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granted? Therefore certainly, some Christians have been heard in these petitions; some men have been found, who have fulfilled the righteousness of the gospel.
54. Now till thou hast done this, which thou seest by the assistance of God's Spirit (which will never be wanting to them which desire it) it is possible for thee to do; nay, I will add further, it is easy for thee to do (doth not Christ say as much? " My yoke is easy, and my burden is light"); I say, till thou hast done this, thou canst have no reason in the world to hope for God's mercy. For, tell me, why dost thou hope, thou that continuest still in an unrepentant estate, in an habitual opposition to God's holy commandments? Art thou resolved to hope, because thou hast a mind to it, upon no ground, when thou oughtest rather to fear, almost to despair? or rather, canst thou persuade thyself in earnest, that this is indeed a hope? Is it not a fancy of thine own brain, or rather a temptation of the devil? * Hope, which is hope indeed, (which is not a fancy and chimera) makes not ashamed, saith St. Paul: a man may with confidence, without confusion of face, profess and maintain it. But such a hope as this is, which is not a hope in earnest, how it will disgrace a man, and put him out of countenance, when God shall ask him why he did offer to hope?
55. Let thy conscience now answer me, whosoever thou art, in such a state. Thou that knowest how often God hath said, nay, sworn in his wrath, that none of those, which continue disobe
* Rom. v. 5.
dient, shall enter into his rest! That none shall be partakers of the second resurrection unto glory, but those that have been partakers of the first unto grace. Canst thou for all this imagine, that God has such a peculiar, particular affection and respect to thee, who art yet a slave of the devil's, that he will be content to strain his truth and veracity, to break his oath for thy company? Shall the whole Scripture, which promises glory to none but those who perform the conditions prescribed, for thy sake be turned into a romance, into a melancholy tale to fright children withal? No, no, assure thyself, it is not a conceit of election, which will save thee; thou must work, and work hard, in fear and trembling, before God will raise in thee the good spirit of christian hope.
56. For to say the truth, of all Divine graces, hope is incomparably the hardest to attain, unto : and the reason is evident, because it presupposes the possession of all other graces before it. And yet, for all this, nothing counted so easy, now-a-days, as hope, though men both are and resolve to be never so wicked: nay, and it is well if hope will serve their turn, they must have an infallible assurance, a Divine faith of everlasting glory; and no manner of sins, though ever so heinous, ever so oft committed, shall be able to weaken this their assurance, that they are resolved of. This they think is a spell strong enough for the devil in all assails; when, God knows, the devil is more joyed and comforted, to see them so vainly delude themselves, than they themselves possibly can be. This for my first assertion : now follows the second.
57. Assert. 2. When I say, that the interest, which
a Christian ordinarily has in the promises of God, is hope; I mean, it is not absolute and irrespective, but depending upon conditions, namely, grace and perseverance therein. And this I took for granted, for I never heard of any yet, that denied perseverance to be necessary to salvation. If then his interest be by hope, then it is not yet by faith, properly so called; for it is not possible, that the same object (considered with the same circumstances at the same time) should be the object both of faith and hope. For example, I believe by a Divine faith, i. e. a faith grounded upon God's word, that there shall be a resurrection of the flesh, even of this flesh of mine, and I believe it firmly, because God hath said that he will bring it to pass; neither is there any condition of mine prerequired to the performance of this promise of God; for howsoever I behave myself here in this world, whether well or ill, it matters not, my behaviour cannot make God alter his resolution. Now, if I assuredly believe this, it would be improper and absurd for me to say, I hope there will be a resurrection of my body; for when I say, I hope any thing, I imply a possibility, in nature, that such a thing may not be, which in this case I cannot do without infidelity.
58. But, on the other side, I hope that God will raise this flesh of mine unto glory, and I hope this upon safe grounds: therefore, if it be true that I hope it, I cannot properly be said to believe it, because my salvation yet depends upon conditions, namely, perseverance. Therefore, let me propose this one question to any man's conscience: Hast thou such an assurance of salvation given thee of God, that hope is quite evacuated in thee?
Is there no such virtue left in thee as hope? Surely God hath dealt extraordinarily mercifully with thee; thou art many degrees gone beyond the state of those believers which St. Paul speaks of, and includes himself in the number, when he saith, "We live by hope;" for thou dost not live by hope, thou art exalted above it. Notwithstanding, I beseech you, consider well upon the matter (for it concerns you very much); be not too hasty to credit fancies, when conceits of assurance or impeccability shall be suggested to your minds. There may be great danger of confidence ungrounded; a confidence only taken upon trust from other men's words or opinions.
59. Do I go about now (think you) to bereave you, or cozen you of any spiritual comfort in this life? Do I envy any of you your assurance? Alas! why should I deal so with you! For I was never injured by you; or, if I were, surely, of all places, I would not make choice of this to execute my revenge in or, if I thought that such assurance were ordinarily to be had, at least necessary to the making up of a justifying faith (and have you never heard it said so?) would I not, think you, strive and endeavour to obtain it at any rate, even with the loss of all worldly comforts? Yes, certainly, I would count them all but as dross and dung in comparison of it. But I confess unto you, I am yet contented with enjoying heaven by hope: and I bless Almighty God, that he hath dealt so graciously with me, that I should dare to hope for it, and not be ashamed and confounded by my hope and if there be any amongst you, that will vouchsafe to content himself with such a neglected degree of comfort, with only hope, and no more, I
will not enter into comparison with those that are perfect; but I dare promise him, that all those troublesome pleasures, which do so ravish the men of this world, shall be as nothing; yea, as afflictions and torments, in comparison of those spiritual, heavenly joys, which hope, well and legally achieved, will be able to afford us: no dangers will there be of terrors or jealousies, as if God would happen to grow weary, or repent himself of any grace or blessing which he hath bestowed
60. For, tell me; do you think that Adam, while he continued in his innocency, had any grudgings of suspicions or fears? Was he not, during that time, in as great a quiet and serenity of mind, as any of us dare hope for? And yet the most that he could do then, was to hope that he might continue in that state even to the end: the event shews, he could not have an infallible faith of his perseverance. If then such a contented, settled mind could accompany Adam in paradise, even when he knew it was in his power, with but reaching out his hand, and tasting an apple; yea, with a sudden, wicked word, or an unsanctified thought, utterly and irrecoverably to degrade himself from that happy estate; surely, we Christians have much more reason to rejoice in our hope, since we know assuredly, that as God has been so gracious to begin this good work in us, so he will not be wanting to perfect it even to the end, if we will but perform our parts, which he has already given us more than sufficient grace to do, and will never fail to supply us with more, for the asking; nay, more, (which are surer grounds to build upon, than ever Adam had) since we know,