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as it is written, I have believed, and therefore have I spoken ; we also believe, and therefore speak. Chap. v. 7. We walk by faith, not by sight. Ver. 14. The love of Christ constraineth us. Chap. vi. 4....7. In all things approving our. selves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, By pureness, by knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned ; by the power of God. Gal. ii. 20. I am crucified with Christ : Nevertheless I live ; yet not ļ, but Christ liveth in me: And the life, which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God. Phil. iii, 7, 8. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, Col. i. 29.... Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. Thess. ii. 2. We were bold in our God, to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. Ver. 8, 9, 10. Being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travel, laboring night and day. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably, we behav.. ed ourselves among you." And such experiences as these they were, that this blessed apostle chiefly comforted himself in the consideration of, when he was going to martyrdom, 2 Tim. iv. 6,7. “ For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
And not only does the most important and distinguishing part of Christian experience lie in spiritual practice ; but such is the nature of that sort of exercises of grace, wherein spirit. ual practice consists, that nothing is so properly called by the name of experimental religion. For, that experience, which is in these exercises of grace, that are found and prove effectual at the very point of trial, wherein God proves, which we will actually cleave to, whether Christ or our lusts, is as
has been shown already, the proper experiment of the truth and power of our godliness; wherein its victorious power and efficacy, in producing its proper effect, and reaching its end, is found by experience. This is properly Christian experience, wherein the saints have opportunity to see, by actual experience and trial, whether they have a heart to do the will of God, and to forsake other things for Christ, or no. As that is called experimental philosophy which brings opinions and notions to the test of fact, so is that properly called experimental religion, which brings religious affections and intentions to the like test.
There is a sort of external religious practice, wherein is no inward experience, which no account is made of in the sight of God, but it is esteemed good for nothing. And there is what is called experience, that is without practice, being neither accompanied nor followed with a Christian behavior ; and this is worse than nothing. Many persons seem to have very wrong notions of Christian experience and spiritual light and discoveries. Whenever a person finds within him an heart to treat God as God, at the time that he has the trial, and finds his disposition effectual in the experiment, that is the most proper, and most distinguishing experience. And to have, at such a time, that sense of divine things, that apprehension of the truth, importance and excellency of the things of religion, which then sways and prevails, and governs his heart and hands ; this is the most excellent spiritual light, and these are the most distinguishing discoveries. Religion consists much in holy affection ; but those exercises of affection which are most distinguishing of true religion, are these practical exercises. Friendship between earthly friends consists much in affection ; but yet, those strong exercises of affection, that actually carry them through fire and water for each other, are the highest evidences of true friendship.
There is nothing in what has been said, contrary to what is asserted by some sound divines; when they say, that there are no sure evidences of grace, but the acts of grace. For that doth not hinder, but that these operative, productive acts, those exercises of grace that are effectual in practice, may be
the highest evidences above all other kinds of acts of grace. Nor does it hinder, but that, when tbere are many of these acts and exercises, following one another in a course, under various trials of every kind, the evidence is still heightened ; as one act confirms another. A man, once by sceing his neighbor, may have good evidence of his presence; but by seeing him from day to day, and conversing with him, in a course in various circumstances, the evidence is established. The disciples, when they first saw Christ, after his resurrection, had good evidence that he was alive; but, by conversing with him for forty days, and his shewing himself to them alive by many infallible proofs, they had yet higher evidence.*
The witness or seal of the Spirit that we read of, doubtless consists in the effect of the Spirit of God in the heart, in the implantation and exercises of grace there, and so consists in experience. And it is also beyond doubt, that this seal of the Spirit, is the highest kind of evidence of the saints' adoption, that ever they obtain. But in these exercises of grace in practice, that have been spoken of, God gives witness, and sets to his seal, in the most conspicuous, eminent, and evident manner. It has been abundantly found to be true in fact, by the experience of the Christian church, that Christ commonly gives, by his Spirit, the greatest and most joyful evidences to his saints of their sonship, in those effectual exercises of grace
* The more these visible exercises of grace are renewed, the more certain you will be. The more frequently these actings are renewed, the more abiding and confirmed your assurance will be. A man that has been assured of such visible exercises of grace, may quickly after be in doubt whether he was not mistaken. But when such actings are renewed again and again, he grows more settled and established about his good estate. If a man see a thing once, that makes him sure ; but, if afterwards, he fear he was deceived, when he comes to see it again, he is more sure he was not mistaken. If a man sead such passages in a book, he is sure it is so. Some months after, some may bear him down, that he was mistaken, so as to make him question it himself; but, when he looks, and reads it again, he is abundantly confisnted. The more men's grace is multiplied, the more their peace is multiplied ;'' 2 Pet. i. 2. “Grace and peace bc multiplied unto you, through the knowl. edge of God, and Jesks our Lord.” Stoddard's ll'ay to know sincerity and hy. pocrisy.
under trials, which have been spoken of; as is manifest in the full assurance, and unspeakable joys of many of the mar: tyrs. Agreeable to that, 1 Pet. iv. 14. “1f ye are reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye ; for the Spirit of glory, and of God resteth upon you.” And that in Rom. v. 2, 3. « We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and glory in tribulations.” And agreeable to what the Apostle Paul often declares of what he experienced in his trials. And when the Apostle Peter, in my text, speaks of the joy unspeakable, and full of glory, which the Christians to whom he wrote, experienced; he has respect to what they found under persecution, as appears by the context. Christ's thus manifesting himself, as the friend and saviour of his saints, cleaving to him under trials, seems to have been represented of old, by his coming and manifesting himself, to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in the furnace. And when the apostle speaks of the witness of the Spirit, in Rom. viii. 15, 16, 17, he has a more immediate respect to what the Christians experienced, in their exercises of love to God, in suffering persecution ; as is plain by the context. He is, in the foregoing verses, encouraging the Christian Romatis under their sufferings, that though their bodies be dead, because of sin, yet they should be raised to life again. But it is more especially plain by the verse immediately following, verse 18. “ For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us." So the apostle has evidently respect to their persecutions, in all that he says to the end of the chapter. So when the apostle speaks of the carnest of the Spirit, which God had given to him, in 2 Cor. v. 5, the context shews plainly that he has respect to what was given him in his great trials and sufferings. And in that promise of the white stone, and new name, to him that overcomes, Rev. ii. 17, it is evident Christ has a special respect to a benefit that Christians should obtain, by overcoming, in the trial they had, in that day of persecution. This appears by verse 13, and many other passages in this epistle to the seren churches of Asia.
OBJECTION II....Some also may be ready to object against what has been said of Christian practice being the chief evidence of the truth of grace, that this is a legal doctrine ; and that this making practice a thing of such great importance in religion, magnifies works, and tends to lead men to make too much of their own doings, to the diminution of the glory of free grace, and does not seem well to consist with great gos: pel doctrine of justification by faith alone.
But this objection is altogether without reason. Which way is it inconsistent with the freeness of God's grace, that holy practice should be a sign of God's grace : It is our works being the price of God's favor, and not their being the sign of it, that is the thing which is inconsistent with the freeness of that favor. Surely the beggar's looking on the money he has in his hands, as a sign of the kindness of him who gave it to him, is in no respect inconsistent with the freenees of that kindness. It is his having money in his hands as the price of a benefit, that is the thing which is inconsistent with the free kindness of the giver. The notion of the freeness of the grace of God to sinners, as that is revealed and taught in the gospel is not that no holy and amiable qualifications for actions in us shall be a fruit, and so a sign of that grace ; but that it is not the worthiness or 'loveliness of any qualification or action of ours which recommends us to that grace ; that kindness is shown to the unworthy and unlovely ; that there is great excellency in the benefit bestowed, and no excellency in the subject as the price of it ; that goodness goes forth and flows out, from the fulness of God's naturė, the fulness of the fountain of good, without any amiableness in the object to draw it. And this is the notion of justification without works (as this doctrine is taught in the scripture) that it is not the worthiness or loveliness of our works, or any thing in us, which is in any wise accepted with God, as a balance for the guilt of sin, or a recommendation of sinners to his acceptance as heirs of life. Thus we are justified only by the righteousness of Christ, and not by our righteousness! And when works are opposed to faith in this affair, and it is said that we are justified by faith and not by works; thereby is meant, that VOL. IV,