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Pharaoh's daughter ! “ He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin” that are but “for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.” (Heb. xi. 24—26.) Whence arose this braveness and true greatness of mind ? The text tells you,
“ He had respect to the recompence of reward : ” he knew the reward was great, and his title to it good. St. Augustine tells of himself, that after he had attained assurance of God's love and favour, he was so ravished therewith, as he could not but cry out with a holy exclamation, “O how sweet is it to be without the world's sweets, since I enjoy all sweetness in God! Those things that once I was afraid to lose, I now let go, and want with joy, because hereby I enjoy thee the more.”
Temptations on the left hand. ü.) As to temptations on the left hand, namely, the world's frowns, threats, and persecutions, how little doth an assured person regard them! They are all now accounted and considered as “light” and momentary "afflictions,” because they are known to “ work a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Cor. iv. 17.) We read of true believers that endured “the spoiling of their goods with joy." (Heb. x. 34.) To suffer with patience to some is very hard ; but to others it is “joy,” even when they “ fall into divers temptations." (James i. 2.) But who are these? The Spirit of God tells us, that they are those that know within themselves, (mark! within themselves ; that is, by inward evidences, and the testimony of the Spirit witnessing with their spirits,) that they have “a better and more enduring substance” in heaven; these can both forego and undergo cheerfully whatever God requires of them. Excellent is the saying of St. Cyprian : “ There lives in us,” saith he, “the strength and power of an immovable faith ; and hence it is that amongst all the ruins of this tumbling and rolling world, our mind bears up, and our patience always triumphs, because our souls are sure and secure in reference to the eternal love of
Victory over the fear of death. (3.) Assurance of our salvation procures victory over the fear of death. -Old Simeon, with Christ in his arms, could pray for a dismission hence. (Luke ii. 29.) He that hath gotten good evidences in his bosom, and the Spirit's testimony of the pardon of his sin sealed upon his conscience, will join with Simeon in this his petition. Until assurance be attained, it is impossible but that men should “all their lives long be kept in bondage through the fear of death ; (Heb. ii. 15;) but an assured person can wish for death, and say, with Paul, Cupio dissolvi, “I desire to be dissolved.” I Assurance carries the soul to the top of Pisgah ; and from thence a believer, as he hath a general view of the whole Land of Promise, so by the eye of an assuring faith he is able to espy his own lot and portion in heaven and glory : and can he be unwilling to go through • Quàm suare est deliciis hisce carere, &c.--AUGUSTINI Confess. lib. iii.
Viget apud nos spei immobilis virtus et firmitas, &c.-S. CYPRIANI Sermo de Patientid. See 2 Cor. v. 1 : “ We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with bands, eternal in the heavens."
Jordan, or the channel of the grave, to take possession thereof? As the least degree of true faith takes away the sting of death, because it takes away guilt ; .so plerophory [“ full assurance”] of faith breaks the very teeth and jaws of death, by taking away the fear and dread of it. When evidences of an estate are once sealed and attested, men are not afraid of that turf and clod, which, whilst it defiles their hands, gives them livery and seisin of large revenues.
When a true believer knows his interest in those eternal mansions of glory to come, he is not troubled that his cottage of clay must first be pulled down. The nature of death to a believer is quite altered from what it was ; and it seems to be another thing, in his present apprehension, differing much from what he once thought it to be. It once appeared only “the wages of sin ;” (Rom. vi. 23 ;) but now it appears as the reward of patience. It was thought the beginning of sorrow; but now the end of sin, and the consummation of grace. To a despairing person, death appears like a grim sergeant haling to prison ; to an assured person, it acts the part of a master of ceremonies, who introduces foreigners into the presence of the great King. Death holds forth a crown to an assured person ; it holds forth an axe to a despairing person. Such a change doth assurance make. I shall therefore add no more but the words of Cyprian, who, discoursing of death, hath these words : “Beloved," saith he, “the kingdom of heaven is begun already in us in joy and peace. There is no place left for fear, or doubting, or sorrow. He only can fear death, that is unwilling to go to Christ ; and none can be unwilling to go to him, that know they shall reign with him.” *
And thus have abundantly shown how instrumental assurance is for the increase of sanctification, and obtaining a more complete victory over sin, the world, and the fear of death; and I have thereby confuted Bellarmine's grand argument against assurance, as if it tended to licentiousness. The rest of his objections and arguments I have also sufficiently obviated, so as I hope every considering person will be able, from what hath been spoken, to defend the truth : although the style, of necessity, hath been more concise than might have been desired ; yet I hope those that are intelligent will be satisfied with the matter of argument therein contained, although I have been forced to abbreviate my discourse.
I must make but little other application than,
1. To desire you to change the arguments by which I have proved the necessity of diligence, into motives to put you upon the practice.
2. I shall conclude with some necessary DIRECTIONs for the better attaining to assurance.
Make it more and more sure in itself. DIRECTION 1. Give diligence to make your calling more sure in itself, by “adding unto faith virtue ; unto virtue knowledge ; unto knowledge temperance ;” and the rest of those graces here mentioned by our apostle. (2 Peter i. 5.)—“ Although now your calling may be sure and saving,
• CYPRIANI'S De Mortalitatc.
yet it may be more assured : » * the promises were sure before Christ's coming, yet he said to confirm them, and make them more sure. (Rom. xv. 8.) A believer, the more he
grace, the more effectual is his calling made; and the more sure it is in itself, the more easily may
he attain to his assurance of it. The more effectual it is, the more visible and conspicuous always is a believer's call. may be true grace; but little grace is next to no grace; and therefore weak grace
is seldom discerned. Just as those .“ motes “ atoms,” as they are called, which are small particles of dust, and fly abroad in the air, are true bodies, but they are invisible bodies ; thus while faith is but as “a grain of mustard-seed,” (Luke xiii. 19, it may be true, but it will be hardly seen. When love to God is (as a small spark of fire covered with a heap of ashes) smothered with too great a mixture of sensual and carnal affections, it is not easily discovered or found without much search ; but faith grown-up to a tree, and love blown-up to a flame, cannot be hid ; for thus they render themselves most visible and manifest. That poor woman that had lost her &prxuen, her groat, was forced to “light her candle,” and “sweep diligently her house,” and to look long before she found it, because it was but a drachm, a very small piece ; (Luke xv. 8 ;) had it been a talent, or shekel of the sanctuary, it would have been more easily found. Let the print be true and exact, yet if small, it is often not legible, especially to weak eyes. If
would attain to assurance, labour to make your calling more sure in itself, by growing eminent in grace.
Make it sure to yourselves by special assuring graces. DIRECT. II. Labour to make it sure to yourselves, by attaining to, and living in, the exercise of those graces that are properly and more especially assuring graces.—The Spirit of God in scripture hath declared that a believer's assurance of salvation depends upon the exercise of three assuring graces : 1. IIanpopopice OUVECEWS, " a full assurance of knowledge and understanding." 2. Tampocopia WIOTEWS, “a full assurance of faith.” 3. Πληροφορια της ελπιδος, , full assurance of hope.”
A full assurance of knowledge. 1. Labour for "full assurance of knowledge.” -When St. Paul is declaring to the Colossians, how much he desired that the believers of Laodicea might have their hearts comforted and assured, he reveals the way of attaining this to be, by attaining “all riches of full assurance of understanding :” Iνα σαρακληθωσιν αι καρδιαι αυτων, εις σαντα σλουτος της πληροφοριας της συνεσεως, εις επιγνωσιν, &c. ; (Col. ii. 1, 2;) which phrase implies two things :
(1.) That all those things be known upon which a believer's assurance and comforts are built.—And these fundamentals are many: there are several a godsyoueva, or præcognita ; several things must be “fore-known and understood” before assurance can be attained : † as, (i.) You must
• Vocatio, etsi primò et per se certa sit, complementum tamen adhuc expectat.--ChaMIERUS, tom. iii. lib. siii. cap. 15. + There is one more fundamental of assurance than there is of salvation,
labour to know the way of redemption and salvation by the mediation of Christ. (ii.) You must know the way of a person's obtaining an interest in that mediation ; that is, you must know that faitb, effectually owning of Christ as Mediator, and deporting itself toward him as such, doth, by virtue of the new covenant, obtain an interest in that mediation. (ii.) You must know by. what signs or evidences true saving faith may be distinguished certainly from temporary and ineffectual faith. (iv.) You must know that these certain evidences are found in your heart and life.
(2.) Full assurance of knowledge implies a clear and distinct acknowledgment of all these, with reference to a believer's well-built and grounded comforts.—Verba sensús et intellectus connotant affectum et effectum : “Scripture-phrases of sense and knowledge imply a suitable affection, and also such effects as are proper and agreeing." There must not therefore be only a speculative notion, but also an influential and practical application of this knowledge for the founding of assurance thereupon : there must not be only ywwois, but eriytwois, not only “ knowledge,” but “ acknowledgment; as it follows in the same verse.
Full assurance of faith. 2. Labour for "full assurance of faith."—Now this implies these four things, which I must but name, as in the former direction : (1.) Labour for full assent unto the truth of gospel-revelation. (2.) For full consent unto gospel-method, terms, conditions, and commands. (3.) For full dependence upon gospel-grace. (4.) For full experience of gospelobedience, or the obedience of faith. All these are included in that “full assurance of faith,” wherewith the apostle exhorts believers to “ draw near to God;” (Heb. x. 22 ;) and every one of these acts of faith must be attained and put in practice before assurance can be attained.
Full assurance of hope. 3. Labour for "full assurance of hope.” (Heb. vi. 11.) And this supposes two things :
First. An actual, explicit considering of the grounds of our hope, or a laying a good foundation.—All saving hope is rational and well-built. Hope's anchor, in a believer, holds not by the strength of a spider's web, as the hypocrite's hope doth ; but it holds by the strength of a threefold cord, not easily broken ; it holds by the evidence of, (1.) Testimony, (2.) Sense, and, (3.) Reason. Bellarmine, fondly adhering to the philosophical definition of hope, and departing from the scriptural use and acceptation of the word "hope," (which is the ground of many errors in the church of Rome,) denies that reason and hope can consist together; and consequently denies also that there is any such thing as “full assurance of hope.” But when he is urged with that plain text in Heb. vi. 11, where believers are exhorted to give “ diligence” for attaining “full assurance of hope,” which supposeth that a full assured hope is in the first place built upon good evidence and proof, the Jesuit, in answer to this, doth most egregiously trifle, and doth nonsensically distinguish between the certainty of the will, in opposition to the certainty of the understanding ; although every tyro knows, that the will is no subject
of certainty, nor can there be any certainty of will separate from the certainty of the understanding. And yet more ridiculous is the Jesuit's argument, when he tells us, that “what we have reason to hope for, we do not hope for it, but expect it ;" * the folly of which distinction between hope and expectation, I need not say any thing further to it, than to assure you, that the apostle Peter was wholly ignorant of Bellarmine's logic, when he exhorts believers to be ready to give doyou wepo της εν υμιν ελπιδος, , a reason of the hope that was in " them. (1 Peter iii. 15.)
But, Secondly, the phrase, “full assurance of hope,” supposes an actual building of our hope upon these good grounds, or an actual conclusion from rational principles, that we are pardoned, and shall be saved.
- It is one thing to consider the grounds of such a conclusion, another thing to conclude actually from those grounds. Assured hope, as it is accompanied with rational evidences, so it is accompanied with right use of right reason to draw the inference. Weak hope sometimes acts as children will do,-it grants the premisses, and yet denies the conclusion ; but strong hope is accompanied with a full power to infer the assured conclusion from those assured premisses, which those afore-named assuring graces did lay down. Knowledge saith, “Whoever believes shall be saved ;” faith saith, “Peter doth believe;" Therefore,” hope saith, “Peter shall be saved.” † And this hope is that which will never
“ make ashamed, because” hereby “the love of God is shed abroad” more abundantly “in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us." (Rom. v. 5.) “Let every man" therefore thus “prove his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself, and not in another.” (Gal. vi. 4.)
SERMON XXI. (XX.)
BY THE REV. MATTHEW SYLVESTER,
OF ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
BAPTISM AND THE LORD'S SUPPER ARE THE ONLY SACRAMENTS OF THE COVENANT
OF GRACE UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT.
THERE ARE BUT TWO SACRAMENTS UNDER THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a
liar.–Proverbs xxx. 6.
The independency of Proverbs informs us, that we may spare the labour of reflections upon the context ; seeing every proverb is big with its own sense, and fully comprehends its own design and reach.
Duplex est certitudo, alia voluntatis, alia intellectús : et videtur non posse certitudinem intellectus cum spe convenire, quia quod scimus nos habituros, non speramus, sed expectamus.--BELLARMINUS De Justif. lib. xiji. cap. 11. † Dicit Fides, Parata sunt magna : dicit Spes, Mihi ista servantur.- BERNARDI Serm. l. “Says Faith, Great things are prepared : ' "For me,' says Hope, they are reserved.'"-Edit.