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vigour to our love to the Lord, 1 John iv. 19. Luke vii. 47. He sits in the warm sunshine, that cannot fail to melt the heart, who sits under evidence of the Lord's love.
2. It is humbling, Gal. ii. 20. None so vile in their own eyes as those who are lifted up in the manifestations of the Lord's love to them, Gen. xviii. 27. 2 Sam. vii. 18. 2 Cor. xii. 4 and 11 compared. Delusion puffs up, but true assurance humbles.
3. It makes one tender in heart and life, and is a most powerful motive to sanctification, 2 Cor. vii. 1. It is followed with great care to please God in all things, and watchfulness against every sin. While the empty traveller walks at random, fearing nothing, because he has nothing to lose, he that has precious things about him looks well to himself, Cant. iii. 5. One may be persuaded, that the confidence which makes not one tender in his duty to God and man, is presumption.
4. Establishment in the good ways of the Lord, 2 Pet. i. 10. Faith is the provisor of all other graces, it brings in oil into the lamp; and the more evidence it has, it can do its office the better. A doubting Christian will be a staggering and weak Christian; as the soldier who has little hope of the victory will readily be fainthearted, while he that is assured is strengthened and established.
5. Lastly, It fills a man with contempt of the world, Gal. vi. 14. If ye gaze on the shining sun, for a while after ye will scarcely discern the beauty of the earth. And one's solacing himself in contemplation of heaven as his, will sink the value of the world with him.
V. I shall shew the necessity of assurance.
1. It is not necessary to the being of a Christian. One may have true faith, and yet want full assurance, Isa. 1. 10. One may go to heaven in a mist, not knowing whither he is going. We read of some, Heb. ii. 15, 'who through fear of death are all their life time subject to bondage.' Our salvation depends on our state, not our knowledge of it.
2. It is necessary to the well-being of a Christian, and therefore we are commanded to seek it, 2 Pet. i. 10, 'Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.' There are none who can live so comfortably for themselves, as the assured Christian, and none are so useful for God as they. It fits a man either to live or die; while others are unfit to live, because of the weakness of grace in a throng of trials and temptations, and unfit to die for want of evidence of grace.
Hence it follows, that assurance may be lost; and they that sometimes have this light, may fall into darkness. And it is care
less walking that puts it out, especially sinning against the light, whereby the Spirit is grieved, and withdraws his light, Eph. iv. 29, 30. But if it be lost that way, and darkness come on, it will readily be dreadful darkness; the higher they have been lifted up, the lower readily they are laid, Psal. li. 8.
Inf. 1. Unjustified and unsanctified persons can have no true assurance of the Lord's love to them. They may have a false confidence, a delusive hope of heaven ; but no assurance, for that is peculiar to the justified.
Inf. 2. Doubts and fears are no friends to holiness of heart and life. It is little faith that breeds them in the hearts of the people of God, Matth. xiv. 31. And little faith will always make little holiness.
Inf. 3. Lastly, Christians may thank themselves for the uncomfortable lives they lead. What sovereignty may do, we know not: but surely it is sloth and unbelief that the want of assurance is ordinarily owing to. Stir up yourselves then to seek it. Be frequent in self-examination, cry to the Lord for the witness of his spirit. Believe the word, and be habitually tender in your walk, if ever ye would have assurance,
Psal. v. ult.
II. OF PEACE OF CONSCIENCE.
* PEACE of conscience is a benefit flowing from justification.'
Here I shall shew,
I. I am to shew what peace of conscience is. It is a blessed inward calmness and consolation arising from the purging of the conscience from guilt before the Lord, in which description, observe these two things.
1. The subject of this peace. It is a purged conscience, Heb. ix. 14. Peace and purity go together, and make a good conscience, 1 Tim. i. 5. That peace which is joined with impurity, in an unpurged conscience, is but carnal security, peace in a dream, which will end in a fearful surprise. Now, there are two things necessary to the purging of conscience.
(1.) Removal of guilt, in pardon thereof, which brings the sinner into a state of peace with God, Psalın xxxii. 1. Guilt, felt or unfelt, is a band on the soul binding it over to God's wrath; it is a disease in the conscience, which will make it a sick conscience at length. But a pardon takes away guilt, looses the band, removes the deadly force of the disease, and lays a foundation for carrying off the sickness, Isa. xxxiii. ult.
(2.) Removal of the conscience of guilt, in the sense of pardon, Heb. x. 2. Though a malefactor's pardon be passed the seals, and he is secured from death, yet till he know it he cannot have peace. So the pardoned sinner, who knows not his mercy, though he has peace with God, yet wants peace of conscience. Psalm li. 8. So the conscience is purged, when the sting of felt guilt is drawn out of it.
2. The parts of this peace. These are two.
(1.) An inward calm of the soul, and quietness of the mind, wherein it is not disturbed with the fears of God's wrath, nor frightened with the judgments which its sins do in themselves deserve, Prov. i. 33. A troubled conscience is full of fears, of terrible forebodings, and of torments, 1 John iv. 18. When peace enters the conscience, the mists clear up, the fears are scattered, and conscience has a serenity and quiet within itself.
(2.) Consolation and comfort of heart, 2 Cor. i. 12; Isa. lvii. 19. Peace of conscience is not a mere negative, or indisturbance, which sloth and negligence of soul-matters may procure to the unpardoned: but it is an active cheerfulness of spirit, in the soul's looking up towards God, and reflecting how matters stand betwixt heaven and it, Col. iii. 15.
Conceive the whole thus : Sin entering into the soul, casts the conscience into a fever, and guilt makes it rage.
The great Physician gives the proper remedy: and so the conscience gets a cool, the sickness is removed, and the man gathers health, strength, and soundness, Job xxxiii. 22–26; Heb. ix. 14.
II. I shall shew the excellency of it. It is Abraham's bosom on this side of heaven, the lower paradise; it is like the shore to the shipwrecked soul; and life from the dead. I will only say three things of it.
1. It is the wine-press of the grapes of heaven, that squeezeth out into the man's mouth the sap of the covenant, Psal. cxix. 102, 103. It was a sad tale of the good Asaph's, Psal. lxxvii. 3. “I remembered God, and was troubled : I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.' Peace of conscience makes a man remember God, and be comforted; to suck the sap of promises, and all the declarations of God's love and favour in his word, as the same Asaph did, Psalm lxxiii. 24, 25, 26.
2. It is sap and poison to all earthly comforts, Prov. xv. 15. A sick man can take no pleasure in the comforts of life, as a healthy man does. An uneasy conscience sucks the sap out of all. But peace there, makes coarse fare, and little of it, very sweet, Prov. xvii. 1. And whatever a man has, it puts an additional sweetness into it.
3. It is sweet sauce to all afflictions, 2 Cor. i. 12. John xvi. 23. When there is no peace within, little things make people fretful : even a scratch of a pin is a wound with a sword. But this makes a man easy in the midst of the little annoyances of the world, though they be great in themselves, Col. iii. 15. Phil. iv. 7. Compare Heb. X. 34.
When a man meets with disquietments and vexations abroad, he is helped to bear all, when he is comforted and cheered coming into his own house. But heavy is their case, who come from bitterness abroad, and are met with bitterness at home. The former is an emblem of peace of conscience, the latter an emblem of the soul in afflictions.
III. I am to shew how this peace of conscience is obtained. This peace is peculiar to the saints. Others may have false peace, Luke xi. 21. but they only have, or can have, true peace, Rom. v. 1.
1. It is obtained for them by Jesus Christ dying and suffering to procure it, Isa. liii. 5. Eph. ii. 4. There can be none of this peace without reconciliation with God, and there can be no reconciliation without his blood. The convinced sinners could have no more inward peace than devils have, if Christ had not died to procure it; but their wound had been incurable, and stood open and gaping for
2. It is obtained by them, by these two methods.
(1). By a believing application of the blood of Christ, Rom. xv. 13. Job xxxiii. 23, &c. This is the only medicine that can draw the thorn of guilt out of the conscience, and heal its wounds, 1 John i. 7. Medicines prepared by men may cure bodily distempers, and a vitiated fancy, or disordered imagination, among other things. Confessing, mourning, reforming, watching, &e. may give a palliative cure even to the conscience, scurfing over its sores.
But nothing but a believing application of Christ's blood will give true peace of conscience; and do what ye will, if ye do not that, ye will never get true peace, Isa. vii. 9.
(2.) By God's speaking peace thereupon to the soul, Isa. lvii. 19. The soul resting on Christ by faith, brings it into a state of peace with God; but for peace of conscience, more is required, namely, a sense of that peace. And this none but God can give, Psal. li. 8. He speaks peace in the word; but a work of the Spirit on the con
science is necessary to make the application, as appears from 2 Sam. xii. 13. compared with Psal. li. And this is a light struck up in the soul, discovering the soul to be at peace with God, an overpowering light that silences doubts and fears, and creates a blessed calm. This also is obtained in the way of believing, in the reflex act of faith.
IV. I shall shew how this peace is maintained. The apostle tells us it was his exercise to maintain it, Acts xxiv. 16. And if we be not exercised in it, it will soon be lost. Now, it is maintained by,
1. Keeping up a firm and settled purpose of heart to follow the way of duty, and to stand aloof from sin, cost what it will, Acts xi. 23. David kept up his peace that way, Psalm xvii. 3. This is the breast-plate of righteousness, Eph. vi. 14. the which if it fall by, one may quickly be wounded to the heart. Unsettledness of heart, one's being at every turn unresolved what to do, cannot miss to leave him in the mire.
2. Living a life of dependence on the Lord, for light of life, direction and through-bearing, Prov. iii. 6. Gal. ii. 20. And this will keep a man from presumption, and doing any thing with a doubting conscience, which will soon mar one's peace.
3. Watchfulness against sin, snares and temptations, 1 Cor. x. 12. One that would maintain his peace, must be upon his guard, otherwise it will soon be disturbed, in this evil world.
4. A strict, holy, gospel-walk, in all known duties, towards God and towards man, Gal. vi. 16. He that will adventure to balk any of them, shall soon lose it.
5. Lastly, Frequent renewing our faith and repentance, for purging away the sins we fall into, 1 Pet. ii. 4.
V. I proceed to shew how peace of conscience is distinguished from false peace.
A godly man may have a false peace. Cant. v. 2. Such had David before Nathan came to him after his fall. An unregenerate man can have no peace but what is false, Isa. lvii. ult.
1. True peace, built on the ground of God's word, is established by the word, however searching ; the other is weakened by it. For God's word is a friend to God's peace, but an enemy to delusion, 1 John iii. 20, 21. But this is meant of God's word rightly understood, (if we misunderstand it, it is not his word, but our own mistake); and such mistakes may have the quite contrary effect.
2. True peace cannot be maintained but by a holy tenderness, and constant struggle against sin: but false peace is maintained without it, 1 John iii. 3.
Inf. 1. The unconverted sinner, and the untender Christian too, are in a very unfit case for the time of calamity, Isa. lvii. 20, 21.