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verily they have their reward. But those of them that place their chiefest happiness in the love of God, and the eternal fruition of him in heaven, and seek this sincerely according to their helps and power, though they are misled into some superstitious errors, I hope I may number with those that are sincere ; notwithstanding all their errors and the ill effects of them.
XXIV. 1. A confirmed Christian doth ordinarily discern the sincerity of his own heart, and, consequently, hath some well-grounded assurance of the pardon of his sins, and of the favour of God, and of his everlasting happiness; and, therefore no wonder if he live a peaceable and joyful life. For his grace is not so small as to be undiscernible, nor is it as a sleepy buried seed or principle, but it is almost in continual act; and they that have a great degree of grace; and also keep it in lively exercise, do seldom doubt of it. Besides that they blot not their evidence by so many infirmities and falls, they are more in the light, and have more acquaintance with themselves, and more sense of the abundant love of God, and of his exceeding mercies, than weak Christians have; and therefore must needs have more assurance. They have boldness of access to the throne of grace, without irreverent contempt; they have more of the spirit of adoption, and therefore more childlike confidence in God, and can call him Father with greater freedom and comfort than
. And we know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness.'
2. But the weak Christian hath so small a degree of grace, and so much corruption, and his grace is so little in action, and his sin so much, that he seldom, if ever, attaineth to any well-grounded assurance, till he attain to a greater measure of grace. He differeth so little from the seeming Christian, that neither himself nor others do certainly discern the difference. When he searcheth after the truth of his faith, and love, and heavenly mindedness, he findeth so much unbelief and averseness from God, and earthly-mindedness, that he cannot be certain which of them is predominant; and whether the interest of this world, or that to come, do bear the sway: so that he is often in perplexities and fears, and more often in a dull uncertainty. And if he seem at any time to have assurance, it is usually but an ill-grounded persuasion of the truth: though it be true which he apprehendeth, when he taketh himself to be the child of God, yet it is upon unsound reasons that he judgeth so, or else upon sound reasons weakly and uncertainly discerned ; so that there is commonly much of security, presumption, fancy, or mistake, in his greatest comforts. He is not yet in a condition fit for full assurance, till his love and obedience be more full.
3. But the seeming Christian cannot possibly in that estate, have either certainty, or good probability that he is a child of God, because it is not true. His seeming certainty is merely self-deceit, and his greatest confidence is but presumption, because the Spirit of Christ is not within him, and therefore he is certainly none of his.
XXV. 1. The assurance of a confirmed Christian doth increase his alacrity and diligence in duty, and is always seen in his more obedient, holy, fruitful life. The sense of the love and mercy of God is as the rain upon the tender grass. He is never so fruitful, so thankful, so heavenly, as when he hath the greatest certainty that he shall be saved: the love of God is then shed abroad upon his heart by the Holy Ghost, which maketh him abound in love to God. He is more stedfast, unmoveable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord,' when he is most certain that his labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
2. But the weak Christian is unfit yet to manage assurance well; and therefore it is that it is not given him: graces must grow proportionably together. If he be but confidently persuaded that he is justified and shall be saved, he is very apt to gather some consequence from it that tendeth to security and to the remitting of his watchfulness and care.
He is ready to be the bolder with sin, and stretch his conscience, and omit some duties, and take more fleshly liberty and ease, and think, Now I am a child of God I am out of danger, I am sure I cannot totally fall away.' And though his judgment conclude not, Therefore I may venture further upon worldly, fleshly pleasures, and need not be so strict and diligent as I was ;' yet his heart and practice thus conclude. And he is most obedient when he is most in fear of hell; and he is worst in his heart and life when he is most confident that all his danger is past.
3. But the seeming Christian, though he have no assurance, is hardened in his carnal state by his presumption. Had he but assurance to be saved without a holy life, he would cast off that very image of godliness which he yet retaineth. The conceit of his own sincerity and salvation is that which deludeth and undoeth him. What sin would not gain, or pleasure draw him to commit, if he were but sure to be forgiven? It is fear of hell that causeth that seeming religion which he hath: and therefore if that fear be gone, all is gone; and all his piety, and diligence, and righteousness is come to nought.
XXVI. 1. For all his assurance, a confirmed Christian is so well acquainted with his manifold imperfections, and daily failings, and great unworthiness, that he is very low and vile in his own eyes; and, therefore, can easily endure to be low and vile in the eyes of others. He hath a constant sense of the burden of his remaining sin ; especially he doth even abhor himself when he findeth the averseness of his heart to God, and how little he knoweth of him, and how little he loveth him in comparison of what he ought, and how little of heaven is upon his heart, and how strange and backward his thoughts are to the life to come. These are as fetters upon his soul : he daily groaneth under them as a captive, that he should be yet so carnal and unable to shake off the remnant of his infirmities, as if he were sold under sin, that is, in bondage to it. He hateth himself more for the imperfections of his love and obedience to God than hypocrites do for their reigning sin. And o how he longeth for the day of his deliverance! He thinketh it no great injury for another to judge of him as he judgeth of himself, even to be less than the least of all God's mercies: he is more troubled for being over-praised and over-valued than for being dispraised and vilified; as thinking those that praise him are more mistaken, and lay the more dangerous snare for his soul. For he hath a special antipathy to pride; and wondereth that
any rational man can be so blind as not to see enough to humble him : for his own part, in the midst of all God's graces, he seeth in himself so much darkness, imperfection, corruption, and want of further grace, that he is loathsome and burdensome continually to himself. If you see him sad or troubled, and ask him the cause, it is ten to one but it is himself that he complaineth of. The frowardest wife, the most undutiful child, the most disobedient servant, the most injurious neighbour, the most malicious enemy, is not half so great a trouble to him as he is to himself. He prayeth abundantly more against his own corruption than against any of these. O could he but know and love God more, and be more in heaven, and willinger to die, and freer from his own distempers, how easily could he bear all crosses, or injuries from others ! He came to Christ's school as a little child, and still he is little in his own esteem: and therefore disesteem and contempt from others are no great matter with him. He thinks it can be no great wrong that is done against so poor a worm, and so unworthy a