William Guthrie - The Puritan's Puritan

The Christian's Great Interest. Part 4

His heart is laid out in breadth and length for Him; yea, when the fame and report of Him goes abroad in His truth, although faith sees not much, yet it 'believeth on His name,' upon the very fame He has sent abroad of Himself. (John 1: 12.)
III. Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith
But here, for avoiding mistakes, consider
1. That although justifying faith acts so variously, yet every believer who has a good title to Christ Jesus has not all these various actings and exercises of faith; for his condition requires them not; and also the Master is sometimes pleased not to lead out the faith of some persons, in all these particular ways, for reasons known to Himself, even when their necessity (to their apprehension) calleth for such an acting of faith. Surely, every one dare not say, 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.' (Job 13: 15.) Many would not have gone up with the woman of Canaan, spoken of in Matt. 15:, but would have been discouraged, and have given up the pursuit. It is on this account that Christ highly commends the faith of some beyond the faith of others; as of the centurion, and the woman of Canaan. (Matt. 8: 10.) Many good people are much disquieted about their faith, because it goes not out in all those ways we find recorded in Scripture; but there is hardly any one to be found whose faith has acted all these ways.
2. Many of these actings of faith are much intended and remitted. They are sometimes strong and vigorous, and discernible; and sometime they fail, and unbelief prevails, so it were an uncertain thing to judge of a man's state by these. We find the saints at times very different from themselves in regard of the acting of faith, as we showed before.
3. Each one of these actings of faith speaks good to the person in whom it is, and has promises annexed unto it, as we have said. Yet--
4. Although these acting of faith have promises annexed to them, they are not, on that account, the condition of the new covenant; for then every one behaved to have each one of them, which is not true, as we said before. A promise is made to him who overcometh: but perseverance is not the condition of the new covenant, though it supposeth it. There are promises made to the exercise of all graces in Scripture; but faith only is the condition of the covenant. I say, then, these promises are made to these workings of faith, not as such, but as they imply justifying faith, which is the condition of the covenant. All these are acting of faith, but not as it is justifying. Therefore--
5. There is something common to all gracious persons, which may be supposed by all the aforesaid acting of faith, wherein the nature and essence of justifying faith consist: and this is the heart's satisfaction with God's plan of salvation by Christ. When man is pleased with God's method of satisfaction to justice, through Christ Jesus, in whom all fulness now dwells, by the Father's pleasure; when the soul and heart of man acquiesce in that, then it believeth unto salvation. As at first the Lord made man suitable to the covenant of works, by creating him perfect, and so putting him in a capacity to perform his will in that covenant: so, under the new covenant, when God giveth the new heart to man, He puts the idea and stamp of all His device in the new covenant upon the man, so as there is a consonance to God's will there: thus he bears the image of the second Adam, Christ Jesus, on him. This is a great part of the new heart, and is most opposed to works: since now the man absolutely falls from works, 'becoming dead to the law,' as to the point of justification, 'by the body of Christ.' (Rom. 7: 4.) Man perceiving that God has devised a way of satisfying Divine justice, and recovering lost man by the incarnation of Christ, he thinks this so good and sure a way, that he absolutely gives up with the law, as I said before, and closes with this device; and this is believing or faith, very opposite to works, and all resting thereupon. This cannot fail to be in all gracious persons, in whom many of the acting of faith are not to be found. This does clearly suppose known distress in a man, without any relief in himself: this supposes known fulness in Christ, as the alone sufficient relief: this imports a sort of appropriation; for the heart, being pleased with that device, in so far swayeth towards it. This is a thing clearly supposed in all the acting of faith spoken of before.
He that greedily hungereth, has this; and he that leaneth has this, etc. This is to esteem 'Christ the wisdom and power of God' to salvation, as He is said to be to all that believe. (1 Cor. 1: 24.) They esteem that device wise and sure, becoming God; and that is to believe. On this account, Christ, who is the stone rejected by many, is 'precious to them who believe;' a fit stone to recover, fortify, and beautify the tottering building and fabric of lost man--'To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious; ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe He is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner; and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.' (1 Peter 2: 4-8.) 'The kingdom of God is like a man finding a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all.' (Matt. 13: 44.) These words hold out the very way of believing, namely, salvation is discovered in the gospel to be by Christ; the heart valueth that method as satisfying. This is to believe on the Son of God lifted up; which is compared with looking to the brazen serpent. (John 3: 14.) It was man's approbation of that device which made it effectual for his healing; so is it here, 'He that so believeth, setteth to his seal that God is true.' (John 3: 33.) True! Wherein? In that record He has borne, that God has provided life for men, and placed it all in Christ. 'He that believeth not maketh God a liar.' (1 John 5: 10.) Wherein? In His saying that Christ is a safe and sure way to heaven. This is being pleased and acquiescing in that device; and it is consonant to all I know spoken of justifying faith in Scripture. This is the believing on Christ and on His name, the receiving of Him, and resting on Him for salvation, in our Catechism; the believing that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the anointed one, whom the Father has sealed and set apart, and qualified for the work of reconciling man unto God; and 'he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.' (1 John 5: 1.) This is to 'believe with the heart that God has raised Christ from the dead.' (Acts 8: 37.) The man believeth Christ died and rose on the account of satisfaction for man's transgression.
Devils may believe that - nay, but the man I speak of, 'believeth it with the heart' (which no natural man does, until a new heart be given unto him); that is, he is cordially pleased, and satisfied with, and acquiesceth in, this glorious method. And thus faith layeth out itself now and then in its acting, outgoings, and exercise, according to all the covenant relations under which Christ is held forth in the Scripture. Now, I say, this faith is discernible, not only in these actings;- many times a man may know if his heart does hunger after Christ, and flee for refuge to Him when pursued, and if he does commit himself unto God, etc.-but also in its very nature; as it is justifying, it is discernible, and may be known. A man may clearly know, if from known distress in himself, upon the report and fame of Christ's fulness, his heart is pleased with God's device in the new covenant; if it goes after Christ in that discovery, and approveth Him as Lord of the life of men, terminating and resting there, and nowhere else, acquiescing in that contrivance with desire and complacency. This is a discernible thing; therefore I call upon men impartially to examine themselves, and if they find that their heart has closed so with that device of salvation, and is gone out after Him as precious, that thereupon they conclude a sure and true interest in Jesus Christ, and a good claim and title to the crown, since 'he that believeth shall never perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3: 16, 36.)
IV.--Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed
Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have a sort of faith, and are said to believe; and cannot choose but go out after Christ, and that device of salvation, when they hear of it; and they profess they do so, yet are deluded, and so many!. 'Many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men.' (John 2: 23, 24.) 'Then Simon the sorcerer himself believed also.' (Acts 8: 13.)
Ans. To say nothing of that thought of your heart, whereby you wonder that any man should not approve of the device of salvation by Christ, and be led out towards Him, as a very promising thing, and implying that justifying faith is in your bosom; and, to say nothing in contradiction to that which you think, that a natural man, whilst such, and before he gets a new heart, can be pleased with that device, and affectionately believe with his heart, and that which perfectly overthrows the covenant of works, and abaseth man in the point of self righteousness already attained, or that can be attained by him, which is inconsistent with many scriptural truths; I shall notice the following differences between the faith of all hypocrites or reprobates, and that true saving justifying faith, whereof we have spoken.
1. They never close with Christ Jesus in that device, and Him alone, as a sufficient severing of the eyes, as is said of Abraham to Sarah (Gen. 20: 16); they still hold fast somewhat of their own, at least to help to procure God's favour and salvation; their heart does still speak, as that young man in Luke insinuates, 'What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' (Luke 10: 25; 18: 18.) Besides that, they still retain their former lovers, and will not break their covenants with hell and death, imagining they may have Christ with these things equally sharing in their heart; contrary to that, 'A man cannot serve two masters.' (Matt. 6: 24.) Either Christ must be judged absolute Lord, and worthy to be so, or nothing at all; and so it is clear their heart is not prepared for that device of salvation by Christ, whom God has alone made Lord here, in whom all fulness shall dwell. But where justifying faith is, the soul of a man and his heart does close with Christ, and Him alone, 'having no confidence in the flesh,' and trusting only in God. (Phil. 3: 3; Psa. 62: 5.) Also the man here giveth up all other lovers; as they compete with Christ, he resolves 'not to be for another.' (Hos. 3: 3.) He calls Him Lord, which a man can only do by the Spirit of Christ.
2. As hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ alone, so they never fully close with Christ as anointed to be a King, to rule over a man in all things; a Priest, to procure pardon and to make peace for man upon all occasions; a Prophet, to be wisdom, and a teacher and counsellor in all cases to man: so they do not receive Christ, especially in the first and third offices. But where true justifying faith is, a man closeth wholly with Christ in all His offices, judging all His will 'good, holy, just, and spiritual (Rom. 7: 12); and right concerning all things' (Psa. 119: 128); 'making mention of His righteousness only.' (Psa. 71: 16.) The man also giveth up himself to be taught of Him--'Learn of me.' (Matt. 11: 29.) So that 'Christ is made,' to the true believer, with His own consent, 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.' (1 Cor. 1: 30.) And although he has not all these things formally in exercise when his heart goes out after Christ, yet, upon search and trial, it will be found with him as I have said.
3. Hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ, and all the inconveniences that may follow Him; they stick at that, with the scribe-- 'And a certain scribe came and said unto Him, Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goes. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head.' (Matt. 8: 19, 20.) But where true justifying faith is, a man closes with Him at all hazards; he resolves to forego all rather than forego Christ. 'We have left all and followed Thee' (Mark 10: 28); 'he reckoned all to be loss and dung for the excellency of Christ Jesus, as his Lord, and to be found in Him.' (Phil. 3: 8.) We might point out other differences also, as that true faith is operative, 'purifying the heart' (Acts 15: 9); 'working by love' (Gal. 5: 6); whilst hypocrites do only cleanse the 'outside of the platter' (Matt. 23: 5); and 'do all to be seen of men' (Matt. 6: 5); 'not seeking the honour that is of God only' (John 5: 44), and so cannot believe. We might also show, that true faith is never alone in a man, but attended with other saving graces. But because these things will coincide with what follows, and as we are showing here that a man may determine his gracious state by his faith, and the acting thereof on Christ, we pass these things for the present.
Chapter IV. Evidences of a Renewed State
The second great mark of a gracious state, and true saving interest in Jesus Christ, is the new creature-'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.' (2 Cor. 5: 17.) This new creation or renovation of man, is a very sensible change; although not in those who are effectually called from the womb, or in their younger years; because those have had this new creature from that time in them, so that this change in after-periods of time is not so discernible as in those who have been regenerated and brought unto Christ after they were come to greater age, and so have more palpably been under the 'power of darkness,' before they were 'translated into the kingdom of Christ.' (Col. 1: 13.) But in all who do warrantable pretend to Christ, this new creature must be; although some do not know experimentally the contraries of every part of it as others do; because they have not been equally, in regard of practice, under the power of darkness. This new creature is called the 'new man' (Gal. 3: 10), which points out the extent of it. It is not simply a new tongue or new hand, but a new man. There is a principle of new life and motion put in the man, which is the new heart; which new principle of life sendeth forth acts of life, or of 'conformity to the image' of Him who created it, so that the party is renewed in some measure every way. (Col. 3: 10.) This renovation of the man who is in Christ may be reduced into these two great heads:-
I.--The whole man must be to some extend renewed
There is a renovation of the man's person,soul and body, in some measure.
1. His understanding is renewed, so that he judgeth 'Christ preached' in the gospel to be 'the wisdom and power of God,' a wise and strong device beseeming God. (1 Cor. 1: 23, 24.) He knoweth the things of God really and solidly, not to be yea and nay, and uncertain fancies; but all to be yea and amen, solid, certain, substantial things, having a desirable accomplishment in Christ, and resolving much in Him. 'The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: but he that is spiritual judgeth all things.' (1 Cor. 2: 14,15.) 'As God is true, our word towards you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in Him was yea. For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us.' (2 Cor. 1: 19, 20.) Natural men, educated under gospel ordinances, although they have some notional knowledge of God, Christ, the promises, the motions of the Holy Spirit, etc., so that they may confer, preach, and dispute about these things; yet they look on them as common received maxims of Christianity, from which to recede were a singularity and disgrace; but not as real, solid, substantial truths, so as to venture their souls and everlasting being on them. The understanding is renewed also, to understand somewhat of God in the creatures, as bearing marks of His glorious attributes (Psa. 19: 1); they see the heavens declaring His glory and power; and somewhat of God in the providence, and the dispensations that fall out: His wondrous works declare that His name is near. (Psa. 75: 1.) The understanding also perceives the conditions and cases of the soul otherwise than it was wont to do; as we find the saints usually speaking in Scripture --'O my soul, thou hast said unto the lord, Thou art my Lord.' (Psa. 16: 2.) 'My soul said, Thy face will I seek.' (Psa. 27: 8.) 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul' 'Return unto thy rest, O my soul.' (Psa. 42: 5; 116: 7.)
2. The heart and affections are renewed. The heart is made a new heart, a heart of flesh, capable of impressions, having a copy of His law stamped on it, and the fear of God put into it, whereby the man's duty becomes in a manner native and kindly to the man--'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.' (Ezek. 36: 26, 27.) It was before a heart of stone, void of the fear of God. The affections are now renewed: the love is renewed in a good measure; it goes out after God, after His law, and after those who have God's image in them, 'I will love the Lord' (Psa. 18: 1);--after His law, 'O how love I thy law!' (Psa. 119: 97);--after those who have had God's image in them, 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' (John 13: 35.) 'We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.' (1 John 3: 14.) This love to God's people is purely on the account that they are the children of God, and keep His statutes: it is with a 'pure heart fervently' (1 Peter 1: 22); and therefore it goes towards all those whom the man knows or apprehends to be such. 'I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts' (Psa. ~119: 63);--in all cases and conditions, even where there is nothing to beautify or commend but the image of God. And this love is so fervent many times, that it putteth itself out in all relations; so that a man seeks a godly wife, a godly master, a godly servant, a godly counsellor, in preference to all others- -'Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.' (Psa. 101: 6.) And 'it is not quenched by many waters.' (Cant. 8: 7.) Many imperfections and infirmities, differences in opinion, wrongs received, will not altogether quench love. Also it is communicative of good according to its measure, and as the case of the godly poor requires-- 'Thou art my Lord, my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,' etc. (Psa. 16: 2.) 'But whose has this world's good, and sees his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.' (1 John 3: 18,19.)
The man's hatred is also renewed, and is now directed against sin, 'I hate vain thoughts' (Psa. 119: 113); against God's enemies, as such, 'Do not I hate them that hate Thee?' (Psa. 139: 21, 22.) The joy or delight is renewed, for it runneth towards God, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee (Psa. 73: 25);--towards His law and will, 'His delight is in the law of the Lord' (Psa. 1: 2);-- and towards the godly and their fellowship, 'To the saints in whom is all my delight.' (Psa. 16: 3.) The sorrow is turned against sin which has wronged Christ--'Looking to Him whom they have pierced, they mourn.' (Zech. 12: 10.) The sorrow is godly there, and against what encroacheth upon God's honour--'They are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, and the reproach of that is their burden.' (Zeph. 3: 18.) There is some renovation in all the affections, as in every other part of the soul, pointing now towards God. 3. The very outward members of the man are renewed, as the Scripture speaks--the tongue, the eye, the ear, the hand, and the foot, so that those members which once were abused as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin, are now improved as weapons of righteousness unto holiness. (Rom. 6: 19.)
II.--He must be, to some extent, renewed in all his ways
A man who is in Christ is renewed in some measure in all his ways-- 'Behold all things are become new.' (2 Cor. 5: 17.) The man becometh new.
1. In the way of his interest. He was set upon any good before, though but apparent and at best but external. 'Many say, who will show us any good?' (Psa. 4: 6); but now his interest and business is, how to 'be found in Christ, in that day' (Phil. 3: 9); or how to be obedient to Him, and 'walk before Him in the light of the living' (Psa. 56: 13); which He would choose among all the mercies that fill this earth--'The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy, teach me Thy statutes.' (Psa. 119: 64.) The interest of Christ also becomes the man's interest, as appears in the song of Hannah and of Mary. (1 Sam. 2:; Luke 1). It is strange to see people newly converted, and having reached but the beginnings of knowledge, concern and interest themselves in the public matters of Christ's kingdom, so desirous to have Him riding prosperously and subduing the people under Him.
2. The man that is in Christ is renewed in the way of his worship. He was wont to 'serve God in the oldness of the letter' (Rom. 7: 6); according to custom, answering the letter of the command in outward duty which one in whom the old man has absolute dominion can do; but now he worshippeth God in newness of spirit, in a new way, wherein He is 'helped by the Spirit of God' (Rom. 8: 26); beyond the reach of flesh and blood. He 'serveth now the true and living God' (1 Thess. 1: 9); 'in spirit and in truth.' (John 4: 23.) Having spiritual apprehensions of God, and engaged in his very soul in that work, doing and saying truly and not feignedly when he worshippeth; still desiring to approach unto Him as a living God, who hearth and seeth Him, and can accept His service. (Psa. 62: 1, 2.) I grant he fails of this many times; yet I may say, such worship he intends, and sometimes overtakes, and does not much reckon that worship which is not so performed unto God; and the iniquity of his holy things is not the least part of His burden and exercise. To such a worship natural men are strangers, whilst they babble out their vainglorious boastings, like the Pharisee--'Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men' (Luke 18: 11, 12); or the Athenians, who worshipped an 'unknown God.' (Acts 17: 23.)
3. The man that is in Christ is renewed in the way of his outward calling and employments in the world; he now resolves to be diligent in it, because God has so commanded - Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord' (Rom. 12: 11); and to reward God in it as the last end, doing it to 'His glory' (1 Cor. 10: 31); and studying to keep some intercourse with God in the exercise of his outward employments, as Jacob on his dying bed - 'I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord' (Gen. 49: 18); and as Nehemiah did 'Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven' (Neh. 2: 4); so that the man resolves to walk with God, and 'set Him always before him' (Psa. 16: 8); wherein I deny not that he often faileth.
4. He becomes new in the way of his relations;--he becomes a more dutiful husband, father, brother, master, servant, neighbour, etc. Herein does he exercise himself to keep a conscience void of offense towards men as well as towards God, 'becoming all things to all men.' (Acts 24: 16; 1 Cor. 9: 22.) 5. He becomes new in the way of lawful liberties. He studies to make use of meat, drink, sleep, recreations, apparel, with an eye to God, labouring not to come under the power of any lawful thing--'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any' (1 Cor. 6: 12); nor to give offense to others in the use of these things--'For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offense. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.' (Rom. 14: 20, 21.) 'Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification' (Rom. 15: 2),--not using 'liberty as an occasion to the flesh.' (Gal. 5: 13.) Yea, he laboureth to use all these things as a stranger on earth, so that his moderation may appear: 'Let your moderation be known unto all men.' (Phil. 4: 5.) And he regards God as the last end in these things, 'doing all to the glory of God;' so that we may say of that man, 'Old things are' much 'passed away, all things are' in some measure 'become new.' (2 Cor. 5: 17.) He that is so a new creature is undoubtedly in Christ. This renovation of a man in all manner of conversation, and this being under the law to God in all things, is that 'holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. ' (Heb. 12: 14.) Men may fancy things to themselves, but unless they study to approve themselves unto God in all well-pleasing, and attain some inward testimony of sincerity that way, they shall not assure their hearts before Him. The testimony of men's conscience is their rejoicing (2 Cor. 1: 12.) 'By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.' (1 John 2: 3.) 'And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if one heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. ' (1 John 3: 19-21.) No confidence if the heart condemn. This is the new creature, having a principle of new spiritual life infused by God into the heart, whereby it becometh new, and putteth forth acts of new life throughout the whole man, as we have said, so that he pointeth towards the whole law
1. Towards those commands which forbid sin; so he resolves to contend against secret sins, 'not to lay a stumbling-block before the blind' (Lev. 19: 14), - little sins, which are judged so by many, the least things of the law - 'Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 5: 19),--spiritual sins, filthiness of the spirit--'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God' (2 Cor. 7: 1);--sins of omission as well as of commission, since men are to be judged by these-- 'Then shall He say unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink.' (Matt. 25: 42, 44.) Yea, sins that are wrought into his natural humour and constitution, and thus are as a right eye or hand to him'--If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.' (Matt. 5: 29.) This new principle of life, by the good hand of God, makes the man set himself against every known sin, so far as not to allow peaceful abode to any known darkness--'What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness?' (2 Cor. 6: 14.) 2. As also he pointeth towards those commands which relate to duty, and the quickening of grace in man. It maketh a man respect all God's known commands (Psa. 119: 6); to 'live godly, righteously, and soberly' (Titus. 2: 12); yea, and to study a right and sincere way and manner of doing things, resolving not to give over this study of conformity to God's will whilst he liveth on earth, but still to 'press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.' (Phil. 3: 13,14.) This is true holiness, every way becoming all those who pretend to be heirs of that holy habitation, in the immediate company and fellowship of a holy God--'We know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him.' (1 John 3: 2.)
III.--The supposed unattainableness of such evidences considered
Some may think these things high attainments, and very hard to be got at. I grant it is true. But--
First, Remember that there is a very large allowance in the covenant, promised to His people, which maketh things more easy. The Lord has engaged 'to take away the stony heart, to give a heart of flesh, a new heart, a heart to fear Him for ever;' He has engaged to 'put His law in men's heart; to put His fear in their heart, to make them keep that law; to put His Spirit in them, to cause them to keep it.' He has promised 'to satisfy the priests with fatness,' that the souls of 'the people may be satisfied with His goodness: and to keep and water them continually every moment.' (Ezek. 36: 26, Z7; Jer. 31: 12, 13, 14, 33; 31: 32, 36, 40; Isa. 27: 3.) And if He must be 'inquired of to do all these things unto men,' He engageth to pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication on them, and so to teach them how to seek these things, and how to put Him to it, to do all for them. (Zech. 12: 10.)
Secondly, For the satisfaction of weaker Christians, I grant this new creature, as we have circumscribed and enlarged it, will not be found in all the degrees of it in every gracious person. But it is well if-
1. There be a new man. We cannot grant less - 'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;' and that is the new man which all must put on who are savingly taught of Christ - 'If so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.' (Ephes. 5: 21-24.) There must be some renewing after the image of God in a man's soul and body; there must be somewhat of every part of the man pointing towards God. Although I grant every one cannot instruct this to others, neither discern it in himself, because many know not the distinct parts of the soul, nor the reformation competent to every part of the soul and body; yet it will be found there is some such thing in them, yea, they have a witness of it within them, if you make the thing plain and clear to them what it is.
2. There must be such a respect unto God's known commands, that a man do not allow peaceably any known iniquity to dwell in him; for 'what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness?' He must not regard iniquity--'Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all Thy commandments.' 'If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.' (2 Cor. 6: 14-16; Psa. 119: 6; 66: 18.) I grant men may be ignorant of many commands and many sins, and may imagine, in some cases, that some sins are not hateful to God; but supposing that they are instructed in these things, there can be no agreement between righteousness and unrighteousness.
3. Men must point towards all the law of God in their honest resolutions; for this is nothing else than to give up the heart unto God, to put His law in it without exception, which is a part of the covenant we are to make with God - 'This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel--I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.' (Heb. 8: 10.) I grant many know not how to have respect to God's law in all their ways; but if it be made manifest to them how that should be done, they will point at it. And it is true, they will many times fail of their resolutions in their practice; yet when they have failed, they can say they did resolve otherwise; and will again honestly, and without guile, resolve to do otherwise; and it will prove their affliction to have failed of their resolution, when the Lord discovers it to them, which He will do in due time.
4. When we are to judge of our state by the new creature, we must do it at a convenient time, when we are in good case; at least, not when we are in the worst case; for 'the flesh and spirit do lust and fight against each other' (Gal. 5: 17); and sometimes the one, and sometimes the other does prevail. Now, I say, we must choose a convenient time when the spiritual part is not by some temptation worsted and overpowered by the flesh; for in that case the new creature is driven back in its streams, and much returned to the fountain and the habits, except in some small things not easily discernible, whereby it maketh opposition to the flesh, according to the foresaid scripture. For now it is the time of winter in the soul, and we may not expect fruit; yea, not leaves, as in some other seasons. Only here, lest profane atheists should take advantage of this, we will say, that the spirit does often prevail over the flesh in a godly man, and that the scope, aim, tenor, and main drift of his way is in the law of the Lord; that is his walk (Psa. 119: 1); whereas the pathway and ordinary course of the wicked is sin, as is often hinted in the book of the Proverbs of Solomon. And if it happen that a godly man be overcome by any transgression, ordinarily it is his sad vexation: and we suppose he keeps it still in dependency before God to have it rectified, as David speaketh, 'Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling?' (Psa. 56: 13.)
IV.--The special attainments of hypocrites considered
Object. Atheists and hypocrites may have great changes and renovations wrought upon them, and in them, and I fear such may be the case with me.
Ans. I grant that atheists and hypocrites have many things in them which look like the new creature. First, in regard of the parts of the man, they may--
1. Come to much knowledge, as (Heb. 6: 4) 'They are enlightened.'
2. There may be an exciting of their affections, as 'They receive the word with joy,' as he that received the seed into stony places. (Matt. 13: 20.)
3. They may effect a great deal of reformation in the outward man, both as to freedom from sin, and engagement to positive duty, as the Pharisee did 'God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.' (Luke 18: 11, 12.) Yea
First. In regard of their practical understanding, they may judge some things of God to be excellent: the officers said that 'never man spoke as Christ.' (John 7: 46.)
Secondly, Hypocrites may have a great deal of profession.
1. They may talk of the law and gospel, and of the covenant: as the wicked do - 'What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou should'st take my covenant in thy mouth?' (Psa. 50: 16.) 2.
(Continued in part 5...)

Home | Links | Literature | Biography | Photos.