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النشر الإلكتروني

SERMON

VII.

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JOHN i. 12. But as many as received him, to them gave power to become the fons of God; even to them that believe on his name.

HE nature and excellency of faving faith, together with

its relation to juftification, as an inftrument in receiving Chrift and his righteousness, having been difcourfed doctrinally already, I now come to make application of it, according to the nature of this weighty and fruitful point.

And the ufes I fhall make of it, will be for our,

I. Information,

2. Examination,

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3. Exhortation, And
4. Direction.

First Ufe of Information.

Ufe 1. And in the firft, this point yields us many, and great, and useful truths, for our information: As,

Infer. I. Is the receiving of Chrift, the vital and faving act of faith, which gives the foul right to the perfon and privileges of Chrift? Then it follows, That the rejecting of Chrift by unbelief, muft needs be the damning and foul-destroying fin, which cuts a man off from Chrift, and all the benefits purchased by his blood. If there be life in receiving, there muft needs be death in rejecting Chrift.

There is no grace more excellent than faith; no fin more execrable, and abominable, than unbelief. Faith is the faving grace, and unbelief the damning fin, Mark xvi. 16. “He that "believeth not, fhall be damned." See John iii. 18, 36. and John viii. 24.

And the reafon why this fin of unbelief is the damning fin is this, Because, in the juftification of a finner, there must be a cooperation of all the con-caufes that have a joint-influence on that bleffed effect: As there must be free-grace for an impulfive caufe, the blood of Chrift as the meritorious caufe, fo, of neceffity, there must be faith, the inftrumental caufe, to receive and apply what the free-grace of God defigned, and the blood of Chrift purchased for us. For where there are many focial caufes or con-caufes, to produce one effect, there the ef fect is not produced till the laft caufe be in act.

"To him give all the prophets witnefs, that through his name, whofoever believeth in him fhall receive remiffion of "fins," Acts x. 43. Faith in its place, is as neceffary as the blood of Chrift in its place: "It is Chrift in you the hope of

"glory," Col. i. 27. Not Chrift in the womb, not Chrift in the grave, nor Chrift in heaven, except he be also Chrift in you. Though Christ be come in the fleth; though he died and rofe again from the dead; yet if you believe not, you must for all that die in your fins, John viii. 24. And what a dreadful thing is this! better die any death whatever, than die in your fins. If you die in your fins, you will alfo rife in your fins, and stand at the bar of Chrift in your fins: you can never receive remiffion, till firft you have received Chrift. O curfed unbelief, which damns the foul: difhonours God, 1 John v. 10. flights Jefus Chrift, the wifdom of God, as if that glorious defign of redemption by his blood, the triumph and mafter-piece of divine wisdom, were mere foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. frußrates the great defign of the gospel, Gal. iv. 11. and confequently it must be the fin of fins; the worst and most dangerous of all fias; leaving a man under the guilt of all his other fios.

Infer. 2. If fuch a receiving of Chrift, as hath been described, be faving and juftifying faith, then faith is a work of greater difficulty than most men understand it to be, and there are but few found believers in the world.

Before Chrift can be received, the heart must be emptied, and opened: but moft mens hearts are full of felf-righteousness and vain-confidence: this was the cafe of the Jews, Rom. x. 3." Be"ing ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to efta"blish their own righteousness, have not fubmitted themselves to the righteousness of God."

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Man's righteoufnefs was once in himself, and what liquor is firft put into the veffel, it ever afterwards favours of it: It is with Adam's pofterity as with bees, which have been accustomed to go to their own hive, and carry all thither; if the hive be removed to another place, they will ftill fly to the old place, hover up and down about it, and rather die there, than go to a new place. So it is with most men. God hath removed their righteoufnefs from doing, to believing; from themselves to Chrift; but who shall prevail with them to forfake felf? Nature will venture to be damned rather than do it: there is much fubmiffion in believing, and great felf-denial: a proud felf-conceited heart, will never stoop to live upon the stock of another's righteoufnefs.

Befides, it is no eafy thing to perfuade men to receive Chrift as their Lord in all things, and fubmit their necks to his strict and holy precepts, though it be a great truth that “ * Christ's yoke

*Fugum Chrifti non deterit fed honeftat colla. Bern.

SERM. VII. "doth not gall, but grace and adorn the neck that bears it ;" that the truett and fweeteft liberty is in our freedom from our Jufts, not in our fulfilling them; yet who can perfuade the car. nal heart to believe this? And much lefs will men ever be prevailed withal, to forfake father, mother, wife, children, inheritance, and life itfelf, to follow Chrift: and all this upon the account of fpiritual and invifible things: and yet this must be done by all that receive the Lord Jefus Chrift upon gofpel-terms; yea, and before the foul hath any encouraging experience of its own, to balance the manifold difcouragements of fenfe, and carnal reafon, improved by the utmost craft of Satan to difmay it; for experience is the fruit and confequent of believing. So that it may well be placed among the great myfteries of godliness, that Chrift is believed on in the world, 1 Tim, iii.

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Infer. 3. Hence it will follow, That there may be more true and found believers in the world, than know, or dare conclude themfelves to be juch.

For, as many ruin their own fouls by placing the effence of faving faith in naked affent, fo fome rob themselves of their. own comfort, by placing it in full affurance. Faith, and fenfe of faith, are two diftinct and feparable mercies: you may have truly received Chrift, and not receive the knowledge or affurance of it, Ifa. 1. 10. Some there be that fay, Thou art our Cod, of whom God never faid, You are my people: thefe have no authority to be called the fons of God: others there are, of whom God faith, These are my people, yet dare not call God their God: thefe have authority to be called the fons of God, but know it not. They have received Chrift, that is their fafety; but they have not yet received the knowledge and affurance of it; that is their trouble: the Father owns his child in the cradle, whe yet knows him not to be his father.

Now there are two reafons why many believers, who might argue themselves into peace, do yet live without the comforts of their faith and this may come to pafs, either from,

Firft, The inevidence of the premises.

Secondly, Or the weighty importance of the conclufion. First, it may come to pafs from the inevidence of the premises. Affurance is a practical fyllogifm, and it proceeds thus:

All that truly have received Chrift Jefus, they are the children of God.

I have truly received Jefus Chrift,

Therefore I am the child of God.

The major propofition is found in the fcripture, and there can

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be no doubt of that. The affumption depends upon experience, or internal fenfe; I have truly received Jefus Chrift: Here ufually is the stumble; many great objections lie against it, which they cannot clearly answer: As,

Obj. 1. Light and knowledge are neceffarily required to the right receiving of Christ, but I am dark and ignorant, many carnal unregenerate perfons know more than I do, and are more able to difcourfe of the mysteries of religion than I am.

Sol. But you ought to distinguish of the kinds and degrees of knowledge, and then you would fee that your bewailed ignorance is no bar to your interest in Christ. There are two kinds of knowledge:

1. Natural.

I 2. Spiritual.

There is a natural knowledge, even of fpiritual objects, a fpark of nature blown up by an advantageous education; and though the objects of this knowledge be spiritual things, yet the light in which they are difcerned, is but a mere natural light.

And there is a spiritual knowledge of fpiritual things, the teaching of the anointing, as it is called, 1 John ii. 27. (i. e.) the effect and fruit of the Spirit's fanctifying work upon our fouls, when the experience of a man's own heart informs, and teacheth his understanding, when by feeling the workings of grace in our own fouls, we come to understand its nature: this is fpiritual knowledge. Now, a little of this knowledge is a better evidence of a man's interest in Chrift, than the most raised and excellent degree of natural knowledge: As the philofopher truly obferves; Praeftat paucula de meliori fcientia deguftaffe, quam de ignobiliori multa: One dram of knowledge of the beft and most excellent things, is better than much knowledge of Jefus Chrift, that hath life and favour in it, is more than all the common things. So it is here, a little fpiritual knowledge of natural, faplefs knowledge of the unregenerate, which leaves the heart dead, carnal, and barren: it is not the quantity, but the kind, not the meafure, but the favour: If you know so much of the evil of fin, as renders it the most bitter and burdenfome thing in the world to you, and fo much of the neceffity and excellency of Chrift, as renders him the most sweet and defirable thing in the world to you, though you may be defective in many degrees of knowledge, yet this is enough to prove yours to be the fruit of the Spirit: you may have a fanctified heart, though you have an irregular or weak head: many that knew more than you, are in hell; and fome that once knew as little as you, are now in heaven: In abfoluto et facili ftat aeternitas: God hath not VOL. II. Gg

prepared heaven only for clear and fubtle heads. A little fanc tified, and effectual knowledge of Chrift's perfon, offices, fui tablenefs, and neceffity, may bring thee thither, when others, with all their curious fpeculations and notions, may perifh for ever

Obj. 2. But you tell me, that affent to the truths of the gofpel is neceffarily included in faving faith, which, though it be not the juflifying and faving act, yet it is pre-fuppofed and required to it. Now I have many staggerings and doubtings a bout the certainty and reality of these things; many horrid a theistical thoughts, which fake the affenting act of faith in the very foundation, and hence I doubt I do not believe.

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Sol. There may be, and often is, a true and fincere affent found in the foul, that is affaulted with violent atheistical fug geftions from Satan; and thereupon queftions the truth of it. And this is a very clear evidence of the reality of our affent, that whatever doubts, or contrary fuggeftions there be, yet we dare not in our practice, contradict or flight thofe truths or duties which we are tempted to difbelieve, ex. gr. We are affaulted with atheistical thoughts, and tempted to flight and caft off all fears of fin, and practice of religious duties, yet when it comes to the point of practice, we dare not commit a known fin, the awe of God is upon us; we dare not omit a known duty, the tie of confcience is found ftrong enough to hold us close to it: in this cafe, it is plain we do really affent, when we think we do A man thinks he doth not love his child, yet carefully provides for him in health, and is full of grief and fears about him in fickness: why now, fo long as I fee all fatherly duties performed, and affections to his child's welfare manifefted, let him fay what he will as to the want of love to him, whilst I fee this, he must excufe me if I do not believe him, when he faith he hath no love for him. Juft fo is it in this cafe, a man faith I do not affent to the being, neceffity, or excellency of Jetus Chrift; yet, in the mean time, his foul is filled with cares and fears about fecuring his intereft in him, he is found panting and thirsting for him with vehement defires, there is nothing in all the world would give him fuch joy, as to be well affured of an interest in him; while it is thus with any man, let him fay or think what he will of his affent, it is manifeft by this he doth truly, and heartily affent, and there can be no better proof of it than thefe real effects produced by it.

Secondly, But if thefe, and other objections were never fo fully antwered for the clearing of the affumption, yet it often falls out, that believers are afraid to draw the conclufion, and that fear partly arifes from,

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