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In the next place, the man is to bring his case to this touchstone, and he is as in the sight of God to examine himself by these or the like questions. Do I love God? Do I love him not only for what he is to me, but for what he is in himself? Are his glorious perfections, his exact justice, his spotless holiness, his inviolable truth and all seeing eye, are these hateful to me, are they lovely and amiable perfections in my sight? Do I love him above all persons, and all things? Would I be content to part with what is dearest to me for him, and rather than to part with him, even though without him I were secured from hell and earth? His holy law, that transcript of his nature, which is so contrary to my corrupt nature, do I love it though it crosseth my corrupt nature, is it holy, just and good in my eyes, even that part of it which condemns and forbids those most beloved lusts of mine? If conscience answers yea to these questions as in the sight of God, then the man has an evidence for heaven, namely, love to God, therefore he is a son and an heir of God.
Finally, He ought upon that scriptural evidence to conclude, therefore God loves me, because he loves them that love him, and my conscience bears me witness that I truly love him. Thus evidences may be gathered on other marks in the way of self-examination. And those that can write would do well to write them.
Now the business of evidences being thus begun, in solemn stated self-examination, they may be increased by daily observation. And there are here two things jointly to be observed.
1. The way of the Lord's dealing with us. This we should carefully notice that we may perceive whether he deals with us as with children or not. "And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever." But it is to little purpose to notice it, if it be not withal compared with the scripture. For from thence only we can learn the way of the Lord's dealing with his own.
2. The way of our souls towards God. This we should also carefully observe that we may perceive whether our way be the way of the Lord's children. And this we cannot know, unless we first notice the way, dispositions and motions of our own souls, and then compare them with the scripture. Thus some have gathered evidences in reading some portion of the Lord's word, as particularly a psalm containing the breathings of a gracious soul towards God, while, in the meantime, they have seen and felt the same breathings in their own spirits, though they could not pretend to the same degree of them. For if one reading such a portion of the Lord's word, do withal read his own heart and soul in the words of the inspired
penman, he may very well conclude he has the same spirit which he had, though not in the same measure.
But because the Lord's way of dealing with a man, as with his own children, does produce in that man that disposition and motion of soul that is in his children, they cannot well be separated, but should be jointly considered, for in this lies the soul's communion with God, which is always a mutual intercourse betwixt the Lord and the soul. Now there are four things I would recommend to the daily observation of Christians, that would add to and increase their evidences procured and fixed in the way of solemn stated self-examination, which I do think ought to proceed as a foundation to all that would have lasting comfort by evidences.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ executing his offices in them. the child is nourished by the mother in whose womb it is conceived; so those that are brought into the state of grace by closing with Christ in all his offices are preserved and nourished in it, by his executing these offices in them. So far then as you can discern in yourself Christ executing these offices in you, so far you have solid evidence of your faith in, and union with Christ.
If then upon your dependence on the Lord Jesus for light and teaching, you find your souls let into a sanctifying view of spiritual things; for example, of your own sinfulness and nothingness which make you vile, and Christ precious in your eyes; of the evil of sin, to hate it more; of God's majesty and greatness, to fear and love him more; of Christ's excellency, fulness and suitableness so as to prize him, rest in him, and trust in him more; the world's vanity so as to draw your heart more from it unto the Lord. If you find an enlivening light into the holy word conveyed into your hearts, or have any difficulty to be cleared in your way at any time, which you have tabled before the Lord, left with him, and depended on him for clearing it, and have got seasonable light into it: these are plain indications of Christ's exercising his prophetical office in you: I call it a sanctifying view, for all such light from the Lord has a tendency to holiness, which is next to the glory of God, the great scope of all Christ's offices. "I am, said Jesus, the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures."
Again, If at any time your consciences are fried by the fiery law touching upon guilt lying on you, and all your righteousness of doing and suffering, confessing, praying, and repenting, gives way like quick-sand under your feet, so that there is no standing before
the angry God upon them, or any of them, you then feel your sinking soul fixed as on a rock upon the blood of Christ. If you shelter yourself under the covert of his righteousness alone, and by application of that blood recover your peace and confidence with God; and make use of that blood alone as the only refuge against wrath, and lay it as the only foundation of your peace with God, and the only procuring cause of God's favour to you, and in one word, rest under the covert of that blood: that is Christ exercising his priestly office in you.-" How much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God."
Finally, If you find that Lord to whom you have given up yourself by providences and ordinances, more and more subduing you to himself in a cordial resignation, and more ready and cheerful obedience to his will: if you find the sovereign authority of his holy laws, because they are his laws, swaying your hearts to his ways; and being sensible of your inability to mortify your corruptions, you depend upon him for this strength, in the use of means appointed by him, and so get your feet upon the necks of them or any of them in some measure. This is Christ executing his kingly office in you, "For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; he will save us. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God."
2. Answers of prayer in the fulfilling of promises depended upon before the Lord. Every answer of prayer is not an evidence for heaven. "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul." Nor yet every receiving of a thing contained in a promise, as deliverance from trouble; for every thing contained in a promise, that comes to a man, does not come by virtue of the promise, it may come by common providence. But when the mercy contained in a promise is desired of God in prayer, and is drawn out by dependence on the promise through Christ, so that the prayer is answered and the promise fulfilled, that is an evidence for heaven, or of the Lord's love. "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." For there is a real communion betwixt God and the soul, the soul depending on God by faith in his word, and God giving to the soul according to his word. And thus the mercy comes in the channel of the covenant, so it is an evidence of the Lord's love; though in itself it be but an ordinary thing, as it were the reconciling and pacifying of an offended neighbour or brother, of which we have a remarkable instance in Jacob and Esau, Gen. xxxiii. 10. And such answers of prayer, as they come in the channel of the holy covenant, so they advance holiness in the heart,
and they bind the soul more to holy obedience. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping." They also enlarge the heart with thankfulness to the Lord, and make the receiver rejoice more in the giver, than in the gift. "Hannah prayed and said, my heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation."
3. The outlettings of the Lord's Spirit into the heart in religious duties. I do the rather take notice of this, that several do give this for their experience in religion and lay weight on it; namely, That they find that they are not always alike in duties, but sometimes bound up, and sometimes much enlarged. But I fear all that feel this, cannot duly circumstantiate it; but some way deceive themselves. Know then, nature has its own enlargements as well as grace. The stony ground hearers receive the word with joy. Esau is in a flood of tears when he is seeking the lost blessing. A man may at a time get another heart, like Saul, 1 Sam. x. 9. and yet never get a new heart. But to describe these outlettings that you may see whether they be gracious influences and may pass for evidences. Consider,
1. If they be gracious influences they will be humbling, "Then said I, woe is me! for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." And the more such influences come upon us, the more they will humble the soul. Witness Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 4-11. For the influences of the Spirit are like the waters of the deluge, which the more that they increased, they carried the ark the nearer heaven, and the nearer that the soul comes to God, who is light and in whom is no darkness at all; the more its sinfulness, weakness, wants, and nothingness must needs appear. But there is a kind of humiliation, which, because it is not deep enough, becomes the foundation of pride of heart. Peter had a touch of it when he said, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." And the humblings which some persons have got, such as they were, have indeed been grounds of lifting them up, like a young beggar that lifts up himself among his neighbours, because he is newly furnished with implements for the trade of begging. Therefore,
2. Gracious influences gradually work out self, and the more they increase, the more they kill self, that great competitor with Christ. "But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee." They more and more remove
the rotten grounds of confidence with God, namely, our imperfect performances of duties, meltings of heart, mournings, humiliations, and the like; that the soul has nothing left it to depend upon, but the blood of Christ; but his obedience to the law of sufferings unto death. Thus they are brought to rejoice in Christ Jesus and to have no confidence in the flesh. So that the more and the better the Christian does his duty, the less he sees of his own to depend
3. They are sanctifying. They promote holiness in the heart. "And I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his first born." They are like John Baptist, a burning as well as a shining light. They excite a man to the performance of moral duties required in the ten commandments, making him more conscientious in his duty to God and in his duty to his neighbour also. If a man has been in duties taken into the temple of God, the air of it will appear about him in the substantial duties of morality, when he comes abroad into the world. And whatsoever is without this, is but counterfeit or delusion. For the moral law of love to God and our neighbour, with all the moral duties belonging to it, (as they have been explained to you on the commandments) are the eternal indispensible rules of righteousness, to reduce men to the obedience of which Christ died, and the Spirit is given, and instituted worship is required.
4. The way of providence towards them in common things. "Who is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord." It is in the world as in a family, where the father of the family provides both for children and servants; but there is something in his way peculiar for the children. I believe there is a speciality in God's way of dispensing common things to his people, which it were worth enquiring into, though perhaps not so easy to find out. But I judge, if a person can observe it to be the ordinary way of providence with him, not to let him come too easily by common mercies, but to put impediments in the way of them, so as to oblige him to carry the matter before God in prayer, and to withhold it from him even then, till he see himself absolutely unworthy of it, and be brought to an entire resignation to the will of God in it, to give it or withhold it; and even to drive it to the very point of hopelessness, in respect of second causes, that he may have nothing but God himself to trust for it; and then, even then, seasonably to bring it to his hand; that man may think that God takes