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well-affected suppliants. These cannot call upon the Father, without a blessing.
It is a notable and pathetical expostulation, which the holy Psalmist uses to the Almighty, How long wilt thou be angry with thy people, that prayeth ? Intimating clearly, that it were strange and uncouth, that a praying people should lie long under any judgment; and should not find speedy mercy at the bands of God Oh then, that we could be stirred up to a serious and e fectual performance of this duty, for ourselves, for our brethren, for the whole Church of God! Certainly, we could not have been thus miserable, if we could have heartily called upon the Father of Mercie: and, if we could yet ply heaven fervently and importunately with our faithful devotions, we should not fail of a happy evasion out of all our miseries; and find cause to praise him for his gracious de liverance, and his fatherly compassion renewed upon us, and continued to our posterity after us : which our good God, for the sake of the Son of his Love, Jesus Christ the Righteous, vouchsafe to grant unto us. Amen.
A COMFORTABLE DISCOURSE OF THE CHRISTIAN'S ASSURANCE
GROUNDED UPON 2 Peter i. 10. Give diligence to make your Calling and Election sure. It shall be my only drift and endeavour in this Discourse, to settle the hearts of those, who profess the Name of Christ, in a main case of Christian resolution, concerning their present and final estate. The mean whereof is no less comfortable and useful, than the extremes miserably dangerous. While one is causelessly confident, and dies presuming; another is wilfully careless, and perisheth through neglect: both fearfully miscarry, and help to fill up
hell. I shall desire to guide the wise Christian in a mid-way between both these; and teach him how to be resolute without presumption, and to be awful without distrust; how to labour for a holy security, and modest confidence.
Ere we descend to the matter, three terms require a little clearing, What this CALLING is: what ELECTION: what the SURE-MAKING of both.
As to the first; this cannot be taken of an outward CALLING: for we are sure enough of that. Wheresoever the Gospel is preached, we are called outwardly. Neither are we much the nearer, to be sure of that; for many are called, few chosen : yea, certainly, this not answered shall aggravate our damnation. It is, therefore, an inward and effectual calling, that we must endeavour to make sure: a call, not by the sound of the word only; but by the efficacy of the Spirit. The soul hath an ear, as well as the body: when the ear of the soul hears the operative motions of God's Spirit, as well as the ear of the body hears the external sound of the Gospel; then are we called by God: when true faith is wrought in the soul, as well as outward conformity in our life; when we are made true Christians, as well as outward professors; then, and not till then, have we this calling from God.
Such then is our Calling.
The ELECTION is answerable to it. Not a temporal and external, to some special office or dignity; whereof our Saviour, Have not Í chosen you twelve ? John vi. 70. and, Moses his chosen ; Psalm cvi. 23: not a singling out from the most, to an outward profession of Christ; whereof perhaps the Apostle, 1 Thess. i. 4. Knowing, beloved, that ye are ihe elect of God; and the Psalmist, Blessed is he, whom thou choosest and causest to dwell in thy courts, Psalın İsv. 5; for, notwithstanding this noble and happy privilege, little wouli avail us to be sure of this, and no more: no profession, no dignity can secure us from being perfectly miserable, but an eternal election to gory; whereof St. Paul, Eph. i. 4. God ha’h chosen us in Christ, before the foundalions of the world, that we might be holy and blameless before him in love; and, to his Colossians, As the elic of God, holy and beloved; such as, to whom saving faite is approprated, the style whereof is Fidus elec'orum, the Jaith of the elect; Titus i. 1.
Such then is our Calling, and Election.
Now this calling, this election, must be MADE SURE or FIRM, as the word Bebrzíce signifies: sure and firm; not on God's part, who, we know, is unchangeable in his nature, in his counse's; so as, in that rega d, our election, if it be at all, is most sure, and surer cannot be: buc on ours; not only in respect of the object, which is the truth and immutability of the thing itself; but n respect of the subject too, the soul that apprehends it: so sure, that it cannot be falsified; cannot be disappointed.
It is not for us to expect such a certainty of knowledge in this point, as there is of principles of arts; or of those things, whereof common sense assures us. Our schoolmen make distinction of a certainty, evident and inevident.
Evident, which ariseth out of the clearness of the object itself, and the necessary
connection of the terms; as, that the whole is greater than a part.
Inevident, which arises not so much out of the intrinsical truth of the proposition itself, as out of the veracity and infallibleness of the party that affirms it. So both divine and human faith receive their assurance from the divine or human authority, whereon it is grounded: and this inevident assurance may be so certain, as to expel all prevailing doubt, though not all troubling doubt. Neither need there any other for the Articles of our Creed, which we take upon
the infallible trust of Him, who is the truth itself; and can no more deceive us than not be.
This latter is the certainty, which we must labour to attain unto. In the grant whereof, our Romish Divines are generally too straitlaced; yielding yet a theological certainty, which goes far, but not home: although some of them are more liberal; as Catharinus, Vega, Ruardus, Tapperus, and Pererius following them, which grant that some holy men, out of the feeling and experience of the power of God's Spirit in them, may, without any special revelation, grow to a great height of assurance; if not so as that they may swear they are assured of this happy estate of grace, yet so as that they may be as confident of it as that there is a Rome or a Constantinople, which one would think were enough: but the rest are commonly too sparing, in the inching out of the possibility of our assurance by nice distinctions,
Cardinal Bellarmin makes six kinds or degrees of certainty; whereof three are clear, three obscure.
The three first are the certainty of understanding, the certainty of knowledge, the certainty of experience. The first of them is of plain principles, which, upon mere hearing, are yielded to be most true, without any traverse of thoughts: the second, is of conclusions, evidently deduced from those principles: the third, is of the matters of sense, about which the eye or ear is not deceived.
The three latter certainties, which are more obscure, are those of faith, or belief, and the degrees thereof. The first whereof is the certainty of the catholic or divine faith, which, depending upon God's authority, cannot deceive us : the second, is the certainty of human faith; so depending upon man's authority, and in such matters, as shut out all fear of falsehood or disappointment in be. lieving them; as that there was an Augustus Cæsar, a Rome, a Jerusalem: the third, is the certainty of a well grounded conceit, which he pleaseth to call conjectural; raised upon such undoubted signs and proofs, as may make a man secure of what he holdeth ; and excludes all anxiety, yet cannot utterly free him from all fear.
This last he can be content to yield us; and indeed, in his stating, the question stands only upon the denial of the certainty of a diyine faith, in this great affair
. We are ready to take what he gives. So as then, here may be a certainty in the heart of a regenerate man, of his calling and election; and such a one as shall render him holily secure, and free from anxiety. Let the distinguisher weary himself with the thoughts of reconciling certitude with conjectures; security, with fear: let us have the security, and let him take the fear to himself.
Shortly then, while the Schools make much ado of what kind of certa inty this must be taken, whether of faith, or of hope, or of confidence; surely, if it be such a hope and confidence as makes not ashamed by disappointing us, both are equally safe. It is enough, if it be such a fiducial persuasion, as canuot deceive us, nor be liable to falsehood.
But how far then reaches this assecuration?
So far as to exclude all fears, all doubting and hesitation ? Neither of these.
Not all kind of Fear; for we are bidden to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; Phil. ii. 12, and to spend the time of our pilgrimage in fear; 1 Pet. i. 17.
Not Doubting; which the Council of Trent would seem to cast upon our opinion. We cannot be so senseless, as not, in the conscience of our infirmities and manifold indispositions, to find ourselves put to many plunges: but yet so, as that, by the power of our faith, which is the victory that overcomes the world, at last we do happily recover; and find ourselves freed, by a comfortable and joyful eluctation. If any man could be so fond as to think, we stand so sure, that we shall never shake or move, he grossly misconceives our condition; but if so sure, that we shall never be
, )aio; : baci powing it
turned up by the roots, never removed, after we are fast planted and grounded in the house of God, he takes us aright. This is a certainty, that we may, that we must, labour to aspire unto. Commovetur fides, non ercutitur; as Chamier well. We must, therefore, give all diligence, to make this essectual calling, this eternal election thus sure unto us.
Mark in what order: first, our calling; then, our election: not beginning with our election first. It were as bold, as absurd a presumption in vain men, first to begin at heaven, and from thence to descend to earth. The angels of God upon Jacob's ladder both ascended and descended; but, surely, we must ascend only from earth to heaven; by our calling, arguing our election. If we consider of God's working and proceeding with us, it is one thing: there, he first foreknows us, and predestinates us; then, he calls us, and justifies us; then, he glorifies us; Rom. viii. 29, 30. If we consider the order of our apprehending the state, wherein we stand with God; there, we are first called, then justified; and thereby come to be assured of our predestination, and giory. Think not, there
to climb into heaven; and there to read your names in the book of God's eternal decree; and thereupon to build the certainty of your calling, believing, persevering: this course is presumptuously preposterous: but, by the truth of your effectual calling and true believing, grow up, at last, towards a comfortable assurance of your election; which is the just method of our Apostle here, Make your calling and election sure.
Mark, then, the just connexion of these two: if, the calling; then, the election: one of these doth necessarily imply the other. Many thousands are outwardly called, who yet have no right in God's eternal election : here is as much difference, as between many and few. But, where the heart is effectually called home to God, by a true and lively faith applying the promises of God, and laying eilectual hold of Christ, there is certainly an election,
Doubtless, there is much deceit and misprision in the world, this way. Every faith makes not an effectual calling. There is a spórxuipos, a temporary, there is an infirm, there is a counterfeit faith, Many a one thinks he hath the true David; when it is but an image stuffed with goats' hair, We know how deceitful man's heart is; and how cunning Satan is, to gull us with vain shews, that he may hold us off from true and solid comforts.
But if there be false faith, we know there are true ones: yea, there could not be false, if there were not a true one. So much more must be our diligence, to make sure work for our faith; and, by that, for our calling; which, ascertained, will evince our election: as men, when they hear there are many counterfeit slips and much washed and clipped coin abroad, are the more careful to turn over and examine every piece that passeth through their hands. So then, those, whom God hath thus joined, neither man nor devil can put asunder; our calling, and election.
Three heads then offer themselves here to our present discourse. 1. That OUR CALLING AND ELECTION MAY BE MADE SURE.