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It is no sign that Affections are right, or that they are wrong, that
they make persons exceeding confident.
It is an argument with some, that persons are deluded if they pretend to be assured of their good estate, and to be carried beyond all doubting of the favour of God; supposing that there is no such thing to be expected, as a full and absolute assurance of hope; unless it be in some very extraordinary circumstances; as in the case of martyrdom. But this is contrary to the doctrine of Protestants, which has been maintained by their most celebrated writers against the Papists; and contrary to the plainest scripture-evidence. It is manisest, that it was a common thing for the saints of whom we have a particular account in scripture, to be assured. God, in the plainest and most positive manner, revealed and testified his special favour to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Daniel, and others. Job often speaks of his sincerity and uprightness with the greatest imaginable confidence and assurance, often calling God to witness it; and says plainly, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that I shall see him for myself, and not another, Job. xix. 25, &c. David, throughout the book of Psalms, speaks without hesitancy, and in the most positive manner, of God as his God; glorying in him as his portion and heritage, his rock and confidence, his shield, salvation, high tower, and the like. Hezekiah appeals to God, as one that knew he had walked before him in truth, and with a perfect heart, 2 Kings xx. 3. Jesus Christ, in his dying discourse with his eleven disciples, John xiv—xvi. (which was as it were Christ's last will and testament to his disciples, and to his whole church) often declares his special and everlasting love to them, in the plainest and most positive terms; and promises them a future participation with him in his glory, in the most absolute manner. And he tells them, at the same time, that he does so to this end, that their joy might be full ; John xv. 11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. See also at the conclusion of his whole discourse, chap. xvi. 33. These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation : but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Christ was not afraid of speaking too plainly and positively to them; he did not desire to hold them in the least suspense. And he concluded that last discourse with a prayer in their presence; wherein he speaks positively to his Father of those eleven disciples, as having savingly known him, believed in him, and received and kept his word. He de
clares, that they were not of the world ; that for their sakes he sanctified himself; and that his will was, that they should be with him in his glory. And tells his Father, that he spake these things in his prayer, to the end, that his joy might be fulilled in them, ver. 13. By these things it is evident, that it is agreeable to Christ's designs, that there should be sufficient provision made, for his saints to have full assurance of their future glory.
The apostle Paul, through all his epistles, speaks in an assured strain ; ever asserting his special relation to Christ, his Lord, Master, and Redeemer, with his interest in, and expectation of the future reward. It would be endless to take notice of all places that might be enumerated; I shall mention but three or four : Gal. ii. 20. Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Phil. i. 21. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 2 Tim. i. 12. I know whom I hare believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8. I have fought a good fight, I hare finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laidi up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Ļord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day.
The nature of the covenant of grace, and God's declared ends in the appointment and constitution of things in that covenant, plainly shew it to be God's design to make ample provision for the saints having an assured hope of eternal life, while living here
earth. For so are all things ordered in that covenant, that every thing might be made sure on God's part. The covenant is ordered in all things and sure: the promises are most full, very often repeated, and various ways exhibited; there are many witnesses, and many seals; and God has confirmed his promises with an oath. God's declared design in all this is, that the heirs of the promises might have an undoubting hope, and full joy, in an assurance of their future glory. Heb. vi. 17, 18. Wherein God willing more abundantly to sheu unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath : that by turo immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, ure might have a strong consolation, who hare fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.
But all this would be in vain, for any such parpose as the saints strong consolation, and their hope of obtaining future glory, if their interest in those sure promises in ordinary cases were not attainable. For God's promises and oaths, let them be as sure as they will, cannot give strong hope and comfort to any particular person, any further than he can know that those promises are made to him. And in vain is provision made in Jesus Christ, that believers might be perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, Heb. ix. 9. if assurance of freedom from the guilt of sin is not attainable.
It further appears, that assurance is attainable in ordinary cases, in that all Christians are directed to give all diligence to make their calling and election sure, and are told how they may do it, 2 Pet. i. 5-8. And it is spoken of as a thing very unbecoming Christians, and an argument of something very blameable in them, not to know whether Christ be in them or no, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ? And it is implied, that it is a very blameable negligence in Christians, if they practise Christianity after such a manner as to remain uncertain of the reward, 1 Cor. ix. 26. I therefore so run, as not uncertainly. And, to add no more, it is manisest, that Christians knowing their interest in the saving benefits of Christianity, is a thing ordinarily attainable, because the apostles tell us by what means Christians (and not only apostles and martyrs) were wont to know this ; Cor. ii. 12. Now we have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. And 1 John ii. 3. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. And ver. 5. Hereby know we that we are in him. Chap. iii. 14. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. Verse 19. Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. Verse 24.
Verse 24. Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he has given us. (So Chap. iv. 13. and Chap. v. 2, 19.)
Therefore it must needs be very unreasonable to determine, that persons are hypocrites, and their affections wrong, because they seem to be out of doubt respecting their own salvation, and their affections seem to banish all fears of hell.
On the other hand, it is no sufficient reason to determine that men are saints, and their affections gracious, because they are attended with confidence that their state is good, and their affections divine*. Nothing can be certainly argued from their confidence, how great and strong soever it be. A man may boldly call God
*"O professor, look carefully to your foundation : be not high-minded, but fear. You have, it may be, done and suffered many things in and for religion, you have excellent gifts and sweet comforts : a warm zeal for God, and high confidence of your integrity: all this may be right, for ought that I, or (it may be) you know; but yet, it is possible it may be false also. You have sometimes judged yourselves, and pronounced yourselves upright; but remember your final sentence is not yet pronounced by your Judge. And what if God weigh you over again, in his more equal balance, and should say, “Mene, Tekel, Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting?" What a confounded man wilt thou be, under such a sentence! Quæ resplendent in conspectu hominis, sordent in conspectu Judicis ; Things that are highly esteemed of men, are an abomination in the sight of God; he seeth not as men seeth. Thy heart may be false, and thou not know it : yea, it may be false, and thou strongly confident of its integrity.” (Flavel's Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. ii. sect. 5.
“ Some hypocrites are a great deal more confident than many saints." (Stoddard's • Discourse on the way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy,' p. 128 ) VOL. V.
his Father, and commonly speak in the most bold, familiar, and appropriating language in prayer, My Father, My dear Redeemer, my sweet Saviour, my beloved, and the like. He may use the most confident expressions before men, about the goodness of his state ; such as, “ I know certainly that God is my Father : I know so surely as there is a God in heaven, that he is my God; I know I shall go to heaven, as well as if I were there; I know that God is now manifesting bimself to my soul, and is now smiling upon me.” He may seem to have done for ever with any inquiry or examination into his state, as a thing sufficiently known, and out of doubt, and to contemn all that so much as intimate that there is reason to doubt whether all is right. Yet such things are no signs at all that it is indeed what he is confident it is*.
Such an over-bearing, high-handed and violent sort of confidence as this, affecting to declare itself with a most glaring show in the sight of men, has not the countenance of a true Christian assurance. savours more of the spirit of the Pharisees, who never doubted but that they were saints, the most eminent of saints, and were bold to thank God for the great distinction he had made between them and other men. And when Christ intimated that they were blind and graceless, they despised the suggestion ; John ix. 40. And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? If they had more of the Spirit of the Publican—who, in a sense of his exceeding unworthiness, stood afar off, and durst not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, condemning himself as a sinner, their confidence would have more resembled one who humbly trusts and hopes in Christ, and has no confidence in himself.
If we do but consider what the hearts of natural men are, what principles they are under, what blindness and deceit, what selfflattery, self-exaltation, and self-confidence reigns there, we need not at all wonder that their high opinion of themselves, and confidence of their happy circumstances, are as high and strong as mountains, and as violent as a tempest. For what should hinder, when once conscience is blinded, convictions are killed, false affections high, and those forementioned principles let loose ? When, moreover, these principles are prompted by false joys and
." Doth the works of faith in some believers, bear upon its top-branches the full ripe fruits of a blessed assurance; Lo, what strong confidence, and high built persuasions of an interest in God, have sometimes been found in unsanctified ones ! Yea, so strong may this false assurance be, that they dare boldly venture to go to the judgment-seat of God, and there detend it. Doth ihe Spirit of God fill the heart of the assured believer with joy unspeakable and full of glory, giving them, through faith, a prelibation or foretaste of heaven itself, in those first fruits of it? How near to this comes what the apostle supposes may be found in apostates !" (Flavel's Husbandry Spiritualized, ch. xii.)
comforts, excited by some pleasing imaginations impressed by Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light?
When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of doubting to true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived. The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just, and omniscient Judge. But false comforts put an end to these things, and dreadfully stupify the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of bis own blindness, and the deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding, that the true saint has. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint. The devil is a great enemy to a true Christian's hope, not only because it tends greatly to his comfort, but also because it is of a holy, heavenly nature, greatly tending to promote and cherish grace in the heart, and a great incentive to strictness and diligence in the Christian life. But he is no enemy to the hope of a hypocrite, which above all things establishes his interest in him. A hyprocrite may retain his hope without opposition, as long as he lives, the devil never attempting to disturb it. But there is perhaps no true Christian but what has his hope assaulted by him. Satan assaulted Christ himself, upon this, whether he were the Son of God or no: and the servant is not above his Master, nor the disciple above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple, who is most privileged in this world, to be as his master. Fourthly, He who has a false hope, has not that sight of his own corruptions which the saint has. A true Christian has ten times so much to do with his heart and its corruptions, as an hypocrite. The sins of his heart and practice appear to him in their awful blackness; they look dreadful; and it often appears a very mysterious thing, that any grace can be consistent with such corruption, or should be in such a heart. But a false hope hides corruption, covers it all over, and the hypocrite looks clean and bright in his own eyes.
There are two sorts of hypocrites: one such as are deceived with their outward morality and external religion; many of whom are professed Arminians, in the doctrine of justification : and the other, such as are deceived with false discoveries and elevations. These last often cry down works and men's own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same time make a righteousness of their discoveries and humiliation, and exalt