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ment of all the children of God, upon grounds that are peculiar to them from all the rest of the world, but common to them all, in all ages, and all varieties of condition.
It is true, all of them have not alike clear and firm apprehensions of their happy and sure estate, and scarcely any of them are alike at all times; yet, they have all and always the same right to this estate, and to the comfort of it, and when they stand in a right light to view it, they do see it so, and rejoice in it.
There be indeed some kinds of assurance that are more rare and extraordinary, some immediate glances or coruscations of the love of God upon the soul of a believer, a smile of His countenance; and this doth exceedingly refresh, yea, ravish the soul, and enables it mightily for duties and suffer. ings. These He dispenses arbitrarily and freely, where and when He will. Some weaker Christians sometimes have them, while stronger are strangers to them, the Lord training them to live more contentedly by faith till the day of vision comé.
And that is the other, the less ecstatical, but the more constant and fixed kind of assurance, the
assurance of faith : the soul, by believing, cleaves unto God in Christ as he offers himself in the gospel, and thence is possessed with á sweet and calm persuasion of his love; that being the proper work, to appropriate him, to make Christ, and in him, eternal life, ours. So that it is the proper result and fruit of that its acting, especially when it acts any thing strongly, to quiet the soul in him. Then, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and from that peace, joy, yea, even glorying in tribulation, as there follows. And these springing, not from an extraordináry sense or view, but from the very innate virtue of faith working kindly, and according to its own nature.
Therefore, many Christians do prejudice their own comfort and darken their spirits, by not giving freedom to faith to act according to its nature and proper principles. They will not believe till they find some evidence, or assurance, which is quite to invert the order of the thing, and to look for fruit without settling a root for it to grow from..
Would you take Christ upon the absolute word of promise, tendering him to you, and rest on him so, this would ingraft you into life itself, for that he is, and so those fruits of the Holy Ghost would bud and flourish in your hearts. From that very believing on him, would arise this persuasion, yea, even to a gloriation, and an humble boasting in his love. Who shall accuse-Who shall condemn-Who shall separate?
The undivided companion and undoubted helper and preserver of this confidence of faith, is an active love to Christ, leading to a constant study of holiness and strife against sin, which is the grand enemy of faith, which obstructs the
very vital spirits of faith, which makes it sickly and heavy in its actings, and causes the palsy in the hand of faith, so that it cannot lay so fast hold. Therefore, this you should be careful of; yea, know that of necessity it attends faith, and as faith grows, holiness will grow, and holiness growing will mutually strengthen and establish faith. The comforts of the Holy Ghost, are holy, purifying comforts, and the more the soul is purified and made holy, the more is it cleared and enlarged to receive much of these comforts. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Unholiness is as damps and filthy mists in the soul; it darkens all.
Hence it is evident in what way Christians may and ought to aspire to this assurance. It is their portion, and in this way they are to aspire to it, and shall find it; if not immediately, yet, let them wait and go on in this way, they shall not miscarry.
Again, it appears that this assurance is no enemy to holy diligence, nor a friend of carnal security; on the contrary, it is the only thing that doth eminently ennoble and embolden the soul for all adventures and services. Base fears and doubtings, wherein some place much of religion, and many weak Christians seem to be in that mistake, to think it a kind of holy, spiritual temper to be questioning and doubting,) I say, these base fears can never produce any thing truly generous, no height of obedience : they do nothing but entangle and disable the soul for every good work. Perfect love casts out this fear, and works a sweet, unperplexing fear, a holy wariness not to offend, which fears nothing else. And this confidence of love is the great secret of comfort, and of ability to do God service. Nothing makes so strong and healthful a constitution of soul, as pure love: it dares submit to God, and resign itself to Him; it dares venture itself in His hand, and trust His word, and seeks no more than how to please Him. A heart thus composed, goes readily and cheerfully unto all services, to do, to suffer, to live, to die, at His pleasure; and firmly stands to this, that nothing can separate it from that which is sufficient for it, which is all its happiness, the love of God in Christ Jesus. Ver. 39. That is, indeed, His love to us, but it is so as it includes inseparably the inseparableness of our love to Him. For observe the things specified as most likely, if any thing, to separate us : Shall tribulation, or distress, &c. Now these especially, being endured for His sake, cannot immediately have any likely visage of altering His love to us, but rather confirm us in it; but these shall not separate us, by altering our love to Him, by driving us from Him, and carrying us into any way of defection, or denial of His name, and so cut us off from our union with Him, and interest in His love; and that is the
way wherein the weak Christian will most apprehend the hazard of separation. Now, the Apostle speaks his own sense, and would raise in his brethren the same confidence, as to that danger. There is no fear ; not one of these things shall be able to carry us away. These mighty waves shall not unsettle our faith, nor quench the flame of our love. We shall be victors, and more than victors, in all. But how? Ver. 37. Through Him that hath loved us. Thus His love makes sure ours. He hath such hold of our hearts as He will not let us to let go our hold: all is fast by His strength. He will
go, nor suffer
not lose us, nor shall any be able to pluck us out of His hand.
Jesus Christ is the medium of this love, the middle link that keeps all safe together betwixt God and man, being so closely united in his personal nature, and the persons of men in and by him, to the Father. So here, it is first called the love of Christ, ver. 35., and then, in the close, the love of God in Christ; the soul being first carried to him as nearest, þut so carried by him into that primitive love of God that flows in Christ, and that gave even Christ to us as before. And this is the bottom-truth, the firm ground of the saints perseverance, which men not taking aright, must needs question the matter. Yea, we may put it out of question upon their suppositions, for if our own purposes and strength were all we had to rely on, alas ! how soon shaken!
So, the love of God in Christ is not only here mentioned as the point of happiness, from which we cannot be removed, but as the principle of firmness that makes itself sure of us, and us of it, and will not part with us.
Now, it is no pride in a Christian, but the truest humility, to triumph and glory in this. This is it that makes all sure; this is the great comfort and the victory of the saints. He that loved us, and bought us so dear, will not lightly slip from us; yea, upon no terms will he let us go, unless some stronger than he is, meet with him, and by force bereave him of us; which we know is impossible. He and his Father, who are one in themselves, and in their strength, and one in this love, are greater and stronger than all; and he that once overcame for us, always overcomes in us.
Thus he lets temptation and tribulations assault us, and thus neither disproves his love, nor endangers his right to us; yea, it doth but give proof and evidence of the invincible firmness of both. He suffers others to lie soft, and sit warm, and pamper their flesh at leisure ; but he hath nobler business for his champions, his worthies, and most of all for the stoutest of them: he calls them forth to honourable services, to the hardest encounters; he sets them on, one to fight with sickness, another with poverty, another with reproaches and persecutions, with prisons and irons, and with death itself And all this while, loves he them less, or they him? Oh, no. He looks on and rejoices to see them do valiantly ; it is the joy of his heart, no sight on earth so sweet to him; and it is all the while by his subduing, and in his strength, that they hold out in the conflict, and obtain the conquest,
And thus they are the more endeared to him by these services and these adventures of love for him, and he still likewise is the more endeared to them. Certainly, the more any one suffers for Christ, the more he loves Christ: as love doth grow and engage itself by all it does and suffers, and burns hotter by what it encounters and overcomes, as by fuel added to it. As to Jesus Christ, by what he suffered for us we are the dearer to him, so he is to us by all we suffer for his sake.
Love grows most by opposition from others whosoever, when it is sure of acceptance and the correspondence of mutual love in the party loved. Above all, this heavenly, Divine love is strong as death, a vehement flame, a flame of God, indeed, as the word is, Cant. viii. 6, and many waters cannot quench it; not all these that here follow one another, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword. Yea, in the midst of these, I say, it grows: the soul cleaves closer to Christ, the more attempts are made to remove it from him, though killed all the day long. This passage from the Psalms is most fit, both to testify that persecution is not unusually the lot of the saints, and to give instance of their firm adherence to God in all troubles, as the Church there professeth. And if the saints in that dispensation could reckon in such a manner, much more ought Christians, upon a clearer discovery of the covenant of grace and their union with God in Christ. The saints are as in a common butchery in the world; yea, not only as sheep for the slaughter, but