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and retain its assurance, notwithstanding that corruption works.
But here it may be asked, Can a soul retain assurance after the prevailing of corruption.
To which it may be replied : You would know that there are sins of infirmity, or grosser sins, which are the failings of the saints; you would know also that there is a nourishing of these sins, or there is an endeavouring the mortification thereof, through grace. Now, premising this, you would know for answer,
(1.) That as assurance, in the duration and continuance of it, hath a dependence upon the acting of the Spirit of God, witnessing with our spirits, who can, if he pleases, continue such acting, at such a time, so a man ought not to cast away his confidence, so long as scriptural grounds are given to found it upon. Christians, if they fall into sin, they presently reckon it their duty to judge their state; this is very sinful: the church is upbraided for saying, “ The Lord bad for. saken her, and her God had forgotten her," Isa. xlix 14.
(2.) You would know, for answer, that the nourishing of sin and corruption bath a tendency to deprive the soul of assurance, Heb. x. 22. Psal. li. 12. It is dangerous on this account to cherish the least sin. There fore,
(3.) If you inquire, whether assurance may stand with the nourishing of any sin ? Either the question must look to the time past, present, or to come.
lf to the time present or to come; know that the Lord hath not granted you liberty one moment for the nourishing of any corruption; and so it is a sin to be studying to make assurance, and any sin to dwell together. But if the question respect the time past; though you
did nourish some corruption, yet your after-mortification of it, through grace, is witnessing; it is a part of the witness of water.
(4.) I have no hesitation to say, that assurance may be retained after the prevalency of corruption ; after not only sins of infirmity, but also the falls of the saints, when these sins are not nourished. That it may continue after sins of infirmity, is undeniable ; because
otherwise it were impossible for any to retain it, seeing the best of saints are daily subject to these sins of infirmity; and, for other sins, see 1 Sam. xi. 19, 20. 22. Micah vii. 8, 9 : I say, when these sins are nourished; for, if sin be nourished, then is the man's confidence, or assurance, highly suspicious; for, wherever there is sensible assurance, it will make opposition against sin in the soul; “ Every man that hath this hope, purifieth himself, as he is pure,” 1 John iii. 3. See also, to this purpose, 1 Sam, xii. 20. 24.–Thus much of the witness by water, with respect to mortification.
2dly, I come to speak of the witness by water, in respect of vivification, or living to God. Now, if the question be, How may a man know his living to God, which is the other part of sanctification : or, the witness of water? A man may know his living to God, and Christ.
(1.) By his esteeming God and Christ above all other things : “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none in all the earth that I desire besides thee,” Psalm lxxii. 25. Others desire Christ only for heaven; but the believer desires heaven chiefly for Christ. He may be interrupted in his motion toward Christ, in particular acts: but Christ is the prime and principal object his soul is set upon, Rom. viii. Phil. iii. 20. Christ is ALL IN ALL: all other things are nothing to him, if Christ be not enjoyed in them. He is all, in all enjoyments; all, in all enlargements; all, in all duties ; all, in all comforts. Hypocrites may apprehend that other things are little, and Christ is better: but this man reckons that all other things are nothing, and Christ ALL IN ALL. Hence he spends all his desires and endeavours, after communion with God in Christ, Song iii. 3. Psalm cxxx. 5. 6. Phil. iii. 14. And he is willing to part with all other things at Christ's call, and for his sake, Luke xiv. 26. 33. Math. x. 37. Hence also the carriage of his heart, under Christ's withdrawings; why, these procure such heart-sickness as can be cured no way but by the Lord's returning, Song v. 6. 8. Although, or even when, he hath no fear of hell upon him: yet, oh! the sighings, sobbings, cryings, faintings, of a love-sick soul for Christ's presence! The soul may know its vivification, or living to God, by its enjoyment of the leading of the Spirit. This is a certain evidence of this witness of water, or sanctification : and also of adoption, Rom. viii. 14. “ For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
Quest. When does a man enjoy the leading of the Spirit?
Answ. 1. When a compliance with the will of Christ becomes natural to the soul : suppose there was no wrath to follow upon disobedience, nor no reward the effect of gospel-obedience; yet the sweetness of wisdom's ways itself inclines the man to it; “ I have chosen thy way of truth; thy judgments have I laid before me." Psalm cxix. 30. 137. see also verse 95. Rom. viii. 7. The carnal man calls his liberty, that he takes in sin, freedom ; but such as are indeed freed from condemnation, and walk after the Spirit, they call this their liberty, to be free for Christ, and free from sin. A man may be exercised in external duties : but he is not led by the Spirit, unless he hath a liberty of heart therein, and account it a high favour from the Lord, that he will employ him in any service ; and it is to him matter of lamentation that he cannot do more for the Lord, that he finds a backwardness in himself, and a contrary principle that seeks to obstruct and binder his following the Lord in his ways; "For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members," Rom. vii. 22, 23. Then he enjoys the leading of the Spirit.
2. Then hath a man the leading of the Spirit, when he hath corroboration and assistance against these impediments that would hinder his walking in the ways of Christ; the Spirit removes these. Carnal men wonder that any shouldcomplain of want of strength untoduty; they can easily come up unto these duties; why, Satan is quiet, and they are not sensible of corruption; and they look mostly to the external part. But if you have been eagerly pursued by Satan, and he hath beset you with temptations, and you have found many and strong lustings of flesh to hinder you from following Christ in duty; and if such mountains have been made plains, and corruption borne down even when you have found your heart so full of darkness, deadness, hardness, unbelief, and all manner of distempers, that you
have even despaired of acting in duty, or of access in prayer; yet these spiritual enemies have been conquered, and your heart let out toward the Lord, more than at other times; here was the leading of the Spirit, Rom. viii. 13, 14. Gal. v. 16, 17, 18. Though you cannot do what you would, cannot perform the duties you would ; yet the will, in this case, does prevail against corruption, even when the duty is hindered, and sin acted in the soul; yet that corruption is not predominant there : why, your love to Christ is predominant, and prevails over the love to other things; your joy in the Lord is predominant, and prevaits against carnal joy in the creature ; your peace by the blood of Christ helps to let you see the false peace which you have had upon other grounds; and your faith is predominantagainst unbelief, which formerly discovered itself in causing you to choose other objects beside Christ.
3. Then hath a man the leading of the Spirit, when his heart is under powerful drawings toward Christ; such as are spoken of, Eph. i. 19. The lowest duty requires the heart, Eph. vi. 6. If in the improvement of praying or preaching gifts, our hearts be carried out Christ-ward, though we should find more straitenedness of expression than at other times, yet we have enjoyed the leading of the Spirit, Jer. xxx. 21. If a man have had never so much enlargedness of expression in prayer, yet, if his heart hath not been drawn out towards Christ, it is not witnessing. But if the duty hath been of advantage that way, then you have had the leading of the Spirit, however mean the duty hath seemed to be.
4. When the man is made to own the mediation of Christ, and to embrace the gospel-promise in his acting, then he hath the leading of the Spirit. Many, in words, do make use of Christ for acceptance with God; but, unless your heart have been held up, and drawn to
make use of the name of Christ, and the sufferings and intercession of Christ, you have not the leading of the Spirit. Whereas these who attain to this, do find acceptance with God, John xiv. 13, 14. xv. 16. 23.-Gospel-promises also are the chariot whereby the soul may ride towards the King of glory in triumph, 2 Peter i. 4. 2 Cor. i. 20. And when the soul is made heartily to make use of Christ by these, then it enjoys the leading of the Spirit of promise.
5. Then is the man led by the Spirit, when he is helped in gospel duties, to act for spiritual and gospel ends. When he desires to aim not at self advancement, or his own name and glory, as Matth. vi. 1. 4. But, when the great thing he would be at is the mortification of corruption, communion with God, increase of faith, growth in grace, &c. When he seeks outward mercies in a subordination to these, and in a way of subserviency to the interest and service of Christ; and when, as the ultimate end of all, he seeks the glory of God, i Cor. x. 31.; then he enjoys the leading of the Spirit, and consequently the witness of water or sancti. fication. And thus you see how the soul may know if he hath the witness in himself, viz. the Spirit, blood, and water, the three that bear witness on earth.
The Third Use is of Exhortation and Direction. And here I might address myself both to sinners and saints.
1st, We are to address unbelievers. Is it so, that « He that believeth hath the witness in himself ?” Then you who are unbelievers, O be restless till you know what it is to believe on the Son of God, and so to have the witness in yourselves. Know that it is your duty to believe; and you perish for ever, if you get not faith. And yet know also, that you cannot believe of yourselves: and therefore, look to the Son of God for to believe in him ; for he is the Author of faith : and in this way, seek to have the witness within you; for, you will otherwise deceive yourselves, as you have been deceiving yourselves all along, while you have been taking the testimony of an erring conscience, or the testimony of men and ministers only, without having