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hurt us than to help us ? How could he have manifested more willingness to save, and more tender compassion to the souls of men, than he hath fully manifested ? That the Godhead should condescend to assume our nature is a thing so wonderful, even to astonishment, that it puts faith to it to apprehend it; for it is ten thousand times more condescension than for the greatest king to become a fly or a toad to save such creatures. And shall we ever have low and suspicious thoughts of the gracious and merciful nature of Christ, after so strange and full a discovery of it? Iftwenty were ready to drown in the sea, and if one that were able to swim and fetch all out, should cast himself into the water, and offer them his help, were it not foolish ingratitude for any to say, 'I know not yet whether he be willing to help me or not;' and so to have jealous thoughts of his good will, and so perish in refusing his help? How tenderly did Christ deal with all sorts of sinners. He professed that he “came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." Did he weep over a rejected, unbelieving people, and was he desirous of their desolation? “How oft would he have gathered them as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings (mark, that he would have done this for them that he cast off) and they would not ?" When his disciples would have had “ fire come down from heaven to consume those that refused him," he reproves them, and tells them, “ They knew not what spirit they were os," (the common case of them that miscarry, by suffering their zeal to overrun their Christian wisdom and meekness). Yea, he prayeth for his crucifiers, and that on the cross, not forgetting them in the heat of his sufferings. Thus he doth by the wicked; but to those that follow him, bis tenderness is unspeakable, as you would have said yourself, if you had but stood by and seen him washing his disciples' feet, and wiping them ; or bidding Thomas put his finger into his side, “and be not faithless, but believing." Alas! that the Lord Jesus should come from heaven to earth, from glory into human Hesh, and pass through a lise of misery to a cross, and from the cross to the grave, to manifest openly to the world the abundance of his love, and the tenderness of his heart to sinners; and that after all this, we should suspect him of cruelty, or hard-heartedness and unwillingness 10 shew mercy; and that the devil can so far delude us, as to make us think of the Lamb of God as if he were a tiger or devourer !
But I will say no more of this, because Dr. Sibbs, in his “ Bruised Reed," hath said so much already. Only remember, that if you would methodically proceed to the attaining of solid comfort, this is the next stone that must be laid. You must be deeply possessed with apprehensions of the most gracious nature and office of the Redeemner, and the exceeding tenderness of his heart to lost sinners.
Direct. V. The next step in right order to comfort is this : • You must believe and consider the full sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice and ransom for all.'
The controversies about this you need not be troubled at. For as almost all confess this sufficiency, so the Scripture itself, by the plainness and fulness of its expression, makes it as clear as the light, that Christ died for ALL. The fuller proof of this I have given you in public, and shall do yet more publicly, if God will. 'If Satan would persuade you either that no ransom or sacrifice was ever given for you, or that therefore you have no Redeemer to trust in, and no Saviour to believe in, and no sanctuary to fly to from the wrath of God, he must first prove you either to be no lost sinner, or to be a final, impenitent unbeliever; that is, that you are dead already ; or else he must delude your understanding, to make you think that Christ died not for all ; and then I confess he hath a sore advantage against your faith and comfort.
Direct. VI. The next thing in order to be done is this : Get clear apprehensions of the freeness, fulness, and universality of the new covenant or law of grace."
I mean the promise of remission, justification, adoption, and salvation to all, so they will believe. No man on earth is excluded in the tenor of this covenant. And therefore certainly you are not excluded ; and if not excluded, then you must needs be included. Shew where you are excluded if you can! You will say, But for all this, all men are not justified and saved.' Answ. True, because they will not be persuaded to accept the mercy that is freely given them.
The use that I would have you make of this, I will shew in the next.
Direct. VII. You must get the right understanding of the difference between general grace and special. And between the possibility, probability, conditional certainty, and absolute certainty of your salvation. And so between the comfort on the former ground and on the latter.'
And here I shall open to you a rich mine of consolation.
Understand, therefore, that as every particular part of the house is built on the foundation, so is every part of special grace built on general grace. Understand also, that all the four last mentioned particulars do belong to this general grace. As also, that though no man can have absolute certainty of salvation, from the consideration of this general grace alone, yet may it afford abundance of relief to distressed souls, yea, much true consolation. Lastly, Understand that all that hear the Gospel may take part in this consolation, though they have no assurance of their salvation at all, no nor any special, saving grace.
Now when you understand these things well, this is the use that I would have you make of them.
1. Do not begin the way to your spiritual peace by inquiring after the sincerity of your graces, and trying yourselves by signs. Do not seek out for assurance of salvation in the first place, nor do not look and study after the special comforts which come froin certainty of special grace, before you have learned, (1.) To perform the duty. (2.) And to receive the comforts which general grace affordetis. Such immethodical, disorderly proceedings keep thousands of poor, ignorant Christians in darkness and trouble almost all their days. Let the first thing you do, be to obey the voice of the Gospel, which calleth you to accept of Christ and special mercy
“ This is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life.” Fix this deep in your mind, that the nature of the Gospel is first to declare to our understandings the most gracious nature, undertakings, and performances of Christ for us, which must be believed to be true : and secondly to offer this Christ with all his special mercy to every man to whom this Gospel comes, and to entreat them to accept Christ and life, wbich is freely given and offered to them. Remember then you are a lost sinner. For certain Christ and life in him is given and offered to you. Now your first work is, presently to accept it; not to make an unseasonable inquiry, whether Christ be yours, but to take him that he
you were condemned, and a pardon were freely given you, on condition you would thankfully take it, and it were offered to you, and you entreated to take it, what would you do in this case? Would you spend your time and thoughts in searching whether this pardon be already yours? Or would you not presently take it that it may be yours? Or if you were ready to famish, and food were offered you, would you stand asking first, How shall I know that it is mine? Or rather take and eat it, when you are sure it may be yours if you will. Let me entreat you therefore, when the devil clamors in your ears, Christ and salvation is none of thine,' suppose that this voice of God in the Gospel were still in your ears, yea, let it be still in your memory, * O take Christ, and life in him, that thou mayest be saved : still think that you hear Paul following you with these words : “ We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us. We pray you in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God.” Will you but remember this, when you are on your knees in sorrow; and when you would fain have Christ and life, and you are afraid that God will not give them to you? I say, remember then, God stands by, beseeching you to accept the same thing which you are beseeching him to give. God is the first suitor and solicitor. God prays you to take Christ, and you pray him to give you Christ. What have you now to do but to take him! And here understand, that this taking is no impossible business; it is no more but your hearty consenting, as I shall tell you
If you did but well understand and consider, that believing is the great duty that God calls you to perform, and promiseth to save you if you do truly perform it; and that this believing is to take, or consent to have the same mercy which you pray for, and are troubled for fear lest you shall miss of it, even Christ and life in him ; this would presently draw forth your consent, and that in so open and express a way, as you could not but discover it, and have the comfort of it. Remember this then, That your first work is to believe, or accept an offered Saviour.
2. You must learn (as I told you) to receive the comforts of uni
versal or general grace, before you search after the comforts of special grace. I here suppose you so far sound in the doctrine of the Gospel, as neither with some on one hand, to look so much at special grace, as to deny that general grace, which is the ground of it, or presupposed to it. Nor with others, so far to look at universal mercy, as to deny special. Satan will tell you, that all your duties have been done in hypocrisy, and you are unsound at the heart, and bave not a drop of saving grace. You are apt to entertain this, and conclude that all this is true : • If I had any grace, I should have more life, and love, and delight in God; more tenderness of heart, more growth in grace. I should not carry about such a rock in my breast ; such a stupid, dull, insensible soul,' &c.
At the present, let us suppose that all this be true: yet see what a world of comfort you may gather from universal or general mercy. I have before opened to you four parts of it, in the cause of your happiness, and three in the effect, which may each of them afford much relief to your troubled soul.
1. Suppose you are yet graceless, is it nothing to you that it is a God of infinite mercy that you have to do with, whose compassions are ten thousand times greater than your dearest friends', or your own husband's?
Object. O but yet he will not save the graceless.'
Answ. True, but he is the more ready to give grace, that you may be saved.
“ If any of you (mark, any of you) do lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all men liberally (without desert) and upbraideth not (with our unworthiness or former faults), and it shall be given him ;" James i. 4. “If you that are evil can give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to them that ask it ?” Luke xi. 13. Suppose your life were in the hands of your own husband, or your children's life in your hands, would it not exceedingly comfort you or them, to consider whose hands they are in, though yet you had no further assurance how you should be used ? It may be you will say, “But God is no Father to the graceless.' I answer, He is not their Father in so near and strict a sense as he is the Father of believers; but yet a Father be is, even to the wicked; and to convince men of his fatherly mercy to them, he often