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sins, and present imperfections, washed white in the blood of the Lamb, and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them*: they shall be led, by his paternal care, in safety, through all the temptations and difficulties of this world; and inherit, in the world to come, a blessed immortality in their Father's house. Then besides this general testimony, the Holy Spirit hath attested more especially a truth of infinite importance to us, and much doubted by the first Christians for some years, that the Gentile world hath an equal right to God's promises with the Jews of which it was an early and full proof, that he imparted his gifts and graces to both equally, putting no difference between them †. And this, in all likelihood, is what St. Paul more peculiarly designed to assert in the text. But the Spirit not only gives these external evidences of our acceptance, but assists us inwardly to know our true state towards God, of which we might else be often fatally ignorant. And for this reason David prays so earnestly, Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well, if there be any way of wickedness in me and lead me in the way everlasting. For the same Spirit, after shewing us what we are, enables us by his influences, to become what we should be. For we are not sufficient of ourselves even to think any thing § with effect: but by his cooperation we come to have the only sure argument, that we in particular are the children of God. The virtues and graces of a good heart and life are that distinguishing mark of true Christians, on account of which they are said in Scripture to be sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest
* Rev. vii. 14, 15.
† Acts xv. 9.
§ 2 Cor. iii. 5.
of our inheritance *. For as our happiness hereafter shall consist in the same temper, in which our duty consists now: he who is really, though imperfectly, possessed of that temper, hath already received the first fruits of the Spirit ; and tasted in some measure of what he shall enjoy abundantly. Whoever therefore walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, having his conversation such as becomes the Gospel of Christ §, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made him free from the law of sin and death; and of this he hath the witness in himself¶, if he will attend to it. Else indeed, a timorous disposition, or a feeble body affecting the mind, may disquiet him: but still, ever so great fears will no more endanger the salvation of a good man, than ever so great assurance will prevent the punishment of a wicked one. If any one is inclined then to suspicions and apprehensions concerning his title to God's favour, without knowing why; or can charge himself with nothing, when he sets about it, but such defects and failures, as the Scripture shews, and persons of known piety and discretion can assure him, are consistent with a state of religion, let him reject such imaginations entirely, if he is able. If he is not, let him bear them as afflictions, but never yield to them as truths; or fancy on account of such things, that his condition is bad, and God hath forsaken him. For there can hardly be a surer proof to the contrary, than that God preserves his conscience tender, and his life clear of wilful sin.
As to that reviving comfort and delightful satisfaction, which people of this turn complain they do not experience, and are apt erroneously to consider,
as the only favourable witness of the Spirit: it is indeed sometimes a present reward, which God bestows on his servants. But no safe conclusion can be drawn from the most agreeable of these perceptions, without a faithful care to serve him: and they, who go on to serve him faithfully without any of them, give a more acceptable demonstration of the sincerity of their zeal, than if they enjoyed them all the while in the highest degree. For equal obedience with less encouragement is certainly of the most value. When therefore he, who best knows, judges it needful, you shall partake of those religious pleasures that you desire. But in the meanwhile, believe, as you have cause, that withholding them is for your benefit: and indeed be assured of this, that both having them and being destitute of them proceeds very much from natural constitution, or the different temperature of different ages of life, or from using or not using particular methods of devotion, which have small connection with essential goodness. Accordingly, many a one, who seldom or never feels much of any consolations within, that warm him very sensibly, and move his passions very powerfully, may have, notwithstanding, on most solid grounds, a calm and composed satisfaction and joy in the Holy Ghost*, which shall be in him, to use our Saviour's words, a well of water, springing up into everlasting lifet; and perhaps many another, who hath often been full of inexpressible transports, will find himself at last fatally deceived by a vain confidence. For the dictates of a heated fancy, be they ever so positive, can do nothing to counterbalance the guilt of a sinful life and all persuasions to the contrary, are not from the divine Comforter, but our
Rom. xiv. 17.
† John iv. 14.
own bad hearts, or the wicked one. For the Holy Spirit of discipline will remove from thoughts, that are without understanding; and will not abide, when unrighteousness cometh in*. He never leads us to any sentiment or action, but what reason and Scripture warrant; nor can any assurance, that we may imagine he communicates to us, of our belonging to God, continue well-founded one moment longer, than we continue keeping God's commandments: which therefore that we may all do always, He of his infinite mercy grant, &c.
• Wisd. i. 5.
MATT. vii. 12.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
THE largest number of particular directions can never possibly equal the infinite variety of circumstances, in which human creatures are concerned to act: nor can the memories of most retain any considerable part of those, which might be given. And therefore, though the utmost care were taken to specify to us our several obligations, we must be left after all to find out many of them ourselves, by deducing them from general rules. And these (when they carry in them the evidence of their own truth and rightness) at the same time that they extend our knowledge to cases, which have not been distinctly mentioned to us, afford us also a clearer conviction of our duty in such as we have: by shewing us, that the different commands, to which we are subjected, flow from the same source, and carry the same reasonableness along
Our blessed Saviour therefore, after delivering separately, in his Sermon on the Mount, all the chief precepts of the most exalted and refined morality, takes care, just before the conclusion of it, to com