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who shall deliver me from this body of death?” But at the same time we may thank God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. If erery sin should make us doubt, we should do nothing but doubt. I know you may easily tell a long and a sad story of your sins; how you are troubled with this and that, and many a distemper, and weak and wanting in every grace and duty, and have committed
But doth it follow that therefore you have no true grace? Learn therefore to be humbled for every sin, but not to doubt of your sincerity and salvation for every sin.
Direct. XXX. - Whatsoever new doubtings do arise in your soul, see that you carefully discern whether they are such as must be resolved from the consideration of general grace, or of special grace. And especially be sure of this, that when you want or lose your certainty of sincerity and salvation, you have presently recourse to the probability of it, and lose not the comforts of that. Or if you should lose the sight of a probability of special grace, yet see that you have recourse at the utmost to general grace, and never let go the comforts of that at the worst.'
This rule is of unspeakable necessity and use for your peace and comfort. Here are three several degrees of the grounds of comfort. It is exceeding weakness for a man that is beaten from one of these holds, therefore to let go the other two. And because he cannot have the highest degree, therefore to conclude that he hath none at all.
I beseech you in all your doubtings and complainings, still remember the two rules here laid down. 1. All doubts arise not from the same cause, and therefore must not have the same cure. Let the first thing which you do upon every doubt, be this: To consider, whether it come from the unbelieving or low apprehensions of the general grounds of comfort, or from the want of evidence of special grace. For that which is a fit remedy for one of these, will do little for the cure of the other. 2. If your doubting be only, Whether you be sincere in believing, loving, hoping, repenting, and obeying, then it will not answer this doubt, though you discern never so much of God's merciful nature, or Christ's gracious office, or the universal sufficiency of his death and satisfaction, or the freeness and extent of the promise of pardon. For I profess conside
rately, that I do not know in all the body of popery concerning merits, justification, human satisfaction, assurance, or any other point about grace, for which we unchurch them, that they err half so dangerously as Saltmarsh, and such Antinomians, do in this point, when they say, That Christ hath repented and believed for us; meaning it of that faith and repentance which he hath made the conditions of our salvation. And that we must no more question our own faith, than we must question Christ the object of it. It will be no saving plea at the day of judgment to say, Though I repented not, and believed not, yet Christ died for me, or God is merciful, or Christ repented and believed for me, or God made me a free promise and gift of salvation, if I would repeat and believe. What comfort would such an answer give them? And therefore doubtless it will not serve now to quiet any knowing Christian against those doubts that arise from the want of particular evidence of special grace, though in their own place, the general grounds of comfort are of absolute necessity thereto.
2. On the other side, If your doubts arise from any defect in your apprehensions of general grace, it is not your looking after marks in yourself that is the way to resolve them. I told you in the beginning, that the general grounds of comfort lie in four particulars (that square foundation which will bear up all the faith of the saints.) First, God's merciful and inconceivable good and gracious nature, and his love to mankind. Secondly, The gracious nature of the Mediator God and Man, with his most gracious, undertaken office of saving and reconciling. Thirdly, The sufficiency of Christ's death and satisfaction for all the world, to save them if they will accept him and his grace. I put it in terms beyond dispute, because I would not build up believer's comforts points which godly divines do contradict (as little as may be.) Yet I am past all doubt myself, that Christ did actually make satisfaction to God's justice for all, and that no man perisheth for want of an expiatory sacrifice, but for want of faith to believe and apply it, or for want of repentance and yielding to recovering grace. The fourth is, The universal grant of pardon, and right to salvation, on condition of faith and repentance. If your doubt arise from the VOL. I.
ignorance or overlooking of any of these, to these must you bave recourse for your cure.
Where note, That all those doubts which come from the greatness of your sin, as such that you think will not therefore be forgiven, or that come from the sense of unworthiness (in a legal sense,) or want of merit in yourself, and all your doubts, whether God be willing to accept and forgive you, though you should repent and believe : or, whether any sacrifice was offered by Christ for your sins; I say, all these come from your ignorance or unbelief of some or all of the four general grounds here mentioned ; and from them must be cured.
Note also in a special manner, That there is a great difference between these four general grounds, and your particular evidences, in point of certainty. For these four corner-stones are fast founded beyond a!l possibility of removal, so that they are always of as undoubted certainty as that the heaven is over your head ; and they are immutable, still the same. These you are commanded strictly to believe with a divine faith, as being the clearly revealed truths of God; and if you should not believe them, yet they remain firm and true, and your unbelief should not make void the universal promise and grace of God. But your own evidences of special grace are not so certain, so clear, or so immutable ; nor are you bound to believe them, but to search after them that you may know them. You are not bound by any word of God strictly to believe that you do believe, or repent, but to try and discern it. This then is the first part of this Direction, That you always discover whether your troubles arise from low unbelieving, or ignorant thoughts of God's mercifulness, Christ's gracious nature and office, general satisfaction, or the universal promise: Or, whether they arise from want of evidence of sincerity in yourself. And accordingly in your thoughts apply the remedy.
The second part of the Direction is, that you hold fast probabilities of special grace, when you lose your certainty, and that you hold fast your general grounds, when you lose both your former. Never forget this in any of your doubts.
You say, your faith and obedience have such breaches and sad defects in them, that you cannot be certain that they are sincere.
Suppose it be so : Do you see no great likelihood or hopes yet that they are sincere ? If you do (as I think many Christians easily may, that yet receive not a proportionable comfort) remember that this is no small mercy, but matter of great consolation.
that you see no grace in yourself, yet you cannot be sure you have none ; for it may be there, and you not see it. Yea, suppose the worst, that you were sure that you had no true grace at all, yet remember that you have still abundant cause of comfort in God's general grace. Do you think you must needs despair, or give up all hope and comfort, or conclude yourself irrecoverably lost, because you are graceless? Why, be it known to you, there is that ground of consolation in general grace, that may make the hearts of the very wicked to leap for joy. Do I need to prove that to you? You know that the Gospel is called, “ Glad tidings of salvation,” and the preachers of it are to tell those to whom they preach it, “ Behold, we bring you tidings of great joy, and glad tidings to all people.” And you know before the Gospel comes to men they are miserable. If then it be glad tidings, and tidings of great joy to all the unconverted where it comes, why should it not be so to you? And where is your great joy? If you be graceless, is it nothing to know that God is exceeding merciful, “slow to anger, ready to forgive, pardoning iniquities, transgression, and sin," loving mankind? Is it nothing to know that the Lord hath brought infinite mercy and goodness down into human flesh? And hath taken on him the most blessed office of reconciling, and is become the Lamb of God? Is it nothing to you, that all your sins have a sufficient sacrifice paid for them, so that you are certain not to perish for want of a ransom? Is it nothing to you that God hath made such an universal grant of pardon and salvation to all that will believe? And that you are not on the terms of the mere law of works, to be judged for not obeying in perfection? Suppose you are never so certainly graceless, is it not a ground of unspeakable comfort, that you may be certain that nothing can condemn you, but a flat refusal or unwillingness to have Christ and his salvation? This is a certain truth, which may comfort a man as yet unsanctified, that sin merely as sin shall not condemn him,
nor any thing in the world, but the final, obstinate resusal of the remedy, which thereby leaveth all other sin unpardoned.
Now I would ask you this question in your greatest fears that you are out of Christ : Are you willing to have Christ to pardon, sanctify, guide, and save you, or not? If you are, then you are a true believer, and did not know it. If you are not, if you will but wait on God's word in hearing, and reading, and consider frequently and seriously of the necessity and excellency of Christ and glory, and the evil of sin, and the vanity of the world, and will but beg earnestly of God to make you willing, you shall find that God hath not appointed you this means in vain, and that this way will be more profitable to you than all your complainings. See therefore when you are at the very lowest, that you forsake not the comforts of general grace.
And indeed those that deny any general grace or redemption, do leave poor Christians in a very lamentable condition. For, alas! assurance of special grace (yea, or a high probability) is not so common a thing as mere disputers against doubting have imagined. And when a poor Christian is beaten from his assurance (which few have,) he hath nothing but probabilities; and when he bath no confident, probable persuasion of special grace, where is be then ? And what hath he left to support his soul? I will not so far now meddle with that controversy, as to open further how this opinion tends to leave most Christians in desperation, for all the pretences it hath found. And I had done more, but that general redemption or satisfaction, is commonly taught in the maintaining of the general sufficiency of it, though men understand not how they contradict themselves.
But perhaps you will say, This is cold comfort; for I may as well argue thus, Christ will damn sinners; I am a sinner, therefore he will damn me ; as to argue thus, Christ will save sinners ; I am a sinner, therefore he will save me. I answer, There is no shew of soundness in either of these arguments. It is not a certainty that Christ will save you, that can be gathered from general grace alone ; that must be had from assurance of special grace superadded to the general. But a conditional certainty you may have from general grace only, and thus you may soundly and in