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WE MUST ENDEAVOUR TO MAKE THEM SURE. 3. HOW AND BY WHAT MEANS, we may and must endeavour to assure them.
I. As for the FIRST of these, the very charge and command itself implies it. The justice of God doth not use to require impossibie things from us: when, therefore, he bids us give diligence to do it, what doth it imply, but that by diligence it may be done? What will our diligence do, in a business, that cannot be done? Should a man be bidden to take care that he fly well, or walk steadily on his head, this would justly sound as a mockery; because he knows they are not feasible: but, when he is bidden to walk circumspectly, and to take heed to his feet, it presupposeth our ability, and requireth our will to perform it: and so doth this precept here..
Men are apt to employ their wits to their own disadvantage. The Romish Doctors have been of late times very busy to cry down the possibility of this certainty: they, and none but they: for all Protestants, of what profession soever, disclaim this doctrine: even those our brethren, that follow the school of Arminius, are herein, for the possibility of our present certainty, with and for us: Tox Pontificiam, they are their own words, nos seriò damnamus et aversamur; "This Popish doubtfulness and irresolution we hate and condemn, &c." So as only the Pontifician Divines are, in this point, opposite to us all. And not all of them neither: Catherinus is for us, and some others come close to us. But the stream of them runs the wrong way; teaching, that we may hope well, and give good conjectures, and attain perhaps to a moral certitude of our present acceptation and future blessedness: but that no assurance can be had hereof, nor none ought to be affected without a special revelation; as their St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Galla, and some few others have had: the contrary whereof their Estius dare censure, for perdita et perditrix hæresis. Why will wise men affect to be thus much their own enemies? Is not salvation the best of good things? Should not a man rather incline to wish himself well? What pleasure then can it be for a man, to stand in his own light; and to be niggardly to himself, where God hath been bountiful? to stave himself off from that comfortable certainty, which God hath left in his possibility to make good to his own soul?
Let us, then, a little enquire into the feasibleness of this great improvement of our holy and Christian diligence. And, certainly, if there be any let in the possibility of this assurance, it must be
'Enox, Pontificiam nos seriò damnamus et aversamur; et toto cœlo errant, qui hanc cum isto dogmate confundunt. Alia est istæc perpetua dubitatio sive fluctuatio; quá statuunt Pontificii, neminem in hac vita certitudine fidei certum esse posse se gratiam apud Deum adeptum esse. Quid hoc ad præsentem questionem? Quis nostrum hanc Pontificiorum sententiam unquam approbavit ? Imo, ut huic calumniæ maturè obviam iremus, in propositione sententiæ nostræ, circa quintum articulum, exsertè professi sumus, thesi 7. Verè fidelem, ut pro tempore præsente, de fidei et conscientiæ suæ integritate certum esse posse; ita, et de sua salute, et salutiferá Dei erga ipsum benevolentiâ, pro illo tempore cer▾ tum esse posse ac debere; addentes insuper, Pontificiam sententium nos hic im◄ probare. Remonstr. Defens. 51. Articuli, p. 338.
either in our Present Faith, or in the Perpetuation of it; for, in the connexion of a lively faith with saivation, it cannot be. That he, who Effectua ly Believes and Perseveres to the Evd, shall be saved, no man, no devil can deny. all the doubt is, whether the man can Know that he Doth thus believe; that he shall Continue so to believe. And why should there be any doubt in either of these?
1. I am sure, for the First, the Chosen Vessel could say, I know whom I have believed ; 2 Tim. i. 12. and speaks this, not as an extraordinary person, an Apostle, but as a Christian; therein affirming, both the act of his faith, and the object of it, and his knowledge of both: for, while he saith, I know whom I have believed, he doth in effect say, “ I know that I have believed, and I know what I have believed: God, my Almighty Saviour, is the object of my faith: my faith layeth sure hold on this object; and I know that my faith lays undoubted hold on this happy object: I know whom I have believed."
And why should not we labour to say so too? Some things, the Apostle did, as a singular favourite of heaven: of this kind, were his raptures and visions: these we may not aspire to imitate. Other things, he did as a holy man, as a faithful Christian: these must we propose for our examples.
And, indeed, why should not a man know he believes? What is there in faith, even as we define it; but knowledge, assent, application, affiance, receiving of Christ ? and which of these is there, that we cannot know ? Surely, there is power in the soul, to exercise these reflex actions upon itself
. As it can know things, contrary to the fanatic sceptic; so it can know that it knows. These inward acts of knowledge and understanding are to the mind, no other, than the acts of our sensitive powers are unto our senses ; and a like certain judgment passeth upon both : as, therefore, I can know that I hear, or that I see, or touch; so can I no less surely know, that I do know, or understand.
And the object doth no whit alter the certainty of the act: while a divine truth goes upon no less evidence and assurance, why may not a man as well know that he knows a divine truth, as a human?
The like is to be said of those other specialties, which are re, quired to our faith. Our faith assents to the truth of God's promises: what should hinder the heart from knowing that it doth assent? Do not I know, whether I believe a man on his word? why should I not know the same of God? When an honest man bath, by his promises, engaged himself to me to do me a good turn, do not I know, whether I trust to him; whether I make use of that favour, in a confident reliance upon the performance of it? The case is the same betwixt God and us: only, we may be so much the more infallibly assured of the promised mercies of our God, by how much we do more know his unfailingness, his unchangeableness.
Yea, so feasible is this knowledge, as that our Apostle chargeth his Corinthians home in this point; 2. Cor. xiii. 5. Prove yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Try yourselves: know ye not your own
selves, that Christ Jesus is in you, except ye be reprobates? What can be more full? To be in the faith, is more than to believe: it intimates a habit of faith; that is, more than an act. Now, what proof, what trial can there be of our faith, if we cannot know that we have faith? Surely, a trial doth ever presuppose a knowledge. If a man did not know which were good gold, to what purpose doth he go to the test? Now, how dwells Christ in us, but by faith? So may they, so must they, know Christ to be in them, that, if they have him not, they are reprobates. And, if they know not they have him, they can have no comfortable assurance against their reprobation.
See, then, how emphatical and full this charge is. He saith not, Guess at yourselves;" but, prove and try yourselves. He saith not, "Do ye not morally conjecture?" but, Do ye not know? He saith not, whether ye hope well;" but, whether ye be in the faith. And that, not of the faith of miracles, as Chrysostom and Theophylact; nor of a faith of Christian profession, as Anselm; but, such a faith, as whereby Christ dwells in our hearts. He saith not, lastly, "unless ye be faulty and worthy of blame;" but, unless ye be reprobates. The place is so chokingly convictive, that there can be no probable elusion of it.
The shift of Cardinal Bellarmin, wherein yet he would seem confident, is worthy of pity; That the place hath no other drift, but to imply the powerful presence of Christ amongst the Corinthians; strongly confirming the truth of his Apostleship; whereby, if there were any faith at all in them, except they were given up to a reprobate sense, they must needs be convinced of the authority of his ministry for what was this to their being in the faith, whereof they must examine themselves? or, who can think that to be in the faith is no more, than to have any faith at all? Neither doth the Apostle say, that "Christ is among you," but in you: neither could the not knowing of Christ's presence amongst them by powerful miracles, be a matter of reprobation. So as this sense is unreasonably strained to no purpose; and such as no judicious spirit can rest in. And this act of our knowledge is taken for granted, by him, that works it in us.
And, indeed, what question can there be of this act, when God undertakes it in us? The Spirit of God witnesseth with our spirits, that we are the sons of God; Rom. viii. 16. Can any man doubt of the truth of God's testimony? Certainly, he, that is the God of Truth, cannot but speak truth: now he witnesseth together with
"Yea, but," you say, "though he be true, yet we are deceitful: and his Spirit doth but witness according to the measure of our receipt and capacity, which is very poor and scant; yea, and perhaps also, uncertain.' Take heed, whosoever thou art, lest thou disparage God, whilst thou wouldst abase thyself. He witnesseth together with us. The Spirit of Truth will not witness with a lying spirit. Were not, therefore, that witness of ours sure, he would check us; and not witness with us. Now, what witness can he give
with us and to us, if we do not hear him; if we do not know what he says; if we cannot be assured of what he testifies?
Let no Bellarmin speak now of an experiment of inward sweetness and peace; which only causeth a conjectural, and not an unfailing certainty. The man hath forgot, that this testimony is of the Spirit of Adoption; whereby we do not seem sons, but are made
SO, and are so assured : and that it is not a guess, but a witness : and, lastly, that there can be no true inward peace out of mere conjectures.
Yea, here is not only the word of God for it, but his seal too ; and not his seal only, but his earnest: what can make a future match more sure than hand and seal ? and here we have them both; 2 Cor. i. 22. Il'ho hath sealed us. Lo, the promise was past before; verse 20: and then yet more confirmed, Bebeswv; verse 21: and now past under seal, Dzayıcáuevos; verse 22. Yea, but the present possession is yet more, and that is given us in part by our received earnest, dous cov zopaßwvce. Earnest is a binder : wherefore is it given; but, by a little, to assure all ?
In our transactions with men, when we have an honest man's word for a bargain, we think it safe: but, when his hand and seal, infallible: but, when we have part in hand already, the contract is past; and now we hold ourselves stated in the commodity, whatever it be. And, have we the promise, hand, seal, earnest of God's Spirit; and not see it, not feel it, not know it?
Shortly, whom will we believe, if not God, and ourselves ? no man knows what is in man, but the Spirit of God, and the spirit of man that is in him; as St. Paul to his Corinthians. Ye have heard God's Spirit: hear our own, out of our own mouth. Doth not every Christian say, “I believe in God, &c. I believe in Jesus Christ: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting?" And doth he say he believes, when he believes not; or, when he knows not whether he believe or no ? What a mockery were this of our Christian profession? Or, as the Jesuitical evasion commonly is, is this only meant of an assent to these general truths, That there is a God, a Saviour, a Sanctifier, saints, remission, salvation; not a special application of these several articles to the soul of him, whose tongue professeth it? Surely then, the Devil might say the Creed no less confidently, than the greatest Saint upon earth. There is no devil in heil, but believes, not without regret, that there is a God, that made the world; a Saviour, that redeemed it; a Blessed Spirit, that renews it; a remission of sins; an eternal salvation to those, that are thus redeemed and regenerate: and if, in the profession of our faith, we go no further than devils, how is this Symbolum Christianorum? To what purpose do we say our Creed?
2. But, if we know that we believe for the present, how know we WHAT WE SHALL DO? what may not alter in time? We know our own frailty and fickleness; what hold is there of us, weak wretches; what assurance for the future ? Surely, on our part, none at all: if we be left never so little to ourselves, we are gone. On God's part, enough. There is a double hand mutually employed in our hold-fast; God's, and ours: we lay hand on God; God lays hand on us: if our feeble hand fail him, yet his gracious and omnipoient hand will not fail us : even when we are lost in ourselves, yet in him we are safe: he hath graciously said, and will make it good; I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee. The seed of God, saith the beloved disciple, 1 John iii. 9. remains in him, that is born of God; so as he cannot Folęīv dpapriæv. trade in sin, as an unregenerate; not lose himself in sinning: so as, contrary to Card. Bellarmin's desperate logic, even an act of infidelity cannot mar his habit of faith; and, though he be, in himself and in his sin, guilty of death, yet, through the mercy of his God, he is preserved from being swallowed up of death: while he hath the seed of God, he is the son of God; and the seed of God remains in him always.
That of the great Doctor of the Gentiles is sweet and cordial; and, instead of alt, to this purpose: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation &c. IIÉTELOUCI &c. I am fully persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor deph, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Rom. viii. 35—39. O divine oratory of the great Apostle! O the heavenly and irrefragable logic of God's penman! It is the very question, that we have now in hand, which he there discusses; and falls upon this happy conclusion, That nothing can separate God's elect from his everlasting love. He proves it by induction of the most powerful agents, and triumphs in the impotence and imprevalency of them all; and, while he names the principalities and powers of darkness, what doth he but imply those sins also by which they work?
And this he says, not for himself only; lest any, with Pererius and some other Jesuits, should harp upon a particular revelation: but, who shall separate us ? he takes us in with him: and, if he seem to pitch upon his own person, in his TÉTEICII.GI; yet the subject of this persuasion reacheth to all true believers, That nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord: Us; not as it is over-stretched by Bellarmin and Vasquez, indefinitely, for those that be predestinate in general; but with an implied application of it to himself, and the believing Christians to whom he wrote. The place is so clear and full, that all the miserable and strained evasions of the Jesuitical gainsayers cannot elude it, but that it will carry any free and unprejudiced beart along with it; and evince this comfortable truth, That, as for the present, so for the future, we may attain to be safe for our spiritual condition.
What speak I of a safety that may be, when the true believer is saved already? already passed from death to life; already, therefore, over the threshold of heaven?
Shortly, then, our faith may make our calling sure: our calling may make sure our election: and we may, therefore, confidently build upon this truth, That our calling and election may be made