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To conclude: In fealing the believer he doth not make use of an audible voice, nor the ministry of angels, nor immediate and extraordinary revelations, but he makes use of his own graces implanted in our hearts, and his own promises written in the scriptures ; and in this method he usually brings the doubting trembling heart of a believer to rest and comfort.
2. Query. Why are none sealed till after believing?
Answ. It cannot be denied, but that many persons in a ftate of nature and unbelief, may have ungrounded confidences, and false comforts built thereupon. This is evident from Matth. vii. 22. “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, « Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?” And John viii. 54, 55. “Of whom ye say that he is your God, and yet
ye have not known him." And, beyond all, is that startling scripture, Heb. iv. 4, 5. “Who were once enlightened, " and have tafted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers 6 of the holy Ghost, and have tafted the good word of God, 6 and the powers of the world to come, if they fall away," &c.
But for any, except real believers, to have those witnesses and sealings of the Spirit described above, is utterly impossible, and will evidently appear to be fo, whether we conlider the author, nature, object, mediums, end and design of this work. : First, Consider the author of this work, the Spirit of God, who is an holy Spirit, as the text calls him, and the Spirit of truth, as Christ calls him, John xiv. 17. and it cannot be that ever he should give testimony to a lie, or give a falfe witness, quite cross to the very tenour of the written word, as he must do, should he feal an unbeliever. What though they be elect? yet, whilft unregenerate, they have no actual interest in Christ and the promises, and therefore can have none fealed by the Spirit. Prius eft prædicare de ofe quam de cognofci; we muft be faints before we can be known to be fo.
Secondly, Consider but the nature of this work, and it cannot be that ever an unbeliever fhould be sealed by the Spirit; for affurance is produced in our fouls by the reflexive acts of our faith : the Spirit helps us to reflect upon what hath been done by him formerly upon our hearts; “hereby we know that
we know him," i John ii. 3. To know that we know, is a reflex act, now it is impoffible there fhould be a reflex before there hath been a direct act: no man can have the evidence of his faith, before the habit be infused, and the vital act first
Thirdly, Consider the object-matter, to which he feals, and it will be found to be his own fanctifying operations upon our
bearts, and consequently to our privileges in Chrift, Rom. viii. 16. 1 John iii. 24. The thing or matter attested is, that Christ abideth in us, and that we are the children of God; but no such thing can be sealed till we believe, for neither our adoption nor sanctification can be before faith.
Fourthly, Consider the mediums or instruments used by the Spirit in his sealing-work: the promises are his sealing instruments, and on that account he is called the Spirit of promise in the text; not only because he is the Spirit promised, but as the promises contain the Spirit, so the Spirit uses the promises, (i. e.) clears them to our understandings, and helps us to apply them to our souls. But this he never doth, nor can do, till the soul, by faith, have union with Christ; for till then, it hath no right in the promises.
Fifthly, and lastly, Consider the end and design of this work of the Spirit, which is to secure to the soul its peace, pardon, and falvation in Christ, he feals believers to the day of redemption, Eph. iv. 30. (i. e.) to their complete salvation; so then it must be equally impossible for an unbeliever to be sealed as to be saved.
3. Query. The next enquiry is, Whether all believers are sealed by the Spirit ?
Answ. The resolution of this query will depend upon feve. ral distinctions that must be made
this matter. Distinction 1. We must distinguish the different kinds of the Spirit's sealing : all ķis fealing-work is not of one kind, nor to one and the same use and end.
There is an objective seal, which distinguifhes the person ; and a formal seal, which clears and ratifies his interest in Christ and falvation : the first he doth in fanctifying us, the second in afsuring us,
When he feals ohjectively, that is, when he sanctifies us really by the infusion of grace, he seals us by way of distinction from other men, which is one end of sealing ; for though, in respect of God's decree and purpose, there was a difference betwixt us and others before time, 2 Tim. ii. 19. and although in regard of Christ's intention in his death, there was a difference betwixt us and others, John xvii. 9. yet all this while there is no personal actual difference betwixt us and others, till fanctification do make one, Eph. ii. 3. and 1 Cor. vi. 11. . But the fanctification of the Spirit makes a real difference in the state and temper of the person, 2 Cor. v. 17, and manifests that difference which election put betwixt us and others before time, i Theff. i. 4, 5. And yet all this whilé å man may not be formally sealed, i.e. his fanctification may be very doubt ful to himself, and he may labour under great fears about it.
Distinction 2. The seasons of the Spirit's sealing must be distinguished; and these are to fome,
ijt, Immediately upon the soul's first closing with Christ at converfiori, especially when conversion is wrought at à riper àge, and is ushered in by a greater degree of the Spirit of bondage, and deep inward terrors. Thus the Prodigal (the emblem of a convert so brought home to God) was entertained with the fatted calf and music, but all find not this presently, as some do.
2dly, Times of eminent communion with God are fealing times. There are extraordinary out-lets of peace, joy, and comfort, at fome seafons, in duty, which makes the state of the foul very clear, and banishes all scruples and fears from the heart.
3dly, Others are sealed upon some eminent házard they have been exposed' to for Christ, or some extraordinary lufferings they have undergone for Christ, wherein they have carried it with eminent meekness, patience, and self-denial, 2 Cor. 1:4, 5: Thus the martyrs were many times sealed in the depth of their sufferings.
4thly, It is usually found that a sealing-time follows a dark day of defertion, and fore combats with temptations; post nubila phoebus. So that text, Rev. ii. 17. is expounded by fome, * To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden
manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written.”.
5thly, Dying-times prove sealing-times to many Touls, if their whole life hath been like that day described by the prophet, Zech. xiv. 17. Neither dark nor light, a life betwixt hopes and fears, yet at evening-time it hath been light.
Distinction 3. Liftly, We must distinguish these several ways and manners of fealing : Some are extraordinary and immediate, vouchsafed only to fome persons, at fome special times and seasons. Thus Zaccheus was in an extraordinary and immediate
ascertained of his falvation ; Luke xix. 9. « This day is falvation come to this house." And so the palsyman; Mark ii. 5: "Son, (faith Christ) thy fins be forgiven « thee." But these immediate ways are cealed; no man may now expect by any new revelation or sign from heaven, by any voice or extraordinary inspiration, to have his salvation feal. ed, but must expect that mercy in God's ordinary way and
method, searching the scriptures, examining our own hearts, and waiting on the Lord in prayer.
The learned Gerfon gives an instance of one that had been long upon the borders of despair, and at last sweetly assured and
settled ; and being asked how he attained that affurance, he answered, non ex nova aliqua revelatione, &c. Not by any new revelation, but by fubje&ting my understanding to, and comparing my heart with the written word.
And Mr. Roberts, in his treatise of the covenants, speaks of another that fo vehemently panted after the fealings and assuránce of the love of God to his soul, that for a long time he earnestly desired some voice from heaven ; and sometimes walking in the folitary fields, earnestly desired some miracul. ous voice from the trees or Atones there : This was denied him, but in time a better was afforded, in a fcriptural way.
Now to resolve the query out of these distinctions.
First, Though all believers have not the formal fealings of the Spirit, yet they have the objective or material feal; that is, the Spirit is in them as a fanctifying Spirit, putting a real dif: ference betwixt them and others, when he is not with theni by way of evidence and assurance of fan&ification.
Secondly, Though all believers are not sealed at one and the same time, yet there are few, if any believers, but do meet with one season or other in this life, wherein the Lord doch feal them; if not at their first close with Christ, as many
have been sealed, yet in some choice and eminent season of communion with God : Such golden spots of time, such precious seasons moft Christians can speak of; though, as Bernard speaks, it be rara hora, brevis mora, feldom, but sweet : Or if not in the course of their active obedience, it is a thousand to one but they shall meet it in the way of their passive obedience, if God exercise them eminently under the cross, or after a dark cloud of desertion, or in a dying hour.
Thirdly, and lastly, though God now feals not men in an extraordinary and immediate way, by revelation, immediate inspiration, or voices from heaven, yet moft Christians are sealed in the ordinary way of the Spirit, under one ordinance or other, in one duty or other.
4. Query. What is the privilege of being sealed by the Spirit ?
Answ. Much every way; words cannot express the riches of this mercy: For let us but consider the four following particulars, and you will admire the mercy.
First, Consider whose act and proper work sealing is. God doth not send angels upon this errand; though, if he did, that would be a great honour to poor dust and afhes, but he fends his Spirit to do it. O the condescension of the great God to men! This is a greater honour than if millions of angels were employed about it.
And then, as to the certainty and satisfaction, it is beyond all other ways and methods in the world; for in miraculous voices and inspirations it is possible there may, subese falsum, be found some cheats or imposture of the devil; but the Spirit's witness in the heart, suitable to bis revelation in the scripture, cannot deceive us.
Secondly, The conclufion or truth sealed is ravishing and transporting. All Christians vehemently pant for it, few have the enjoyment of it for any long continuance ; but whilst they do enjoy it, they enjoy heaven upon earth, a joy beyond all the joys of this world. To have this conclufion surely seal. ed, Christ is mine, my fin is pardoned, I shall be saved from wrath through him; O what is this ! what is this !
Thirdly, Consider the subject or person sealed, a poor finful wretch, that has, ten thousand times over, grieved the good Spirit of God, by whom, notwithstanding, thou art sealed to the day of redemption : Thou hast by every sin deserved to be sealed up to damnation : Thou hast reason to account and eAteem thyself much inferior in graces and duties to many thousands of the saints that are panting after this privilege, and cannot obtain it: O the riches of the goodness of God!
Fourthly, and lastly, Consider the designs and aims of the Spirit in his sealing thy soul, which are,
1. To secure heaven to thee for ever.
2. As interınediate thereunto, to bring very much of heaven into thy soul, in the way to it; indeed to give thee two heavens, whilst many others must fuffer two hells.
5. Query. Lastly, we will enquire, What are the effects of the Spirits fealing upon our fouls, by which we may distin. guish and clearly discern it from all delusions of Sutin, and all impostures whatsoever. Anfw. The genuine and proper effects and fruits of fealing
1. Inflamed love. 2. Renewed care. 3. Deep abasements. 4. Increase of ftrength. 5. A defire to be with the Lord. 6. Improved mortification to the world.
Wheresoever these are found consequent to our communion with God, and his manifestations of himself to us therein, they put it beyond all doubt that it was the seal of his own bles. fed Spirit, and no delusion.
1. The sealings of the Spirit cannot but inflame the love