« AnteriorContinuar »
give you the utmost Assurance of being the Children of God. You aje no longer in the sad Condition before described, the Mind leaning one Way, and the Flesh another j so . that you desired to do one Thing, but yet did the contrary, and were always restless and uneasy, rebuked within, and constrained without: For the Spirit, by which you are now ruled, consents to your Mind, and is bent to perform the same Things which the Mind approves; from whence you may have the greatest Confidence towards God: For what more perfect Obedience can there be, than that to which both outward and inward Man consent? or what plainer Signs can you have of a good Son and Servant, than to know that he loves the Law of his Father, and obeys it? Love the Law indeed you did before; but obey it you could not: But now by the Spirit you obey it, and have the greatest Satisfaction, both from within and without, that you are the Children of God. This may suffice to shew the Apostle's Meaning, and to explain the Nature of the Evidence which each Spirit gives.
We must now, in the last Place, consider, what the Result of this Evidence is, and with what kind of Certainty we may know that we are the Children of God.
R 3 And
And first, you must take notice, that these two Evidences strengthen and support each Other, and must both meet to give us the Assurance we expect. We must have the Evidence of our own Spirit that we do indeed love and approve the Law of God; and we must have the Evidence of the Spirit of God working in us by Obedience: And, when we both love and obey the Commands of God, we want 'nothing farther to assure us that we are the Children of God; but, where either of these is wanting, the Evidence of the other avails nothing. If you love and approve the Command, but do not obey, you are self-condemned, you are in your Sins; Lust has Dominion over yOu, and not the Spirit of God. If you obey the Law, and conform outwardly to it, but do not love and like it, you are an Hypocrite, no Servant of God, but of the World; and your outward Compliance is fleshly Wisdom, and not the Work of the Spirit.
So then you have two Ways of judging yourselves, which must both concur; you have inward and outward Signs of Grace: The inward Signs are a pure Conscience, a sincere Love for God and Religion, and whatever tends to the Glory and Honour of your Maker: The outward Signs are Acts
of of Obedience conformable to the inward Purity and Love of your Mind. These are Fruits by which you may judge yourselves. Our Saviour tells us, that we may know Men by their Fruits: Much rather may we know ourselves by our own Fruits; especially when we may know the Stock too from whence they grow, the Motions and Workings of our own Heart.
Hence it appears, that the Evidence of the Spirit is not any secret Inspiration, or any Assurance conveyed to the Mind of the Faithful; but 'tis the Evidence of Works, such as by the Spirit we perform: And therefore the only Sign of Sanctification is Holiness; and the only Mark of Grace is to obey from the Heart the Word of God: And therefore they err, not knowing the Scriptures, who from this or the like Passages imagine, that the Spirit ever gives, or was ever designed to give, inward Assurance or Certainty to Men of their final State.
Hence likewise 'tis certain, that some go too far on the other Side, by denying that any Man may know himself to be in a State of Grace: For all the Children of God are in a State of Grace; and the Evidence of the Spirit of God and our own Spirit may make us certain, where they concur, as they R 4 ought ought to do, that we are the Children of God. If our Hearts condemn us not, then have we Confidence towards God: Which is St. Johns Rule, and comprehends both the Evidences in the Text; for our Heart judges both of our inward and outward Obedience: And therefore, where our Hearts condemn us not, we have the Evidence of both Spirits, the End of which is Confidence. .
But, lastly, this Certainty does not extend to our future and final Salvation: For to be in a State of Grace is to be Heir of Salvation: But an Heir may be defeated, if by any After-act he incapacitates himself to inherit. In a Word, a State of Grace may be lost; he that is the Child of God may cease to be the Child of God: And therefore being certain and confident that you are now in a State of Grace cannot make you certain of your Salvation; but you must still work out your Salvation with Fear and Trembling. This we may learn from our Apostle's own Arguing here: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the Children of God. The Consequence of this is, if Children, then Heirs, Ver. 17. But now are we Heirs through Hope, he tells us in another Place j and at the twenty-fourth Verse of this Chapter, We are saved by Hope: But Hope that is
JSten is not Hope. Certainty shuts out Hope: And, since being Children makes us onlyHeirs through Hope, 'tis plain, being certain that we are now the Children of God can give us no absolute Certainty of our Salvation: And therefore 'tis great Presumption to talk of Security. Our Certainty reaches to our present Condition, which is enough to keep our Minds easy and contented. Other Certainty than this might make us remiss: This may encourage us to run with Patience the Race that is before us, and to labour in the Lord, knowing that our Labour jhall not be in vain.