can satisfy for our former sin and guilt, and so discharge the old score; then may our obedience be considered as the condition of our jastification before God. Whereas, if neither our legal nor our evangelical obedience can do any thing at all towards this, but (as coming from a sinful nature, and mixed with sinful imperfection) will add to the debt, and increase the weight of our guilt; then it is certain that that cannot be the matter of a sinner's

« PreviousContinue »