Gospel grounds and evidences of the faith of God's elect

by John Owen

"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.

Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye

be reprobates?"--2 Cor.13:5


Evidences of the faith of God's elect. The securing of the spiritual comforts of believers in this life is a matter of the highest importance unto the glory of God, and their own advantage by the gospel. For God is abundantly willing that all the heirs of promise should receive strong consolation, and he has provided ways and means for the communication of it to them; and their participation of it is their principal interest in this world, and is so esteemed by them.


But their effectual refreshing enjoyment of these comforts is variously

opposed by the power of the remainders of sin, in conjunction with other

temptations. Hence, notwithstanding their right and title unto them by

the gospel, they are oft times actually destitute of a gracious sense of

them, and, consequently, of that relief which they are suited to afford

in all their duties, trials, and afflictions. Now, the root whereon all

real comforts do grow, whence they spring and arise, is true and saving

faith,--the faith of God's elect. Wherefore they do ordinarily answer

unto, and hold proportion with, the evidences which any have of that

faith in themselves; at least, they cannot be maintained without such

evidences. Wherefore, that we may be a little useful unto the

establishment or recovery of that consolation which God is so abundantly

willing that all the heirs of promise should enjoy, I shall inquire,

What are the principal acts and operations of faith, whereby it will

evidence its truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations and

storms that may befall believers in this world?

And I shall insist on such alone as will bear the severest scrutiny by

Scripture and experience. And,--

The principal genuine acting of saving faith in us, inseparable from

it, yea, essential to such acting, consists in the:

choosing, embracing, and approbation of God's way of saving sinners, by

the mediation of Jesus Christ, relying thereon, with a renunciation of

all other ways and means pretending unto the same end of salvation.

This is that which we are to explain and prove.

Saving faith is our "believing the record that God has given us of his

Son," 1 John 5:10, "And this is the record, that God has given to us

eternal life; and this life is in his Son," verse 11. This is the

testimony which God gives, that great and sacred truth which he himself

bears witness unto,--namely, that he has freely prepared eternal life for

them that believe, or provided a way of salvation for them. And what God

so prepares he is said to give, because of the certainty of its

communication. So grace was promised and given to the elect in Christ

Jesus before the world began, 2 Tim.1:9; Tit.1:2. And that is so to be

communicated unto them, in and by the mediation of his Son Jesus Christ,

that it is the only way whereby God will give eternal life unto any;

which is therefore wholly in him, and by him to be obtained, and from him

to be received. Upon our acquiescence in this testimony, on our

approbation of this way of saving sinners, or our refusal of it, our

eternal safety or ruin does absolutely depend. And it is reasonable that

it should be so: for, in our receiving of this testimony of God, we "set

to our seal that God is true," John 3:33; we ascribe unto him the glory

of his truth, and therein of all the other holy properties of his

nature,--the most eminent duty whereof we are capable in this world; and

by a refusal of it, what lies in us, we make him a liar, as in this

place, 1 John 5:10, which is virtually to renounce his being.

And the solemnity wherewith this testimony is entered is very

remarkable, verse 7, "There are three that bear record in heaven, the

Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one." The

trinity of divine persons, acting distinctly in the unity of the same

divine nature, do give this testimony: and they do so by those distinct

operations whereby they act in this way and work of God's saving sinners

by Jesus Christ; which are at large declared in the gospel. And there is

added hereunto a testimony that is immediately applicatory unto the souls

of believers, of this sovereign testimony of the holy Trinity; and this

is the witness of grace and all sacred ordinances: "There are three that

bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and

these three agree in one," verse 8. They are not at essentially the same

in one and the same nature, as are the Father, Word, and Holy Ghost, yet

they all absolutely agree in the same testimony; and they do it by that

especial efficacy which they have on the souls of believer s to assure

them of this truth. In this record, so solemnly, so gloriously given and

proposed, life and death are set before us. The receiving and embracing

of this testimony, with an approbation of the way of salvation testified

unto, is that work of faith which secures us of eternal life. On these

terms there is reconciliation and agreement made and established between

God and men; without which men must perish for ever.

So our blessed Saviour affirms, "This is life eternal, that they may

know thee" (the Father) "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou

hast sent," John 17:3. To know the Father as the only true God, to know

him as he has sent Jesus Christ to be the only way and means of the

salvation of sinners, and to know Jesus Christ as sent by him for that

end, is that grace and duty which instates us in a right to eternal life,

and initiates us in the possession of it: and this includes that choice

and approbation of the way of God for the saving of sinners whereof we


But these things must be more distinctly opened:--

1. The great fundamental difference in religion is concerning the way

and means whereby sinners may be saved. From men's different

apprehensions hereof arise all other differences about religion; and the

first thing that engages men really into any concernment in religion, is

an inquiry in their minds how sinners may be saved, or what they shall do

themselves to be saved: "What shall we do? what shall we do to be saved?"

"What is the way of acceptance with God?" is that inquiry which gives men

their first initiation into religion. See Acts 2:37; 16:30; Micah 6:6-8.

This question being once raised in the conscience, an answer must be

returned unto it. "I will consider," says the prophet, "what I shall

answer when I am reproved," Hab.2:1. And there is all the reason in the

world that men consider well of a good answer hereunto, without which

they must perish for ever; for if they cannot answer themselves here, how

do they hope to answer God hereafter? Wherefore, without a sufficient

answer always in readiness unto this inquiry, no man can have any hopes

of a blessed eternity.

Now, the real answer which men return unto themselves is according to

the influence which their minds are under from one or other of the two

divine covenants,--that of works or that of grace. And these two

covenants, taken absolutely, are inconsistent, and give answers in this

case that are directly contradictory to one another: so the apostle

declares, Rom.10:5-9. The one says, "The man that does the works of the

law shall live by them; this is the only way whereby you may be saved:"

the other wholly waives this return, and puts it all on faith in Christ

Jesus. Hence there is great difference and great variety in the answers

which men return to themselves on this inquiry; for their consciences

will neither hear nor speak any thing but what complies with the covenant

whereunto they do belong. These things are reconciled only in the blood

of Christ; and how, the apostle declared, Rom.8:3. The greatest part of

convinced sinners seem to adhere to the testimony of the covenant of

works; and so perish for ever. Nothing will stand us in stead in this

matter, nothing will save us, "but the answer of a good conscience

towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," 1 Pet.3:21.

2. The way that God has prepared for the saving of sinners is a fruit

and product of infinite wisdom, and powerfully efficacious unto its end.

As such it is to be received, or it is rejected. It is not enough that we

admit of the notions of it as declared, unless we are sensible of divine

wisdom and power in it, so as that it may be safely trusted unto. Hereon,

upon the proposal of it, falls out the eternally distinguishing

difference among men. Some look upon it and embrace it as the power and

wisdom of God; others really reject it as a thing foolish and weak, not

meet to be trusted unto. Hereof the apostle gives an account at large, 1

Cor.1:18-24. And this is mysterious in religion:--the same divine truth

is by the same way and means, at the same time, proposed unto sundry

persons, all in the same condition, under the same circumstances, all

equally concerned in that which is proposed therein: some of them hereon

do receive it, embrace it, approve of it, and trust unto it for life and

salvation; others despise it, reject it, value it not, trust not unto it.

To the one it is the wisdom of God, and the power of God; to the other,

weakness and foolishness: as it must of necessity be the one or the

other,--it is not capable of a middle state or consideration. It is not a

good way unless it be the only way; it is not a safe, it is not the best

way, if there be any other; for it is eternally inconsistent with any

other. It is the wisdom of God, or it is downright folly. And here, after

all our disputes, we must resort unto eternal sovereign grace, making a

distinction among them unto whom the gospel is proposed, and the almighty

power of actual grace in curing that unbelief which blinds the minds of

men, that they can see nothing but folly and weakness in God's way of the

saving of sinners. And this unbelief works yet in the most of them unto

whom this way of God is proposed in the gospel; they receive it not as an

effect of infinite wisdom, and as powerfully efficacious unto its proper

end. Some are profligate in the service of their lusts, and regard it

not; unto whom may be applied that [saying] of the prophet, "Hear, ye

despisers, and wonder, and perish." Some are under the power of darkness

and ignorance, so as that they apprehend not, they understand not the

mystery of it; for "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness

comprehendeth it not." Some are blinded by Satan, as he is the god of

this world, by filling their minds with prejudice, and their hearts with

the love of present things, that the light of the glorious gospel of

Christ, who is the image of God, cannot shine into them. Some would mix

with it their own works, ways, and duties, as they belong unto the first

covenant; which are eternally irreconcilable unto this way of God, as the

apostle teaches, Rom.10:3,4. Hereby does unbelief eternally ruin the

souls of men. They do not, they cannot, approve of the way of God for

saving sinners proposed in the gospel, as an effect of infinite wisdom

and power, which they may safely trust unto, in opposition unto all other

ways and means, pretending to be useful unto the same end; and this will

give us light into the nature and acting of saving faith, which we

inquire after.

3. The whole Scripture, and all divine institutions from the beginning,

do testify, in general, that this way of God for the saving of sinners is

by commutation, substitution, atonement, satisfaction, and imputation.

This is the language of the first promise, and all the sacrifices of the

law founded thereon; this is the language of the Scripture: "There is a

way whereby sinners may be saved,--a way that God has found out and

appointed." Now, it being the law wherein sinners are concerned, the rule

of all things between God and them should seem to be by what they can do

or suffer with respect unto that law. "No," says the Scripture, "it

cannot be so; 'for by the deeds of the law no man living shall be

justified in the sight of God.'" Ps.143:2; Rom.3:20; Gal.2:16. Neither

shall it be by their personal answering of the penalty of the law which

they have broken; for they cannot do so, but they must perish eternally:

for, "If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, 0 Lord, who shall stand?"

Ps.130:3. There must therefore be, there is another way, of a different

nature and kind from these, for the saving of sinners, or there is no due

revelation made of the mind of God in the Scripture. But that there is

so, and what it is, is the main design of it to declare: and this is by

the substitution of a mediator instead of the sinners that shall be

saved, who shall both bear the penalty of the law which they had incurred

and fulfill that righteousness which they could not attain unto.

This in general is God's way of saving sinners, whether men like it or

no: "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the

flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for

sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might

be fulfilled in us," Rom.8:3,4. See also Heb.10:5-10. "He made him to be

sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of

God in him," 2 Cor.5:21.

Here unbelief has prevailed with many in this latter age to reject the

glory of God herein; but we have vindicated the truth against them

sufficiently elsewhere.

4. There are sundry things previously required to give us a clear view

of the glory of God in this way of saving sinners: such are, a due

consideration of the nature of the fall of our first parents, and of our

apostasy from God thereby. I may not stay here to show the nature or

aggravations of them; neither can we conceive them aright, much less

express them. I only say, that unless we have due apprehensions of the

dread and terror of them, of the invasion made on the glory of God, and

the confusion brought on the creation by them, we can never discern the

reason and glory of rejecting the way of personal righteousness, and the

establishing this way of a mediator for the saving of sinners. A due

sense of our present infinite distance from God, and the impossibility

that there is in ourselves of making any approaches unto him, is of the

same consideration; so likewise is that of our utter disability to do any

thing that may answer the law, or the holiness and righteousness of God

therein,--of our universal unconformity in our natures, hearts, and their

acting, unto the nature, holiness, and will of God. Unless, I say, we

have a sense of these things in our minds and upon our consciences, we

cannot believe aright, we cannot comprehend the glory of this new way of

salvation. And whereas mankind has had a general notion, though no

distinct apprehension, of these things, or of some of them, many amongst

them have apprehended that there is a necessity of some kind of

satisfaction or atonement to be made, that sinners may be freed from the

displeasure of God; but when God's way of it was proposed unto them, it

was, and is, generally rejected, because "the carnal mind is enmity

against God." But when these things are fixed on the soul by sharp and

durable convictions, they will enlighten it with due apprehensions of the

glory and beauty of God's way of saving sinners.

5. This is the gospel, this is the work of it,--namely, a divine

declaration of the way of God for the saving of sinners, through the

person, mediation, blood, righteousness, and intercession of Christ. This

is that which it reveals, declares, proposes, and tenders unto sinners,--

there is a way for their salvation. As this is contained in the first

promise, so the truth of every word in the Scripture depends on the

supposition of it. Without this, there could be no more intercourse

between God and us than is between him and devils. Again, it declares

that this way is not by the law or its works,--by the first covenant, or

its conditions,--by our own doing or suffering; but it is a new way,

found out in and proceeding from infinite wisdom, love, grace, and

goodness,--namely, by the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, his

susception of the office of a mediator, doing and suffering in the

discharge of it whatever was needful for the justification and salvation

of sinners, unto his own eternal glory. See Rom.3:24-27; 8:3,4; 2

Cor.5:19-21, etc.

Moreover, the gospel adds, that the only way of obtaining an interest

in this blessed contrivance of saving sinners by the substitution of

Christ, as the surety of the covenant, and thereon the imputation of our

sins to him, and of his righteousness unto us, is by faith in him.

Here comes in that trial of faith which we inquire after. This way of

saving sinners being proposed, offered, and tendered unto us in the

gospel, true and saving faith receives it, approves of it, rests in it,

renounces all other hopes and expectations, reposing its whole confidence


For it is not proposed unto us merely as a notion of truth, to be

assented to or denied, in which sense all believe the gospel that are

called Christians,--they do not esteem it a fable; but it is proposed

unto us as that which we ought practically to close withal, for ourselves

to trust alone unto it for life and salvation. And I shall speak briefly

unto two things:--I. How does saving faith approve of this way? on what

accounts, and unto what ends? II. How it does evidence and manifest

itself hereby unto the comfort of believers.


How does saving faith approve of this way? on what accounts,

and unto what ends?

First, It approves of it, as that which every way becomes God to find

out, to grant, and propose: so speaks the apostle, Heb.2:10, "It became

him, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their

salvation perfect through sufferings." That becomes God, is worthy of

him, is to be owned concerning him, which answers unto his infinite

wisdom, goodness, grace, holiness, and righteousness, and nothing else.

This faith discerns, judges, and determines concerning this way,--namely,

that it is every way worthy of God, and answers all the holy properties

of his nature. This is called "The light of the knowledge of the glory of

God in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor.4:6.

This discovery of the glory of God in this way is made unto faith

alone, and by it alone it is embraced. The not discerning of it, and

thereon the want of an acquiescence in it, is that unbelief which ruins

the souls of men. The reason why men do not embrace the way of salvation

tendered in the gospel, is because they do not see nor understand how

full it is of divine glory, how it becomes God, is worthy of him, and

answers all the perfections of his nature. Their minds are blinded, that

the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, does

not shine unto them, 2 Cor.4:4. And so they deal with this way of God as

if it were weakness and folly.

Herein consists the essence and life of faith:--It sees, discerns, and

determines, that the way of salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ proposed

in the gospel, is such as becomes God and all his divine excellencies to

find out, appoint, and propose unto us. And herein does it properly give

glory to God, which is its peculiar work and excellency, Rom.4:20; herein

it rests and refreshes itself.

In particular, faith herein rejoices in the manifestation of the

infinite wisdom of God. A view of the wisdom of God acting itself by his

power in the works of creation (for in wisdom he made them all), is the

sole reason of ascribing glory unto him in all natural worship, whereby

we glorify him as God; and a due apprehension of the infinite wisdom of

God in the new creation, in the way of saving sinners by Jesus Christ, is

the foundation of all spiritual, evangelical ascription of glory to God.

It was the design of God, in a peculiar way, to manifest and glorify

his wisdom in this work. Christ crucified is the "power of God, and the

wisdom of God," 1 Cor.1:24; and "all the treasures of wisdom and

knowledge are hid in him," Col.2:3. All the treasures of divine wisdom

are laid up in Christ, and laid out about him, as to be manifested unto

faith in and by the gospels He designed herein to make known his

"manifold wisdom," Eph.3:9,10.

Wherefore, according to our apprehension and admiration of the wisdom

of God in the constitution of this way of salvation is our faith, and no

otherwise; where that does not appear unto us, where our minds are not

affected with it, there is no faith at all.

I cannot stay here to reckon up the especial instances of divine wisdom

herein. Somewhat I have attempted towards it in other writings; and I

shall only say at present, that the foundation of this whole work and

way, in the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, is so glorious an

effect of infinite wisdom, as the whole blessed creation will admire to

eternity. This of itself bespeaks this way and work divine. Herein the

glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ. This is of God alone;

this is that which becomes him; that which nothing but infinite wisdom

could extend unto. Whilst faith lives in a due apprehension of the wisdom

of God in this, and the whole superstruction of this way, on this

foundation it is safe.

Goodness, love, grace, and mercy, are other properties of the divine

nature, wherein it is gloriously amiable. "God is love;" there is none

God but he. Grace and mercy are among the principal titles which he

everywhere assumes to himself; and it was his design to manifest them all

to the utmost in this work and way of saving sinners by Christ, as is

everywhere declared in the Scripture. And all these lie open to the eye

of faith herein: it sees infinite goodness, love, and grace, in this way,

such as becomes God, such as can reside in none but him; which it

therefore rests and rejoices in, 1 Pet.1:8. In adherence unto, and

approbation of, this way of salvation, as expressive of these perfections

of the divine nature, does faith act itself continually.

Where unbelief prevails, the mind has no view of the glory that is in

this way of salvation, in that it is so becoming of God and all his holy

properties, as the apostle declares, 2 Cor.4:4. And where it is so,

whatever is pretended, men cannot cordially receive it and embrace it;

for they know not the reason for which it ought to be so embraced: they

see no form nor comeliness in Christ, who is the life and centre of this

way, "no beauty for which he should be desired," Isa.53:2. Hence, in the

first preaching of it, it was "unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto

the Greeks foolishness;" for by reason of their unbelief they could not

see it to be, what it is, "the power of God, and the wisdom of God;" and

so it must be esteemed, or be accounted folly.

Yea, from the same unbelief it is that at this day the very notion of

the truth herein is rejected by many, even all those who are called

Socinians, and all that adhere unto them in the disbelief of supernatural

mysteries. They cannot see a suitableness in this way of salvation unto

the glory of God,--as no unbeliever can; and therefore those of them who

do not oppose directly the doctrine of it, yet do make no use of it unto

its proper end. Very few of them, comparatively, who profess the truth of

the gospel, have an experience of the power of it unto their own


But here true faith stands invincibly,--hereby it will evidence its

truth and sincerity in the midst of all temptations, and the most dismal

conflicts it has with them; yea, against the perplexing power and charge

of sin thence arising. From this stronghold it will not be driven; whilst

the soul can exercise faith herein,--namely, in steadily choosing,

embracing, and approving of God's way of saving sinners by Jesus Christ,

as that wherein he will be eternally glorified, because it is suited

unto, and answers all the perfections of, his nature, is that which every

way becomes him,--it will have wherewith to relieve itself in all its

trials. For this is faith, this is saving faith, which will not fail us.

That faith which works in the soul a gracious persuasion of the

excellency of this way, by a sight of the glory of the wisdom, power,

grace, love, and goodness of God in it, so as to be satisfied with it, as

the best, the only way of coming unto God, with a renunciation of all

other ways and means unto that end, will at all times evidence its nature

and sincerity.

And this is that which gives the soul rest and satisfaction, as unto

its entrance into glory, upon its departure out of this world. It is a

great thing, to apprehend in a due manner that a poor soul that has been

guilty of many sins, leaving the body, it may be, under great pain,

distress, and anguish, it may be by outward violence, should be

immediately admitted and received into the glorious presence of God, with

all the holy attendants of his throne, there to enjoy rest and

blessedness for evermore. But here also faith discerns and approves of

this great, of this ineffable, divine operation, as that which becomes

the infinite greatness of that wisdom and grace which first designed it,

the glorious efficacy of the mediation of Christ, and the excellency of

the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, without any expectation from any

thing in itself, as a cause meritorious of an admission into this glory.

Neither did ever any man know what it is, or desire it in a due manner,

who looked for any desert of it in himself, or conceived any proportion

between it and what he is or has done in this world. Hence some of those

who have not this faith have invented another state, after men are gone

out of this world, to make them meet for heaven, which they call

purgatory; for on what grounds a man should expect an entrance into

glory, on his departure out of this world, they understand not.

Let them who are exercised with temptations and dejections bring their

faith unto this trial; and this is the case, in various degrees, of us

all:--First, then, examine strictly by the word whether this be a true

description of the nature and acting of saving faith. Sundry things are

supposed or asserted in it; as,--1. That the way of saving sinners by

Jesus Christ is the principal effect of divine wisdom, power, goodness,

love, and grace. 2. That the design of the gospel is to manifest,

declare, and testify that so it is, and so to make known the glory of God

therein. 3. That saving faith is that act, duty, and work of the soul,

whereby we receive the record of God concerning these things, [and] do

ascribe the glory of them all unto him, as discovering it in the way of

life proposed unto us. 4. That hereon it proceeds unto a renunciation of

all other ways, means, hopes, reliefs, in opposition unto this way, or in

conjunction with it, as unto acceptance with God in life and salvation. I

say, in the first place, examine these things strictly by the word; and

if they appear to be (as they are) sacred, evangelical, fundamental

truths, be not moved from them, be not shaken in them, by any temptation


And, in the next place, bring your faith to the trial on these

principles: What do you judge concerning God's way of saving sinners by

Jesus Christ, as proposed in the gospel? Are you satisfied in it, that it

is such as becomes God, and answers all the glorious attributes of his

nature? Would you have any other way proposed in the room of it? Can you,

will you, commit the eternal welfare of your souls unto the grace and

faithfulness of God in this way, so as that you have no desire to be

saved any other way? Does the glory of God in any measure shine forth

unto you in the face of Jesus Christ? Do you find a secret joy in your

hearts upon the sstisfaction you take in the proposal of this way unto

you by the gospel? Do you, in all your fears and temptations, in all

approaches of death, renounce all other reserves and reliefs, and retake

your whole confidence unto this way alone, and the representation of God

made therein? Herein lies that faith, and its exercise, which will be an

anchor unto your souls in all their trials.

And this is the first and principal ground, or reason, whereon faith,

divine and saving, does accept, embrace, and approve of the way of God's

saving sinners by Jesus Christ,--namely, because it is such as does

become him, and every way answer unto all the holy properties of his

nature, which are manifested and glorified therein. And where faith does

approve of it on this ground and reason, it does evidence itself to be

truly evangelical, unto the supportment and comfort of them in whom it


Secondly, It does so approve of this way as that which it finds suited

unto the whole design and all the desires of an enlightened soul. So when

our Lord Jesus Christ compares the kingdom of God (which is this way of

salvation) unto a treasure and a precious pearl, he affirms that those

who found them had great joy and the highest satisfaction, as having

attained that which suited their desires, and gave rest unto their minds.

A soul enlightened with the knowledge of the truth, and made sensible

of its own condition by spiritual conviction, has two predominant desires

and aims, whereby it is wholly regulated,--the one is, that God may be

gloried; and the other, that itself may be eternally saved. Nor can it

forego either of these desires, nor are they separable in any enlightened

soul. It can never cease in either of these desires, and that to the

highest degree. The whole world cannot dispossess an enlightened mind of

either of them. Profligate sinners have no concernment in the former; no,

nor yet those who are under legal convictions, if they have wherewithal

received no spiritual light. They would be saved; but for the glory of

God therein, he may look to that himself,--they are not concerned in it:

for that which they mean by salvation is nothing but a freedom from

external misery. This they would have, whether God be [glorified] or no;

of what is salvation truly they have no desire.

But the first beam of spiritual light and grace instates an

indefatigable desire of the glory of God in the minds and souls of them

in whom it is. Without this the soul knows not how to desire its own

salvation. I may say, it would not be saved in a way wherein God should

not be glorified; for without that, whatever its state should be, it

would not be that which we call salvation. The exaltation of the glory of

God belongs essentially thereunto; it consists in the beholding and

enjoyment of that glory. This desire, therefore, is immovably fixed in

the mind and soul of every enlightened person; he can admit of no

proposal of eternal things that is inconsistent with it.

But, moreover, in every such person there is a ruling desire of his own

salvation. It is natural unto him, as a creature made for eternity; it is

inseparable from him, as he is a convinced sinner. And the clearer the

light of any one is in the nature of this salvation, the more is this

desire heightened and confirmed in him.

Here, then, lies the inquiry,--namely, how these two prevalent desires

may be reconciled and satisfied in the same mind? For, as we are sinners,

there seems to be an inconsistency between them. The glory of God, in his

justice and holiness, requires that sinners should die and perish

eternally. So speaks the law; this is the language of conscience, and the

voice of all our fears: wherefore, for a sinner to desire, in the first

place, that God may be glorified is to desire that himself may be damned.

Which of these desires shall the sinner cleave unto? Unto whether of

them shall he give the preeminence? Shall he cast off all hopes and

desires of his own salvation, and be content to perish forever? This he

cannot do; God does not require it of him,--he has given him the contrary

in charge whilst he is in this world. Shall he, then, desire that God may

part with and lose his glory, so as that, one way or other, he may be

saved? Bring himself unto an unconcernment what becomes of it? This can

be no more in an enlightened mind than it can cease to desire its own

salvation. But how to reconcile these things in himself a sinner finds


Here, therefore, the glory of this way represents itself unto the faith

of every believer. It not only brings these desires into a perfect

consistency and harmony, but makes them to increase and promote one

another. The desire of God's glory increases the desire of our own

salvation; and the desire of our own salvation enlarges and inflames the

desire of glorifying God therein and thereby. These things are brought

into a perfect consistency and mutual subserviency in the blood of

Christ, Rom.3:24-26; for this way is that which God has found out, in

infinite wisdom, to glorify himself in the salvation of sinners. There is

not any thing wherein the glory of God does or may consist, but in this

way is reconciled unto, and consistent with, the salvation of the

chiefest of sinners. There is no property of his nature but is gloriously

exalted in and by it. An answer is given in it unto all the objections of

the law against the consistency of the glory of God and the salvation of

sinners. It pleads his truth in his threatening, in the sanction of the

law, with the curse annexed;--it pleads his righteousness, holiness, and

severity, all engaged to destroy sinners;--it pleads the instance of

God's dealing with the angels that sinned, and calls in the witness of

conscience to testify the truth of all its allegations: but there is a

full and satisfactory answer given unto this whole plea of the law in

this way of salvation. God declares in it, and by it, how he has provided

for the satisfaction of all these things, and the exaltation of his glory

in them; as we shall see immediately.

Here true faith will fix itself in all its distresses. "Whatever," says

the soul, "be my state and condition, whatever be my fears and

perplexities, whatever oppositions I meet withal, yet I see in Jesus

Christ, in the glass of the gospel, that there is no inconsistency

between the glory of God and my salvation. That otherwise insuperable

difficulty laid by the law in the way of my life and comfort, is utterly

removed." Whilst faith keeps this hold in the soul, with a constant

approbation of this way of salvation by Christ, as that which gives

[such] a consistency unto both its governing desires, that it shall not

need forego either of them,--so as to be contented to be damned that God

may be glorified, as some have spoken, or to desire salvation without a

due regard unto the glory of God,--it will be an anchor to stay the soul

in all its storms and distresses. Some benefit which will certainly ensue

hereon we may briefly mention.

1. The soul will be hereby preserved from ruining despair, in all the

distresses that may befall it. Despair is nothing but a prevalent

apprehension of [the] mind that the glory of God and a man's salvation

are inconsistent;--that God cannot be just, true, holy, or righteous, if

he in whom that apprehension is may be saved. Such a person does conclude

that his salvation is impossible, because, one way or other, it is

inconsistent with the glory of God; for nothing else can render it

impossible. Hence arises in the mind an utter dislike of God, with

revengeful thoughts against him for being what he is. This cuts off all

endeavours of reconciliation, yea, begets an abhorrence of all the means

of it, as those which are weak, foolish, and insufficient. Such are

Christ and his cross unto men under such apprehensions; they judge them

unable to reconcile the glory of God and their salvation. Then is a soul

in an open entrance into hell. From this cursed frame and ruin the soul

is safely preserved by faith's maintaining in the mind and heart a due

persuasion of the consistency and harmony that is between the glory of

God and its own salvation. Whilst this persuasion is prevalent in it,

although it cannot attain any comfortable assurance of an especial

interest in it, yet it cannot but love, honour, value, and cleave unto

this way, adoring the wisdom and grace of God in it; which is an act and

evidence of saving faith. See Ps.130:3,4. Yea,--

2. It will preserve the soul from heartless despondencies. Many in

their temptations, darknesses, fears, surprisals by sin, although they

fall [not] into ruining desperation, yet they fall under such desponding

fears and various discouragements, as keep them off from a vigorous

endeavour after a recovery: and hereon, for want of the due exercise of

grace, they grow weaker and darker every day, and are in danger to pine

away in their sins. But where faith keeps the soul constant unto the

approbation of God's way of saving sinners, as that wherein the glory of

God and its own salvation are not only fully reconciled but made

inseparable, it will stir up all graces unto a due exercise, and the

diligent performance of all duties, whereby it may obtain a refreshing

sense of a personal interest in it.

3. It will keep the heart full of kindness towards God; whence love and

gracious hope will spring. It is impossible but that a soul overwhelmed

with a sense of sin, and thereon filled with self-condemnation, but if it

has a view of the consistency of the glory of God with its deliverance

and salvation, through a free contrivance of infinite wisdom and grace,

it must have such kindness for him, such gracious thoughts of him, as

will beget and kindle in it both love and hope, as Mic.7:18-20; Ps.85:8;

1 Tim.1:15.

4. A steady continuance in the approbation of God's way of salvation,

on the reason mentioned, will lead the mind into that exercise of faith

which both declares its nature and is the spring of all the saving

benefits which we receive by it. Now, this is such a spiritual light

into, and discovery of, the revelation and declaration made in the gospel

of the wisdom, love, grace, and mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and the way

of the communication of the effect of them unto sinners by him, as that

the soul finds them suited unto and able for the pardon of its own sins,

its righteousness and salvation; so as that it places its whole trust and

confidence for these ends therein.

This being the very life of faith, that act and exercise of it whereby

we are justified and saved, and whereby it evidences its truth and

sincerity against all temptations, I shall insist a little on the

explanation of the description of it now given. And there are three

things in it, or required unto it:--

(1.) A spiritual light into, and discovery of, the revelation and

declaration made in the gospel of the wisdom, love, grace, and mercy of

God in Christ Jesus. It is not a mere assent unto the truth of the

revelation or authority of the revealer;--this, indeed, is supposed and

included in it; but it adds thereunto a spiritual discerning, perception,

and understanding of the things themselves revealed and declared; without

which, a bare assent unto the truth of the revelation is of no advantage.

This is called "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the

face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor.4:6; the increase whereof in all believers

the apostle does earnestly pray for, Eph.1:15-20. So we discern spiritual

things in a spiritual manner; and hence arises "the full assurance of

understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the

Father, and of Christ," Col.2:2; or a spiritual sense of the power,

glory, and beauty of the things contained in this mystery: so to know

Christ as to know "the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of

his sufferings," Phil.3:10.

Faith affects the mind with an ineffable sense, taste, experience, and

acknowledgment of the greatness, the glory, the power, the beauty of the

things revealed and proposed in this way of salvation. The soul in it is

enabled to see and understand that all the things belonging unto it are

such as become God, his wisdom, goodness, and love; as was before

declared. And a spiritual light enabling hereunto is of the essence of

saving faith; unless this be in us, we do not, we cannot, give glory to

God in any assent unto the truth. And faith is that grace which God has

prepared, fitted, and suited, to give unto him the glory that is his due

in the work of our redemption and salvation.

(2.) Upon this spiritual light into this revelation of God and his

glory, in this way of saving sinners, the mind by faith finds and sees

that all things in it are suited unto its own justification and salvation

in particular, and that the power of God is in them to make them

effectual unto that end. This is that act and work of faith whereon the

whole blessed event does depend. It will not avail a man to see all sorts

of viands and provisions, if they be no way suited unto his appetite, nor

meet for his nourishment; nor will it be unto a man's spiritual advantage

to take a view of the excellencies of the gospel, unless he find them

suited unto his condition. And this is the hardest task and work that

faith has to go through with.

Faith is not an especial assurance of a man's own justification and

salvation by Christ; that it will produce, but not until another step or

two in its progress be over: but faith is a satisfactory persuasion that

the way of God proposed in the gospel is fitted, suited, and able to save

the soul in particular that does believe,--not only that it is a blessed

way to save sinners in general, but that it is such a way to save him in

particular. So is this matter stated by the apostle, 1 Tim.1:15, "This is

a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation," or approbation, "that

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."

His faith does not abide here, nor confine itself unto this, that Christ

Jesus came into the world to save sinners, that this is the holy and

blessed way of God for the salvation of sinners in general; but he puts

in for his own particular interest in that way: "It is God's way, fitted,

and suited, and able to save me, who am the chiefest of sinners."

And this, as was said, is the greatest and the most difficult work of

faith; for we suppose, concerning the person who is to believe,--

[1.] That he is really and effectually convinced of the sin of [our]

nature, of our apostasy from God therein, the loss of his image, and the

direful effects that ensue thereon. [2.] That he has due apprehensions of

the holiness and severity of God, of the sanction and curse of the law,

with a right understanding of the nature of sin and its demerit. [3.]

That he have a full conviction of his own actual sins, with all their

aggravations, from their greatness, their number, and all sorts of

circumstances. [4.] That he has a sense of the guilt of secret or unknown

sins, which have been multiplied by that continual proneness unto sin

which he finds working in him. [5.] That he seriously consider what it is

to appear before the judgment-seat of God, to receive a sentence for

eternity, with all other things of the like nature, inseparable from him

as a sinner.

When it is really thus with any man, he shall find it the hardest thing

in the world, and clogged with the most difficulties, for him to believe

that the way of salvation proposed unto him is suited, fitted, and every

way able to save him in particular,--to apprehend it such as none of his

objections can rise up against, or stand before. But this is that, in the

second place, that the faith of God's elect will do: it will enable the

soul to discern and satisfy itself that there is in this way of God every

thing that is needful unto its own salvation. And this it will do on a

spiritual understanding and due consideration of,--[1.] The infiniteness

of that wisdom, love, grace, and mercy, which is the original or

sovereign cause of the whole way, with the ample declaration and

confirmation made of them in the gospel. [2.] Of the unspeakably glorious

way and means for the procuring and communicating unto us of all the

effects of that wisdom, grace, and mercy,--namely, the incarnation and

mediation of the Son of God, in his oblation and intercession. [3.] Of

the great multitude and variety of precious promises, engaging the truth,

faithfulness, and power of God, for the communication of righteousness

and salvation from those springs, by that means. I say, on the just

consideration of these things, with all other encouragements wherewith

they are accompanied, the soul concludes by faith that there is salvation

for itself in particular, to be attained in that way.

(3.) The last act of faith, in the order of nature, is the soul's

acquiescence in, and trust unto, this way of salvation for itself and its

own eternal condition, with a renunciation of all other ways and means

for that end. And because Jesus Christ, in his person, mediation, and

righteousness, is the life and centre of this way, as he in whom alone

God will glorify his wisdom, love, grace, and mercy,--as he who has

purchased, procured, and wrought all this salvation for us,--whose

righteousness is imputed unto us for our justification, and who in the

discharge of his office does actually bestow it upon us,--he is the

proper and immediate object of faith, in this act of trust and affiance.

This is that which is called in the Scripture believing in Christ,--

namely, the trusting unto him alone for life and salvation, as the whole

of divine wisdom and grace is administered by him unto these ends. For

this we come unto him, we receive him, we believe in him, we trust him,

we abide in him; with all those other ways whereby our faith in him is


And this is the second ground or reason whereon faith does close with,

embrace, and approve of God's way of saving sinners; whereby it will

evidence itself, unto the comfort of them in whom it is, in the midst of

all their trials and temptations.

Thirdly, Faith approves of this way, as that which makes the glory of

God, in the giving and the sanction of the law, to be as eminently

conspicuous as if it had been perfectly fulfilled by every one of us in

our own persons. The law was a just representation of the righteousness

and holiness of God; and the end for which it was given was, that it

might be the means and instrument of the eternal exaltation of his glory

in these holy properties of his nature. Let no man imagine that God has

laid aside this law, as a thing of no more use; or that he will bear a

diminution of that glory, or any part of it, which he designed in the

giving of it. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but no jot or little of

the law shall do so. No believer can desire, or be pleased with, his own

salvation, unless the glory of God designed by the law be secured. He

cannot desire that God should forego any part of his glory that he might

be saved. Yea, this is that on the account whereof he principally

rejoices in his own salvation,--namely, that it is that wherein God will

be absolutely, universally, and eternally glorified.

Now, in this way of saving sinners by Jesus Christ, by mercy, pardon,

and the righteousness of another (of all which the law knows nothing),

faith does see and understand how all that glory which God designed in

the giving of the law is eternally secured and preserved entire, without

eclipse or diminution. The way whereby this is done is declared in the

gospel. See Rom.3:24-26l 8:2-4; 10:3,4. Hereby faith is enabled to answer

all the challenges and charges of the law, with all its pleas for the

vindication of divine justice, truth and holiness; it has that to offer

which gives it the utmost satisfaction in all its pleas for God: so is

this answer managed, Rom.8:32-34.

And this is the first way whereby the faith of God's elect does

evidence itself in the minds and consciences of them that do believe, in

the midst of all their contests with sin, their trials and temptations,

to their relief and comfort,--namely, the closing with, and approbation

of, God's way of saving sinners by Jesus Christ, on the grounds and

reasons which have been declared.


The second evidence of the faith of God's elect

The second way whereby true faith does evidence itself in the souls and

consciences of believers, unto their supportment and comfort under all

their conflicts with sin, in all their trials and temptations, is by a

constant approbation of the revelation of the will of God in the

Scripture concerning our holiness, and the obedience unto himself which

he requires of us. This faith will never forego, whatever trials it may

undergo, whatever darkness the mind may fall into; this it will abide by

in all extremities. And that it may appear to be a peculiar effect or

work of saving faith, some things are to be premised and considered:--

1. There is in all men by nature a light enabling them to judge of the

difference that is between what is morally good and what is evil,

especially in things of more than ordinary importance. This light is not

attained or acquired by us; we are not taught it, we do not learn it: it

is born with us, and inseparable from us; it prevents [exists previously

to] consideration and reflection, working naturally, and in a sort

necessarily, in the first acting of our souls.

And the discerning power of this light, as to the moral nature of men's

actions, is accompanied inseparably with a judgment that they make

concerning themselves as unto what they do of the one kind or other, and

that with respect unto the superior judgment of God about the same

things. This the apostle expressly ascribes unto the Gentiles, who had

not the law, Rom.2:14,15: "The Gentiles, which have not the law, do by

nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a

law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their

hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts the

meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." This is a most exact

description of a natural conscience, in both the powers of it; it

discerns that good and evil which is commanded and forbidden in the law,

and it passes an acquitting or condemning judgment and sentence,

according to what men have done.

Wherefore, this approbation of duties in things moral is common unto

all men. The light whereby it is guided may be variously improved, as it

was in some of the Gentiles; and it may be stifled in some, until it seem

to be quite extinguished, until they become like the beasts that perish.

And where the discerning power of this light remains, yet, through a

continual practice of sin and obduracy therein, the judging power of it

as unto all its efficacy may be lost: so the apostle declares concerning

them who are judicially hardened and given up unto sin, Rom.1:32, "These,

knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are

worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do

them." They still discern what is evil and sinful, and know what is the

judgment of God conceding such things; but yet the love of sin and custom

in sinning do so far prevail in them, as to contemn both their own light

and God's judgment, so as to delight in what is contrary unto them. These

the apostle describes, Eph.4:19, "Being past feeling" (all sense of

convictions), "they have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to

work all uncleanness with greediness;" such as the world is filled withal

at this day.

This is not that approbation of obedience which we inquire after; it

is, in some measure, in the worst of men, nor has it any likeness unto

that duty of faith which we treat of, as will immediately appear.

2. There is a farther knowledge of good and evil by the law, and this

is also accompanied with a judgment acquitting or condemning; for the law

has the same judging power and authority over men that their own

consciences have,--namely, the authority of God himself. The law is to

sinners as the tree of knowledge of good and evil,--it opens their eyes

to see the nature of what they have done; for "by the law is the

knowledge of sin," Rom.3:20: and so is the knowledge of duty also; for it

is the adequate rule of all duty. There is, I say, a knowledge and

conviction of duty and sin communicated unto men by the law, and those

far more clear and distinct than what is or can be found in men from the

mere light of nature; for it extends to more instances, that being

generally lost where it is alone, as unto many important duties and sins;

and it declares the nature of every sin and duty far more clearly than

natural light of itself can do.

And this knowledge of good and evil by the law may be so improved in

the minds of men as to press them unto a performance of all known duties,

and an abstinence from all known sins, with a judgment on them all. But

yet herein does not consist that approbation of holiness and obedience

which faith will produce; for,--

(1.) As unto approbation or condemnation of good or evil: that which is

by the law is particular, or has respect unto particular duties and sins,

according as occasion does present them; and extends not unto the whole

law absolutely, and all that is required in it. I do not say it is always

partial; there is a legal sincerity that may have respect unto all known

duties and sins, though it be very rare. Hardly shall we find a person

merely under the power of the law, who does not evidence an indulgence

unto some sin, and a neglect of some duties: but such a thing there may

be; it was in Paul, in his pharisaism,--he was, "touching the

righteousness which is in the law, blameless," Phil.3:6. He allowed not

himself in any known sin, nor in the neglect of any known duty; nor could

others charge him with any defect therein,--he was blameless. But where

this is, still this approbation or condemnation is particular,--that is,

they do respect particular duties and sins as they do occur; there is not

a respect in them unto the whole righteousness and holiness of the law,

as we shall see. Wherefore, a man may approve of every duty in its season

as it is offered unto him, or when at any time he thinks of it by an act

of his fixed judgment; and so, on the contrary, as unto sin; and yet come

short of that approbation of holiness and righteousness which we inquire


(2.) It is not accompanied with a love of the things themselves that

are good, as they are so, and a hatred of the contrary; for the persons

in whom it is do not, cannot, "delight in the law of God after the inward

man," as Rom.7:22, so as to approve of it, and all that is contained in

it, cleaving to them with love and delight. They may have a love for this

or that duty, and a hatred of the contrary, but it is on various

considerations, suited unto their convictions and circumstances; but it

is not on the account of its formal nature, as good or evil. Wherefore,--

(3.) No man, without the light of saving faith, can constantly and

universally approve of the revelation of the will of God, as unto our

holiness and obedience.

To make this evident, which is the foundation of our present discovery

of the acting of saving faith, we must consider,--[1.] What it is that is

to be approved. [2.] What this approbation is, or wherein it does


[1.] That which is to be approved is the holiness and obedience which

God requires in us, our natures, and actions, and accepts from us, or

accepts in ups. It is not particular duties as they occur unto us, taken

alone and by themselves, but the universal correspondence of our natures

and actions unto the will of God. The Scripture gives us various

descriptions of it, because of the variety of graces and gracious

operations which concur therein. We may here mention some of its

principal concerns, having handled the nature of it at large elsewhere;

for it may he considered,--1st. As unto its foundation, spring, and

causes: and this is the universal renovation of our natures into the

image of God, Eph.4:24; or the change of our whole souls, in all their

faculties and powers, into his likeness, whereby we become new creatures,

or the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus unto good works, 2

Cor.5:17, Eph.2:10; wherein we are originally and formally sanctified

throughout, in our "whole spirit, and soul, and body," 1 Thess.5:23. It

is the whole law of God written in our hearts, transforming them into the

image of the divine holiness, represented therein. And this, next unto

the blood of Christ and his righteousness, is the principal spring of

peace, rest, and complacency, in and unto the souls of believers: it is

their joy and satisfaction to find themselves restored unto a likeness

and conformity unto God, as we shall see farther immediately. And where

there is not some gracious sense and experience hereof, there is nothing

but disorder and confusion in the soul; nothing can give it a sweet

composure, a satisfaction in itself, a complacency with what it is, but a

spiritual sense of this renovation of the image of God in it.

2dly. It may be considered as unto its permanent principle in the mind

and affections; and this, because of its near relation unto Christ, its

conjunction with him, and derivation from him, is sometimes said to be

Christ himself. Hence we live, yet not so much we as Christ lives in us,

Gal.2:20; for "without him we can do nothing," John 15:5; for "he is our

life," Col.3:4. As it resides in believers, it is a permanent principle

of spiritual life, light, love, and power, acting in the whole soul and

all the faculties of the mind, enabling them to cleave unto God with

purpose of heart, and to live unto him in all the acts and duties of

spiritual life: this is that whereby the Holy Ghost is "in them a well of

water, springing up into everlasting life," John 4:14. It is the spirit

that is born of the Spirit; it is the divine nature, whereof we are made

partakers by the promises; it is a principle of victorious faith and

love, with all graces any way requisite unto duties of holy obedience; as

to the matter or manner of their performance, enabling the soul unto all

the acts of the life of God, with delight, joy, and complacency.

This it is in its nature. However, as unto degrees of its operation and

manifestation, it may be very low and weak in some true believers, at

least for a season; but there are none who are really so, but there is in

them a spiritually vital principle of obedience, or of living unto God,

that is participant of the nature of that which we have described; and if

it be attended unto, it will evidence itself in its power and operations

unto the gracious refreshment and satisfaction of the soul wherein it is.

And there are few who are so destitute of those evidences but that they

are able to say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see, though I know not how

my eyes were opened; whereas I was dead, I find motions of a new life in

me, in breathing after grace, in hungering and thirsting after

righteousness, though I know not how I was quickened."

3dly. It may be considered as unto its disposition, inclinations, and

motions. These are the first acting of a vital principle; as the first

acting of sin are called "the motions of sin" working in our members,

Rom.7:5. Such motions and inclinations unto obedience do work in the

minds of believers, from this principle of holiness; it produces in them

a constant, invariable disposition unto all duties of the life of God. It

is a new nature, and a nature cannot be without suitable inclinations and

motions; and this new spiritual disposition consists in a constant

complacency of mind in that which is good and according to the will of

God, in an adherence by love unto it, in a readiness and fixedness of

mind with respect unto particular duties. In brief, it is that which

David describes in the 119th Psalm throughout, and that which is

figuratively foretold concerning the efficacy of the grace of the gospel

in changing the natures and dispositions of those that are partakers of

it, Isa.11:6-8.

This every believer may ordinarily find in himself; for although this

disposition may be variously weakened, opposed, interrupted by indwelling

sin, and the power of temptation; though it may be impaired by a neglect

of the stirring up and exercise of the principle of spiritual life, in

all requisite graces, on all occasions; yet it will still be working in

them, and will fill the mind with a constant displicency with itself,

when it is not observed, followed, improved. No believer shall ever have

peace in his own mind, who has not some experience of a universal

disposition unto all holiness and godliness in his mind and soul: herein

consists that love of the law, of which it is said those in whom it is

have "great peace, and nothing shall offend them," Ps.119:165; it is that

wherein their souls find much complacency.

4thly. It may be considered with respect unto all the acts, duties, and

works, internal and external, wherein our actual obedience does consist.

Being, on the principles mentioned, made free from sin, and becoming the

servants of God, believers herein have their "fruit unto holiness,"

whereof "the end is everlasting life," Rom.6:22. This I need not stay to

describe. Sincerity in every duty, and universality with respect unto all

duties, are the properties of it.

"This is the will of God, even your sanctification," 1 Thess.4:3; that

"holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord," Heb.12:14; "that

good, and acceptable, and perfect will of Cod" which we are to approve,


[2.] Our next inquiry is, what is that approbation of this way of

holiness which we place as an evidence of saving faith? And I say, it is

such as arises from experience, and is accompanied with choice, delight,

and acquiescence; it is the acting of the soul in a delightful adherence

unto the whole will of God; it is a resolved judgment of the beauty and

excellency of that holiness and obedience which the gospel reveals and

requires, and that on the grounds which shall be immediately declared,

and the nature thereof therein more fully opened.

This approbation cannot be in any unregenerate person, who is not under

the conduct of saving faith, who is destitute of the light of it. So the

apostle assures us, Rom.8:7, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for

it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Whatever

work it may have wrought in it, or upon it, yet, whilst it is carnal or

unrenewed, it has a radical enmity unto the law of God; which is the

frame of heart which stands in direct opposition unto this approbation.

It may think well of this or that duty, from its convictions and other

considerations, and so attend unto their performance; but the law itself,

in the universal holiness which it requires, it does utterly dislike:

those in whom it is are "alienated from the life of God through the

ignorance that is in them," Eph.4:18. This life of God is that holiness

and obedience which he requires of us in their principles and duties; and

to be alienated from it is to dislike and disapprove of it: and such is

the frame of mind in all unregenerate persons.

Having thus prepared the way, I return unto the declaration and

confirmation of the assertion, namely,--

Treat true and saving faith, in all storms and temptations, in all

darknesses and distresses, will evidence itself unto the comfort and

supportment of them in whom it is, by a constant, universal approbation

of the whole will of God, concerning our holiness and obedience, both in

general and in every particular instance of it.

We may a little explain it:--

1. Faith will not suffer the mind, on any occasion or temptation, to

entertain the least dislike of this way of holiness, or of any thing that

belongs unto it. The mind may sometimes, through temptations, fall under

apprehensions that one shall be eternally ruined for want of a due

compliance with it; this makes it displeased with itself, but not with

the obedience required. Rom.7:10,12, "The commandment, which was ordained

to life, I found to be unto death; but the law is holy, and the

commandment holy, and just, and good." "However it be with me, whatever

becomes of me, though I die and perish, yet the law is holy, just, and

good." It dislikes nothing in the will of God, though it cannot attain

unto a compliance with it. Sometimes the conscience is under perplexities

and rebukes for sin; sometimes the mind is burdened by the tergiversation

of the flesh unto duties that are cross unto its inclinations and

interests; sometimes the world threatens the utmost dangers unto the

performance of some duties of religion: but none of these are able to

provoke the soul that is under the conduct of faith to dislike, to think

hard of, any of those ways and duties whence these difficulties arise.


2. As it will not dislike any thing in this way of holiness, so it will

not desire on any occasion that there should be any alteration in it, or

any abatement of it, or of any thing required in it. Naaman the Syrian

liked well of the worship of the true God in general; but he would have

an abatement of duty as to one instance, in compliance with his earthly

interest, which discovered his hypocrisy. Such imaginations may befall

the minds of men, that if they might be excused, in this or that

instance, unto duties that are dangerous and troublesome (like profession

in the times of persecution), or might be indulged in this or that sin,

which either their inclinations are very prone unto, or their secular

interest do call for, they should do well enough with all other things.

Accordingly, the practice of many does answer their inclination and

desire. They will profess religion and obedience unto God, but will keep

back part of the price;--will hide a wedge in their tents, through

indulgence unto some corruption, or dislike of some duties in their

circumstances: they would give unto themselves the measure of their

obedience. And according as men's practice is, so do they desire that

things indeed should be, that that practice should please God which

pleased them. This faith abhors; the soul that is under the conduct of it

is not capable of any one desire that any thing were otherwise than it is

in the will of God concerning our holiness and obedience, no more than it

can desire that God should not be what he is. No; though any imagination

should arise in it, that by some change and abatement in some instances

it might be saved, which now is uncertain whether that be so or no, it

will admit of no such composition, but will choose to stand or fall unto

the entire will of God.

We shall therefore, in the next place, proceed to inquire on what

grounds it is that faith does thus approve of the whole will of God, as

unto our holiness and obedience; as also, how it evidences itself so to

do. And these grounds are two:--the one respecting God; the other, our

own souls.

First, Faith looks on the holiness required of us as that which is

suited unto the holiness of God himself,--as that which it is meet for

him to require, on the account of his own nature, and the infinite

perfections thereof. The rule is, "Be ye holy, for I the LORD your God am

holy;"--"I require that of you which becomes and answers my own holiness;

because I am holy, it is necessary that you should be so; if you are mine

in a peculiar manner, your holiness is that which becomes my holiness to


We have before declared what this gospel holiness is, wherein it does

consist, and what is required thereunto;--and they may be all considered

either as they are in us, inherent in us, and performed by us; or as they

are in themselves, in their own nature, and in the will of God. In the

first way, I acknowledge that, by reason of our weaknesses,

imperfections, and partial renovation only, as to degrees, in this life,

with our manifold defects and sins, they make not a clear representation

of the holiness of God; however, they are the best image of it, even as

in the meanest of believers, that this world can afford. But in

themselves, and their own nature, as it lies in the will of God, they

make up the most glorious representation of himself that God ever did or

will grant in this world; especially if we comprise therein the

exemplification of it in the human nature of Christ himself: for the

holiness that is in believers is of the same nature and kind with that

which was and is in Jesus Christ, though his exceed theirs inconceivably

in degrees of perfection.

Wherefore we are required to be holy, as the Lord our God is holy; and

perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect: which we could not be, but

that in our holiness and perfection there is a resemblance and

answerableness unto the holiness and perfection of God. And if a due

sense hereof were continually upon our hearts, it would influence us unto

greater care and diligence in all instances of duty and sin than, for the

most part, we do attain unto and preserve. If we did on all occasions

sincerely and severely call ourselves to an account whether our frames,

ways, and actions bear a due resemblance unto the holiness and

perfections of God, it would be a spiritual preservative on all


Faith, I say, then, discerns the likeness of God in this holiness, and

every part of it,--sees it as that which becomes him to require; and

thereon approves of it, reverencing God in it all: and it does so in all

the parts of it, in all that belongs unto it.

1. It does so principally in the inward form of it, which we before

described,--in the new creature, the new nature, the reparation of the

image of God that is in it: in the beauty hereof it continually beholds

the likeness and glory of God. For it is created "kata Theon",--according

unto God, after him, or in his image,--"in righteousness and true

holiness," Eph.4:24. "The new man is renewed after the image of him that

created him," Col.3:10.

When God first created all things, the heavens and the earth, with all

that is contained in them, he left such footsteps and impressions of his

infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, on them, that they might signify

and declare his perfection,--his eternal power and Godhead; yet did he

not, he is not said to have created them in his own image. And this was

because they were only a passive representation of him in the light of

others, and not in themselves; nor did they represent at all that wherein

God will be principally glorified among his creatures,--namely, the

universal rectitude of his nature in righteousness and holiness. But of

man it is said, peculiarly and only, that he was made in the image and

likeness of God: and this was because, in the rectitude of his nature, he

represented the holiness and righteousness of God; which is the only use

of an image. This was lost by sin. Man in his fallen condition does no

more represent God; there is nothing in him that has any thing of the

likeness or image of God in it; all is dead, dark, perverse, and

confused. This new nature, whereof we speak, is created of God for this

very end, that it may be a blessed image and representation of the

holiness and righteousness of God. Hence it is called the "divine

nature," whereof we are partakers, 2 Pet.1:4. And he that cannot see a

representation of God in it, has not the light of faith and life in him.

Hereon, I say, faith does approve of the form and principle of this

holiness, as the renovation of the image of God in us; it looks upon it

as that which becomes God to bestow and require, and therefore that which

has an incomparable excellency and desirableness in it. Yea, when the

soul is ready to faint under an apprehension that it is not partaker of

this holy nature, because of the power of sin in it and temptations on

it, it knows not whether itself be born of God or no (as is the case with

many);--yet where this faith is, it will discern the beauty and glory of

the new creation in some measure, as that which bears the image of God;

and thereon does it preserve in the soul a longing after it, or a farther

participation of it.

By this work or act of it does faith discover its sincerity; which is

that which we inquire after. Whilst it has an eye open to behold the

glory of God in the new creature, whilst it looks on it as that wherein

there is a representation made of the holiness of God himself, as that

which becomes him to require in us, and thereon approves of it as

excellent and desirable, it will be an anchor unto the soul in its

greatest storms; for this is a work beyond what a mere enlightened

conscience can arise unto. That can approve or disapprove of all the acts

and effects of obedience and disobedience, as unto their consequent; but

to discern the spiritual nature of the new creature, as representing the

holiness of God himself, and thereon constantly to approve of it, is the

work [of faith] alone.

2. It does the same with respect unto the internal acts and effects of

this new creature, or principle of new obedience. The first thing it

produces in us is a frame of mind spiritual and heavenly; they that are

after the Spirit are "spiritually-minded," Rom.8:5,6. It looks on the

opposite frame, namely, of being carnally-minded, as vile and loathsome;

it consisting in a readiness and disposition of mind to actuate the lusts

of the flesh. But this spiritual frame of mind, in a just constellation

of all the graces of the Spirit, influencing, disposing, and making ready

the soul for the exercise of them on all occasions, and in all duties of

obedience,--this is the inward glory of the "King's daughter," which

faith sees and approves of, as that which becomes God to require in us;

whatever is contrary hereunto, as a sensual, carnal, worldly frame of

mind, it looks on as vile and base, unworthy of God, or of those who

design the enjoyment of him.

3. It does the same with respect unto all particular duties, internal

and external, when they are enlivened and filled up with grace. In them

consists our "walking worthy at God," Col.1:10; 1 Thess.2:12, such a walk

as is meet for God to accept; that whereby and wherein he is glorified.

The contrary hereunto, in the neglect of the duties of holiness, or the

performance of them without the due exercise of grace, faith looks on as

unworthy of God, unworthy of our high and holy calling, unworthy of our

profession, and therefore does constantly condemn and abhor.

All this, as we observed before, faith will continue to do constantly,

under temptations and desertions. There are seasons wherein the soul may

be very weak, as unto the powers, effects, and duties of this spiritual

life; such the psalmist oftentimes complains of in his own case, and it

is evident in the experience of most. Few there are who have not found,

at one time or another, great weakness, decays, and much deadness in

their spiritual condition. And sometimes true believers may be at a loss

as unto any refreshing experience of it in its operations. They may not

be able to determine in the contest whether sin or grace have the

dominion in them. Yet even in all these seasons faith will keep up the

soul unto a constant high approbation of this way of holiness and

obedience, in its root and fruits, in its principle and effects, in its

nature, disposition, and duties. For when they cannot see the beauty of

these things in themselves, they can see it in the promises of the

covenant, in the truth of the gospel, wherein it is declared, and in the

effects of it in others.

And great advantage is to be obtained by the due exercise of faith

herein. For,--

(1.) It will never suffer the heart to be at rest in any sinful way, or

under any such spiritual decays as shall estrange it from the pursuit of

this holiness. The sight, the conviction of its excellency, the

approbation of it, as that which in us and our measure answers the

holiness of God, will keep up the mind unto endeavours after it, will

rebuke the soul in all its neglects of it; nor will it allow any quiet or

peace within, without an endeavour after a comfortable assurance of it.

That soul is desperately sick which has lost an abiding sense of the

excellency of this holiness, in its answerableness unto the holiness and

will of God. Fears and checks of conscience are the whole of its security

against the worst of sins; and they are a guard not to be trusted unto in

the room of the peace of God. This is one great difference between

believers and those that have not faith. Fear of the consequent of sin,

with an apprehension of some advantages which are to be obtained by a

sober life and the profession of religion, do steer and regulate the

minds of unbelievers, in all they do towards God or for eternity; but the

minds of believers are influenced by a view of the glory of the image and

likeness of God in that holiness, and all the parts of it, which they are

called unto. This gives them love unto it, delight and complacency in it,

enabling them to look upon it as its own reward. And without these

affections none will ever abide in the ways of obedience unto the end.

(2.) Where faith is in this exercise, it will evidence itself, unto the

relief of the soul, in all its darkness and temptations. The mind can

never conclude that it wholly is without God and his grace, whilst it

constantly approves of the holiness required of us. This is not of

ourselves; by nature we are ignorant of it. This "life is hid with Christ

in God," Col.3:3, where we can see nothing of it; hereon we are alienated

from it, and do dislike it: "Alienated from the life of God through the

ignorance that is in us," Eph.4:18. And most men live all their days in a

contempt of the principal evidences and duties of this life of God, and

of the principle of it, which they look on as a fable. Wherefore, the

mind may have great satisfaction in a sight of the beauty and approbation

of this holiness, as that which nothing can produce but sincere and

saving faith.

Secondly, Faith approves of this way of holiness and obedience, as that

which gives that rectitude and perfection unto our nature whereof it is

capable in this world. It is the only rule and measure of them; and

whatever is contrary thereunto is perverse, crooked, vile, and base. Some

men think that their nature is capable of no other perfection but what

consists in the satisfaction of their lusts; they know no other

blessedness, nothing that is suitable to their desires, but the saving of

nature, in the pursuit of its corrupt lusts and pleasures. So are they

described by the apostle, Eph.4:19. The business of their lives is to

make provision for the flesh, to fulfill it in the lusts thereof; they

walk in the lusts of the flesh, "fulfilling" (so far as they are able)

"the desires of the flesh and of the mind," Eph.2:3. They neither know

nor understand what a hell of confusion, disorder, and base degeneracy

from the original constitution, their minds are filled withal. This

perfection is nothing but the next disposition unto hell; and it does

manifest its own vileness unto every one who has the least ray of

spiritual light.

Some among the heathen placed the rectitude of nature in moral virtues

and operations, according unto them; and this was the utmost that natural

light could ever rise up unto: but the uncertainty and weakness hereof

are discovered by the light of the gospel.

It is faith alone that discovers what is good for us, in us, and unto

us, whilst we are in this world. It is in the renovation of the image of

God in us,--in the change and transformation of our nature into his

likeness,--in acting from a gracious principle of a divine life,-- in

duties and operations suited thereunto,--in the participation of the

divine nature by the promises,--that the good, the perfection, the order,

the present blessedness of our nature do consist.

Hereby are the faculties of our souls exalted, elevated, and enabled to

act primigenial powers, with respect unto God and our enjoyment of him;

which is our utmost end and blessedness. Hereby are our affections placed

on their proper objects (such as they were created meet for, and in

closing wherewith their satisfaction, order, and rest do consist),--

namely, God and his goodness, or God as revealed in Jesus Christ by the

gospel. Hereby all the powers of our souls are brought into a blessed

frame and harmony in all their operations,--whatever is dark, perverse,

unquiet, vile, and base, being cast out of them. But these things must be

a little more distinctly explained.

1. There is in this gospel holiness, as the spring and principle of it,

a spiritual, saving light, enabling the mind and understanding to know

God in Christ, and to discern spiritual things in a spiritual, saving

manner; for herein "God shines into our hearts, to give us the knowledge

of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor.4:6. Without this, in

some degree, whatever pretence there may be or appearance of holiness in

any, there is nothing in them of what is really so, and thereon accepted

with God. Blind devotion,--that is, an inclination of mind unto religious

duties, destitute of this light,--will put men on a multiplication of

duties, especially such as are of their own invention, in "a show of

wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body," as the

apostle speaks, Col.2:23; wherein there is nothing of gospel holiness.

"The new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that

created him," Col.3:10. That this saving light and knowledge is the

spring and principle of all real evangelical holiness and obedience, the

apostle declares in that description which he gives us of the whole of

it, both in its beginning and progress, Col.1:9-11, "We desire that ye

might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and

spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all

pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the

knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious

power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness." It is a

blessed account that is here given us of that gospel holiness which we

inquire after, in its nature, original, spring, progress, fruits, and

effects; and a serious consideration of it as here proposed,--a view of

it in the light of faith,--will evidence how distant and different it is

from those schemes of moral virtues which some would substitute in its

room. It has a glory in it which no unenlightened mind can behold or

comprehend; the foundation of it is laid in the knowledge of the will of

God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is that spiritual,

saving light whereof we speak; the increase hereof is prayed for in

believers by the apostle, Heb.1:17,18, even "that the God of our Lord

Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto you the spirit of

wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your

understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his

calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the

saints;" which here is called "increasing in the knowledge of God," verse

10. The singular glory of this saving light, in its original, its causes,

use, and effects, is most illustriously here declared: and this light is

in every true believer, and is the only immediate spring of all gospel

holiness and obedience; for "the new man is renewed in knowledge after

the image of him that created him," Col.3:10.

This light, this wisdom, this spiritual understanding, thus

communicated unto believers, is the rectitude and perfection of their

minds in this world. It is that which gives them order, and peace, and

power, enabling them to act all their faculties in a due manner, with

respect unto their being and end. It is that which gives beauty and glory

to the inward man, and which constitutes a believer an inhabitant of the

kingdom of light,--whereby we are "delivered from the power of darkness,

and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's love," Col.1:13; or

"out of darkness into his marvelous light," 1 Pet.2:9.

That which is contrary hereunto, is that ignorance, darkness,

blindness, and vanity, which the Scripture declares to be in the minds of

all unregenerate persons; and they are really so, where they are not

cured by the glorious working of the power and grace of God before


Now, faith discerns these things, as the spiritual man discerns all

things, 1 Cor.2:15. It sees the beauty of this heavenly light, and judges

that it is that which gives order and rectitude unto the mind; as also,

that that which is contrary unto it is vile, base, horrid, and to be

ashamed of. As for those who "love darkness more than light, because

their deeds are evil,"--it knows them to be strangers unto Christ and his


2. Again: there is required unto this holiness, a principle of

spiritual life and love unto God. This guides, acts, and rules in the

soul, in all its obedience; and it gives the soul its proper order in all

its operations: that which is contrary hereunto is death, and enmity

against God. Faith judges between these two principles and their

operations: the former in all its acting it approves of as lovely,

beautiful, desirable, as that which is the rectitude and perfection of

the will: and the other it looks on as deformed, froward, and perverse.

3. The like may be said of its nature and operations in the affections,

as also of all those duties of obedience which proceed from it, as it is

described in the place before mentioned.

It remains only that we show by what acts, ways, and means, faith does

evidence this its approbation of gospel holiness, as that which is lovely

and desirable in itself, and which gives all that rectitude and

perfection unto our minds which they are capable of in this world. And it

does so,--

1. By that self-displicency and abasement which it works in the mind on

all instances and occasions where it comes short of this holiness. This

is the chief principle and cause of that holy shame which befalls

believers on every sin and miscarriage, wherein they come short of what

is required in it: Rom.6:21, "Those things whereof ye are now ashamed."

Now when, by the light of faith, you see how vile it is, and unworthy of

you, what a debasement of your souls there is in it, you are ashamed of

it. It is true, the principal cause of this holy shame is a sense of the

unsuitableness that is in sin unto the holiness of God, and the horrible

ingratitude and disingenuity that there is in sinning against him; but it

is greatly promoted by this consideration, that it is a thing unworthy of

us, and that wherein our natures are exceedingly debased. So it is said

of provoking sinners, that they "debase themselves even unto hell,"

Isa.57:9; or make themselves as vile as hell itself, by ways unworthy the

nature of men. And this is one ground of all those severe self

reflections which accompany godly sorrow for sin, 2 Cor.7:11.

And hereby does faith evidence itself and its own sincerity, whilst a

man is ashamed of, and abased in, himself for every sin, for every thing

of sin, wherein it comes short of the holiness required of us, as that

which is base and unworthy of our nature, in its present constitution and

renovation; though it be that which no eye sees but God's and his own, he

has that in him which will grow on no root but sincere believing.

Wherefore, whatever may be the disquieting conflicts of sin in and

against our souls, whatever decays we may fall into,--which be the two

principles of darkness and fears in believers, whilst this inward holy

shame and self-abasement, on account of the vileness of sin, is

preserved, faith leaves not itself without an evidence in us.

2. It does the same by a spiritual satisfaction, which it gives the

soul in every experience of the transforming power of this holiness,

rendering it more and more like unto God. There is a secret joy and

spiritual refreshment rising in the soul from a sense of its renovation

into the image of God; and all the acting and increases of the life of

God in it augment this joy. Herein consists its gradual return unto its

primitive order and rectitude, with a blessed addition of supernatural

light and grace by Christ Jesus; it finds itself herein coming home to

God from its old apostasy, in the way of approaching to eternal rest and

blessedness: and there is no satisfaction like unto that which it

receives therein.

This is the second way wherein faith will abide firm and constant, and

does evidence itself in the soul of every believer. However low and mean

its attainments be in this spiritual life and the fruits of it, though it

be overwhelmed with darkness and a sense of the guilt of sin, though it

be surprised and perplexed with the deceit and violence thereof, yet

faith will continue here firm and unshaken. It sees that glory and

excellency in the holiness and obedience that God requires of us,--as it

is a representation of his own glorious excellencies, the renovation of

his image, and the perfection of our natures thereby,--as that it

constantly approves of it, even in the deepest trials which the soul can

be exercised withal; and whilst this anchor holds firm and stable we are



The third evidence of the faith of God's elect

Thirdly, Faith will evidence itself by a diligent, constant endeavour to

keep itself and all grace in due exercise in all ordinances of divine

worship, private and public.

This is the touchstone of faith and spiritual obedience, the most

intimate and difficult part of this exercise; where this is not, there is

no life in the soul. There are two things whereby men do or may deceive

themselves herein:--1. Abounding in the outward performance of duties or

a multiplication of them. Hereby hypocrites have in all ages deceived

themselves, Isa.58:2,3. And it was the covering that the church of Rome

provided for their apostasy from the gospel: an endless multiplication of

religious duties was that which they trusted to and boasted in. And we

may find those daily that pretend a conscience as unto the constant

observation of outward duties, and yet will abstain from no sin that

comes in the way of their lusts. And men may and do ofttimes abide

constantly in them, especially in their families and in public, yea,

multiply them beyond the ordinary measure, hoping to countenance

themselves in other lusts and neglects thereby. 2. Assistance of gifts in

the performance of them; but as this may be where there is not one dram

of grace, saving grace, so when rested in, it is a most powerful engine

to keep the soul in formality, to ruin all beginning of grace, and to

bring an incurable hardness on the whole soul.

Wherever faith is in sincerity, it will constantly labour, endeavour,

and strive to fill up all duties of divine worship with the living, real,

heart acting of grace; and where it does not so, where this is not

attained, it will never suffer the soul to take any rest or satisfaction

in such duties, but will cast them away as a defiled garment. He that can

pass through such duties without a sensible endeavour for the real

exercise of grace in them, and without self-abasement on the performance

of them, will hardly find any other clear evidence of saving faith in


There are three evils that have followed the ignorance, or neglect, or

weariness of this exercise of faith, which have proved the ruin of


1. This has been the occasion and original of all false worship in the

world, with the invention of those superstitious rites and ceremonies

wherein it consists. For men having lost the exercise of faith in the

ordinances of worship that are of divine institution, they found the

whole of it to be useless and burdensome unto them; for without this

constant exercise of faith there is no life in it, nor satisfaction to be

obtained by it. They must, therefore, have something in it, or

accompanying of it, which may entertain their minds, and engage their

affections unto it. If this had not been done, it would have been utterly

deserted by the most. Hereon were invented forms of prayer in great

diversity, with continual diversions and avocations of the mind from what

is proposed; because it cannot abide in the pursuit of any thing

spiritual without the exercise of faith. This gives it some entertainment

by the mere performance, and makes it think there is something where

indeed is nothing. Hereunto are added outward ceremonies of vestments,

postures, and gestures of veneration, unto the same end. There is no

other design in them all but to entertain the mind and affections with

some complacency and satisfaction in outward worship, upon the loss or

want of that exercise of faith which is the life and soul of it in

believers. And as any persons do decay herein, they shall find themselves

insensibly sinking down into the use of these lifeless forms, or that

exercise of their natural faculties and memory which is not one jot

better; yea, by this means, some, from an eminency in spiritual gifts,

and the performance of duties by virtue of them, have sunk into an Ave

Maria or a Credo, as the best of their devotion.

2. This has caused many to turn aside, to fall off from and forsake the

solemn ordinances of divine worship, and to retake themselves unto vain

imaginations for relief, in trembling, enthusiastical singing and feigned

raptures; from hence have so many forsaken their own mercies to follow

after lying vanities. They kept for a while unto the observance of the

divine institutions of worship; but not having faith to exercise in them,

by which alone they are life and power, they became useless and

burdensome unto them: they could find neither sweetness, satisfaction,

nor benefit in them. It is not possible that so many in our days, if ever

they had tasted of the old wine, should so go after new;--if ever they

had experience of that savour, power, and life, which is in the

ordinances of divine worship, when acted and enlivened by the exercise of

faith, should forsake them for that which is nothing: "They went out from

us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have

continued with us." "Had they known it, they would not have crucified the

Lord of glory." This, therefore, is the true reason why so many in our

days, after they have for a season abode under, and in the observation

of, the gospel ordinances of worship, have fallen off from them, namely,

not having faith to exercise in them, nor endeavouring after it, they did

really find no life in them, nor benefit by them.

3. Some, on the same ground, fall into profaneness, pretending to take

up with a natural religion, without any instituted worship at all. Of

this sort of persons we have multitudes in the days wherein we live;

having nothing of the light of faith, they can see no form or comeliness

in Christ, nor in any thing that belongs unto him. By these means are

souls every day precipitated into ruin.

Herein, therefore, I say, true faith will evidence itself in all

darknesses and distress whatsoever: it will always endeavour to keep

itself, and all other graces, in a due and constant exercise in all

duties of worship, private and public. It may sometimes be weakened in

its acting and operations, it may be under decays, it may be as a sleep,

and that not only as unto particular duties and seasons, but as unto the

inward habitual frame of the mind; but where it is true and genuine, it

will shake itself out of this dust, cast off the sin that does so easily

beset us, and stir up itself, with all might and contention, unto its

duty. And there is no more dangerous state for a soul than when it is

sinking down into formality, and neglect of the exercise of faith, in a

multitude of duties; then is it assuredly ready to die, if it be not dead


If we are wise, therefore, we will watch, and take care that we lose

not this evidence of faith; it will stand us instead when, it may be, all

other things seem to be against us. Some have been relieved by the

remembrance of this exercise of faith, when they have been at the door of

desperation:--such or such a season they had experience of the work of

faith in prayer, has been their relief. An experience hereof is a jewel,

which may be of no great use whilst it lies by you locked up in a

cabinet, but which you will know the worth of if ever you come to need

bread for your lives.

It is, therefore, worthwhile to inquire what we ought to do, or what

means we ought to use, that we may keep up faith unto its due exercise in

all the parts of divine worship, so as that it may give us a comforting

evidence of itself in times of temptation and darkness? And unto this end

the ensuing directions may be of use:--

1. Labour to have your hearts always affected with a due sense of the

infinite perfections of the divine nature in all our approaches unto him,

especially of his sovereign power, holiness, immensity, and omnipresence;

and this will produce in us also a sense of infinite distance from him.

As this is necessary, from the nature of the things themselves, so the

Scripture gives us such descriptions of God as are suited to in generate

this frame in us. This is that which Joshua aimed to bring the people

unto, when he designed to engage them in the service of God in a due

manner, Josh.24:19-22; and that which the apostle requires in us,

Heb.12:28,29. And unto the same end glorious descriptions and appearances

of God are multiplied in Scripture. If we fail herein, if we do not on

all occasions fill our minds with reverential thoughts of God, his

greatness and his holiness, faith has no foundation to stand upon in its

exercise in the duties of worship. This is the only inlet into the due

exercise of grace: where it is wanting, all holy thoughts and affections

are shut out of our minds; and where it is present, it is impossible but

that there will be some gracious working of heart in all our duties. If

we are empty hereof in our entrance of duties, we shall be sure to be

filled with other things, which will be clogs and hindrances unto us; but

reverential thoughts of God, in our approaches unto him, will cast out

all superfluity of naughtiness, and dissipate all carnal, formal frames,

which will vitiate all our duties. Keep your hearts, therefore, under

this charge in all your accesses unto God, and it will constantly open a

door unto that exercise of faith which we inquire after.

Hereon and herewith we shall be affected with a sense of our infinite

distance from him; which is another means to stir up faith unto its due

exercise in reverence and godly fear. So Abraham was affected, Gen.18:27.

[This is that] which the wise man directs us unto, Eccles.5:2.

Carnal boldness in the want of these things ruins the souls of men,

rendering all their duties of worship unacceptable unto God, and

unprofitable unto themselves.

2. Affect your hearts with a due sense of the unsuitableness of our

best duties unto his holiness and majesty, and of his infinite

condescension in the acceptance of them. Suppose there is in any of our

duties the best and the most lively exercise of grace that we can attain

unto, the most fervency in prayer, with the most diligent attendance of

our minds the most humility and contrite trembling in hearing the word,

the most devout affection of our minds in other parts of worship; alas!

what is all this to God? How little does it answer his infinite holiness!

See Job 4:18,19; 15:15,16. Our goodness extends not unto him, Ps.16:2.

There are no measures, there is no proportion, between the holiness of

God and our best duties. There is iniquity in our holy things; they have

need of mercy and pardon, of cleansing and justification, by the blood of

Christ, no less than our persons: and an infinite condescension it is in

God to take any notice of us or them; yea, it is that which we must live

in all holy admiration of all our days.

Now if it be thus with our best duties, in our best frames, what an

outrage of sloth and negligence is it, if we bring the carcass of duties

unto God, for want of stirring up faith unto its due exercise in them!

How great is this folly, how unspeakable is the guilt of this negligence!

Let us, therefore, keep a sense hereof upon our hearts, that we may

always stir up ourselves unto our best in duties of religious worship.


3. A negligence herein, or the want of stirring up faith unto a due

exercise in all duties of worship, is the highest affront we can put upon

God, arguing a great regardlessness of him. Whilst it is so with us, we

have not, we cannot have, a due sense of any of the divine perfections,

of the divine nature; we turn God what lies in us into an idol, supposing

that he may be put off with the outside and appearance of things. This

the apostle cautions us against, Heb.4:12,13, and [is that] which God

detests, Isa.29:13; and he pronounces him a deceiver, and cursed, who

offers unto him the lame and blind while he has a male in the flock,

Mal.1:14. Yet thus is it with us, in some degree, whenever we are

negligent in stirring up faith into its proper exercise in holy duties:

that alone renders them the male of the flock; without it they are lame

and blind,--a corrupt thing.

It is a sad thing for men to lose their duties, to be at charge and

trouble in the multiplication of them, and attendance unto them to no

purpose. Oh, how much more sad is it when they are all provocations of

God's glory! when they tend to increase the formality and hardness of

their hearts, towards the ruin of their souls!

"Stand in awe," therefore, "and sin not; commune with your own hearts;"

cease not, until on all occasions you bring them into that exercise of

faith wherein you may glorify God as God, and not deal with him as an


4. Unto the same end, keep your souls always deeply affected with a

sense of the things about which you are to treat with God in all the

duties of his worship. They are referred unto two heads:-- (1.) Those

which concern his glory; (2.) Those which concern our own souls. Without

a constant due sense of these things on our hearts, faith will not act

itself aright in any of our duties. Without this intimate concern and

deep sense, we know not whether we need faith in our prayers, or have an

exercise of it; formality will drown all. The best of our prayers is but

an expression unto God of what sense we have of these things. If we have

none, we pray not at all, whatever we say or do; but when these things

dwell in our minds, when we think on them continually, when our hearts

cleave unto them, faith will be at work in all our approaches to God. Can

you not pray? Charge your hearts with these things, and you will learn so

to do.

5. Watch diligently against those things which ye find by experience

are apt to obstruct your fervency in duties. Such are indispositions

through the flesh, or weariness of the flesh, distracting, foolish

imaginations, the occasions of life revolving in our minds, and the like.

If such impediments as these be not removed, if they be not watched

against, they will influence the mind, and suffocate the exercise of

faith therein.

6. Above all, the principal rule herein is, that we would always

carefully remember the concernment of Christ in these duties, with

respect unto his office. He is the high priest over the house of God;

through him, and under his conduct, are we always to draw nigh to God;

and his work it is to present the prayers and supplications of the church

to God. Now, we have no way to come unto Christ, for his assistance in

the discharge of his office on our behalf, but by faith; and in all our

duties of holy worship we make a profession of our doing so,--of our

coming unto God by him as our high priest. If we endeavour not therein to

have faith in exercise, how do we mock, or make a show to him of doing

that which indeed we endeavour not to do! There can be no greater

contempt of Christ in his office, nor greater undervaluation of his love.

But a due consideration hereof, namely, of the concernment of Christ in

all our duties, with respect unto the office which he discharges for us

in heaven,--is that which directly leads faith into its proper exercise.

For through him, and that in discharge of his office, we believe in God.

And when the mind is exercised with due thoughts of him, if there be any

thing of true saving faith in the heart, it will act itself unto a

blessed experience.

These things may be of use to stir us up, and guide us unto that

exercise of faith in all holy duties, an experience whereof abiding in

the soul will evidence the truth of it, unto our supportment and comfort

in all temptations and distresses.

Some, it may be, will say that their gift in prayer is mean and weak,--

that they cannot express themselves with earnestness and fervency; and so

know not whether there be any faith in exercise in their prayers or no. I

answer, There is nothing at all herein; for grace may be very high where

gifts are very low, and that frequently.

And it may be others will complain of the meanness of their gifts on

whom they attend in prayer, which is such as they cannot accompany them

in the exercise of any grace. I answer,--1. There is no doubt but that

there is a great difference in the spiritual gifts of men in this matter,

some being much more effectual unto edification than others. 2. Take care

that you are called in providence and duty to join with them whom you

intend; that you do not first voluntarily choose that which is unto your

disadvantage, and then complain of it. 3. Be their gifts never so mean,

if grace in their own hearts be exercised by it, so it may be in ours:

where there is no evidence thereof, I confess the case is hard. 4. Let

the mind be still fixed on the matter or things uttered in prayer, so as

to close with, and act faith about, what is real object of it, and it

will find its proper work in that duty.


The fourth evidence of the faith of God's elect

I come, in the next place, to instance in a peculiar way whereby true

faith will evidence itself,--not always, but on some occasions: and this

is by bringing the soul into a state of repentance. And three things must

be spoken unto,--1. In general, what I intend by this state of

repentance. 2. What are the times and occasions, or who are the persons,

wherein faith will act itself unto this end. 3. What are the duties

required unto such a state.

1. By this state of repentance I do not understand merely the grace and

duty of evangelical repentance; for this is absolutely inseparable from

true faith, and no less necessary unto salvation than itself. He that

does not truly and really repent of sin, whatever he profess himself to

believe, he is no true believer. But I intend now somewhat that is

peculiar, that is not common unto all, whereby on some occasions faith

does evidence its power and sincerity.

Neither yet do I mean a grace, duty, or state, that is of another kind

or nature from that of gospel repentance, which is common to all

believers. There are not two kinds of true repentance, nor two different

states of them that are truly penitent; all that I intend is an eminent

degree of gospel repentance, in the habit or root, and in all the fruits

and effects of it. There are various degrees in the power and exercise of

gospel graces, and some may be more eminent in one, and some in another:

as Abraham and Peter in faith, David and John in love. And there may be

causes and occasions for the greater and higher exercise of some graces

and duties at one time than at another; for we are to attend unto duties

according unto our circumstances, so as we may glorify God in them, and

advantage our own souls. So the apostle James directs us, chap.5:13, "Is

any afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms." Several

states, and various circumstances in them, call for the peculiar exercise

of several graces, and the diligent performance of several duties. And

this is that which is here intended,--namely, a peculiar, constant,

prevalent exercise of the grace and duties of repentance in a singular

manner. What is required hereunto shall be afterwards declared.

2. As unto the persons in whom this is required, and in whom faith will

evidence itself by it, they are of various sorts:--

(1.) Such as have been, by the power of their corruptions and

temptations, surprised into great sins. That some true believers may be

so, we have precedents both in the Old Testament and in the New;-- such,

I mean, as uncleanness, drunkenness, gluttony, theft, premeditated lying,

oppression in dealing, and failing in profession in the time of

persecution; this latter in the primitive church was never thought

recoverable but by faith acting itself in a state of repentance. Such

sins will have great sorrows; as we see in Peter, and the incestuous

Corinthian, who was in danger to be "swallowed up with overmuch sorrow,"

2 Cor.2:7. Where it has been thus with any, true faith will immediately

work for a recovery, by a thorough humiliation and repentance, as it did

in Peter; and in case that any of them shall lie longer under the power

of sin, through want of effectual convictions, it will cost them dear in

the issue, as it did David. But in this case, for the most part, faith

will not rest in the mere jointing again the bone that was broken, or

with such a recovery as gives them peace with God and their own

consciences; but by a just and due remembrance of the nature of their

sin, its circumstances and aggravations, the shameful unkindness towards

God that was in it, the grief of the Holy Spirit, and dishonour of Christ

by it, it will incline and dispose the soul to a humble, contrite frame,

to a mournful walking, and the universal exercise of repentance all its


And, indeed, where it does not so, men's recovery from great sins is

justly to be questioned as unto their sincerity. For want hereof it is

that we have so many palliated cures of great sins, followed with fearful

and dangerous relapses. If a man subject to great corruptions and

temptations, has by them been surprised into great actual sins, and been

seemingly recovered through humiliation and repentance, if he again break

the yoke of this stated repentance whereof we speak, he will quickly

again be overcome, and perhaps irrecoverably. Herein, he alone that walks

softly, walks safely.

(2.) It is necessary for such as have given scandal and offense by

their miscarriages; this will stick very close unto any who has the least

spark of saving faith. It is that which God is in a peculiar manner

provoked with in the sins of his people; as in the case of David, 2

Sam.12:14. So also Ezek.36:20; Rom.2:24. This keeps alive the remembrance

of sin, and sets it before men continually, and is a spring, in a

gracious soul, of all acts and duties of repentance. It was so in David

all his days; and probably in Mary Magdalene also. Where it has been thus

with any, faith will keep the soul in an humble and contrite frame,

watchful against pride, elation of mind, carelessness, and sloth: it will

recover godly sorrow and shame, with revenge, or self-reflection, in

great abasement of mind; all which things belong to the state of

repentance intended. They that can easily shake off a sense of scandal

given by them, have very little of Christian ingenuity in their minds.

(3.) It is so unto such as have perplexing lusts and corruptions, which

they cannot so subdue but that they will be perplexing and defiling of

them; for where there are such, they will, in conjunction with

temptations, frequently disquiet, wound, and defile the soul. This brings

upon it weariness and outcries for deliverance, Rom.7:24. In this state

faith will put the soul on prayer, watchfulness, diligence, in opposition

unto the deceit and violence of sin. But this is not all; it will not

rest here, but it will give the mind such a sense of its distressed,

dangerous condition, as shall fill it constantly with godly sorrow,

self-abasement, and all duties of repentance. No man can hold out in such

a conflict, nor maintain his peace on right grounds, who does not live in

the constant exercise of repentance,--indeed, who does not endeavour in

some measure to come up unto that state of it which we shall afterwards

describe. For men who have unnameable corruptions working continually in

their minds, by imaginations, thoughts, and affections, to think to carry

it in a general way of duties and profession, they will be mistaken if

they look either for victory or peace; this sort of men are, of all

others, most peculiarly called unto this stats and duty.

(4.) Such as would be found mourners for the sins of the age, place,

and time wherein they live, with the consequent of them, in the dishonour

of God, and the judgments which will ensue thereon. There are times

wherein this is an especial and eminent duty, which God does highly

approve of. Such are they wherein the visible church is greatly

corrupted, and open abominations are found amongst men of all sorts; even

as it is at this day. Then does the Lord declare how much he values the

performance of this duty,--as he testifies, Ezek.9:4, they alone shall be

under his especial care in a day of public distress and calamity,--a duty

wherein it is to be feared that we are most of us very defective. Now,

the frame of heart required hereunto cannot be attained, nor the duty

rightly performed, without that state of repentance and humiliation which

we inquire into. Without it we may have transient thoughts of these

things, but such as will very little affect our minds; but where the soul

is kept in a constant spiritual frame, it will be ready for this duty on

all occasions.

(5.) It becomes them who, having passed through the greatest part of

their lives, do find all outward things to issue in vanity and vexation

of spirit, as it was with Solomon when he wrote his Ecclesiastes. When a

man recounts the various scenes and appearances of things which he has

passed through in his life, and the various conditions he has been in, he

may possibly find that there is nothing steady but sorrow and trouble. It

may be so with some, I say, with some good men, with some of the best

men, as it was with Jacob. Others may have received more satisfaction in

their course; but if they also will look back, they shall find how little

there has been in the best of their transient comforts; they will see

enough to make them say, "There is nothing in these things; it is high

time to take off all expectations from them." Such persons seem to be

called unto this especial exercise of repentance and mourning for the

remainder of their lives.

(6.) Such as whose hearts are really wounded and deeply affected with

the love of Christ, so as that they can hardly bear any longer absence

from him, nor delight in the things wherein they are detained and kept

out of his presence. This frame the apostle describes, 2 Cor.5:2,4,6,8.

They live in a groaning condition, thoroughly sensible of all the evils

that accompany them in this absence of the Bridegroom; and they cannot

but continually reflect upon the sins and follies which their lives have

been and are filled withal, in this their distance from Christ. Whereas,

therefore, their hearts are filled with inflamed affections towards him,

they cannot but walk humbly and mournfully until they come unto him. It

may be said that those who have experience of such affection unto the

Lord Jesus cannot but have continual matter of joy in themselves; and so

of all men have least need of such a state of constant humiliation and

repentance. I say it is so indeed, they have such matter of joy; and

therewith Christ will be formed in them more and more every day. But I

say also, there is no inconsistency between spiritual joy in Christ and

godly sorrow for sin; yea, no man in this life shall ever be able to

maintain solid joy in his heart, without the continual working of godly

sorrow also; yea, there is a secret joy and refreshment in godly sorrow,

equal unto the chiefest of our joys, and a great spiritual satisfaction.

These several sorts of persons, I say, are peculiarly called unto that

exercise of faith in repentance which we inquire after.

Before I proceed to show wherein this state I intend does consist, and

what is required thereunto (which is the last thing proposed), I shall

premise some rules for the right judging of ourselves with respect unto

them. As,--

1. Faith will evidence its truth (which is that we inquire after) in

its sincere endeavour after the things intended, though its attainments

as unto some of them be but mean and low; yea, a sense of its coming

short in a full answering of them or compliance with them, is a great

ingredient in that state called unto. If, therefore, faith keep up this

design in the soul, with a sincere pursuit of it, though it fail in many

things, and is not sensible of any great progress it makes, it will

therein evidence its sincerity.

2. Whereas there are sundry things, as we shall see, required hereunto,

it is not necessary that they should be found all equally in all who

design this state and frame. Some may be more eminent in one of them,

some in another; some may have great helps and furtherance unto some of

them in a peculiar manner, and some great obstructions in the exercise of

some of them. But it is required that they be all radically in the heart,

and be put forth in exercise sometimes, on their proper occasions.

3. This state, in the description of it, will sufficiently distinguish

itself from that discontent of mind whereon some withdraw themselves from

the occasions of life, rather condemning others than themselves, on mere

weariness of the disappointments of the world, which has cast some into

crooked paths.

1. The first thing required hereunto is weanedness from the world. The

rule of most men is, that all things are well enough with them, with

respect unto the world, whilst they keep themselves from known particular

sins in the use of the things of it. Whilst they do so in their own

apprehensions, they care not how much they cleave unto it,--are even

swallowed up in the businesses and occasions of it. Yea, some will

pretend unto and make an appearance of a course of life more than

ordinarily strict, whilst their hearts and affections cleave visibly to

this world and the things of it. But the foundation of the work of faith

we inquire into must be laid in mortification and weanedness from the


In ancient times, sundry persons designed a strict course of

mortification and penitence, and they always laid the foundation of it in

a renunciation of the world; but they fell most of them into a threefold

mistake, which ruined the whole undertaking. For,--

(1.) They fell into a neglect of such natural and moral duties as were

indispensably required of them: they forsook all care of duties belonging

unto them in their relations as fathers, children, husbands, wives, and

the like, retaking themselves into solitudes; and hereby also they lost

all that political and Christian usefulness which the principles of human

society and of our religion do oblige us unto. They took themselves unto

a course of life rendering the most important Christian duties, such as

respect other men of all sorts, in all fruits of love, utterly impossible

unto them. They could be no more useful nor helpful in the places and

circumstances wherein they were set by divine Providence: which was a way

wherein they could not expect any blessing from God. No such thing is

required unto that renunciation of the world which we design; with

nothing that should render men useless unto all men do Christian duties

interfere. We are still to use the world whilst we are in it, but not

abuse it; as we have opportunity, we must still do good unto all. Yea,

none will be so ready to the duties of life as those who are most

mortified to the world. Thoughts of retirement from usefulness, unless

[under] a great decay of outward strength, are but temptations.

(2.) They engaged themselves into a number of observances nowhere

required of them: such were their outward austerities, fastings, choice

of meats, times of prayer; whereunto, at length, self-maceration and

disciplines were added. In a scrupulous, superstitious observance of

these things their whole design at length issued, giving rise and

occasion unto innumerable evils. Faith directs to no such thing; it

guides to no duty but according to the rule of the word.

(3.) At length they began to engage themselves by vow into such

peculiar orders and rules of a pretended religious life as were by some

of their leaders presented unto them; and this ruined the whole.

However, the original design was good,--namely, such a renunciation of

the world as might keep it and all the things of it from being a

hindrance unto us in an humble walk before God, or any thing that belongs

thereunto. We are to be crucified unto the world, and the world unto us,

by the cross of Christ; we are to be so in a peculiar manner, if we are

under the conduct of faith, in a way of humiliation and repentance. And

the things ensuing are required hereunto:--

(1.) The mortification of our affections unto the desirable things of

this life: they are naturally keen and sharp-set upon them, and do

tenaciously adhere unto them; especially they are so when things have an

inlet into them by nearness of relation, as husbands, wives, children,

and the like. Persons are apt to think they can never love them enough,

never do enough for them (and it is granted they are to be preferred

above all other earthly things); but where they fill and possess the

heart, where they weaken and obtund the affections unto things spiritual,

heavenly, and eternal, unless we are mortified unto them, the heart will

never be in a good frame, nor is capable of that degree in the grace of

repentance which we seek. It is so with the most, as unto all other

useful things in this world,--as wealth, estates, and peace: whilst they

are conversant about them, as they suppose in a lawful manner, they think

they can never overvalue them, nor cleave too close unto them.

But here we must begin, if we intend to take any one step into this

holy retirement. The edge of our affections and desires must be taken off

from these things: and hereunto three things are necessary:--

[1.] A constant, clear view and judgment of their uncertainty,

emptiness, and disability to give any rest or satisfaction. Uncertain

riches, uncertain enjoyments, perishing things, passing away, yea,

snares, burdens, hindrances, the Scripture represents them to be;--and so

they are. If the mind were continually charged home with this

consideration of them, it would daily abate its delight and satisfaction

in them.

[2.] A constant endeavour for conformity unto Christ crucified. It is

the cross of Christ whereby we are crucified unto the world and all

things in it. When the mind is much taken up with thoughts of Christ, as

dying, how and for what he died, if it has any spark of saving faith in

it, it will turn away the eyes from looking on the desirable things of

this world with any delightful, friendly aspect. Things will appear unto

it as dead and discoloured.

[3.] The fixing of them steadily on things spiritual and eternal;

whereof I have discoursed at large elsewhere. The whole of this advice is

given us by the apostle, Col.3:1-5.

Herein faith begins its work, this is the first lesson it takes out of

the gospel,--namely, that of self-denial, whereof this mortification is a

principal part. Herein it labours to cast off every burden, and the sin

that does so easily beset us. Unless some good degree be attained here,

all farther attempts in this great duty will be fruitless. Do you, then,

any of you, judge yourselves under any of those qualifications before

mentioned, which render this duty and work of faith necessary unto you?

Sit down here at the threshold, and reckon with yourselves that unless

you can take your hearts more off from the world,--unless your affections

and desires be mortified and crucified, and dead in you, in a sensible

degree and measure,--unless you endeavour every day to promote the same

frame in your minds,-- you will live and die strangers to this duty.

(2.) This mortification of our affections towards these things, our

love, desire, and delight, will produce a moderation of passions about

them, as fear, anger, sorrow, and the like; such will men be stirred up

unto in those changes, losses, crosses, which these things are subject

unto. They are apt to be tender and soft in those things; they take every

thing to heart; every affliction and disappointment is aggravated, as if

none almost had such things befall them as themselves; every thing puts

them into a commotion. Hence are they often surprised with anger about

trifles, influenced by fear in all changes, with other turbulent

passions. Hence are men morose, peevish, froward, apt to be displeased

and take offense on all occasions. The subduing of this frame, the

casting out of these dispositions and perverse inclinations, is part of

the work of faith. When the mind is weaned from the world and the things

of it, it will be sedate, quiet, composed, not easily moved with the

occurrences and occasions of life: it is dead unto them, and in a great

measure unconcerned in them. This is that "moderation" of mind wherein

the apostle would have us excel, Phil.4:5; for he would have it so

eminent as that it might appear unto "all men," that is, who are

concerned in us, as relations, families, and other societies. This is

that which principally renders us useful and exemplary in this world; and

for the want whereof many professors fill themselves and others with

disquietments, and give offense unto the world itself. This is required

of all believers; but they will be eminent in it in whom faith works this

weanedness from the world, in order unto a peculiar exercise of


(3.) There is required hereunto an unsolicitousness about present

affairs and future events. There is nothing given us in more strict

charge in the Scripture, than that we should be careful in nothing,

solicitous about nothing, take no thought for tomorrow, but to commit all

things unto the sovereign disposal of our God and Father, who has taken

all these things into his own care. But so it is come to pass, through

the vanity of the minds of men, that what should be nothing unto them is

almost their all. Care about things present, and solicitousness about

things to come, in private and public concerns, take up most of their

thoughts and contrivances. But this also will faith subdue on this

occasion, where it tends unto the promotion of repentance, by weanedness

from the world. It will bring the soul into a constant, steady, universal

resignation of itself unto the pleasure of God, and satisfaction in his

will. Hereon it will use the world as if it used it not, with an absolute

unconcernment in it as unto what shall fall out. This is that which our

Saviour presses so at large, and with so many divine seasonings,


(4.) A constant preference of the duties of religion before and above

the duties and occasions of life. These things will continually interfere

if a diligent watch be not kept over them, and they will contend for

preference; and their success is according to the in interest and

estimation which the things themselves have in our minds. If the interest

of the world be there prevalent, the occasions of it will be preferred

before religious duties; and they shall, for the most part, be put off

unto such seasons wherein we have nothing else to do, and it may be fit

for little else. But where the interest of spiritual things prevail it

will be otherwise, according to the rule given us by our blessed Saviour,

"Seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof," etc.,


I confess this rule is not absolute as unto all seasons and occasions:

there may be a time wherein the observation of the Sabbath must give

place to the pulling an ox or an ass out of a pit; and on all such

occasions the rule is, that mercy is to be preferred before sacrifice.

But, in the ordinary course of our walking before God, faith will take

care that a due attendance unto all duties of religion be preferred to

all the occasions of this life; they shall not be shuffled off on

trifling pretences, nor cast into such unseasonable seasons as otherwise

they will be. There also belongs unto that weanedness from this world,

which is necessary unto an eminency in degrees of humiliation and

repentance, watching unto prayer.

(5.) Willingness and readiness to part with all for Christ and the

gospel. This is the animating principle of the great duty of taking up

the cross, and self-denial therein. Without some measure of it in

sincerity, we cannot be Christ's disciples; but in the present case there

is an eminent degree, which Christ calls the hating of all things in

comparison of him, that is required,--such a readiness as rejects with

contempt all arguing against it,--such as renders the world no burden

unto it in any part of our race,--such as establishes a determinate

resolution in the mind, that as God calls, the world and all the

concernments of it should be forsaken for Christ and the gospel. Our

countenances and discourses in difficulties do not argue that this

resolution is prevalent in us; but so it is required in that work of

faith which we are in the consideration of.

2. A second thing that belongs hereunto is a peculiar remembrance of

sin, and converse about it in our minds, with self-displicency and

abhorrence. God has promised in his covenant that he "will remember our

sins no more," that is, to punish them; but it does not thence follow

that we should no more remember them, to be humbled for them. Repentance

respects sin always; wherever, therefore, that is, there will be a

continual calling sin to remembrance. Says the psalmist, "My sin is ever

before me."

There is a threefold calling our past sins unto remembrance:--

(1.) With delight and contentment. Thus is it with profligate sinners,

whose bodies are grown unserviceable unto their youthful lusts. They call

over their former sins, roll them over in their minds, express their

delight in them by their words, and have no greater trouble but that, for

the want of strength or opportunity, they cannot still live in the

practice of them: this is to be old in wickedness, and to have their

bones filled with the sins of their youth. So do many in this age delight

in filthy communication, unclean society, and all incentives of lust,--a

fearful sign of being given over unto a reprobate mind, a heart that

cannot repent.

(2.) There is a remembrance of sin unto disquietment, terror, and

despair. Where men's consciences are not seared with a hot iron, sin will

visit their minds ever and anon with a troublesome remembrance of itself,

with its aggravating circumstances. For the most part men hide themselves

from this visitor,--they are not at home, not at leisure to converse with

it, but shift it off, like insolvent debtors, from day to day, with a few

transient thoughts and words. But sometimes it will not be so put off,--

it will come with an arrest or a warrant from the law of God, that shall

make them stand and give an account of themselves. Hereon they are filled

with disquietments, and some with horror and despair; which they seek to

pacify and divert themselves from by farther emerging [immersing?]

themselves in the pursuit of their lusts. The case of Cain,


(3.) There is a calling former sins to remembrance as a furtherance of

repentance; and so they are a threefold glass unto the souls wherein it

has a treble object:--

[1.] It sees in them the depravation of its nature, the evil quality of

that root which has brought forth such fruit; and they see in it their

own folly, how they were cheated by sin and Satan; they see the

unthankfulness and unkindness towards God wherewith they were

accompanied. This fills them with holy shame, Rom.6:21. This is useful

and necessary unto repentance. Perhaps if men did more call over their

former sins and miscarriages than they do, they would walk more humbly

and warily than they do for the most part. So David in his age prays for

a renewed sense of the pardon of the sins of his youth, Ps.25:7.

[2.] The soul sees in them a representation of the grace, patience, and

pardoning mercy of God. "Thus and thus was it with me: God might justly

have cast me off for ever; he might have cut me off in the midst of these

sins, so as that I should have had no leisure to have cried for mercy;

and perhaps some of them were sins long continued in. 0 the infinite

patience of God, that spared me! The infinite grace and mercy of God,

that forgave unto me these provoking iniquities!" This frame is

expressed, Ps.103:3,4.

[3.] The soul sees herein the efficacy of the mediation and blood of

Christ, 1 John 2:2. "Whence is it that I have deliverance from the guilt

of these sins that way was made for the advancing of grace in the pardon

of them? Whence is it that my soul and conscience are purged from the

stain and filth of them?" Here the whole glory of the love and grace of

Christ in his mediation, with the worth of the atonement that he made,

and the ransom that he paid, with the efficacy of his blood to purge us

from all our sins, is represented unto the mind of the believer. So "out

of the eater comes forth meat;" and thereby a reconciliation is made

between the deepest humiliation and a refreshing sense of the love of God

and peace with him.

This, therefore, a soul which is engaged into the paths of repentance

will constantly apply itself unto; and it is faith alone whereunto we are

beholding for the views of these things in sin. In no other light will

they be seen therein. Their aspect in any other is horrid and terrifying,

suited only to fill the soul with dread and horror, and thoughts of

fleeing from God. But this view of them is suited to stir up all graces

unto a holy exercise.

3. Hereon godly sorrow will ensue: this, indeed, is the very life and

soul of repentance; so the apostle declares it, 2 Cor.7:9-11. And it

comprises all that is spoken in the Scripture about a broken heart and a

contrite spirit, which expresses itself by sighs, tears, mourning, yea,

watering our beds with tears, and the like. David gives so great an

instance in himself hereof, and that so frequently repeated, as that we

need no other exemplification of it. I shall not at large insist upon it,

but only show,--(1.) What it does respect; and, (2.) Wherein it does

consist,--how faith works it in the soul.

(1.) What it does respect; and it has a twofold object:--

[1.] Such past sins as, by reason of their own nature or their

aggravations, have left the greatest impression on the conscience. It

respects, indeed, in general, all past and known sins that can be called

to remembrance; but usually, in the course of men's lives, there have

been some sins whose wounds, on various accounts, have been most deep and

sensible: these are the especial objects of this godly sorrow. So was it

with David; in the whole course of his life, after his great fall, he

still bewailed his miscarriage therein; the like respect he had unto the

other sins of his youth. And none have been so preserved but they may fix

on some such provocation as may be a just cause of this sorrow all their


[2.] It respects the daily incursions of infirmities, in failings,

negligence in our frames or actions,--such as the best are subject to.

These are a matter of continual sorrow and mourning to a gracious soul

that is engaged in this duty and way of repentance.

(2.) Wherein it does consist; and the things following do concur


[1.] Self judging. This is the ground and spring of all godly sorrow,

and thereon of repentance, turning away the displeasure of God, 1

Cor.11:31. This the soul does continually with reference unto the sins

mentioned; it passes sentence on itself every day. This cannot be done

without grief and sorrow; for although the soul finds it a necessary

duty, and is thereon well pleased with it, yet all such self-reflections

are like afflictions, not joyous, but grievous.

[2.] The immediate effect hereof is constant humiliation. He that so

judges himself knows what frame of mind and spirit becomes him thereon.

This takes away the ground from all pride, elation of mind,

self-pleasing: where this self judging is constant they can have no

place. This is that frame of mind which God approves so highly, and has

made such promises unto; the humble are everywhere proposed as the

especial object of his own care; his respect is to them that are of a

broken heart, and of a contrite spirit: and this will grow on no other

root. No man, by his utmost diligence, on any argument or consideration,

shall be able to bring himself into that humble frame wherein God is

delighted, unless he lay the foundation of it in continual self-judging

on the account of former and present sins. Men may put on a fashion,

frame, and garb of humility; but really humble they are not. Where this

is wanting, pride is in the throne, in the heart, though humility be in

the countenance and deportment. And herein does this godly sorrow much


[3.] There is in it a real trouble and disquietment of mind: for sorrow

is an afflictive passion; it is contrary to that composure which the mind

would constantly be at. Howbeit, this trouble is not such as is opposed

unto spiritual peace and refreshment; for it is an effect of faith, and

faith will produce nothing that is really inconsistent with peace with

God, or that shall impeach it: but it is opposite unto other comforts. It

is a trouble that all earthly things cannot take off and remove. This

trouble of his mind, in his sorrow for sin, David on all occasions

expresses unto God; and sometimes it rises to a great and dreadful

height, as it is expressed, Ps.88 throughout. Hereby the soul is

sometimes overwhelmed; yet so as to relieve itself by pouring out its

complaint before the Lord, Ps.102:1.

[4.] This inward frame of trouble, mourning, and contriteness, will

express itself on all just occasions by the outward signs of sighs,

tears, and mournful complaints, Ps.31:10. So David continually mentions

his tears on the like account; and Peter, on the review of his sin, wept

bitterly; and Mary washed the feet of Christ with her tears;--as we

should all do. A soul filled with sorrow will run over and express its

inward frame by these outward signs. I speak not of those self-whole,

jolly professors which these days abound with; but such as faith engages

in this duty will on all occasions abound in these things. I fear there

is amongst us too great a pretence that men's natural tempers and

constitutions are uncompliant with these things. Where God makes the

heart soft, and godly sorrow does not only sometimes visit it, but dwell

in it, it will not be wholly wanting in these expressions of it; and what

it comes short of one way it may make up in another. Whatever the case be

as to tears, it is certain that to multiply sighs and groans for sin is

contrary to no man's constitution, but only to sin ingrafted in his


[5.] This godly sorrow will constantly incite the mind unto all duties,

acts, and fruits of repentance whatever; it is never barren nor

heartless, but being both a grace and a duty, it will stir up the soul

unto the exercise of all graces, and the performance of all duties that

are of the same kind. This the apostle declares fully, 2 Cor.7:11.

This, therefore, is another thing which belongs unto that state of

repentance which faith will bring the soul unto, and whereby it will

evidence itself on the occasions before mentioned; and indeed, if this

sorrow be constant and operative, there is no clearer evidence in us of

saving faith. They are blessed who thus mourn. I had almost said, it is

worth all other evidences, as that without which they are none at all;

where this frame is not in some good measure, the soul can have no

pregnant evidence of its good estate.

4. Another thing that belongs to this state, is outward observances

becoming it; such as abstinence, unto the due mortification of the

flesh,--not in such things or ways as are hurtful unto nature, and really

obstructive of greater duties. There have been great mistakes in this

matter; most men have fallen into extremes about it, as is usual with the

most in like cases. They did retain in the Papacy, from the beginning of

the apostasy of the church from the rule of the Scripture, an opinion of

the necessity of mortification unto a penitent state; but they mistook

the nature of it, and placed it for the most part in that which the

apostle calls the "doctrine of devils," when he foretold believers of

that hypocritical apostasy, 1 Tim.4:1-3. Forbidding to marry, engaging

one sort of men by vows against the use of that ordinance of God for all

men, and enjoining abstinence from meats in various laws and rules, under

pretence of great austerity, was the substance of their mortification.

Hereunto they added habits, fasting disciplines, rough garments, and the

like pretended self-macerations innumerable. But the vanity of this

hypocrisy has been long since detected. But therewithal most men are

fallen into the other extreme. Men do generally judge that they are at

their full liberty in and for the use of the things esteemed refreshments

of nature; yea, they judge themselves not to be obliged unto any

retrenchment in garments, diet, with the free use of all things in

themselves lawful, when they are under the greatest necessity of godly

sorrow and express repentance. But there is here a no less pernicious

mistake than in the former excess; and it is that which our Lord Jesus

Christ gives us in charge to watch against, Luke 21:34-36.

This, therefore, I say, is required unto the state we inquire after:

Those things which restrain the satisfaction of the appetite, with an

aversation of the joyous enticements of the world, walking heavily and

mournfully, expressing an humble and afflicted frame of spirit, are

necessary in such a season. The mourners in Zion are not to be ashamed of

their lot and state, but to profess it in all suitable outward

demonstration of it;--not in fantastical habits and gestures, like sundry

orders of the monks; not in affected forms of speech, and uncouth

deportments, like some among ourselves; but in such ways as naturally

express the inward frame of mind inquired after.

5. There is required hereunto a firm watch over solitudes and

retirements of the night and day, with a continual readiness to conflict

temptations in their first appearance, that the soul be not surprised by

them. The great design, in the exercise of this grace, is to keep and

preserve the soul constantly in an humble and contrite frame; if that be

lost at any time, the whole design is for that season disappointed.

Wherefore, faith engages the mind to watch against two things:--(1.) The

times wherein we may lose this frame; (2.) The means whereby. And,--

(1.) For the times. There are none to be so diligently watched over as

our solitudes and retirements by night or by day. What we are in them,

that we are indeed, and no more. They are either the best or the worst of

our times, wherein the principle that is predominant in us will show and

act itself. Hence some are said "to devise evil on their beds, and when

the morning is light they practice it," Mic.2:1. Their solitude in the

night serves them to think on, contrive, and delight in, all that

iniquity which they intend by day to practice, according to their power.

And on the other side, the work of a gracious soul in such seasons is to

be seeking after Christ, Cant.3:1,--to be meditating of God, as the

psalmist often expresses it. This, therefore, the humble soul is

diligently watchful in, that at such seasons vain imaginations, which are

apt to obtrude themselves on the mind, do not carry it away, and cause it

to lose its frame, though but for a season; yea, these are the times

which it principally lays hold on for its improvement: then does it call

over all those considerations of sin and grace, which are meet to affect

it and abase it.

(2.) For the means of the loss of an humble frame. They are

temptations; these labour to possess the mind either by sudden surprisals

or continued solicitations. A soul engaged by faith in this duty is aware

always of their deceit and violence; it knows that if they enter into it,

and do entangle it, though but for a season, they will quite cast out or

deface that humble, contrite, broken frame, which it is its duty to

preserve. And there is none who has the least grain of spiritual wisdom,

but may understand of what sort these temptations are which he is

obnoxious unto. Here, then, faith sets the soul on its watch and guard

continually, and makes it ready to combat every temptation on its first

appearance, for then it is weakest and most easily to be subdued; it will

suffer them to get neither time, nor ground, nor strength: so it

preserves an humble frame,--delivers it frequently from the jaws of this


6. Although the soul finds satisfaction in this condition, though it be

never sinfully weary of it, nor impatient under it, yea, though it labour

to grow and thrive in the spirit and power of it, yet it is constantly

accompanied with deep sighs and greenings for its deliverance. And these

greenings respect both what it would be delivered from and what it would

attain unto; between which there is an interposition of some sighs and

groans of nature, for a continuance in its present state.

(1.) That which this groaning respects deliverance from is the

remaining power of sin; this is that which gives the soul its distress

and disquietment. Occasionally, indeed, its humility, mourning, and

self-abasement are increased by it; but this is through the efficacy of

the grace of Christ Jesus,--in its own nature it tends to hurt and ruin.

This the apostle emphatically expresses in his own person, as bearing the

place and state of other believers, Rom.7:24.

And this constant groaning for deliverance from the power of sin

excites the soul to pursue it unto its destruction. No effect of faith,

such as this is, is heartless or fruitless; it will be operative towards

what it aims at,--and that in this case is the not-being of sin: this the

soul groans after, and therefore contends for. This is the work of faith,

and "faith without works is dead:" wherefore it will continually pursue

sin unto all its retirements and reserves. As it can have no rest from

it, so it will give neither rest nor peace unto it; yea, a constant

design after the not-being of sin, is a blessed evidence of a saving


(2.) That which it looks after is the full enjoyment of glory,

Rom.8:23. This, indeed, is the grace and duty of all believers, of all

who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit; they all in their

measure groan that their very bodies may be delivered from being the

subject and seat of sin,--that they may be redeemed out of that bondage.

It is a bondage to the very body of a believer, to be instrumental unto

sin. This we long for its perfect deliverance from, which shall complete

the grace of adoption in the whole person. But it is most eminent in

those who excel in a state of humiliation and repentance. They, if any,

groan earnestly,--this they sigh, breathe, and pant after continually;

and their views of the glory that shall be revealed give them refreshment

in their deepest sorrows; they wait for the Lord herein more than they

that wait for the morning. Do not blame a truly penitent soul if he longs

to be dissolved; the greatness and excellency of the change which he

shall have thereby is his present life and relief.

(3.) But there is a weight on this desire, by the interposition of

nature for the continuation of its present being, which is inseparable

from it. But faith makes a reconciliation of these repugnant

inclinations, keeping the soul from weariness and impatience. And this it

does by reducing the mind unto its proper rock: it lets it know that it

ought not absolutely to be under the conduct of either of these desires.

First, it keeps them from excess, by teaching the soul to regulate them

both by the word of God: this it makes the rule of such desires and

inclinations; which whilst they are regulated by, we shall not offend in

them. And it mixes a grace with them both that makes them useful,--

namely, constant submission to the will of God. "This grace would have,

and this nature would have; but," says the soul, "the will and sovereign

pleasure of God is my rule: 'Not my will, holy Father, but thy will be

done.'" We have the example of Christ himself in this matter.

7. The last thing I shall mention, as that which completes the state

described, is abounding in contemplations of things heavenly, invisible,

and sternal. None have more holy and humble thoughts than truly penitent

souls, none more high and heavenly contemplations. You would take them to

be all sighs, all mourning, all dejection of spirit; but none are more

above,--none more near the high and lofty One. As he dwells with them,

Isa.57:15, so they dwell with him in a peculiar manner, by these heavenly

contemplations. Those who have lowest thoughts of themselves, and are

most filled with self-abasement, have the clearest views of divine glory.

The bottom of a pit or well gives the best prospect of the heavenly

luminaries; and the soul in its deepest humiliations has for the most

part the clearest views of things within the vail.