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the faith as the apostles taught it, and abounding in it, es pecially with joyful praises to our Redeemer.'
And because that my design is only to direct young Christians how they may come to be established and confirmed in Christ, I shall therefore pass over all other things that the full handling of this text requireth; and shall only give you, I. A short intimation here, what this confirmation and stability is, (which shall be more fully opened to you in the Directions). II. And shew you the need of seeking it. And III. How you may attain it.
I. This confirmation is the habitual strength of grace, distinct from present actual confirmation by the influence of grace from God; for though God may in an instant confirm a weak person against some particular temptation, by his free assistance, yet that is not it which we have here to speak of, but habitual confirmation in a state of grace. And ordinarily we may expect, that God's co-operating assisting grace should bear some proportion with our habitual grace. Even as in nature he concurreth with the strongest men, to do greater works than he causeth the weak to do; and with the wisest men to understand more than the foolish do: I say but that ordinarily it is thus.
A confirmed Christian as contrary to a weak one, 1. Is not to be judged of by his freedom from all scruples, doubts, or fears. 2. Nor by his eminency in men's esteem or observation. 3. Nor by his strength of memory. 4. Or freedom of utterance in praying, preaching, or discourse. 5. Or by his seemly deportment and courtesy towards others. 6. Nor by his sedate, calm, and lovely temper, and freedom from some haste and heats which other tempers are more prone to. 7. Nor by a man-pleasing or dissembling faculty to bridle the tongue, when it would open the corruption of the mind, and to suppress all words which would make others know how bad the heart is. There are many endowments laudable and desirable, which will not shew so much as sincerity in grace; and much less a state of confirmation and stability.
But confirmation lieth in the great degree of all those graces which constitute a Christian. And the great degree appeareth in the operations of them. As, 1. When holiness is as a new nature in us, and giveth us a promptitude to holy actions, and maketh us free and ready to them, and
maketh them easy and familiar to us; whereas the weak go heavily, and can scarce drive on and force their minds. 2. When there is a constancy or frequency of holy actions; which sheweth the strength and stability of holy inclinations. 3. When they are powerful to bear down oppositions and temptations, and can get over the greatest impediments in the way, and make an advantage of all resistance, and despise the most splendid baits of sin. 4. When it is still getting ground, and drawing the soul upward, and nearer to God, its rest and end: and when the heart groweth more heavenly and divine, and stranger to earth and earthly things. 5. And when holy and heavenly things are more sweet and delectable to the soul, and are sought and used with more love and pleasure. All these do shew, that the operations of grace are vigorous and strong, and consequently that the habits are so also.
And this confirmation should be found, 1. In the understanding. 2. In the will. 3. In the affections. 4. In the life.
1. When the mind of man hath a larger comprehension of the truths of God, and the order, and method, and usefulness of every truth: and a deeper apprehension of the certainty of them, and of the goodness of the matter expressed in them: when knowledge and faith come nearest unto sight or intention, and we have the fullest, the truest, and the firmest and most certain apprehension of things revealed and unseen; when the nature, and the reasons, and the ends and benefits of the Christian religion are all most clearly, orderly, decently, constantly and powerfully printed on the mind, then is that mind in a confirmed state.
2. When the will is guided by such a confirmed understanding, and is not brutishly resolved, he knoweth not for what or why: when light hath fixed it in such resolutions as are past all notable doubtings, deliberations, waverings, or unwilling backwardness: and a man is in seeking God and his salvation, and avoiding known sin, as a natural man is about the questions, Whether he should preserve his life, and make provision for it? And whether he should poison, or famish, or torment himself? When the inclination of the will to God, and heaven, and holiness, are most like to its natural inclination to good as good, and to its own felicity : and its action is so free as to have least indetermination, and
to be most like to natural, necessary acts, as those are of blessed spirits in heaven: when the least intimation from God prevaileth, and the will doth answer him with readiness and delight. And when it taketh pleasure to trample upon all opposition, and when all that can be offered to corrupt the heart, and draw it to sin, and loosen it from God, prevaileth but as so much filth and dung would do; Phil. iii. 7-9. This is a confirmed state of will.
3. When the affections do proceed from such a will, and are ready to assist, excite, and serve it, and to carry us on in necessary duties: when the lower affections of fear and sorrow do cleanse, and restrain, and prepare the way, and the higher affections of love and delight adhere to God, and desire and hope do make out after him, and set the soul on just endeavours; when fear and grief have less to do, and are delivering up the heart still more and more to the possession of holy delight and love: and when those affections which are rather profound than very sensible immediately towards God himself, are sensible towards his word, his servants, his graces, and his ways, and against all sin; then are the affections, and so the man in a confirmed state.
4. When ourselves, our time, and all that we have, are taken to be God's and not our own, and are entirely and unreservedly resigned to him, and used for him: when we study our duty, and trust him for our reward: when we live as those that have much more to do for heaven than for earth, and with God than with man or any creature: when our consciences are absolutely subjected to the authority and laws of God, and bow not to competitors: when we are habitually disposed as his servants to be constantly employed in his works, and make it our calling and business in the world; as judging that we have nothing to do on earth, but with God, or for God: when we keep not up any secret desires and hopes of a worldly felicity, nor purvey for the pleasure of the flesh under the cloak of faith and piety, but subdue the flesh as our most dangerous enemy, and can easily deny its appetite and concupiscence: when we guard all our senses, and keep our passions, thoughts and tongues, in obedience to the holy law: when we do not inordinately set up ourselves in our esteem or desire, above or against our neighbour and his welfare; but love him as ourselves, and seek his good, and resist his hurt as heartily as our own;
and love the godly with a love of complacence, and the ungodly with a love of benevolence, though they be our enemies: when we are faithful in all our relations, and have judgment to discern our duty, that we run not into extremes; and skill, and readiness, and pleasure in performing it, and patience under all our sufferings; this is the life of a confirmed Christian, (in various degrees, as their strength is various),
II. And now I shall proceed to persuade such to value and seek this confirmation, lest with dull, unprepared minds my following Directions should be lost; and then I shall give you the Directions themselves, which are the part that is principally intended. And first for the Motives.
1. Consider that your first entrance into Christianity is an engagement to proceed; your receiving Christ obligeth you to walk and grow up in him. A fourfold obligation your very Christianity layeth upon you, to grow stronger, and to persevere. (1.) The first is from the very nature of it; even from the office of Christ, and the use and ends to which we do receive him. You receive Christ as a Physician of your diseased souls; and doth not this engage you to go on to use his medicines till you are cured? What do men choose a physician for, but to heal them? It were but a foolish patient that would say, Though my disease be deadly, yet now I have chosen the best physician, I have no more to do; I doubt not of recovery.' You took Christ for a Saviour, which engageth you to use his saving means, and submit to his saving works. You took him for your Teacher and Master, and gave up yourselves to be his disciples, and what sense was in all this, if you did not mean to proceed in learning of him? It is a silly conceit for any man to think that he is a good scholar, merely because he hath chosen a good master or tutor, without any further learning of him. When Christ sent out his apostles, it was for these two works; first, to disciple nations, and baptize them; and then to go on in teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he commandeth them; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Christ is the to the Father; but to what way purpose did you come into this way, if you meant not to travel on in it?
(2.) Moreover, when you became Christians, you entered a solemn covenant with Christ; and bound yourselves by a vow, to be faithful to him to the death: and this vow is upon
"It is better not to vow, than to vow and not perform;" Eccles. v. 5. In taking him to be the Captain of your salvation, and listing yourselves under him, and taking this oath of fidelity to him, you did engage yourselves to fight as faithful soldiers, under his conduct and command to your lives' end. And as it is a foolish soldier that thinks that he hath no more to do but list himself and take colours, and need not fight; so it is a foolish and ungodly covenanter that thinks he hath nothing to do but to promise, and may be excused from performance, because that promising was enough, when the promise was purposely to bind him to perform.
(3.) Moreover, when you became Christians, you put yourselves under the laws of Christ; and these laws require you to go further till you are confirmed; so that you must go on, or renounce your obedience to Christ.
(4.) Lastly, when you became Christians, you received such exceeding mercies, as do oblige you to go much higher in your affections, and much further in your obedience to God. A man that is newly snatched as from the jaws of hell, and hath received the free forgiveness of his sins, and is put into such a state of blessedness as we are, must needs feel abundance of obligations upon him, to proceed to stronger resolutions and affections, and not to stop in those low beginnings. So that if you lay these four things together, you will perceive that the very purpose of your receiving Christ was that you might walk in him, and be confirmed and built up.
2. Consider also, that conversion is not sound if you are not heartily desirous to increase. Grace is not true, if there be not a desire after more; yea, if you desire not perfection itself. An infant is not born to continue an infant, for that were to be a monster; but to grow up unto manhood. As the kingdom of Christ in the world is likened by him to a little leaven, and to a grain of mustard-seed, in the beginning, which afterward makes a wonderful increase; so his kingdom in the soul is of the same nature too. If you are contented with that measure of holiness that you have, you have none at all, but a shadow and conceit of it. Let those men think of this that stint themselves in holiness, and plead for a moderation in it, as if it were intemperance or fury to love God or fear him, or seek him or obey him, any more than