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tranfient act of a regenerate foul may not be free from fin; but it was never queftioned, whether any continued act, much lefs a course of actions, could be without fin. Evil will be prefent with us in all we do; it will be with us in our closets; prefent even in the awful prefence of the holy God, in the most high and folemn duties of religion, in the moft pure and spiritual actions that pass from us; ceafe then, as from dependance, fo from pride and conceitedness in all you do. Whilft our natures are fanctified but in part, and our principles mixt, our duties and performances can never be pure, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one," Job xiv. 4.
3. How are we all obliged to blefs God for Jefus the Mediator, to make us and our finful duties acceptable to God? Sad were our cafe if this high prieft did not "bear the iniquity of "our holy things," as it is, Exod. xxviii. 38. It is his oblation and interceffion that obtains and continues our pardon for our prayer-fins, our hearing-fins, our facrament-fins; thefe alone would eternally damn us, if we had no other, did not free-grace "make us accepted in the Beloved," Eph. i. 6. When evil is prefent with us, then is Chrift, our Advocate, present with the Father for us; and thence it is that we are not deftroyed upon our knees, and that the jealousy of God breaks not forth as fire, to devour us in our very duties.
4. If evil be present with us, yea, inherent in us, in our best duties, what need had Chriftians then to watch against the external occafions of fin, and to keep a clofe guard upon their fenfes, efpecially when they have to do with God?
There is danger enough from within; you need not open another door from without. This natural corruption is too active in itself, if there be no irritation by any external occafion; how much more when the eye and ear are opened and unguarded, and occafions are offered it from without. Watching is half the work of a Chriftian, whilft he is praying, Eph. vi. 18. The Arabian proverb is as inftructive as it is myftical, Shut the windows, that the house may be light.
5. If evil be prefent when we would do good, if it infeft us in our beft duties, then certainly there is no reft to be expected for any of God's people in this world. Where shall we go to be free from fin? If any where, let us go to our clofets, to our knees, to the ordinances of God; yea, but even there evil is, and will be present with us; if we cannot be free from evil there, it is in vain to expect it elsewhere in this world. Only in heaven believers reft from fin. When once they are abfent from the body, and prefent with the Lord, fin fhall no
more be prefent with them; which fhould make all that hate fin, long for heaven, and be "willing to be diffolved and be "with Chrift."
2. For direction. Let all that experimentally fee and feel what the apostle here mourns over, carefully attend fuch directions as may prevent the spoil of their duties by the working of their corruptions in them.
Though no rules are found fufficient to prevent wholly theinfluence of our corruptions upon duties, yet own it as a fpecial mercy, if it may in any measure be prevented or reftrained: In order whereunto Í fhall hint briefly these following rules, which the experience of many Chriftians hath recommended, as exceeding useful in this case.
Rule 1. Be more diligent in preparation for your duties, if you would meet with less interruption in your duties. The very light of nature teaches folemn preparation to all important and weighty business: And is there more folemn and concerning business in all the world, than that which thou transactest with God in duties? Angels approach not this God with whom thou haft to do, without profound refpects to his immense greatness and awful holiness, Ifa. vi. 3. When you stretch forth your hands, it is required that you firft prepare your hearts, Job xi. 13, 14.
Rule 2. Realize the prefence of God in all your duties, and awe your hearts all that you are able by that confideration. O think what a piercing holy eye beholds thy heart, and tries thy reins! Wouldeft thou not be really afhamed, if thy thoughts were but vocal to men, and the workings and wanderings of thy heart vifible to those that join with thee in the fame duty? O, if the presence of God were more realized, certainly your hearts would be better fecured against the incurfions of your corruptions.
Rule 3. Labour for a deeper measure and degree of fanctification; many other rules are but fpiritual anodynes to give prefent eafe, but this is the way to a real cure. A thoufand
things may be found helpful to put by a vain thought for the present, but then it returns again, and it may be with more ftrength: This is the proper method to dry the fpring, when others are but attempts to divert the stream: If habits of grace were more deeply radicated, acts of grace would be more eafy to us, and flow more freely from us.
Rule 4. Laftly, Confider what an aggravation it is to your evil, to vent itself in the fpecial prefence of God in duties. See who Paul mourns over it in the text: It is not only a sin, but
an affronting of God to his face: This grieving of his Spirit is the spoil of thy duty; it is (as one aptly calls it) obex infernalis, an hellish bar or remora to all sweet and free intercourfe of the foul with God.
3. For Confolation. But whilft I am representing the evil of it to fome, it may be there are others overwhelmed with the forrowful sense of it, even to difcouragement and defpondency: Poor Chriftian! is this thy cafe? Are all the afflictions in the world nothing to thee, in comparison with this evil which is prefent with thee, when thou wouldest do good? Well, though thou canst not do the good thou wouldft, nor free thyfelf yet from the evil thou wouldft, rather than live, be freed from, there are four things that may give much relief to thy pensive soul.
I. Though the prefence of evil, even in thy beft duties, be fad, yet thy grief and afflictions for it is fweet: That is a fad fin, but this is a fweet fign. It is not heart-evils, heart-wandering in duties, hardness and unbelief, that hypocrites mourn for, but more grofs and external evils. Let this trouble for fin comfort thee when the presence of fin grieves thee.
2. God accepts, through Jefus Chrift, what you do fincerely, though you can do nothing purely and perfectly, Cant. v. 1. Your fincerity is your evangelical perfection; the evil that is present is not imputed; the good that is prefent is (notwithstanding that commixed evil) accepted, which is ftrong confolation. 3. You find your cafe was the cafe of bleffed Paul, a man of eminent fanctity. And if you confult all the faints, one by one, you will find them all fick of this disease; so that your cafe is not fingular.
4. Your juftification is perfect, and without Spot, though your fanctification be not fo; and the time is coming, when your fanctification fhall be as your juftification is, and after that no more complaints.
EPH. i. 13. In whom alfo, after that ye believed, ye were fealed with the holy Spirit of promife.
FROM his doxology and folemn thanksgiving, ver. 3.
the apostle enumerates the principal Chriftian privileges
that gave the occafion of that thanksgiving, among which this in the text is not the leaft, though last named.
In this one verfe we have the two noble acts of faith displayed; its direct act, called trufting; and its reflex act, which in order of nature and time follows it, and is implied in the word fealing.
In the latter claufe (to which I fhall confine my meditations) four things must be remarked; viz. 1. The subject; 2. Nature; 3. Author; And 4. Quality of affurance.
1. The fubject of affurance, which is, and can be no other than a foul that hath closed with Chrift by faith: Reflex acts neceffarily prefuppofe direct ones. Never was any unbeliever fealed, except to damnation: Affarance is peculiarly the prerogative of believers.
2. The nature of affurance: He calls it fealing; an apt metaphor to express the nature of it; for affurance, like a seal, both confirms, declares, and diftinguishes it; it confirms the grant of God, declares the purpose of God, and diftinguishes the person so privileged from other men.
3. The Author of affurance, which is the Spirit, he is the keeper of the great feal of heaven; and it is his office to confirm and feal the believer's right and interest in Christ and heaven, Rom. viii. 16.
4. Laftly, The quality of this Spirit of affurance, or the fealing Spirit: He feals in the quality of an holy Spirit, and of the Spirit of promife; as an holy Spirit, relating to his previous fanctifying work upon the fealed foul; as the Spirit of promife, refpecting the medium or inftrument made ufe of by him in his fealing work; for he feals by opening and applying the promises to believers from the Spirit's order. The note will be this:
Doct. That the privilege of fealing follows the duty of believing.
There is no feafon more proper to treat of the fealing of the Spirit, than at a fealing ordinance: Nor can I handle the Spirit's fealing-work in a more profitable method, than in satisfying thefe five queries particularly, and then applying the whole. 1. What is the Spirit's fealing-work, and how performed? 2. Why none are fealed till they believe?
3. Whether all believers are sealed?
4. What is the privilege of being fealed?
5. What are the effects of the Spirit's fealing?
1. Query. What is the Spirit's fealing-work? and how is it performed.
Anfw. The fealing of the Spirit is, his giving a fure and certain teftimony to the reality of that work of grace he hath wrought in our fouls, and to our intereft in Chrift and the promifes, thereby fatisfying our fears and doubts about our eftate and condition.
Every matter of weight and concernment is to be proved by two fufficient witneffes, Deut. xix. 15. Our fincerity and intereft in Chrift are matters of the deepest concernment to us in all the world, and therefore need a farther witnefs to confirm and clear them than that of our own fpirits, Rom. viii. 16. Three things concur to the Spirit's fealing work.
He fanctifies the foul; he irradiates and clears that work of fanctification; he enables it thereby to apply promifes.
The first is his material or objective feal; the latter his formal fealing. None but the Spirit of God can clear and confirm our title to Chrift, for he only fearcheth the deep things of God, i Cor. ii. 10. and it is his office, Rom. viii. 16. apps, to witnefs with our spirits.
This feal or witnefs of the Spirit muft needs be true and certain, because omnifcience and truth are his effential properties. He is omnifcient, 1 Cor. ii. 10. and therefore cannot be deceived himself. He is the Spirit of truth, John xiv. 17. and therefore cannot deceive us; fo that his teftimony is more infallible and fatisfactory than a voice from heaven, 2 Pet. i. 19.
If an angel fhould appear, and tell us, Chrift hath faid to him, Go and tell fuch a man, that I love him, that I fhed my blood for him, and will fave him, it could never give that repofe and fatisfaction to the mind, as the internal witnefs or feal of the Spirit doth; for that may be a delufion, but this cannot. The witness of our own heart may amount to a ftrong probability,, but the witness of the Spirit is demonftration, 1 John iv. 24.
So, that as it is the defign and work of Satan, to cast in doubts and fears into gracious hearts, to perplex and entangle them, fo, oppofitely, it is the work of the Spirit to clear and fettle the fanctified foul, and fill it with peace and joy in believing, John xvi. 7. Rom, xiv. 17.
In fealing, he both attefts the fidem qua creditur, the doctrine or object of faith, and the fidem qua creditur, the infufed habit or grace of faith of the former he faith, This is my word; of the latter, This is my work; and his feal or teftimony is evermore agreeable to the written word, Ifa. viii. 20. So that what he fpeaks in our hearts, and what he faith in the fcripture, are evermore concordant and harmonious teftimoniet. K k