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ordinarily has in the promises of God is hope, I mean,
I 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 cosen yon 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 upon us.
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 that not one, nor ten, nor a hundred sins shall be able so irreparably to cast us out of God's favour, but that he will be willing, upon our repentance, especially calling to mind his old mercies, to restore us again to our lost happiness.
61. Neither are we utterly excluded from all assurance; for there is a πληροφορία τῆς ἐλπίδος, a full assurance of hope, saith St. Paul, Heb. vi. 11. This hope we have as a sure anchor of the soul fastened on
a rock, ibid. 19. The rock cannot fail us, the anchor will not; all the danger is in the cable or chain of spiritual graces, whereby we are fastened to this rock: if this chain but hold, no tempest, no winds, no floods can endanger us. And part of our hope respects this chain; for God has promised his willingness and readiness to strengthen it every day more and more, till our state shall be so changed, that there shall be no such things as tempests known, no tossings of waves, no tumults of winds, nor fear of leaking or decay in the vessel, but all calmness and security. And for the
. attaining to this happy unchangeable estate, where is it that we place our hope? Truly our hope is even in thee, O God; who, if thou shalt think it convenient or necessary for us, wilt enlarge this our hope into confidence, and add unto that, assurance, and swallow up all in possession : and that not for any merits of ours, but only for thy free undeserved mercies in our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, in whom alone thou art well pleased: to whom with thee, O Father, and the blessed Spirit, be ascribed by us, and thy whole church, the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
1 Cor. x. 13.
above that ye are ableWHATEVER punishments befell the disobedient Israelites, who murmured, and tempted God in the wilderness, they all happened unto them (saith St. Paula) for ensamples unto us, and are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. This privilege we may have beyond our forefathers, that we may present before our eyes a larger series and history of God's providence, even since the foundation of the world; we may take a view and prospect of his constant, unaltered course of revenging himself upon sin, in whatsoever persons he finds it; and we ought from thence to collect, that whatsoever immunities and privileges we may conceive to ourselves, whatsoever comfortable errors we may take up upon trust, yet that God will not (for our sakes) begin a new frame of polity in the administration of the world; but that we also, unless we break off our sins by repentance and conversion unto God, we, I say, after the example of these murmuring Israelites; as those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloe fell; as those Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices; that we also, unless we repent, shall all likewise perish. Nay, certainly, we (upon whom the ends of the world are come) shall be much more culpable, our punishment and stripes shall be more in number, and weightier, if we (notwithstanding that larger experience which we may have of God's impartial dealing with sinners) shall yet
1 Cor. x. 6, 11.