A serious discourse concerning a well-grounded assurance of men's everlasting happiness and blessedness. Discovering the nature of assurance, the possibility of attaining it, the causes, springs, and degrees of it; with the resolution of several weighty questions.
"The greatest thing that we can desire, next to the glory of God, is our own salvation; and the sweetest thing we can desire, is the assurance of our salvation. In this life we cannot get higher, than to be assured of that which in the next life is to be enjoyed. All saints shall enjoy a heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy a heaven while they are here on earth. That saints might enjoy two heavens, is the project of this book." Joseph Caryl.
"That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding." Col 2:2.
To the Generals of the Fleets of the Commonwealth,
The better anything is, the more communicative it will. There are two sorts of goods; there are goods of the throne, as God, Christ, grace, assurance, etc.; and goods of the footstool, as honor, riches, etc. A man may have enough of the goods of the footstool to sink him, but he can never have enough to satisfy him. Man's happiness and blessedness, his felicity and glory, lies in his possessing the goods of the throne, which that you may, I humbly desire you seriously to view over the ensuing treatise.
It was an excellent saying of Lewis, emperor of Germany, 'Such goods are worth getting and owning, as will not sink nor wash away, if a shipwreck happens; but will wade and swim out with us.' Such are the goods that are here presented in this following discourse. In all storms, tempests, and shipwrecks, they will abide with the soul, they will walk and lie down with the soul, yes, they will go to the grave, to heaven, with the soul: they will in the greatest storms be an ark to the soul.
I have observed in some terrible storms that I have been in, that the mariners' and the passengers' want of assurance, and of those other pearls of price that in this treatise are presented to public view, has caused their countenance to change, their hearts to melt; it has made them to "stagger and reel to and fro like drunken men, like men at their wits' ends," Psalm 76:5; whereas others who have had assurance, and their pardon in their bosoms, etc., have born up bravely, and slept quietly, and walked cheerfully, and practically have said, as Alexander once did, when he was in a great danger, "Now," says he, "here is a danger fit for the spirit of Alexander to encounter with." So they now, here are storms and dangers fit for assured, pardoned souls to encounter with, etc.
Gentlemen, This following discourse I do not present to you as a thing which needs your protection, for truth stands in the open fields, and it will make the lovers of it to stand, triumph, and overcome. Great is truth, and shall prevail. But, upon these following grounds, I render it to you:
First, You have honored the Almighty, by helping him against the high and mighty; and he has honored you, by owning of you, by standing by you, by acting for you, and by making of you prosperous and victorious over a near enemy, a powerful enemy, an enraged enemy, a resolved enemy, a subtle enemy, a prepared enemy, a lofty enemy; and therefore I cannot but desire to honor you by dedicating the following treatise to the service of your souls, 1 Sam 2:30, "I will honor those who honor Me, but those who despise Me will be disgraced."
Secondly, Because you are my friends, and that cordial love and friendship which I have found from you has stamped in my affections a very high valuation of you.
The ancients painted friendship as a fair young man, in a poor garment. His bosom was open, so that his heart might be seen, whereupon was written 'a friend at hand and afar off.' Verily, your undeserved love and respects have made me willing to open my bosom to you in this epistle, and in the following treatise, as to friends that I love and honor. Faithful friends are an invaluable treasure, and the rarity of them does much enhance their worth.
Thirdly, Because of its exceeding usefulness and suitableness to your conditions. I have been some years at sea, and through grace I can say, that I would not exchange my seexperiences for England's riches. I am not altogether ignorant of the troubles, trials, temptations, dangers, and deaths that do attend you. And therefore I have been the more stirred in my spirit to present the following discourse to you, wherein is discovered the nature of assurance, the possibility of attaining assurance, the causes, springs, degrees, excellencies, and properties of assurance; also the special seasons and times of God's giving assurance, with the resolutions of several weighty questions touching assurance. Further, in this treatise, as in a glass, you may see these ten special things clearly and fully opened and manifested.
1. What knowledge that is, which accompanies salvation.
2. What faith that is, which accompanies salvation.
3. What repentance that is, which accompanies salvation.
4. What obedience that is, which accompanies salvation.
5. What love that is, which accompanies salvation.
6. What prayer that is, which accompanies salvation.
7. What perseverance that is, which accompanies salvation.
8. What hope that is, which accompanies salvation.
9. The difference there is between true assurance, and that which is counterfeit.
10. The wide difference there is between the witness of the Spirit, and the hissing of the old serpent.
Gentlemen and Friends, You have your lives in your hands, there is but a short step between you and eternity. I would gladly have you all happy forever; to that purpose, I humbly beseech you, spare so much time, from your many great and weighty occasions, as to read this treatise, that in all humility I lay at your feet, and follow this counsel that in all love and faithfulness I shall now give unto you. For my design in all is your happiness here, and your blessedness hereafter.
First, Get and keep communion with God. Your strength to stand, and your strength to withstand all assaults, is from your communion with God. Communion with God is that which will make you stand fast, and triumph over all enemies, difficulties, dangers, and deaths. Communion with God will make a man as courageous and bold as a lion, yes, as a young lion which is in his hot blood, and fearless of any creature, Prov 28:1. Now the proverb is, It is more likely that deer will get victory with a lion as their leader; than lions with a leading deer. Joshua, captain of the Lord's battles, must be of a lion-like courage, and what will make them so, but communion with God? It was the saying of the old Earl of Essex, that he was never afraid to fight, except when he was conscious of some sin with which he had provoked God and lost communion with God.
While Samson kept his communion with God, no enemy could stand before him, he goes on conquering and to conquer, he lays heaps upon heaps; but when he has fallen in his communion with God, he falls presently, easily, and sadly before his enemies.
So long as David kept up his communion with God, no enemies could stand before him; but when he was fallen in his communion with God, he flies before the son of his affections.
Job keeps up his communion with God, and conquers Satan upon the ash-heap.
Adam loses his communion with God, and falls before Satan in paradise. Communion is the result of union.
Communion is a reciprocal exchange between Christ and a gracious soul. Communion is Jacob's ladder, where you have Christ sweetly descending down into the soul, and the soul by divine influences sweetly ascending up to Christ. Communion with God is a shield upon land, and an anchor at sea; it is a sword to defend you, and a staff to support you; it is balm to heal you, and a cordial to strengthen you. High communion with Christ will yield you two heavens, a heaven upon earth, and a heaven after death.
He enjoys nothing, who lacks communion with God; he lacks nothing, who enjoys communion with God; therefore above all gettings, get communion with Christ, and above all keepings, keep communion with Christ. All other losses are not comparable to the loss of communion with Christ. He who has lost his communion, has lost his comfort, his strength, his all, and it will not be long before the Philistines take him, and put out his eyes, and bind him with fetters of brass, and make him grind in a prison, as they did Samson, Judg 16:20-21.
Secondly, Make a speedy and a thorough improvement of all opportunities of grace and mercy. Sleep not in harvest-time; do not trifle away your golden seasons; you have much work to do in a short time. You have a God to honor, a Christ to rest on, a race to run, a crown to win, a hell to escape, a heaven to obtain. You have weak graces to strengthen, strong corruptions to weaken; you have many temptations to withstand, and afflictions to bear; you have many mercies to improve, and many services to perform, etc. Therefore take hold on all opportunities and advantages, whereby you may be strengthened and bettered in your noble part. Take heed of crying, 'Tomorrow, tomorrow!' when God says: "Today, if you will hear my voice, harden not your hearts," Heb 3:7-8.
Manna must be gathered in the morning, and the orient pearl is generated of the morning dew. It is a very sad thing for a man to begin to die before he begins to live. He who neglects a golden opportunity, does but create to himself a great deal of misery, as Saul, and many others, have found by sad experience. He who would to the purpose do a good action, must not neglect his season.
The men of Issachar were famous in David's account for wisdom, because they acted seasonably and opportunely, 1 Chron 12:32. God will repute and write that man a wise man, who knows and observes his seasons of doing. Such there have been, who by giving a glass of water opportunely, have obtained a kingdom, as you may see in the story of Thaumastus and king Agrippa.
'Time,' says Bernard, 'would be a precious commodity in hell, and the use of it most gainful; where for one day a man would give ten thousand worlds if he had them.'
One passing through the streets of Rome, and seeing many of the women playing and delighting themselves with monkeys and baboons, and such like trivial things, asked "whether they had no children to play and delight themselves with?" So when men trifle away their precious time, and golden opportunities, playing and toying with this vanity and that vanity, we may ask whether these men have no God, no Christ, no Scripture, no promises, no blessed experiences, no hopes of heavenly glories, to enjoy and take delight in? Certainly, we should not reckon any time into the account of our lives, but that which we carefully pass, and well spend.
I have read of one Barlaam, who, being asked how old he was, answered, Forty-five years old; to whom Josaphah replied, "You seem to be seventy." "True," says he, "if you reckon ever since I was born; but I count not those years that were spent in vanity."
Most men spend the greatest part of their time on things that are that are of little or no value; as Domitian, the Roman emperor, spent his time in catching of flies; and Artaxerxes spent his time in making handles for knives; and Archimedes spent his time in drawing lines on the ground when that famous city Syracuse was taken; and Myrmecides spent more time to construct a bee than some men do to build a house.
Sirs, I beseech you remember that it was Cato, a heathen, who said "that account must be given not only of our labor, but also of our leisure." And in affirming this, he affirms no more than what the Scripture speaks. But oh what a sad account, then, have some to make! Well, as Cleopatra said to Mark Antony, "It is not for you to be fishing for gudgeons; but for towns, forts, and castles;" so say I, 'beloved, it is not for you to spend your time about poor, low, contemptible things, but about those high and noble things that make most for the interest of Christ.' Chilo, one of the seven sages, being asked what was the hardest thing in the world to be done, answered, 'To use and employ a man's time well.'
It was Titus, a pagan emperor, who uttered this memorable and praiseworthy apophthegm, 'My friends, I have lost a day!' when he had spent it in company, without doing good.
The Egyptians drew the picture of time with three heads, to represent the three differences. The first of a greedy wolf, gaping for time past, because it has ravenously devoured even the memory of so many things past recalling; the second of a crowned lion, roaring for time present, because it has the principality of all action, for which it calls aloud. The third of a deceitful dog, fawning for time to come, because it feeds fond men with many flattering hopes, to their own undoing.
I have read of a man who upon his dying bed would have given a world for time, he still crying out day and night, "Call time again, call time again." So Queen Elizabeth on her deathbed cried out, "Time, time, a world of wealth for an inch of time."
One Hermanus, a great courtier in the kingdom of Bohemia, being at point of death, did most lamentably cry out "that he had spent more time in the palace than in the temple, and that he had added to the riotousness and vices of the court, which he should have sought to have reformed," and so died, to the horror of those who were about him.
I have been the longer upon this, because I have been a sad spectator of men's misspending their time and trifling away golden opportunities; and though I thus speak, yet "imitation hope better things of you," to whom I dedicate it, "even such as do accompany salvation," Heb 6:9.
Thirdly, Take no truths upon trust, but all upon trial. 1 John 4:1, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." This age is very full of impostors; therefore test the spirits, as jewelers do their stones, or as goldsmiths do their metals. An imitation stone may look as well as a genuine diamond, and many things glisten besides gold.
It was the glorious commendations of the Bereans, "that they searched the Scriptures daily," whether those things that Paul and Silas had delivered "were so;" and this act of theirs made them "more noble than those of Thessalonica," Acts 17:10-11. Christian nobility is the best and truest, where God himself is the top concern, and religion the root; in regard whereof all other things are but shadows and shapes of nobleness.
A father who had three sons was desirous to test their discernment, which he did by giving to each of them an apple that had some part of it rotten. The first eats up his, rotten and all; the second throws all his away, because some part of it was rotten; the third picks out the rotten, and eats that which was good. The third was the wisest. Some in these days swallow down everything, rotten and sound together; others throw away all truth, because everything that is presented to them is not truth; but surely they are the wisest that know how to choose the good and refuse the evil, Isa 7:15.
Fourthly, Be exemplary to those among whom you live, and over whom you command. A good leader makes a good follower. Precepts may instruct, but examples persuade. Truly, your examples will have a very great influence upon those who are under you. It is natural to inferiors to mind more what their superiors do, than what they say; therefore you had need be angelical in your walkings and actings. You are lights upon a hill, and therefore every eye will be upon you. Those who can find no ears to hear what you say, will find many eyes to see what you do.
Scripture and experience do abundantly evidence that good men's examples have done a world of good in the world, and truly the evil examples of great men especially are very dangerous. The errors and evils of great men bring with them great perturbations and evils to the places and persons where they live. Oh therefore, be exemplary both in lip and life, in word and work, that others "seeing your good works, may glorify your Father who is in heaven," Matt 5:16. Oh see that your lives be a commentary upon Christ's life. Talk not of a good life, but let your life speak, said the philosopher.
Alexander willed that the Grecians and the Barbarians should no longer be distinguished by their garments, but by their manners; so should Christians be distinguished from all others, by their lives and by their examples; 2 Sam 23:3, "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of the Lord." An excellent master is always better than an excellent law. Let your laws be ever so good, if the lawmakers are bad, all will come to nothing.
The people's eyes are much upon that Scripture, "Have any of the rulers believed on him?" John 7:48, etc. Abraham was an example of righteousness in Chaldea, Lot was just in Sodom, Daniel was an example of holiness in Babylon, Job was an example of uprightness in the land of Uz, which was a land of much profaneness and superstition, Nehemiah was an example of zeal in Damascus, and Moses was an example of meekness among the muttering and murmuring Israelites. Above all examples, Christ was exemplary in all piety and sanctity, in all righteousness and holiness, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. And why then should not you be exemplary among those poor creatures, among whom you live?
It was a good law that the Ephesians made, that men should propound to themselves the best patterns, and ever bear in mind some eminent man. The Arabians, if their king be sick or lame, they all feign themselves so.
It was the saying of Trajanus, a Spaniard, the first stranger that reigned among the Italians, 'subjects prove good, by a good king's example.' So do soldiers, so do sailors, by the good examples of their superior commanders. Such commanders as are examples of righteousness and holiness to others, are certainly high in worth, and humble in heart; they are the glory of Christ, and the honor of the Christian religion.
Fifthly, As you are in public places, so lay out yourselves impartially for the common good of all who have interest in you, or dependence upon you. So did Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel, but above all, Christ himself. You are more for the people's sake, than the people are for yours. Magistrates are rulers over the people, but they are servants to the good of the people; as it is the duty of all to serve them, so it is their office to serve all. It is no paradox to affirm, that rulers are the greatest servants. The ancients were accustomed to place their statues of their princes by their fountains, intimating that they were, or at least should be, fountains of the public good.
The Counselor says, "That a man in public place should give his will to God, his love to his master, his heart to his country, his secrets to his friends, his time to business." It is a base and unworthy spirit, for a man to make himself the center of all his actions. The very heathen man could say, "A man's country, and his friends, and others, deserve a great part of him." The sun, which is the prince of lights, does impartially serve all, the peasant as well as the prince, the poor as well as the rich, the weak as well as the strong; you must be like the sun. The Sun of righteousness was of a brave public spirit: he healed others, but was hurt himself; he filled others, but was hungry himself; he laid out himself, and he laid down himself for a public good. "That navigator dies nobly," says Seneca, "who perishes in the storm with the helm in his hand." It is really your praise among the saints, that you have ventured killing, burning, drowning, and all to save the ship of the commonwealth from sinking.
Sirs! Be not weary of public work. It is honor enough that God will make any use of you to carry on his design in the world. He is a faithful paymaster; heaven at last will make amends for all. "You shall reap, if you faint not," Gal 6:9. I do truly believe, God will make use of you to do greater things on the sea, than yet have been done. The Lord has now begun to set a foot upon the sea; let his enemies tremble. God will not allow his glory to be buried in the deeps. He is shaking the nations, and will not leave shaking them, until He who is the desire of all nations come. The Lord has said, "That he will overturn, overturn, overturn, until he comes, whose right it is to wear the crown, and the diadem, and he will give it him," Ezek 21:25-27. Until then, there will be little else, but plucking up and breaking down, Jer 45:4. Therefore be courageous, and follow the Lamb wherever he goes. You need fear no enemies, who have Christ the conqueror on your sides.
Sixthly, and lastly, Make it more and more your chief work to make plentiful provisions for the eternal welfare of your souls. Your souls are more worth than ten thousand worlds. All is well, if your soul is well; if that be safe, all is safe; if that is lost, all is lost, God, Christ, and glory is lost, if the soul is lost. Though others play the courtiers with their souls, yet do not you. The courtier does all things late: he rises late, and dines late, and sups late, and repents late.
Sirs! Is it madness to feast the slave, and starve the wife? and is it not greater madness to feast the body and starve the soul? to make liberal provision for the body, and none for the soul? Do not they deserve double damnation, who prefer their bodies above their souls? Methinks our souls should be like to a ship, which is made little and narrow downwards, but more wide and broad upwards. Before all, and above all, look to your souls, watch your souls, make provision for your souls. When this is done, all is done; until this is done, there is nothing done which will yield a man comfort in life, joy in death, and boldness before the judgment.
Callenuceus tells us of a nobleman of Naples, that was accustomed profanely to say, "he had two souls in his body, one for God, and another for whoever would buy it." Truly, they will make but a bad bargain, that, to gain the world, shall sell their souls.
Dear sirs, I had much more to say, but I am afraid that I have already kept you too long from sucking of the honeycomb, from drinking at the fountain. I have held you too long in the porch; and therefore I shall only ask that you will bear with my plainness, and overlook my weakness; remembering that other addresses would savor more of flattery than of sincerity, more of policy than of piety, and would be both unkind in me, and displeasing to you.
Now the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and yours with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and make you yet more and more instrumental for his glory, and this nation's good, that your names may be forever precious among his people, that they may bear you still upon their hearts before the Lord. This is the earnest and constant prayer of him who is,
Yours in all Christian service,
EPISTLE TO THE SAINTS
To all saints who hold to Christ the head, and who walk according to the laws of the new creature; grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied from God the Father, though our Lord Jesus Christ.
Beloved in our dearest Lord,
You are those worthies "of whom this world is not worthy," Heb 11:38. You are the princes "who prevail with God," Gen 32:28. You are those "excellent ones" in whom is all Christ's delight, Psalm 16:3. You are his glory. You are his picked, culled, prime instruments which he will make use of, to carry on his best and greatest work against his worst and greatest enemies in these latter days. You are "a seal" upon Christ's heart, you are "engraved on the palms of his hand;" your names are written upon his heart, as the names of the children of Israel were upon Aaron's breastplate; you are the "epistle of Christ;" you are the "anointed" of Christ; you have "the spirit of discerning;" you have "the mind of Christ." [Isa 4:5; Rev 17:14, and Rev 19:8,14; Song 8:6; Isa 49:16; Exod 28:29; 2 Cor 2:8; 1 John 2:27; 1 Cor 1:10,12,15-16]
You have the greatest advantages and the choicest privileges to enable you to try truth, to taste truth, to apply truth, to defend truth, to strengthen truth, to uphold truth, and to improve truth. And therefore to whom should I dedicate this following discourse, but to yourselves? You have the next place to Christ in my heart; your good, your gain, your glory, your edification, your satisfaction, your confirmation, your consolation, your salvation, has put me upon casting in my little, little mite into your treasure.
Beloved, you know that in the time of the law, God did as kindly accept of goats' hair and badgers' skins, of turtledoves and young pigeons, they being the best things that some of his children had then to offer, as he did accept of gold, jewels, silk, and purple from others. I hope you will show out the same God-like disposition towards me, in a kind accepting of what is offered in this treatise to your wise and serious consideration. I could wish it better for your sakes, yet such as it is, I do in all love and humility present you with, desiring the Lord to make it an internal and eternal advantage to you.
I shall briefly acquaint you with the REASONS which have moved poor me, unworthy I,, who am the least of all saints, who am not worthy to be reckoned among the saints, to present this following discourse to public view; and they are these that follow:
First, To answer the desires, and gratify the earnest and pious requests of several precious souls, who long to have these things printed upon their hearts, by the hand of the Spirit, which are printed in this book. God speaks aloud through the serious and affectionate desires of the saints; and this has made me willing to answer their desires. If great men's desires are to be looked upon as commands, why should good men's desires be looked upon with a squint eye? Seneca, a heathen, could say 'that the very looks of a good man delight me.' How much more then should the desires and requests of a good man overcome me?
Secondly, The good acceptance which my labors of the like nature have found among those who fear the Lord, especially that treatise called "Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices," has encouraged me to present this to public view, not doubting but that the Lord will bless it to the good of many, as I know he has done the former. Which that he may, I shall not cease to pray, that my weak service may be accepted of the saints, and that their "love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment," Phil 1:9-11. That they may approve things that are excellent; that they may be sincere, and without offence until the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Thirdly, It is exceeding useful to the saints at all times, but especially in such changing times, in times wherein everyone calls out, "Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night? and the watchman answers, The morning comes, and also the night," Isa 21:11-12. Ah! Christians, the Lord is shaking heaven and earth; he is staining the pride of all glory; he is staining his garments with the blood of his enemies; [Joel 3:16; Hag 2:6; Isa 23:9; Isa 58:2-3] he is renting and tearing, he is burning and breaking, he is pulling up and throwing down, Jer 45:4-5. Now in the midst of all these convolutions and revolutions, thrice happy are those souls who have gained a well-grounded assurance of celestial things, Heb 10:34. Such souls will not faint, sink, nor shrink in an hour of temptation. Such souls will keep their garments pure and white, and will follow the Lamb wherever he goes, Rev 3:4, and Rev 14:4.
Assurance is a believer's ark, where he sits, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, combustions and confusions. They are doubly miserable, who have neither heaven nor earth, temporals, nor eternals, made sure to them in changing times, Psalm 23:3-4; Rev 6:12.
The fourth ground of my presenting this treatise to public view, is, that little well-grounded assurance which is to be found among most Christians. Most Christians living between fears and hopes, and hanging, as it were, between heaven and hell, sometimes they hope that their state is good, at other times they fear that their state is bad: now they hope that all is well, and that it shall go well with them forever; anon they fear that they shall perish by the hand of such or such a corruption, or by the prevalency of such or such a temptation; and so they are like a ship in a storm, tossed here and there, etc.
Now that these weak souls may be strengthened, that these unstable souls may be established, that these disconsolate souls may be comforted, etc., I have presented this tract to the world, not doubting but that if the Lord shall draw out their spirits to a serious perusal of it, they shall find, through the blessing of Jehovah, that it will contribute very much to their attaining of a full assurance of their everlasting happiness and blessedness, as also to the keeping and maintaining of that full and blessed assurance; which that it may, I shall follow it with my prayers.
Fifthly, I have published this following discourse, remembering that my life is but a vanishing vapor, James 4:14, and that the time of my sojourn in this world will be but short, Psalm 39:12. Man's life is so short, that Austin doubts whether to call it a dying life, or a living death. Man's life is but the shadow of smoke, the dream of a shadow. This present life is not life, but a motion, a journey towards life (Bernard.) The life of a Christian is rather a step towards life, than life. Yet do I believe that that is not a death, but life, that joins the dying man to Christ; and that is not a life, but death, that separates the living man from Christ.
I know I shall not speak long to friends, saints, or sinners; therefore I was the more willing to take the opportunity of preaching to you when I am dead. As Abel by his faith, he being dead, yet speaks, Heb 11:4, so this treatise may speak and live, when I shall return to my long home, and fall asleep in the bosom of Christ. [Eccles 12:5; Acts 7:60] The prophets and apostles, though they are now in heaven, yet by their doctrines, examples, and writings, they still preach to the saints on earth.
Zisca desired his skin might serve the Bohemians in their wars, when his body could no more do it. Oh that poor I, who have been but a little serviceable to the saints in my life, might by this, and my former weak labors, be much serviceable to them after my death! BOOKS may preach, when the author cannot, when the author may not, when the author dares, yes, and which is more, when the author is not!
Sixthly, To testify my cordial love and affection to all the true lovers of Christ, and to let them know that they are all, though under different forms, precious in my eyes, and very near and dear unto my heart. I bless God I am, and I desire more and more to be, one with everyone who is one with Christ, Phil 4:21; Col 1:4; 2 Thess 1:3. I would sincerely have as free, as large, and as sweet a heart towards saints, as Christ has. For a wolf to worry a lamb is usual, but for a lamb to worry a lamb is unnatural; for Christ's lilies to be among thorns, is ordinary, but for these lilies to become thorns, to tear and fetch blood of one another, is monstrous and strange. Ah, Christians! can Turks and Pagans agree? can Herod and Pilate agree? can Moab and Ammon agree? can bears and lions, can wolves and tigers agree? yes, which is more, can a legion of devils agree in one body? and shall not the saints agree, who must live together in heaven at last?
Pancirolus tells us, that the most precious pearl the Romans had, was called 'union'. Oh the union of saints is an unvaluable pearl! The heathen man, by the light of nature, could say, "That the thickest wall of a city in peace, and the safest stronghold in war, is unity. Truly all saints are one in Christ, all saints partake of the same spirit, promises, graces, and privileges. All saints are fellow-members, fellow-soldiers, fellow-travelers, fellow-heirs, fellow-sufferers, and fellow-citizens; and therefore I cannot, dare not but love them all, and prize them all; and to evidence it, I have dedicated this treatise to the service of their souls.
Seventhly and lastly, To fence and fortify the souls of real, serious Christians against those brainsick notions, and those airy speculations, and imaginary revelations, and enthusiastical fancies, etc., with which many are sadly deluded and deceived.
Thus have I given you a brief account of the reasons which have prevailed with me to publish this treatise to the world, and to dedicate it to yourselves. Let your hearts dwell on truth, as the bee does upon the flower; every Scriptural truth being a flower of paradise, which is more worth than a world.
Now the God of all grace fill your hearts and souls with all the fruits of righteousness and holiness, that you may attain unto a full assurance of your everlasting happiness and blessedness; which that you may is the sincere, earnest, and constant desire of him who is your soul's servant,
To be in a state of true grace, is to be miserable no more; it is to be happy forever. A soul in this state is a soul near and dear to God. It is a soul much beloved, and very highly valued by God. It is a soul housed in God. It is a soul safe in God's everlasting arms. It is a soul fully and eminently interested in all the highest and noblest privileges. [Psalm 144:15; Mal 3:17; Rom 8:16-17; Deut 33:26-27; 1 Cor 3:22-23] The being in a state of grace makes a man's condition happy, safe, and sure. But the seeing, the knowing of himself to be in such a state, is that which renders his life sweet and comfortable. The being in a state of grace will yield a man a heaven hereafter, but the seeing of himself in this state will yield him both a heaven here and a heaven hereafter; it will render him doubly blessed, blessed in heaven, and blessed in his own conscience.
Now assurance is a reflex act of a gracious soul, whereby he clearly and evidently sees himself in a gracious, blessed, and happy state; it is a sensible feeling, and an experimental discerning of a man's being in a state of grace, and of his having a right to an eternal crown of glory; and this rises from the seeing in himself the special, peculiar, and distinguishing graces of Christ, in the light of the Spirit of Christ, or from the testimony and report of the Spirit of God, "the Spirit bearing witness with his spirit, that he is a son, and an heir-apparent to glory," Rom 8:16-17.
It is one thing for me to have grace, it is another thing for me to see my grace; it is one thing for me to believe, and another thing for me to believe that I do believe; it is one thing for me to have faith, and another thing for me to know that I have faith. Now assurance flows from a clear, certain, evident knowledge that I have grace, and that I do believe, etc.
Now this assurance is the beauty and apex of a Christian's happiness in this life. It is usually attended with the strongest joy, with the sweetest comforts, and with the greatest peace. It is a pearl that most want, a crown that few wear. His state is safe and happy, whose soul is adorned with grace, though he sees it not, though he knows it not.
Assurance is not of the essence of a Christian. It is required to the well-being, to the comfortable and joyful being of a Christian; but it is not required to the being of a Christian. A man may be a true believer, and yet would give all the world, were it in his power, to know that he is a believer. To have grace, and to be sure that we have grace, is glory upon the throne, it is heaven on this side heaven.
Every unsettled Christian is a terror to himself, yes, his life is a very hell; fears and doubts are his chief companions, and so he judges himself unfit and unworthy to live, and yet he is afraid to die; and truly this is the sad condition of most Christians.
A man may be God's, and yet not know it; his estate may be good, and yet he not see it, Eph 1:13; 1 John 5:13; Gal 4:6. It is one thing to be an heir, and another thing to know that one is an heir. The child in the womb or in the arms, may be an heir to a crown, and yet understands it not. But more of these things you will find in the following discourse, to which I refer you.