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and God and holiness relish not with him half so sweetly, as they do with the confirmed Christian; and he is too busy in tasting of fleshly and forbidden pleasures, which yet more deprave his appetite, and dull his desires to the things of God; so that though in his estimation, choice, resolution and endeavour, he much preferreth God before the world; yet as to any delightful sweetness in him, it is but little that he tasteth. He loveth God with a desiring love, and with a seeking love, but with very little of a delighting love. The remnant of corrupt and alien affections do weaken his affections to the things above; and his infant measure of spiritual life, conjunct with many troublesome diseases, allow him very little of the joy of the Holy Ghost. Nay, perhaps he hath more grief, and fear, and doubts, and trouble, and perplexity of mind, than ever he had before he turned unto God, and perhaps he hath yet less pleasure in God, than he had before in sin and sensuality: because he had his sin in a state of fruition, but he hath God only in a seeking, hoping state; he hath the best of sin, and all that ever it will afford him; but he hath yet none of the full felicity which he expecteth in God: the fruition of him is yet but in the prospect of hope. His sensual, sinful life was in its maturity, and the object present in its most alluring state; but his spiritual life of faith and love, is but yet in its weak beginnings, and the object absent from our sight: he is so busy at first in blowing up his little spark, not knowing whether the fire will kindle or go out, that he hath little of the use or pleasure, either of its light or warmth. Infants come crying into the world, and afterwards oftener cry than laugh; their senses and reason are not yet perfected, or exercised to partake of the pleasures of life: and when they do come to know what a laughter is, they will laugh and cry almost in a breath. And those weak Christians that do come to taste of joy and pleasure in their religious state, it is commonly but as a flash of lightning, which leaveth them as dark as they were before. Sometimes in the beginning, upon their first apprehensions of the love of God in Christ, and of the pardon of their sins, and the privileges of their new condition, and the hopes of everlasting joy, their hearts are transported with unspeakable delight; which is partly from the newness of the thing, and partly because God will let them have some encouraging taste, to draw them further,
and to convince them of the difference between the pleasures of sin, and the comforts of believing; but these first rejoicings soon abate, and turn into a life of doubts, and fears, and griefs, and care, till they are grown to greater understanding, experience, and settledness in the things of God; the root must grow greater and deeper, before it will bear a greater top. Those Christians that in the weakness of grace have frequent joys, are usually persons whose weak and passionate nature doth occasion it: (some women especially) that have strong fancies and passions are always passionately affected with whatsoever they apprehend. And these are like a ship that is tossed in a tempest; that is one while lifted up as to the clouds, and presently cast down as into an infernal gulf: there one day in great joy, and quickly after in as great perplexity and sorrow, because their comforts or sorrows do follow their present feeling, or mutable apprehensions. But when they come to be confirmed Christians, they will keep a more constant judgment of themselves, and their own condition, and constantly see their grounds of comfort; and when they cannot raise their souls to any high and passionate joys, they yet walk in a settled peace of soul, and in such competent comforts, as make their lives to be easy and delightful; being well pleased and contented with the happy condition that Christ hath brought them to, and thankful that he left them not in those foolish, vain, pernicious pleasures, which were the way to endless sorrows.
3. But the seeming Christian seeketh and taketh up his chief contentment in some carnal thing: if he be so poor and miserable as to have nothing in possession that can much delight him, he will hope for better days hereafter, and that hope shall be his chief delight; or if he have no such hope he will be without delight, and shew his love to the world and flesh, by mourning for that which he cannot have, as others do in rejoicing in what they do possess; and he will, in such a desperate case of misery, be such to the world as the weak Christian is to God, who hath a mourning and desiring love, when he cannot reach to an enjoying and delighting love. His carnal mind most savoureth the things of the flesh, and therefore in them he findeth or seeketh his delights. Though yet he may have also a delight in his superficial kind of religion, his hearing, and reading, and praying, and in his ill-grounded hopes of life eternal: but all this
is but subordinate to his chief, earthly pleasure; they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God; they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching unto God." Isa. lviii. 2. And yet all this was subjected to a covetous, oppressing mind. "He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it, yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while, for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended;" Matt. xiii. 20. Whereby it appeareth that his love to the word, was subjected to his love to the world.
Object. But there are two sorts of people that seem to have no fleshly delights at all, and yet are not in the way to salvation, viz. the Quakers and Behmenists that live in great austerity, and some of the religious orders of the Papists, who afflict their flesh.'
Answ. Some of them undergo their fastings and penance for a day, that they may sin the more quietly all the week after; and some of them proudly comfort themselves with the fancies and conceit of being and appearing more excellent in austerity than others; and all these take up with a carnal sort of pleasure. As proud persons are pleased with their own, or other's conceits of their beauty, or wit, or worldly greatness; so prouder persons are pleased with their own and other's conceits of their holiness. And " verily they have their reward;" Matt. vi. 2. But those of them that place their chief 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; for 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 of continual act; and they that have a great degree of grace,
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 unreverent contempt; Ephes. iii. 12. ii. 18. 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 any others can; Rom. viii. 15, 16. Gal. iv. 6. Ephes. i. 6. 1 John v. 19, 20. that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness:" &c.
"And we know
2. But the weak Christian hath so small a degree of grace, and so much corruption, and his grace is so little in act, 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 earthlymindedness, 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; Rom. viii. 9.
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; Rom. v. 1-4. He is the more stedfast, immoveable, 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; 1 Cor. xv. 58.
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; Heb. iv. 1, 2. iii.
3. But the seeming Christian, though he have no assu̟rance, 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; Gal. vi. 3. John viii. 39. 42. 44.
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