The Works of
MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS, ETC.
56 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
The THIRD direction proposed: Load thy conscience with the guilt of the perplexing distemper -- The ways and means whereby that may be done -- The FOURTH direction: Vehement desire for deliverance -- The FIFTH: Some distempers rooted deeply in men's natural tempers -- Considerations of such distempers; ways of dealing with them -- The SIXTH direction: Occasions and advantages of sin to be prevented -- The SEVENTH direction: The first actings of sin vigorously to be opposed.
THIS is my THIRD direction, --
Load thy conscience with the guilt of it. Not only consider that it hath a guilt, but load thy conscience with the guilt of its actual eruptions and disturbances.
For the right improvement of this rule I shall give some particular directions: --
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1. Take God's method in it, and begin with generals, and so descend to particulars: --
(1.) Charge thy conscience with that guilt which appears in it from the rectitude and holiness of the law. Bring the holy law of God into thy conscience, lay thy corruption to it, pray that thou mayst be affected with it. Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how thou canst stand before it. Be much, I say, in affecting thy conscience with the terror of the Lord in the law, and how righteous it is that every one of thy transgressions should receive a recompense of reward. Perhaps thy conscience will invent shifts and evasions to keep off the power of this consideration; -- as, that the condemning power of the law doth not belong to thee, thou art set free from it, and the like; and so, though thou be not conformable to it, yet thou needest not to be so much troubled at it. But, --
[1.] Tell thy conscience that it cannot manage any evidence to the purpose that thou art free from the condemning power of sin, whilst thy unmortified lust lies in thy heart; so that, perhaps, the law may make good its plea against thee for a full dominion, and then thou art a lost creature. Wherefore it is best to ponder to the utmost what it hath to say.
Assuredly, he that pleads in the most secret reserve of his heart that he is freed from the condemning power of the law, thereby secretly to countenance himself in giving the least allowance unto any sin or lust, is not able, on gospel grounds, to manage any evidence, unto any tolerable spiritual security, that indeed he is in a due mander freed from what he so pretends himself to be delivered.
[2.] Whatever be the issue, yet the law hath commission from God to seize upon transgressors wherever it find them, and so bring them before his throne, where they are to plead for themselves. This is thy present ease; the law hath found thee out, and before God it will bring thee. If thou canst plead a pardon, well and good; if not, the law will do its work.
[3.] However, this is the proper work of the law, to discover sin in the guilt of it, to awake and humble the soul for it, to be a glass to represent sin in its colours; and if thou deniest to deal with it on this account, it is not through faith, but through the hardness of thy heart and the deceitfulness of sin.
This is a door that too many professors have gone out at unto open apostasy. Such a deliverance from the law they have pretended, as that they would consult its guidance and direction no more; they would measure their sin by it no more. By little and little this principle hath insensibly, from the notion of it, proceeded to influence their practical understandings, and, having taken possession there,
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hath turned the will and affections loose to all manner of abominations.
By such ways, I say, then, as these, persuade thy conscience to hearken diligently to what the law speaks, in the name of the Lord, unto thee about thy lust and corruption. Oh! if thy ears be open, it will speak with a voice that shall make thee tremble, that shall cast thee to the ground, and fill thee with astonishment. If ever thou wilt mortify thy corruptions, thou must tie up thy conscience to the law, shut it from all shifts and exceptions, until it owns its guilt with a clear and thorough apprehension; so that thence, as David speaks, thy "iniquity may ever be before thee."
(2.) Bring thy lust to the gospel, -- not for relief, but for farther conviction of its guilt; look on Him whom thou hast pierced, and be in bitterness. Say to thy soul, "What have I done? What love, what mercy, what blood, what grace have I despised and trampled on! Is this the return I make to the Father for his love, to the Son for his blood, to the Holy Ghost for his grace? Do I thus requite the Lord? Have I defiled the heart that Christ died to wash, that the blessed Spirit hath chosen to dwell in? And can I keep myself out of the dust? What can I say to the dear Lord Jesus? How shall I hold up my head with any boldness before him? Do I account communion with him of so little value, that for this vile lust's sake I have scarce left him any room in my heart? How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation? In the meantime, what shall I say to the Lord? Love, mercy, grace, goodness, peace, joy, consolation, -- I have despised them all, and esteemed them as a thing of nought, that I might harbour a lust in my heart. Have I obtained a view of God's fatherly countenance, that I might behold his face and provoke him to his face? Was my soul washed, that room might be made for new defilements? Shall I endeavour to disappoint the end of the death of Christ? Shall I daily grieve that Spirit whereby I am sealed to the day of redemption?" Entertain thy conscience daily with this treaty. See if it can stand before this aggravation of its guilt. If this make it not sink in some measure and melt, I fear thy case is dangerous.
2. Descend to particulars. As under the general head of the gospel all the benefits of it are to be considered, as redemption, justification, and the like; so, in particular, consider the management of the love of them towards thine own soul, for the aggravation of the guilt of thy corruption. As, --
(1.) Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God towards thee in particular. Consider what advantages he might have taken against time, to have made thee a shame and a reproach in this world, and an object of wrath for ever; how thou hast dealt
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treacherously and falsely with him from time to time, flattered him with thy lips, but broken all promises and engagements, and that by the means of that sin thou art now in pursuit of; and yet he hath spared thee from time to time, although thou seemest boldly to have put it to the trial how long he could hold out. And wilt thou yet sin against him? wilt thou yet weary him, and make him to serve with thy corruptions?
Hast thou not often been ready to conclude thyself, that it was utterly impossible that he should bear any longer with thee; that he would cast thee off, and be gracious no more; that all his forbearance was exhausted, and hell and wrath was even ready prepared for thee? and yet, above all thy expectation, he hath returned with visitations of love. And wilt thou yet abide in the provocation of the eyes of his glory?
(2.) How often hast thou been at the door of being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and by the infinite rich grace of God hast been recovered to communion with him again?
Hast thou not found grace decaying; delight in duties, ordinances, prayer and meditation, vanishing; inclinations to loose careless walking, thriving; and they who before were entangled, almost beyond recovery? Hast thou not found thyself engaged in such ways, societies, companies, and that with delight, as God abhors? And wilt thou venture any more to the brink of hardness?
(3.) All God's gracious dealings with thee, in providential dispensations, deliverances, afflictions, mercies, enjoyments, all ought here to take place. By these, I say, and the like means, load thy conscience; and leave it not until it be thoroughly affected with the guilt of thy indwelling corruption, until it is sensible of its wound, and lie in the dust before the Lord. Unless this be done to the purpose, all other endeavours axe to no purpose. Whilst the conscience hath any means to alleviate the guilt of sin, the soul will never vigorously attempt its mortification.
FOURTHLY. Being thus affected with thy sin, in the next place get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it. Suffer not thy heart one moment to be contented with thy present frame and condition. Longing desires after any thing, in things natural and civil, are of no value or consideration, any farther but as they incite and stir up the person in whom they are to a diligent use of means for the bringing about the thing aimed at. In spiritual things it is otherwise. Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that hath a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after. Hence the apostle, describing the repentance and godly sorrow of the Corinthians, reckons this as one eminent grace that was then set on work,
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"Vehement desire," 2 Cor. vii. 11. And in this case of indwelling sin and the power of it, what frame doth he express himself to be in? Rom. vii. 24. His heart breaks out with longings into a most passionate expression of desire of deliverance. Blow, if this be the frame of saints upon the general consideration of indwelling sin, how is it to be heightened and increased when thereunto is added the perplexing rage and power of any particular lust and corruption! Assure thyself, unless thou longest for deliverance thou shalt not have it,
This will make the heart watchful for all opportunities of advantage against its enemy, and ready to close with any assistances that are afforded for its destruction. Strong desires are the very life of that "praying always" which is enjoined us in all conditions, and in none is more necessary than in this; they set faith and hope on work, and are the soul's moving after the Lord.
Get thy heart, then, into a panting and breathing frame; long, sigh, cry out. You know the example of David; I shall not need to insist on it.
The FIFTH direction is, --
Consider whether the distemper with which thou art perplexed be not rooted in thy nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from thy constitution. A proneness to some sins may doubtless lie in the natural temper and disposition of men. In this case consider, --
1. This is not in the least an extenuation of the guilt of thy sin. Some, with an open profaneness, will ascribe gross enormities to their temper and disposition; and whether others may not relieve themselves from the pressing guilt of their distempers by the same consideration, I know not. It is from the fall, from the original deprava-tion of our natures, that the fomes and nourishment of any sin abides in our natural temper. David reckons his being shapen in iniquity and conception in sin1 as an aggravation of his following sin, not a lessening or extenuation of it. That thou art peculiarly inclined unto any sinful distemper is but a peculiar breaking out of original lust in thy nature, which should peculiarly abase and humble thee.
2. That thou hast to fix upon on this account, in reference to thy walking with God, is, that so great an advantage is given to sin, as also to Satan, by this thy temper and disposition, that without extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, they will assuredly prevail against thy soul. Thousands have been on this account hurried headlong to hell, who otherwise, at least, might have gone at a more gentle, less provoking, less mischievous rate.
3. For the mortification of any distemper so rooted in the nature
1 Ps. li. 5
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of a man, unto all other ways and means already named or farther to be insisted on, there is one expedient peculiarly suited; this is that of the apostle, 1 Cor. ix. 27, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." The bringing of the very body into subjection is an ordinance of God tending to the mortification of sin. This gives check unto the natural root of the distemper, and withers it by taking away its fatness of soil. Perhaps, because the Papists, men ignorant of the righteousness of Christ, the work of his Spirit, and whole business in hand, have laid the whole weight and stress of mortification in voluntary services and penances, leading to the subjection of the body, knowing indeed the true nature neither of sin nor mortification, it may, on the other side, be a temptation to some to neglect some means of humiliation which by God himself are owned and appointed. The bringing of the body into subjection in the case insisted on, by cutting short the natural appetite, by fasting, watching, and the like, is doubtless acceptable to God, so it be done with the ensuing limitations: --
(l.) That the outward weakening and impairing of the body be not looked upon as a thing good in itself, or that any mortification doth consist therein, -- which were again to bring us under carnal ordinances; but only as a means for the end proposed, -- the weakening of any distemper in its natural root and seat. A man may have leanness of body and soul together. --
(2.) That the means whereby this is done, -- namely, by fasting and watching, and the like, -- be not looked on as things that in themselves, and by virtue of their own power, can produce true mortification of any sin; for if they would, sin might be mortified without any help of the Spirit in any unregenerate person in the world. They are to be looked on only as ways whereby the Spirit may, and sometimes doth, put forth strength for the accomplishing of his own work, especially in the case mentioned. Want of a right understanding and due improvement of these and the like considerations, hath raised a mortification among the Papists that may be better applied to horses and other beasts of the field than to believers.
This is the sum of what hath been spoken: When the distemper complained of seems to be rooted in the natural temper and constitution, in applying our souls to a participation of the blood and Spirit of Christ, an endeavour is to be used to give check in the way of God to the natural root of that distemper.
The SIXTH direction is, --
Consider what occasions, what advantages thy distemper hath taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all.
This is one part of that duty which our blessed Saviour recommends to his disciples under the name of watching: Mark xiii. 37, "I
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say unto you all, Watch;" which, in Luke xxi 34, is, "Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged" Watch against all eruptions of thy corruptions. I mean that duty which David professed himself to be exercised unto. "I have," saith he, "kept myself from mine iniquity" He watched all the ways and workings of his iniquity, to prevent them, to rise up against them. This is that which we are called unto under the name of "considering our ways." Consider what ways, what companies, what opportunities, what studies, what businesses, what conditions, have at any time given, or do usually give, advantages to thy distempers, and set thyself heedfully against them all. Men will do this with respect unto their bodily infirmities and distempers. The seasons, the diet, the air that have proved offensive shall be avoided. Are the things of the soul of less importance Know that he that dares to dally with occasions of sin will dare to sin. He that will venture upon temptations unto wickedness will venture upon wickedness. Hazael thought he should not be so wicked as the prophet told him he would be. To convince him, the prophet tells him no more but, "Thou shalt be king of Syria." If he will venture on temptations unto cruelty, he will be cruel. Tell a man he shall commit such and such sins, he will startle at it. If you can convince him that he will venture on such occasions and temptations of them, he will have little ground left for his confidence. Particular directions belonging to this head are many, not now to be insisted on. But because this head is of no less importance than the whole doctrine here handled, I have at large in another treatise, about entering into temptations, treated of it.
The SEVENTH direction is, --
Rise mightily against the first actings of thy distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. Do not say, "Thus far it shah go, and no farther." If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel, -- if it once break out, it will have its course. Its not acting is easier to be compassed than its bounding. Therefore doth James give that gradation and process of lust, chap. i. 14, 15, that we may stop at the entrance. Dost thou find thy corruption to begin to entangle thy thoughts? rise up with all thy strength against it,. with no less indignation than if it had fully accomplished what it aims at. Consider what an unclean thought would have; it would have thee roll thyself in folly and filth. Ask envy what it would have; -- murder and destruction is at the end of it. Set thyself against it with no less vigour than if it had utterly debased thee to wickedness. Without this course thou wilt not prevail. As sin gets ground in the affections to delight in, it gets also upon the understanding to slight it.
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The EIGHTH direction: Thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God: -- Our unacquaintedness with him proposed and considered.
EIGHTHLY, Use and exercise thyself to such meditations as may serve to fill thee at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of thine own vileness; as, --
1. Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and thine infinite, inconceivable distance from him. Many thoughts of it cannot but fill thee with a sense of thine own vileness, which strikes deep at the root of any indwelling sin. When Job comes to a clear discovery of the greatness and the excellency of God, he is filled with self-abhorrence and is pressed to humiliation, Job xlii. 5, 6. And in what state doth the prophet Habakkuk affirm himself to be cast, upon the apprehension of the majesty of God? chap. iii. 16. "With God," says Job, "is terrible majesty." 1 Hence were the thoughts of them of old, that when they had seen God they should die. The Scripture abounds in this self-abasing consideration, comparing the men of the earth to "grasshoppers" to "vanity," the "dust of the balance," in respect of God. 2 Be much in thoughts of this nature, to abase the pride of thy heart, and to keep thy soul humble within thee. There is nothing will render thee a greater indisposition to be imposed on by the deceits of sin than such a frame of heart. Think greatly of the greatness of God.
2. Think much of thine unacquaintedness with him. Though thou knowest enough to keep thee low and humble, yet how little a portion is it that thou knowest of him! The contemplation hereof cast that wise man into that apprehension of himself which he expresses, Prov. xxx. 2-4, "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his Son's name, if thou canst tell?" Labour with this also to take down the pride of thy heart. What dost thou know of God? How little a portion is it! How immense is he in his nature! Canst thou look without terror into the abyss of eternity? Thou canst not bear the rays of his glorious being.
Because I look on this consideration of great use in our walking with God, so far as it may have a consistency with that filial bold-
1 Job xxxvii. 22. 2 Isa. xl. 12-25.
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ness which is given us in Jesus Christ to draw nigh to the throne of grace, I shall farther insist upon it, to give an abiding impression of it to the souls of them who desire to walk humbly with God.
Consider, then, I say, to keep thy heart in continual awe of the majesty of God, that persons of the most high and eminent attainment, of the nearest and most familiar communion with God, do yet in this life know but a very little of him and his glory. God reveals his name to Moses, -- the most glorious attributes that he hath manifested in the covenant of grace, Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6; yet all are but the "back parts" of God. All that he knows by it is but little, low, compared to the perfections of his glory. Hence it is with peculiar reference to Moses that it is said, "No man hath seen God at any time," John i. 18; of him in comparison with Christ doth he speak, verse 17; and of him it is here said, "No man," no, not Moses, the most eminent among them, "hath seen God at any time." We speak much of God, can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of him. Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections.
You will say that Moses was under the law when God wrapped up himself in darkness, and his mind in types and clouds and dark institutions; -- under the glorious shining of the gospel, which hath brought life and immortality to light, God being revealed from his own bosom, we now know him much more clearly, and as he is; we see his face now, and not his back parts only, as Moses did.
Ans. 1 I acknowledge a vast and almost inconceivable difference between the acquaintance we now have with God, after his speaking to us by his own Son,1 and that which the generality of the saints had under the law; for although their eyes were as good, sharp, and clear as ours, their faith and spiritual understanding not behind ours, the object as glorious unto them as unto us, yet our day is more clear than theirs was, the clouds are blown away and scattered, 2 the shadows of the night are gone and fled away, the sun is risen, and the means of sight is made more eminent and clear than formerly. Yet, --
2. That peculiar sight which Moses had of God, Exod. xxxiv., was a gospel-sight, a sight of God as "gracious," etc., and yet it is called but his "back parts;" that is, but low and mean, in comparison of his excellencies an d perfections.
3. The apostle, exalting to the utmost this glory of light above that of the law, manifesting that now the "vail" causing darkness is taken away, so that with "open" or uncovered "face 3 we behold the glory of the Lord," tells us how: "As in a glass," 2 Cor iii. 18. "In a
1 Heb. i. 2.
2 Cant. iv. 6.
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glass," how is that? Clearly, perfectly? Alas, no! He tells you how that is, 1 Cor. xiii. 12, "We see through a glass, darkly," saith he. It is not a telescope that helps us to see things afar off, concerning which the apostle speaks; and yet what poor helps are they! how short do we come of the truth of things notwithstanding their assistance! It is a looking-glass whereunto he alludes (where are only obscure species and images of things, and not the things themselves), and a sight therein that he compares our knowledge to. He tells you also that all that we do see, [GREEK] , "by" or "through this glass," is in [GREEK] -- in "a riddle," in darkness and obscurity. And speaking of himself, who surely was much more clear-sighted than any now living, he tells us that he saw but [GREEK] , -- "in part." He saw but the back parts of heavenly things, verse 12, and compares all the knowledge he had attained of God to that he had of things when he was a child, verse 11. It is a [GREEK] , short of the [GREEK] yea, such as [GREEK] , -- "it shall be destroyed," or done away. We know what weak, feeble, uncertain notions and apprehensions children have of things of any abstruse consideration; how when they grow up with any improvements of parts and abilities, those conceptions vanish, and they are ashamed of them. It is the commendation of a child to love, honour, believe, and obey his father; but for his science and notions, his father knows his childishness and folly. Notwithstanding all our confidence of high attainments, all our notions of God are but childish in respect of his infinite perfections. We lisp and babble, and say we know not what, for the most part, in our most accurate, as we think, conceptions and notions of God. We may love, honour, believe, and obey our Father; and therewith he accepts our childish thoughts, for they are but childish. We see but his back parts; we know but little of him. Hence is that promise wherewith we are so often supported and comforted in our distress," We shall see him as he is;" we shall see him "face to face;" "know as we are known; comprehend that for which we are comprehended," 1 Cor. xiii. 12, 1 John iii. 2; and positively, "Now we see him not;" -- all concluding that here we see but his back parts; not as he is, but in a dark, obscure representation; not in the perfection of his glory.
The queen of Sheba had heard much of Solomon, and framed many great thoughts of his magnificence in her mind thereupon; but when she came and saw his glory, she was forced to confess that the one half of the truth had not been told her. We may suppose that we have here attained great knowledge, clear and high thoughts of God; but, alas! when he shall bring us into his presence we shall cry out, "We never knew him as he is; the thousandth part of his glory, and perfection, and blessedness, never entered into our hearts."
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The apostle tells us, 1 John iii. 2, that we know not what we ourselves shall be, -- what we shall find ourselves in the issue; much less will it enter into our hearts to conceive what God is, and what we shall find him to be. Consider either him who is to be known, or the way whereby we know him, and this will farther appear: --
(1.) We know so little of God, because it is God who is thus to be known, -- that is, he who hath described himself to us very much by this, that we cannot know him. What else doth he intend where he calls himself invisible, incomprehensible, and the like? -- that is, he whom we do not, cannot, know as he is. And our farther progress consists more in knowing what he is not, than what he is. Thus is he described to be immortal, infinite, -- that is, he is not, as we are, mortal, finite, and limited. Hence is that glorious description of him, 1 Tim. vi 16, "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see." His light is such as no creature can approach unto. He is not seen, not because he cannot be seen, but because we cannot bear the sight of him. The light of God, in whom is no darkness, forbids all access to him by any creature whatever. We who cannot behold the sun in its glory are too weak to bear the beams of infinite brightness. On this consideration, as was said, the wise man professeth himself "a very beast, and not to have the understanding of a man," Prov. xxx. 2; -- that is, he knew nothing in comparison of God; so that he seemed to have lost all his understanding when once he came to the consideration of him, his work, and his ways.
In this consideration let our souls descend to some particulars: --
[1.] For the being of God; we are so far from a knowledge of it, so as to be able to instruct one another therein by words and expressions of it, as that to frame any conceptions in our mind, with such species and impressions of things as we receive the knowledge of all other things by, is to make an idol to ourselves, and so to worship a god of our own making, and not the God that made us. We may as well and as lawfully hew him out of wood or stone as form him a being in our minds, suited to our apprehensions. The utmost of the best of our thoughts of the being of God is, that we can have no thoughts of it. Our knowledge of a being is but low when it mounts no higher but only to know that we know it not.
[2.] There be some things of God which he himself hath taught us to speak of, and to regulate our expressions of them; but when we have so done, we see not the things themselves; we know them not. To believe and admire is all that we attain to. We profess, as we are taught, that God is infinite, omnipotent, eternal; and we know what disputes and notions there are about omnipresence, immensity, infiniteness, and eternity. We have, I say, words and notions about
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these things; but as to the things themselves what do we know? what do we comprehend of them? Can the mind of man do any more but swallow itself up in an infinite abyss, which is as nothing; We itself up to what it cannot conceive, much less express? Is not our understanding "brutish" in the contemplation of such things, and is as if it were not? Yea, the perfection of our understanding is, not to understand, and to rest there. They are but the back parts of eternity and infiniteness that we have a glimpse of. What shall I say of the Trinity, or the subsistence of distinct persons in the same individual essence, -- a mystery by many denied, because by none understood, -- a mystery, whose every letter is mysterious? Who can declare the generation of the Son, the procession of the Spirit, or the difference of the one from the other? But I shall not farther instance in particulars. That infinite and inconceivable distance that is between him and us keeps us in the dark as to any sight of his face or clear apprehension of his perfections.
We know him rather by what he does than by what he is, -- by his doing us good than by his essential goodness; and how little a portion of him, as Job speaks, is hereby discovered!
(2.) We know little of God, because it is faith alone whereby here we know him. I shall not now discourse about the remaining impressions on the hearts of all men by nature that there is a God, nor what they may rationally be taught concerning that God from the works of his creation and providence, which they see and behold. It is confessedly, and that upon the woful experience of all ages, so weak, low, dark, confused, that none ever on that account glorified God as they ought, but, notwithstanding all their knowledge of God, were indeed "without God in the world."
The chief, and, upon the matter, almost only acquaintance we have with God, and his dispensations of himself, is by faith. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," Heb. xi. 6. Our knowledge of him and his rewarding (the bottom of our obedience or coming to him), is believing. "We walk by faith, and not by sight," 2 Cor. v. 7; -- [GREEK] [GREEK] by faith, and so by faith as not to have any express idea, image, or species of that which we believe. Faith is all the argument we have of" things not seen," Heb. xi. 1. I might here insist upon the nature of it; and from all its concomitants and concernments manifest that we know but the back parts of what we know by faith only. As to its rise, it is built purely upon the testimony of Him whom we have not seen: as the apostle speaks, "How can ye love him whom ye have not seen?" -- that is, whom you know not but by faith that he is. Faith receives all upon his testimony, whom it receives to be only on his own testimony. As to its nature, it is an assent upon testi-
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mony, not an evidence upon demonstration; and the object of it is, as was said before, above us. Hence our faith, as was formerly observed, is called a "seeing darkly, as in a glass." All that we know this way (and all that we know of God we know this way) is but low, and dark, and obscure.
But you will say, "All this is true, but yet it is only so to them that know not God, perhaps, as he is revealed in Jesus Christ; with them who do so it is otherwise. It is true, `No man hath seen God at any time,' but `the only-begotten Son, he hath revealed him,' John i. 18; and `the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true,' 1 John v. 20. The illumination of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God,' shineth upon believers, 2 Cor. iv. 4; yea, and `God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines into their hearts, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of his Son,' verse 6. So that `though we were darkness,' yet we are now `light in the Lord,' Eph. v. 8. And the apostle says, `We all with open face behold the glory of the Lord,' 2 Cor. iii. 18; and we are now so far from being in such darkness, or at such a distance from God, that `our communion and fellowship is with the Father and with his Son,' 1 John i. 3. The light of the gospel whereby now God is revealed is glorious; not a star, but the sun in his beauty is risen upon us, and the vail is taken from our faces. So that though unbelievers, yea, and perhaps some weak believers, may be in some darkness, yet those of any growth or considerable attainments have a clear sight and view of the face of God in Jesus Christ."
To which I answer, --
[1.] The truth is, we all of us know enough of him to love him more than we do, to delight in him and serve him, believe him, obey him, put our trust in him, above all that we have hitherto attained. Our darkness and weakness is no plea for our negligence and disobedience. Who is it that hath walked up to the knowledge that he hath had of the perfections, excellencies, and will of God? God's end in giving us any knowledge of himself here is that we may "glorify him as God;" that is, love him, serve him, believe and obey him, -- give him all the honour and glory that is due from poor sinful creatures to a sin-pardoning God and Creator. We must all acknowledge that we were never thoroughly transformed into the image of that knowledge which we have had. And had we used our talents well, we might have been trusted with more.
[2.] Comparatively, that knowledge which we have of God by the revelation of Jesus Christ in the gospel is exceeding eminent and glorious. It is so in comparison of any knowledge of God that might otherwise be attained, or was delivered in the law under the Old Tes-
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tament, which had but the shadow of good things, not the express image of them; this the apostle pursues at large, 2 Cor. iii. Christ hath now in these last days revealed the Father from his own bosom, declared his name, made known his mind, will, and counsel in a far more clear, eminent, distinct manner than he did formerly, whilst he kept his people under the pedagogy of the law; and this is that which, for the most part, is intended in the places before mentioned. The clear, perspicuous delivery and declaration of God and his will in the gospel is expressly exalted in comparison of any other way of revelation of himself.
[3.] The difference between believers and unbelievers as to knowledge is not so much in the matter of their knowledge as in the manner of knowing. Unbelievers, some of them, may know more and be able to say more of God, his perfections, and his will, than many believers; but they know nothing as they ought, nothing in a right manner, nothing spiritually and savingly, nothing with a holy, heavenly light. The excellency of a believer is, not that he hath a large apprehension of things, but that what he doth apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees it in the light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious-raised notions,
[4.] Jesus Christ by his word and Spirit reveals to the hearts of all his, God as a Father, as a God in covenant, as a rewarder, every way sufficiently to teach us to obey him here, and to lead us to his bosom, to lie down there in the fruition of him to eternity. But yet now,
[5.] Notwithstanding all this, it is but a little portion we know of him; we see but his back parts. For, --
1st. The intendment of all gospel revelation is, not to unvail God's essential glory, that we should see him as he is, but merely to declare so much of him as he knows sufficient to be a bottom of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him, -- that is, of the faith which here he expects from us; such services as beseem poor creatures in the midst of temptations. But when he calls us to eternal admiration and contemplation, without interruption, he will make a new manner of discovery of himself, and the whole shape of things, as it now lies before us, will depart as a shadow.
2dly. We are dull and slow of heart to receive the things that are in the word revealed; God, by our infirmity and weakness, keeping us in continual dependence on him for teachings and revelations of himself out of his word, never in this world bringing any soul to the utmost of what is from the word to be made out and discovered: so that although the way of revelation in the gospel be clear and evident, yet we know little of the things themselves that are revealed.
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Let us, then, revive the use and intendment of this consideration: Will not a due apprehension of this inconceivable greatness of God, and that infinite distance wherein we stand from him, fill the soul with a holy and awful fear of him, so as to keep it in a frame unsuited to the thriving or flourishing of any lust whatever? Let the soul be continually wonted to reverential thoughts of God's greatness and omnipresence, and it will be much upon its watch as to any undue deportments. Consider him with whom you have to do, -- even "our God is a consuming fire;" and in your greatest abashments at his presence and eye, know that your very nature is too narrow to bear apprehensions suitable to his essential glory.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
The NINTH direction: When the heart is disquieted by sin, speak no peace to it until God speak it -- Peace, without detestation of sin, unsound; so is peace measured out unto ourselves -- How we may know when we measure our peace unto ourselves -- Directions as to that inquiry -- The vanity of speaking peace slightly; also of doing it on one singular account, not universally.
NINTHLY, In case God disquiet the heart about the guilt of its distempers, either in respect of its root and indwelling, or in respect of any eruptions of it, take heed thou speakest not peace to thyself before God speaks it; but hearken what he says to thy soul. This is our next direction, without the observation whereof the heart will be exceedingly exposed to the deceitfulness of sin.
This is a business of great importance. It is a sad thing for a mall to deceive his own soul herein. All the warnings God gives us, in tenderness to our souls, to try and examine ourselves, do tend to the preventing of this great evil of speaking peace groundlessly to ourselves; which is upon the issue to bless ourselves, in an opposition to God. It is not my business to insist upon the danger of it, but to help believers to prevent it, and to let them know when they do so. To manage this direction aright observe, --
1 That as it is the great prerogative and sovereignty of God to give grace to whom he pleases ("He hath mercy on whom he will," Rom. ix. 18; and among all the sons of men, he calls whom he will, and sanctifies whom he will), so among those so called and justified, and whom he will save, he yet reserves this privilege to himself, to speak peace to whom he pleaseth, and in what degree he pleaseth, even amongst them on whom he hath bestowed grace. He is the
PRECAUTIONS AGAINST FALSE PEACE. 71
"God of all consolation," in an especial manner in his dealing with believers; that is, of the good things that he keeps locked up in his family, and gives out of it to all his children at his pleasure. This the Lord insists on, Isa. lvii. 16-18. It is the case under consideration that is there insisted on. When God says he will heal their breaches and disconsolations, he assumes this privilege to himself in an especial manner: "I create it," verse 19; -- "Even in respect of these poor wounded creatures I create it, and according to my sovereignty make it out as I please."
Hence, as it is with the collation of grace in reference to them that are in the state of nature, -- God doth it in great curiosity, and his proceedings therein in taking and leaving, as to outward appearances, quite besides and contrary ofttimes to all probable expectations; so is it m his communications of peace and joy in reference unto them that are in the state of grace, -- he gives them out ofttimes quite besides our expectation, as to any appearing grounds of his dispensations.
2. As God creates it for whom he pleaseth, so it is the prerogative of Christ to speak it home to the conscience. Speaking to the church of Laodicea, who had healed her wounds falsely, and spoke peace to herself when she ought not, he takes to himself that title, "I am the Amen, the faithful Witness," Rev. iii. 14. He bears testimony concerning our condition as it is indeed. We may possibly mistake, and trouble ourselves in vain, or flatter ourselves upon false grounds, but he is the "Amen, the faithful Witness;" and what he speaks of our state and condition, that it is indeed. Isa. xi. 3, He is said not to "judge after the sight of his eyes," -- not according to any outward appearance, or any thing that may be subject to a mistake, as we are apt to do; but he shall judge and determine every cause as it is indeed.
Take these two previous observations, and I shall give some rules whereby men may know whether God speaks peace to them, or whether they speak peace to themselves only --
1. Men certainly speak peace to themselves when their so doing is not attended with the greatest detestation imaginable of that sin in reference whereunto they do speak peace to themselves, and abhorrency of themselves for it. When men are wounded by sin, disquieted and perplexed, and knowing that there is no remedy for them but only in the mercies of God, through the blood of Christ, do therefore look to him, and to the promises of the covenant in him, and thereupon quiet their hearts that it shall be well with them, and that God will be exalted, that he may be gracious to them, and yet their souls are not wrought to the greatest detestation of the sin or sins upon the account whereof they are disquieted, -- this is to heal them
72 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
selves, and not to he healed of God. This is but a great and strong wind, that the Lord is nigh unto, but the Lord is not in the wind. When men do truly "look upon Christ whom they have pierced," without which there is no healing or peace, they will "mourn," Zech. xii. 10; they will mourn for him, even upon this account, and detest the sin that pierced him. When we go to Christ for healing, faith eyes him peculiarly as one pierced. Faith takes several views of Christ, according to the occasions of address to him and communion with him that it hath. Sometimes it views his holiness, sometimes his power, sometimes his love, [sometimes] his favour with his Father. And when it goes for healing and peace, it looks especially on the blood of the covenant, on his sufferings; for "with his stripes we are healed, and the chastisement of our peace was upon him," Isa. liii. 5. When we look for healing, his stripes are to be eyed, -- not in the outward story of them, which is the course of popish devotionists, but in the love, kindness, mystery, and design of the cross; and when we look for peace, his chastisements must be in our eye. Now this, I say, if it be done according to the mind of God, and in the strength of that Spirit which is poured out on believers, it will beget a detestation of that sin or sins for which healing and peace is sought. So Ezek. xvi. 60, 61, "Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant." And what then? "Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed." When God comes home to speak peace in a sure covenant of it, it fills the soul with shame for all the ways whereby it hath been alienated from him. And one of the things that the apostle mentions as attending that godly sorrow which is accompanied with repentance unto salvation, never to be repented of, is revenge: "Yea, what revenge!" 2 Cor. vii. 11. They reflected on their miscarriages with indignation and revenge, for their folly in them. When Job comes up to a thorough healing, he cries, "Now I abhor myself," Job xlii. G; and until he did so, he had no abiding peace. He might perhaps have made up himself with that doctrine of free grace which was so excellently preached by Elihu, chap. xxxiii. from verse 14 unto 30; but he had then but skinned his wounds: he must come to self-abhorrency if he come to healing. So was it with those in Ps. lxxviii. 33-35, in their great trouble and perplexity, for and upon the account of sin. I doubt not but upon the address they made to God in Christ (for that so they did is evident from the titles they gave him; they call him their Rock and their Redeemer, two words everywhere pointing out the Lord Christ), they spake peace to themselves; but was it sound and abiding? No; it passed away as the early dew. God speaks not one word of peace to their souls. But why had they not peace? Why, because in their address to God, they flattered him.
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But how doth that appear? Verse 37: "Their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast;" they had not a detestation nor relinquishment of that sin in reference whereunto they spake peace to themselves. Let a man make what application he will for healing and peace, let him do it to the true Physician, let him do it the right way, let him quiet his heart in the promises of the covenant; yet, when peace is spoken, if it be not attended with the detestation and abhorrency of that sin which was the wound and caused the disquietment, this is no peace of God's creating, but of our own purchasing. It is but a skinning over the wound, whilst the core lies at the bottom, which will putrefy, and corrupt, and corrode, until it break out again with noisomeness, vexation, and danger. Let not poor souls that walk in such a path as this, who are more sensible of the trouble of sin than of the pollution of uncleanness that attends it; who address themselves for mercy, yea, to the Lord in Christ they address themselves for mercy, but yet will keep the sweet morsel of their sin under their tongue; -- let them, I say, never think to have true and solid peace. For instance, thou findest thy heart running out after the world, and it disturbs thee in thy communion with God; the Spirit speaks expressly to thee, -- "He that loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 This puts thee on dealing with God in Christ for the healing of thy soul, the quieting of thy conscience; but yet, withal, a thorough detestation of the evil itself abides not upon thee; yea, perhaps that is liked well enough, but only in respect of the consequences of it. Perhaps thou mayst be saved, yet as through fire, and God will have some work with thee before he hath done; but thou wilt have little peace in this life, -- thou wilt be sick and fainting all thy days, Isa. lvii. 17. This is a deceit that lies at the root of the peace of many professors and wastes it. They deal with all their strength about mercy and pardon, and seem to have great communion with God in their so doing; they lie before him, bewail their sins and follies, that any one would think, yea, they think themselves, that surely they and their sins are now parted; and so receive in mercy that satisfies their hearts for a little season. But when a thorough search comes to be made, there hath been some secret reserve for the folly or follies treated about, -- at least, there hath not been that thorough abhorrency of it which is necessary; and their whole peace is quickly discovered to be weak and rotten, scarce abiding any longer than the words of begging it are in their mouths.
2. When men measure out peace to themselves upon the conclusions that their convictions and rational principles will carry them out unto, this is a false peace, and will not abide. I shall a little explain what I mean hereby. A man hath got a wound by sin; he hath a
1 1 John ii. 15.
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conviction of some sin upon his conscience; he hath not walked uprightly as becometh the gospel; all is not well and right between God and his soul. He considers now what is to be done. Light he hath, and knows what path he must take, and how his soul hath been formerly healed. Considering that the promises of God are the outward means of application for the healing of his sores and quieting of his heart, he goes to them, searches them out, finds out some one or more of them whose literal expressions are directly suited to his condition. Says he to himself, "God speaks in this promise; here I will take myself a plaster as long and broad as my wound;" and so brings the word of tile promise to his condition, and sets him down in peace. This is another appearance upon the mount; the Lord is near, but the Lord is not in it. It hath not been the work of the Spirit, who alone can "convince us of sin, and righteousness, and judgment," 1 but the mere actings of the intelligent, rational soul. As there are three sorts of lives, we say, -- the vegetative, the sensitive, and the rational or intelligent, -- some things have only the vegetative; some the sensitive also, and that includes the former; some have the rational, which takes in and supposes both the other. Now, he that hath the rational doth not only act suitably to that principle, but also to both the others, -- he grows and is sensible. It is so with men in the things of God. Some are mere natural and rational men; some have a superadded conviction with illumination; and some are truly regenerate. Now, he that hath the latter hath also both the former; and therefore he acts sometimes upon the principles of the rational, sometimes upon the principles of the enlightened man. His true spiritual life is not the principle of all his motions; he acts not always in the strength thereof, neither are all his fruits from that root. In this case that I speak of, he acts merely upon the principle of conviction and illumination, whereby his first naturals are heightened; but the Spirit breathes not at all upon all these waters. Take an instance: Suppose the wound and disquiet of the soul to be upon the account of relapses, -- which, whatever the evil or folly be, though for the matter of it never so small, yet there are no wounds deeper than those that are given the soul on that account, nor disquietments greater; -- in the perturbation of his mind, he finds out that promise, Isa. Iv. 7, "The LORD will have mercy, and our God will abundantly pardon," -- he will multiply or add to pardon, he will do it again and again; or that in Hos. xiv. 4, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely." This the man considers, and thereupon concludes peace to himself; whether the Spirit of God make the application or no, whether that gives life and power to the letter or no, that he regards not. He doth not hearken
1 John xvi. 8.
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whether God the Lord speak peace. He doth not wait upon God, who perhaps yet hides his face, and sees the poor creature stealing peace and running away with it, knowing that the time will come when he will deal with him again, and call him to a new reckoning; 1 when he shall see that it is in vain to go one step where God doth not take him by the hand.
I see here, indeed, sundry other questions upon this arising and interposing themselves. I cannot apply myself to them all: one I shall a little speak to.
It may be said, then, "Seeing that this seems to be the path that the Holy Spirit leads us in for the healing of our wounds and quieting of our hearts, how shall we know when we go alone ourselves, and when the Spirit also doth accompany us?"
Ans. (1.) If any of you are out of the way upon this account, God will speedily let you know it; for besides that you have his promise, that the "meek he will guide in judgment and teach them his way," Ps. xxv. 9, he will not let you always err. He will, I say, not suffer your nakedness to be covered with fig-leaves, but take them away and all the peace you have in them, and will not suffer you to settle on such lees. You shall quickly know your wound is not healed; that is, you shall speedily know whether or no it be thus with you by the event. The peace you thus get and obtain will not abide. Whilst the mind is overpowered by its own convictions, there is no hold for disquietments to fix upon. Stay a little, and all these reasonings will grow cold and vanish before the face of the first temptation that arises. But, --
(2.) This course is commonly taken without waiting; which is the grace, and that peculiar acting of faith which God calls for, to be exercised in such a condition. I know God doth sometimes come in upon the soul instantly, in a moment, as it were, wounding and healing it, -- as I am persuaded it was in the case of David, when he cut off the lap of Saul's garment; but ordinarily, in such a case, God calls for 2 waiting and labouring, attending as the eye of a servant upon his master. Says the prophet Isaiah, chap. viii. 17, "I will wait upon the LORD, who hideth his face from the house of Jacob." God will have his children lie a while at his door when they have run from his house, and not instantly rush in upon him; unless he take them by the hand and pluck them in, when they are so ashamed that they dare not come to him. Now, self-healers, or men that speak peace to themselves, do commonly make haste; they will not tarry; they do not hearken what God speaks, but on they will go to be healed. 3
(3.) Such a course, though it may quiet the conscience and the mind, the rational concluding part of the soul, yet it doth not sweeten
1 Hos. ix. 9.
2 Ps. cxxx. 6, cxxiii. 2.
3 Isa. xxviii. 16.
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the heart with rest and gracious contentation. The answer it receives is much like that Elisha gave Naaman, "Go in peace;"1 it quieted his mind, but I much question whether it sweetened his heart, or gave him any joy in believing, other than the natural joy that was then stirred in him upon his healing. "Do not my words do good?" saith the Lord, Micah ii. 7. When God speaks, there is not only truth in his words, that may answer the conviction of our understandings, but also they do good; they bring that which is sweet, and good, and desirable to the will and affections; by them the "soul returns unto its rest," Ps. cxvi. 7.
(4.) Which is worst of all, it amends not the life, it heals not the evil, it cures not the distemper. When God speaks peace, it guides and keeps the soul that it "turn not again to folly." 2 When we speak it ourselves, the heart is not taken off the evil; nay, it is the readiest course in the world to bring a soul into a trade of backsliding. If, upon thy plastering thyself, thou findest thyself rather animated to the battle again than utterly weaned from it, it is too palpable that thou hast been at work with thine own soul, but Jesus Christ and his Spirit were not there. Yea, and oftentimes nature having done its work, will, ere a few days are over, come for its reward; and, having been active in the work of healing, will be ready to reason for a new wounding. In God's speaking peace there comes along so much sweetness, and such a discovery of his love, as is a strong obligation on the soul no more to deal perversely. 3
3. We speak peace to ourselves when we do it slightly. This the prophet complains of in some teachers: Jer. vi. 14, "They have healed the wound of the daughter of my people slightly." And it is so with some persons: they make the healing of their wounds a slight work; a look, a glance of faith to the promises does it, and so the matter is ended. The apostle tells us that "the word did not profit" some, because "it was not mixed with faith," Heb. iv. 2, -- [GREEK] "it was not well tempered" and mingled with faith. It is not a mere look to the word of mercy in the promise, but it must be mingled with faith until it is incorporated into the very nature of it; and then, indeed, it doth good unto the soul. If thou hast had a wound upon thy conscience, which was attended with weakness and disquietness, which now thou art freed of, how camest thou so? "I looked to the promises of pardon and healing, and so found peace." Yea, but perhaps thou hast made too much haste, thou hast done it overtly, thou hast not fed upon the promise so as to mix it with faith, to have got all the virtue of it diffused into thy soul; only thou bast done it slightly. Thou wilt find thy wound, ere it be long, breaking out again; and thou shalt know that thou art not cured.
1 2 Kings v. 19.
2 Ps. lxxxv. 8.
3 Luke xxii. 32.
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4. Whoever speaks peace to himself upon any one account, and at the same time hath another evil of no less importance lying upon his spirit, about which he hath had no dealing with God, that man cries "Peace" when there is none. A little to explain my meaning: A man hath neglected a duty again and again, perhaps, when in all righteousness it was due from him; his conscience is perplexed, his soul wounded, he hath no quiet in his bones by reason of his sin; he applies himself for healing, and finds peace. Yet, in the meantime, perhaps, worldliness, or pride, or some other folly, wherewith the Spirit of God is exceedingly grieved, may lie in the bosom of that man, and they neither disturb him nor he them. Let not that man think that any of his peace is from God. Then shall it be well with men, when they have an equal respect to all God's commandments. God will justify us from our sins, but he will not justify the least sin in us: "He is a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity."
5. When men of themselves speak peace to their consciences, it is seldom that God speaks humiliation to their souls. God's peace is humbling peace, melting peace, as it was in the case of David;1 never such deep humiliation as when Nathan brought him the tidings of his pardon.
But you will say, "When may we take the comfort of a promise as our own, in relation to some peculiar wound, for the quieting the heart?"
First, In general, when God speaks it, be it when it will, sooner or later. I told you before, he may do it in the very instant of the sin itself, and that with such irresistible power that the soul must needs receive his mind in it; sometimes he will make us wait longer: but when he speaks, be it sooner or later, be it when we are sinning or repenting, be the condition of our souls what they please, if God speak, he must be received. There is not any thing that, in our communion with him, the Lord is more troubled with us for, if I may so say, than our unbelieving fears, that keep us off from receiving that strong consolation which he is so willing to give to us.
But you will say, "We are where we were. When God speaks it, we must receive it, that is true; but how shall we know when he speaks?"
(1.) I would we could all practically come up to this, to receive peace when we are convinced that God speaks it, and that it is our duty to receive it. But, --
(2.) There is, if I may so say, a secret instinct in faith, whereby it knows the voice of Christ when he speaks indeed; as the babe leaped in the womb when the blessed Virgin came to Elisabeth, faith leaps in the heart when Christ indeed draws nigh to it. "My sheep,"
1 Ps. li. 1.
78 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
says Christ, "know my voice," John x. 4; -- "They know my voice; they are used to the sound of it;" and they know when his lips are opened to them and are full of grace. The spouse was in a sad condition, Cant. v. 2, -- asleep in security; but yet as soon as Christ speaks, she cries, "It is the voice of my beloved that speaks!" She knew his voice, and was so acquainted with communion with him, that instantly she discovers him; and so will you also. If you exercise yourselves to acquaintance and communion with him, you will easily discern between his voice and the voice of a stranger. And take this [GREEK] with you: When he doth speak, he speaks as never man spake; he speaks with power, and one way or other will make your "hearts burn within you," as he did to the disciples, Luke xxiv. He doth it by "putting in his hand at the hole of the door," Cant. v. 4, -- his Spirit into your hearts to seize on you.
He that hath his senses exercised to discern good or evil, being increased in judgment and experience by a constant observation of the ways of Christ's intercourse, the manner of the operations of the Spirit, and the effects it usually produceth, is the best judge for himself in this case.
Secondly, If the word of the Lord doth good to your souls, he speaks it; if it humble, if it cleanse, and be useful to those ends for which promises are given, -- namely, to endear, to cleanse, to melt and bind to obedience, to self-emptiness, etc.]gut this is not my business; nor shall I farther divert in the pursuit of this direction. Without the observation of it, sin will have great advantages towards the hardening of the heart.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
The general use of the foregoing directions -- The great direction for the accomplishment of the work aimed at: Act faith on Christ -- The several ways whereby this may be done -- Consideration of the fulness in Christ for relief proposed -- Great expectations from Christ -- Grounds of these expectations: his mercifulness, his faithfulness -- Event of such expectations; on the part of Christ; on the part of believers -- Faith peculiarly to be acted on the death of Christ, Rom. vi. 3-6 -- The work of the Spirit in this whole business.
NOW, the considerations which I have hitherto insisted on are rather of things preparatory to the work aimed at than such as will effect it. It is the heart's due preparation for the work itself, without which it will not be accomplished, that hitherto I have aimed at.
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Directions for the work itself are very few; I mean that are peculiar to it. And they are these that follow: --
1. Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of thy sin. His blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls. Live in this, and thou wilt die a conqueror; yea, thou wilt, through the good providence of God, live to see thy lust dead at thy feet.
But thou wilt say, "How shall faith act itself on Christ for this end and purpose?" I say, Sundry ways: --
(1.) By faith fill thy soul with a due consideration of that provision which is laid up in Jesus Christ for this end and purpose, that all thy lusts, this very lust wherewith thou art entangled, may be mortified. By faith ponder on this, that though thou art no way able in or by thyself to get the conquest over thy distemper, though thou art even weary of contending, and art utterly ready to faint, yet that there is enough in Jesus Christ to yield thee relief, Phil. iv. 13. It staid the prodigal, when he was 1 ready to faint, that yet there was bread enough in his father's house; though he was at a distance from it, yet it relieved him, and staid him, that there it was. In thy greatest distress and anguish, consider that fulness of grace, those riches, those 2 treasures of strength, might, and help, that are laid up in him for our support, John i. 16, Col. i. 19. Let them come into and abide in thy mind. Consider that he is "exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour to give repentance unto Israel," Acts v. 31; and if to give repentance, to give mortification, without which the other is not, nor can be. Christ tells us that we obtain purging grace by abiding in him, John xv. 3. To act faith upon the fulness that is in Christ for our supply is an eminent way of abiding in Christ, for both our insition and abode is by faith, Rom. xi. 19, 20. Let, then, thy soul by faith be exercised with such thoughts and apprehensions as these: "I am a poor, weak creature; unstable as water, I cannot excel. This corruption is too hard for me, and is at the very door of ruining my soul; and what to do I know not. My soul is become as parched ground, and an habitation of dragons. I have made promises and broken them; vows and engagements have been as a thing of nought. Many persuasions have I had that I had got the victory and should be delivered, but I am deceived; so that I plainly see, that without some eminent succour and assistance, I am lost, and shall be prevailed on to an utter relinquishment of God. But yet, though this be my state and condition, let the hands that hang down be lifted up, and the feeble knees be strengthened. Behold, 3 the Lord Christ, that hath all fulness of grace in his heart, all fulness of power in his hand, he is able to slay all these his enemies. There is sufficient provision in him for my relief and assist-
1 Luke xv. 17.
2 Isa. xl. 28-31.
3 John i. 16; Matt. xxviii. 18.
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ance. He can take my drooping, dying soul and make me more than a conqueror.1 `Why sayest thou, O my soul, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint,' Isa. xl. 27-31. He can make the `dry, parched ground of my soul to become a pool, and my thirsty, barren heart as springs of water;' yea, he can make this ` habitation of dragons,' this heart, so full of abominable lusts and fiery temptations, to be a place for `grass' and fruit to himself," Isa. xxxv. 7. So God staid Paul, under his temptation, with the consideration of the sufficiency of his grace: "My grace is sufficient for thee," 2 Cor. xii. 9. Though he were not immediately so far made partaker of it as to be freed from his temptation, yet the sufficiency of it in God, for that end and purpose, was enough to stay his spirit. I say, then, by faith, be much in the consideration of that supply and the fulness of it that is in Jesus Christ, and how he can at any time give thee strength and deliverance. Now, if hereby thou dost not find success to a conquest, yet thou wilt be staid in the chariot, that thou shalt not fly out of the field until the battle be ended; thou wilt be kept from an utter despondency and a lying down under thy unbelief, or a turning aside to false means and remedies, that in the issue will not relieve thee. The efficacy of this consideration will be found only in the practice.
(2.) Raise up thy heart by faith to an expectation of relief from Christ. Relief in this case from Christ is like the prophet's vision, Hab. ii. 3, "It is for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, yet wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Though it may seem somewhat long to thee, whilst thou art under thy trouble and perplexity, yet it shall surely come in the appointed time of the Lord Jesus; which is the best season. If, then, thou canst raise up thy heart to a settled expectation of relief from Jesus Christ, -- if thine eyes are toward s him "as the eyes of a servant to the hand of his master," 2 when he expects to receive somewhat from him, -- thy soul shall be satisfied, he will assuredly deliver thee; he will slay the lust, and thy latter end shall be peace. Only look for it at his hand; expect when and how he will do it. 3 "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established."
1 Rom. viii. 37.
2 Ps. cxxiii. 2.
3 Isa. vii. 9.
NECESSITY OF FAITH ON CHRIST. 81
But wilt thou say, "What ground have I to build such an expectation upon, so that I may expect not to be deceived?"
As thou hast necessity to put thee on this course, thou must be relieved and saved this way or none. To 1 whom wilt thou go? So there are in the Lord Jesus innumerable things to encourage and engage thee to this expectation.
For the necessity of it, I have in part discovered it before, when I manifested that this is the work of faith and of believers only. "Without me," says Christ, "ye can do nothing," John xv. 5; speaking with especial relation to the purging of the heart from sin, verse 2. Mortification of any sin must be by a supply of grace. Of ourselves we cannot do it. Now, "it hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell," Col. i. 19; that "of his fulness we might receive grace for grace," John i. 16. He is the head from whence the new man must have influences of life and strength, or it will decay every day. If 2 we are "strengthened with might in the inner man," it is by "Christ's dwelling in our hearts by faith," Eph. iii. 16, 17. That this work is not to be done without the Spirit I have also showed before. Whence, then, do we expect the Spirit? from whom do we look for him? who hath promised him to us, having procured him for us? Ought not all our expectations to this purpose to be on Christ alone? Let this, then, be fixed upon thy heart, that if thou hast not relief from him thou shalt never have any. All ways, endeavours, contendings, that are not animated by this expectation of relief from Christ and him only are to no purpose, will do thee no good; yea, if they are any thing but supportments of thy heart in this expectation, or means appointed by himself for the receiving help from him, they are in vain.
Now, farther to engage thee to this expectation, --
(1.) Consider his mercifulness, tenderness, and kindness, as he is our great High Priest at the right hand of God. Assuredly he pities thee in thy distress; saith he, "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you," Isa. lxvi. 13. He hath the tenderness of a mother to a sucking child. Heb. ii. 17, 18, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." How is the ability of Christ upon the account of his suffering proposed to us? "In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able." Did the sufferings and temptations of Christ add to his ability and power? Not, doubtless, considered absolutely and in it itself. But the ability here mentioned is such as hath readi-
1 John vi. 68.
2 Col. i. 11.
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ness, proneness, willingness to put itself forth, accompanying of it; it is an ability of will against all dissuasions. He is able, having suffered and been tempted, to break through all dissuasions to the contrary, to relieve poor tempted souls: [GREEK] , -- "He is able to help." It is a metonymy of the effect; for, he can now be moved to help, having been so tempted. So chap. iv. 15, 16: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." The exhortation of verse 16 is the same that I am upon, -- namely, that we would entertain expectations of relief from Christ, which the apostle there calls [GREEK] . . . . [GREEK] , "grace for seasonable help." "If ever," says the soul "help were seasonable, it would be so to me in my present condition. This is that which I long for, -- grace for seasonable help. I am ready to die,' to perish, to be lost for ever; iniquity will prevail against me, if help come not in." Says the apostle, "Expect this he]p, this relief, this grace from Christ." Yea, but on what account? That which he lays down, verse 15. And we may observe that the word, verse] 6, which we have translated to "obtain," is [GREEK] . . . . . . . . [GREEK] , "That we may receive it;" suitable and seasonable help will come in. I shall freely say, this one thing of establishing the soul by faith in expectation of relief from Jesus Christ,1 on the account of his mercifulness as our high priest, will be more available to the ruin of thy lust and distemper, and have a better and speedier issue, than all the rigidest means of self-maceration that ever any of the sons of men engaged themselves unto. Yea, let me add, that never any soul did or shall perish by the power of any lust, sin, or corruption, who could raise his soul by faith to an expectation of relief from Jesus Christ.2
(2.) Consider His faithfulness who hath promised; which may raise thee up and confirm thee in this waiting in an expectation of relief. lie hath promised to relieve in such cases, and he will fulfil his word to the utmost. God tells us that his covenant with us is like the "ordinances" of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, which have their certain courses, Jer. xxxi. 36. Thence David said that he watched for relief from God "as one watched for the morning," 3 -- a thing that will certainly come in its appointed season. So will be thy relief from Christ. It will come in its season, as the dew and rain upon the parched ground; for faithful is he who hath promised. Particular promises to this purpose are innumerable; with some of them, that seem peculiarly to suit his condition, let the soul be always furnished.
1 Matt. xi. 28.
2 Isa. lv. 1-3; Rev. iii. 18
3 Ps. cxxx. 6.
NECESSITY OF FAITH ON CHRIST. 83
Now, there are two eminent advantages which always attend this expectation of succour from Jesus Christ: --
[1.] It engages him to a full and speedy assistance. Nothing doth more engage the heart of a man to be useful and helpful to another than his expectation of help from him, if justly raised and countenanted by him who is to give the relief. Our Lord Jesus hath raised our hearts, by his kindness, care, and promises, to this expectation; certainly our rising up unto it must needs be a great engagement upon him to assist us accordingly. This the Psalmist gives us as an approved maxim, "Thou, LORD, never forsakest them that put their trust in thee." When the heart is once won to rest in God, to repose himself on him, he will assuredly satisfy it. He will never be as water that fails; nor hath he said at any time to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye my face in vain." If Christ be chosen for the foundation of our supply, he will not fail us.
[2.] It engages the heart to attend diligently to all the ways and means whereby Christ is wont to communicate himself to the soul; and so takes in the real assistance of all graces and ordinances whatever. lie that expects any thing from a man, applies himself to the ways and means whereby it may be obtained. The beggar that expects an alms lies at his door or in his way from whom he doth expect it. The way whereby and the means wherein Christ communicates himself is, and are, his ordinances ordinarily; he that expects any thing from him must attend upon him therein. It is the expectation of faith that sets the heart on work. It is not an idle, groundless hope that I speak of. If now there be any vigour, efficacy, and power in prayer or sacrament to this end of mortifying sin, a man will assuredly be interested in it all by this expectation of relief from Christ. On this account I reduce all particular actings, by prayer, meditation, and the like, to this head; and so shall not farther insist on them, when they are grounded on this bottom and spring from this root. They are of singular use to this purpose, and not else.
Now, on this direction for the mortification of a prevailing distemper you may have a thousand "probatum est's." Who have walked with God under this temptation, and have not found the use and success of it? I dare leave the soul under it, without adding any more. Only some particulars relating thereunto may be mentioned --
First, Act faith peculiarly upon the death, blood, and cross of Christ; that is, on Christ as crucified and slain. Mortification of sin is peculiarly from the death of Christ. It is one peculiar, yea, eminent end of the death of Christ, which shall assuredly be accomplished by it, He died to destroy the works of the devil. Whatever came upon our natures by his first temptation, whatever receives strength in our persons by his daily suggestions, Christ died to destroy it all. "He gave
84 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works," Tit. ii. 14. This was his aim and intendment (wherein he will not fall) in his giving himself for us. That we might be freed from the power of our sins, and purified from all our defiling lusts, was his design. "He gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it; that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish," Eph. v. 25-27. And this, by virtue of his death, in various and several degrees, shall be accomplished. Hence our washing, purging, and cleansing is everywhere ascribed to his blood, I John i. 7; Heb. i. 3; Rev. i. 5. That being sprinkled on us, "purges our consciences from dead works to serve the living God," Heb. ix. 14. This is that we aim at, this we are in pursuit of, -- that our consciences may be purged from dead works, that they may be rooted out, destroyed, and have place in us no more. This shall certainly be brought about by the death of Christ; there will virtue go out from thence to this purpose. Indeed, all supplies of the Spirit, all communications of grace and power, are from hence; as I have elsewhere 1 showed. Thus the apostle states it; Rom. vi. 2, is the case proposed that we have in hand: "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" -- "Dead to sin by profession; dead to sin by obligation to be so; dead to sin by participation of virtue and power for the killing of it; dead to sin by union and interest in Christ, in and by whom it is killed: how shall we live therein?" This he presses by sundry considerations, all taken from the death of Christ, in the ensuing verses. This must not be: verse 3, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" We have in baptism an evidence of our implantation into Christ; we are baptized into him: but what of him are we baptized into an interest in? "His death," saith he. If indeed we are baptized into Christ, and beyond outward profession, we are baptized into his death. The explication of this, of one being baptized into the death of Christ, the apostle gives us, verses 4, 6: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." "This is," saith he, "our being baptized into the death of Christ, namely, our conformity thereunto; to be dead unto sin, to have our corruptions mortified, as he was put to death for sin: so that as he was raised up to glory, we may be raised up to grace and newness of life." He tells us whence it is that we have this baptism into the death of Christ, verse 6; and
1 Communion with Christ, vol. . ii. chapters vii. viii.
NECESSITY OF FAITH ON CHRIST. 85
this is from the death of Christ itself: "Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed;" [GREEK] , "is crucified with him," not in respect of time, but causality. We are crucified with him meritoriously, in that he procured the Spirit for us to mortify sin; efficiently, in that from his death virtue comes forth for our crucifying; in the way of a representation and exemplar we shall assuredly be crucified unto sin, as he was for our sin. This is that the apostle intends: Christ by his death destroying the works of the devil, procuring the Spirit for us, hath so killed sin, as to its reign in believers, that it shall not obtain its end and dominion.
Secondly, Then act faith on the death of Christ, and that under these two notions, -- first, In expectation of power; secondly, In endeavours for conformity. 1 For the first, the direction given in general may suffice; as to the latter, that of the apostle may give us some light into our direction, Gal. iii. 1. Let faith look on Christ in the gospel as he is set forth dying and crucified for us Look on him under the weight 2 of our sins, praying, bleeding, dying; bring him in that condition into thy heart by faith; apply his blood so shed to thy corruptions: do this daily. I might draw out this consideration to a great length, in sundry particulars, but I must come to a close.
2. I have only, then, to add the heads of the work of the Spirit in this business of mortification, which is so peculiarly ascribed to him.
In one word: This whole work, which I have described as our duty, is effected, carried on, and accomplished by the power of the Spirit, in all the parts and degrees of it; as, --
(1.) He alone clearly and fully convinces the heart of the evil and guilt and danger of the corruption, lust, or sin to be mortified. Without this conviction, or whilst it is so faint that the heart can wrestle with it or digest it, there will be no thorough work made. An unbelieving heart (as in part we have all such) will shift with any consideration, until it be overpowered by clear and evident convictions. Now this is the proper work of the Spirit: "lie convinces of sin," John xvi. 8; he alone can do it. If men's rational considerations, with the preaching of the letter, were able to convince them of sin, we should, it may be, see more convictions than we do. There comes by the preaching of the word an apprehension upon the understandings of men that they are sinners, that such and such things are sins, that themselves are guilty of them; but this light is not powerful, nor doth it lay hold on the practical principles of the soul, so as to conform the mind and will unto them, to produce effects suitable to such an apprehension. And therefore it is that wise and knowing men, destitute of the Spirit, do not think those things to be sins at all wherein the
1 Phil. iii. 10; Col. iii. 3; I Pet. i. 18, 19.
2 1 Cor. xv. 3; I Pet. i. 18, 19, v. 1, 2; Col. i. 18, 14.
86 MORTIFICATION OF SIN IN BELIEVERS.
chief movings and actings of lust do consist. It is the Spirit alone that can do, that doth, this work to the purpose. And this is the first thing that the Spirit doth in order to the mortification of any lust whatever, -- it convinces the soul of all the evil of it, cuts off all its pleas, discovers all its deceits, stops all its evasions, answers its pretences, makes the soul own its abomination, and lie down under the sense of it, Unless this be done all that follows is in vain.
(2.) The Spirit alone reveals unto us the fulness of Christ for our relief; which is the consideration that stays the heart from false ways and from despairing despondency, 1 Cor. ii 8.
(3.) The Spirit alone establishes the heart in expectation of relief from Christ; which is the great sovereign means of mortification, as hath been discovered, 2 Cor. i. 21.
(4.) The Spirit alone brings the cross of Christ into our hearts with its sin-killing power; for by the Spirit are we baptized into the death of Christ
(5.) The Spirit is the author and finisher of our sanctification; gives new supplies and influences of grace for holiness and sanctification, when the contrary principle is weakened and abated, Eph. iii. 16-18.
(6.) In all the soul's addresses to God in this condition, it hath supportment from the Spirit. Whence is the power, life, and vigour of prayer? whence its efficacy to prevail with God? Is it not from the Spirit? He is the "Spirit of supplications" promised to them "who look on him whom they have pierced," Zech. xii. 10, enabling them "to pray with sighs and groans that cannot be uttered," Rom. viii. 26. This is confessed to be the great medium or way of faith's prevailing with God. Thus Paul dealt with his temptation, whatever it were: "I besought the Lord that it might depart from me." 1 That is the work of the Spirit in prayer, whence and how it gives us in assistance and makes us to prevail, what we are to do that we may enjoy his help for that purpose, is not my present intendment to demonstrate.
1 2 Cor. xii. 8.
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