Shewing the difference between a true and a counterfeit assurance, between sound assurance and presumption.
(1.) The first difference. A sound and well-grounded assurance is attended with a deep admiration of God‘s transcendent love and favour to the soul in the Lord Jesus. The assured soul is often a-breathing it out thus: Ah, Lord! who am I, what am I, that thou shouldst give into my bosom, the white stone of absolution, when the world bath given into their bosoms only the black stone of condemnation? Rev. ii. 171 Lord! what mercy is this, that thou shouldst give me assurance, give me water out of the rock, and feed me with manna from heaven, when many of thy dearest ones spend their days in sighing, mourning and complaining for want of assurance. Lord! what manner of love is this, that thou shouldst set me upon thy knee, embrace me in thy arms, lodge me in thy bosom, and kiss me with the sweet kisses of thy blessed mouth, with those kisses that are ‘better than wine,‘ Cant. i 2, yea, better than life, when many ate even weary of their lives because they want what I enjoy? Ps. lxiii. 3. Ah, Lord! by what name shall I call this mercy, this assurance that thou hast given me? It being a mercy that fits me to do duties, to bear crosses and to improve mercies; that fits me to speak sweetly, to judge righteously, to give liberally, to act seriously, to suffer cheerfully, and to walk humbly. I cannot, says the assured soul, but sing it out with Moses, ‘Who is like unto thee; O Lord, amongst the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?’ Exod. xv. 2. And with the apostle, ‘Oh, the height, the depths, the length and breadth of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,‘ Eph. iii. 18, 19. If the queen of Sheba, says the assured soul, was so swallowed up in a deep admiration of Solomon‘s wisdom, greatness, goodness, excellency and glory, that she could not but admiringly breathe it thus out, ‘Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom,’ 1 Kings x. 8, Oh then, how should that blessed assurance that I have of the love of God, of my interest in God, of my union and communion with God, of my blessedness here and my happiness hereafter, work me to a deep and serious, to a real and perpetual, admiration of God.
[2.] The second difference. Secondly, A well-grounded assurance doth always beget in the soul an earnest and an impatient longing after a further, a clearer, and fuller enjoyment of God and Christ. Ps. lxiii. 1, ‘O God, thou art my God’ — here is assurance; well, what follows? — ‘early will I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.’ The assured soul cries out, ‘I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ,’ Philip. i. 23; and, ‘Make haste, my beloved,’ Cant. viii. 14; and, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,’ Rev. xxii. 17. O Lord Jesus, says the assured soul, thou art my light, thou art my life, thou art my love, thou art my joy, thou art my crown, thou art my heaven, thou art my all. I cannot but long to see that beautiful face that was spit upon for my sins, and that glorious head that was crowned with thorns for my transgressions. I long to take some turns with thee in paradise, to see the glory of thy Jerusalem above, to drink of those rivers of pleasures that be at thy right hand, to taste of all the delicates of thy kingdom, and to be acquainted with those secrets and mysteries that have been hid from all ages, and to be swallowed up in the full enjoyment of thy blessed self; Eph. iii. 5, Col. i. 26.
[3.] The third difference. Thirdly, A well-grounded assurance is usually strongly assaulted by Satan on all sides. Satan is such a grand enemy to joy and peace, to the salvation and consolation, of the saints, that he cannot but make use of all his devices and stratagems to amaze and amuse, to disturb and disquiet, the peace and rest of their souls. No sooner had Jesus Christ heard that lovely voice from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,’ Mat. iii. 17 and iv. 1, 2, &c., but he is desperately assaulted by Satan in the wilderness. No sooner was Paul dropped out of heaven, after he had seen such visions of glory that was unutterable, but he was presently assaulted and buffeted by Satan, 2 Cor. ii. 12. Stand up, stand up, assured Christians, and tell me whether you have not found the blast of the terrible one to be as a storm against the wall, Isa. xxv. Since the Lord said unto you, Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you, have not you found Satan to play the part both of the lion and the wolf, of the serpent and the fox? And all to weaken your assurance, and to work you to question the truths of your assurance, and to cast water upon your assurance, and to take off the freshness and sweetness, the beauty and glory, of your assurance; I know you have. His malice, envy, and enmity is such against God’s honour and glory, and your comfort and felicity, that he cannot but be very studious and industrious to make use of all traps, snares, methods, and ways whereby he may shake the pillars of your faith, and weaken and overthrow your assurance. Pirates, you know, do most fiercely assault those ships and vessels that are most richly laden; so doth Satan those precious souls that have attained to the riches of full assurance.
Assurance makes a paradise in believers’ souls, and this makes Satan to roar and rage. Assurance fits a man to do God the greatest service and Satan the greatest disservice, and this makes him mad against the soul. Assurance makes a saint to be too hard for Satan at all weapons, yea, to lead that ‘son of the morning’ captive, to spoil him of all his hurting power, to bind him in chains, and to triumph over him; and this makes his hell a great deal hotter, Rom. viii. 32-39. And therefore never wonder at Satan’s assaulting your assurance, but expect it and look for it. The jailor is quiet when his prisoner is in bolts, but if he be escaped then he pursues him with hue and cry. So long as the soul is in bolts and bondage under Satan, Satan is quiet and is not so apt to molest and vex it ; but when once a soul is made free, and assured of his freedom by Christ, John viii. 36, then says Satan, as once Pharaoh did, ‘I will arise, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them,’ Exodus xv. 9. The experience of all assured saints doth abundantly confirm this. Israel going into Egypt had no enemies, no opposition, but travelling into Canaan they were never free.
[4.] The fourth difference. Fourthly, A well grounded-assurance makes a man as bold as a lion; it makes him valiant and gallant for Christ and his cause, in the face of all dangers and deaths.6 After the Holy Ghost was fallen upon the apostles, and had assured them of their internal and eternal happiness, oh! how bold, how undaunted, how resolute were they in the face of all oppositions, afflictions, and persecutions! as you may see from the second of the Acts of the Apostles to the end of the Acts. So assurance had this operation upon David’s heart : Ps. xxiii. 4, 6 compared, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ Well, David, but how doth this assurance of yours operate? Why, saith he ‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ So Moses having an assurance of the ‘recompence of reward,’ he fears not the wrath of the king, ‘for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible,’ Heb. xi. 26, 27. So in Heb. x. 34, ‘And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.’ Oh, that knowledge, that assurance that they had in their own hearts of enjoying in heaven a better and a more enduring substance, made them bear cheerfully and gallantly the spoiling of their worldly goods. Though the archers — the world, the flesh, and the devil — do shoot sore at a soul under assurance, yet his bow will still abide in strength. Assurance will make a man to break a bow of steel, to trample down strength, and to triumph over all oppositions and afflictions.
Colonus the Dutch martyr called to the judge that had sentenced him to death, and desired him to lay his hand upon his heart, and asked him whose heart did most beat, his or the judge’s. Assurance will make a man do this, and much more for Christ and his cause.
[5.] The fifth difference. Fifthly, A well-grounded assurance of a man’s own eternal happiness and blessedness will make him very studious and laborious to make others happy: Ps. lxvi. 16, ‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he bath done for my soul.’ I will acquaint you with the soul blessings, with the soul favours, that God hath crowned me with. I was darkness, but he bath made me light; I was unrighteousness, but he hath made me righteous; I was deformed, but he hath made me complete; I was full of sores, and spots, and blemishes, but he hath washed me, and made me all fair, without spot or wrinkle. I have found the want of assurance, I now see the worth of assurance; I have long sought assurance, and now I find the sweetness of assurance. Ah ! it is such a pearl of price, it is such a beam of God, it is such a spark of glory, that makes my soul a rich amends for all its waiting, weeping, and wrestling.
So, when it pleased God to call Paul by his grace, and to reveal Christ in him and to him, ah! how doth he labour, as for life, to bring others to an acquaintance with Christ, and to an acceptance of Christ, and to an assurance of everlasting happiness and blessedness by Christ! After Paul had been in paradise, he makes it his all to bring others to paradise, 2 Cor. xii. So the spouse in the Canticles, having assurance of her interest in Christ, how doth she labour, by all holy and heavenly rhetoric and logic, by all the strains of love and sweetness, to draw the daughters of Jerusalem to a sight of Christ Cant. v. 10-16, and vi. 1, &c. When a beam of divine light and love had shined upon Andrew, he labours to draw his brother Simon to the fountain of all light and love, John i. 40-42. And when Philip had but a cast of Christ’s countenance, his pulse beats, and his heart calls upon Nathanael to come and share with him in that lovingkindness that was better than life, John i. 43-47.
The constant cry of souls under the power of assurance is, ‘Come, taste and see how good the Lord is,’ Ps. xxxiv. 8. Ah, sinners, sinners! ‘his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace,’ Prov. iii. 17; Ins ‘commands are not grievous,’ 1 John v. 3, but joyous; ‘his yoke is easy, and his burden is light,’ Mat. xi. 30; not only for keeping, but also ‘in keeping of his commands there is great reward,’ Ps. xix. 11. Assurance will strongly put men upon winning of others by counsel, by example, by prayer, and by communicating their spiritual experiences to them. Assurance will furnish a man with will, skill, and experience to confute all those false reports that vain men frequently cast upon the Lord and his ways. It will make a man proclaim to the world ‘that one day in the Lord’s courts is better than a. thousand years elsewhere,’ Ps. lxxxiv. 10; that there are more glorious joys, more pure comforts, more abiding peace, more royal contents, more celestial delights, in one day’s walking with God, in one hour’s communion with God, &c., than is to be found in all things below God. And by these and such like ways, souls under the power of a well-grounded assurance do endeavour to make others happy with themselves. A soul under assurance is unwilling to go to heaven without company. He is often a-crying out, Father, bless this soul too, and crown that soul too let us to heaven together, let us be made happy together.
[6.] The sixth difference. Sixthly, A well-grounded assurance of God’s love, and of a man’s everlasting happiness and blessedness, will exceedingly arm and strengthen him against all wickedness and baseness, Ezek. xvi. 60-63. No man loathes sin, and himself for sin, as such a man; no man wars and watches against sin more than such a man; no man sighs and mourns, bleeds and complains, under the sense of sinful motions and sinful operations more than such a man, Luke vii. 44, 50. Every stirring of sin makes a man that is under the power of assurance to cry out, ‘O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Rom. vii. 22-25: Ps. lxxxv. 8, ‘I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: and let them not turn again to folly,’ or, as the Hebrew will bear, ‘And they shall not return to folly.’ God’s speaking peace to his people fences .and fortifies them against folly and vanity.
The assurance that Joseph had of his master’s love armed him against the lascivious assaults of his lustful mistress; and will not divine love, that is stronger than death, do this and more? Cant. viii. 6, 7. Assurance makes a man say to his sins, as be to his idols, ‘Get you hence, for what have I any more to do with idols?’ So says the assured soul, Away pride, away passion, away worldly-mindedness, away uncleanness, away uncharitableness, &c., for what have I any more to do with you? Assurance makes the soul speak to sin as David speaks to sinners: Ps. cxix. 115, ‘Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity; for I will keep the commandments of my God:’ so says the assured soul, Depart from me, O my lusts, for I have tasted of the love of God, and I have given up myself wholly and only to God, and I cannot but keep the commandments of my God. The Jewish Rabbins report, that the same night that Israel departed out of Egypt towards Canaan, all the idols and idolatrous temples in Egypt, by lightning and earthquakes, were broken down. So when Christ and assurance comes to be set up in the soul, all, the idols of Satan and a man’s own heart are cast down, and cast out as an abomination. Sound assurance puts a man upon purifying himself, even as Christ is pure, 1 John iii. 2, 3. The assured Christian knows, that it is dangerous to sin against light, that it is more dangerous to sin against love, that it is most dangerous to sin against love revealed and manifested. God may well say to such a Christian, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? To sin under assurance, is to sin against the bowels of mercy, it is to sin against the highest hopes of glory; and this will certainly provoke God to be angry. 1 Kings xi. 9, ‘And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, that had appeared to him twice.’ To sin under assurance, is to sin in paradise; it is to sin under the flaming sword, it is to sin in the suburbs of heaven, it is to run the hazard of losing that favour ‘that is better than life,’ of that ‘joy that is unspeakable and full of glory,’ and of that ‘peace that passes understanding.’ To sin under assurance, is to cast reproach upon Christ, to grieve the Spirit, to wound conscience, to weaken your graces, to blur your evidences, to usher in calamities, to embitter your mercies, and to provoke the tempter to triumph over your Saviour. Verily, that assurance is but presumption that works men to play with sin, to be bold with sin, to make light of sin, to walk on in ways of sin. Such assurance will never bring a man to heaven, it will never keep him from dropping, into hell, yea, it will double his damnation, and make him the most miserable among all damned, miserable, forlorn spirits. Ah, Lord! from such an assurance deliver my soul; and give me more and more of that divine assurance that makes sin to be more hateful than hell, and that makes the soul to be more careful to avoid the one, than it is fearful of falling into the other.
[7.] The seventh difference. Seventhly, A well-grounded assurance is always attended with three fair handmaids, or with three sweet companions,
(1.) The first handmaid. The first is love. Oh ! the assurance of divine favour doth mightily inflame a man’s love to Christ. Mary Magdalene loved much ; Christ’s love to her drew out her, love very much to Christ, Luke vii. Assurance makes the soul sing it out with that sweet singer of Israel, ‘I will dearly love thee, O Lord, my strength,’ Ps. xviii. 2. Lovers know not how to keep silence; lovers of Christ are full of gracious expressions. Magnes amoris est amor; love is the attractive loadstone of love. It is impossible for a soul not to love Chnst, that knows he is beloved of Christ. Christ’s love constrains the soul to love, not by forcible but loving necessity. Praxiteles exquisitely drew love, taking the pattern from that passion which he felt in his own heart. A believer cannot find the heart of Christ to be beating towards him, but his heart will strongly beat towards Christ. Divine love is like a rod of myrtle, which, as Pliny reports, makes the traveller that carries it in his hand, that he shall never be faint, weary of walking, or loving. Love alone overpowereth all power. Love is the diadem; none but the queen must wear it. Love is the wedding garment ; none but the spouse can fit it. Love is a loadstone to draw, as well as a fire to warm. He that doth not love Christ, was never assured of the love of Christ.
(2.) The second handmaid, or companion that attends a well-grounded assurance, is humility. David, under assurance, cries out, ‘I am a worm and no man,’ Ps. xxii. 6; Abraham, under assurance, cries out, that he is but ‘dust and ashes;’ Jacob, under assurance, cries out, that he was ‘less than the least of all mercies;’ Job, under assurance, ‘abhors himself in dust and ashes;’ Moses had the honour and the happiness to speak with God ‘face to face;’ he was very much in God’s books, in God’s favour; and yet a more humble soul the earth did never bear. The great apostle Paul, under all the revelations and glorious manifestations of God to him, counts himself ‘less than the least of all saints,’ Eph. iii. 8. That is presumption, that is a delusion of the devil, and no sound assurance, that puffs and swells the souls of men, that makes men prize themselves above the market, above the value that God hath put upon them.
(3.) The third handmaid or companion that attends assurance, is holy joy. Ah! this assurance causes the strong waters of consolation to overflow the soul. Assurance raises the strongest joy in the soul: Luke i. 46, 47, and Mary said, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.’ When a man comes to be assured that God is his Saviour, presently his spirit rejoices in God. This truth is held forth by three parables in that of Luke xv., so in that of 1 Peter i. 8, 9, ‘Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.’ Oh the joy, the joy, the inexpressible joy that attends a well-grounded assurance! Assurance raises a paradise of delight in the soul. In quibus operamur, in illis et gaudemus, saith Tertullian: in what. things or persons we act, in those things we rejoice. A Christian, under the power of assurance, works all his works in Christ; in him, therefore, and in him alone, he rejoiceth.
[8.] The eighth, difference. Eighthly, and lastly, A well-grounded assurance sometimes springs from the testimony and witness of tie Spirit of God. The Spirit sometimes witnesses to a believer‘s spirit that he is born of God, that he is beloved of God, that he bath union and communion with God, and that he shall reign for ever with God: Rom. viii. 26, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.’ The Spirit itself witnesseth not only the gifts and graces of the Spirit, but the Spirit itself witnesseth together with our own spirit, that we are the children of God. Sometimes the saints have two witnesses joining their testimonies together to confirm and establish them in these blessed and glorious truths, that they are the sons of God and heirs of glory; and this is their honour as well as their comfort, that the blessed Spirit should bear witness at the bar of their consciences that they are the sons of God: 1 Cor. ii. 12, ‘Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God;’ that is, that we may know our election, vocation, justification, sanctification, and glorification. A man may receive many things that are freely given of God, and yet not know them till the Spirit comes and makes them known to the soul.
Quest. But you may say to me, How shall we know the whispering of the Holy Spirit from the hissing of the old serpent? How shall we know the report, the witness, and testimony of the Spirit of Christ, from that report, witness, and testimony that the old serpent deludes and deceives many by, in these days wherein he mostly appears in his angelical robes?
Ans. I answer, you may know the whispering of the Spirit from the hissing of the old serpent, &c., by these following things, which I desire that you would seriously consider, as you tender the peace and settlement, the satisfaction, consolation, and salvation of your own souls.
(1.) The first difference. First, The Spirit of Christ doth not witness by any outward voice, as God did from heaven of Christ, Mat. iii. 17; nor by an angel, as to the Virgin Mary, Luke i. 30-34; but by an inward, secret, glorious, and unspeakable way he bids believers be of good cheer, their sins are forgiven them, as Christ said to the palsied man in the Gospel, Mat. ix. 2. And this truth is to be solemnly minded against those poor deceived and deluded souls in these days, that would make the world believe that they have had such and such glorious things made known by an outward, audible voice from heaven. It is much to be feared that they never found the inward, the sweet, the secret, the powerful testimony and report of the Spirit of Christ, that boast, and brag, and rest so much upon an outward testimony. In 1 Kings xix. 11-13, you read of ‘a great strong wind that rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks: but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind there was an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire there was a still small voice, and the Lord spake to Elijah in that still small voice. Ah, Christians! the Spirit of the Lord makes not a noise, but he comes in a still small voice, as I may say, and makes a soft and secret report to the soul, that it is beloved, that it is pardoned, and that it shall be for ever glorified.
(2.) The second difference. Secondly, The testimony and witness of the Spirit of Christ is only gained and enjoyed in holy and heavenly ways, as you may clearly see by comparing the Scriptures in the margin together. The Spirit of the Lord is a Holy Spirit, and he cannot, he will not make any report of the love of the Father to the soul out of a way of holiness. Verily, all those glorious reports that many boast they have met with in sinful ways, in wretched and ungodly ways, are from the hissing of the old serpent, and not from the whisperings of the Spirit of grace. I think it is little less than blasphemy for any to affirm, that the blessed Spirit of Christ doth make reports of the love and favour of God to persons walking in ways of wickedness and baseness.
(3.) The third difference. Thirdly, The testimony and witness of the Spirit of Christ, is a clear, a full, a satisfying testimony and witness, John xiv. 17, 1 John iii. 24. The soul sits down under the home-reports of the Spirit, and saith, Lord, it is enough ; the soul being full, sits down and sweetly sings it out: ‘My beloved is mine, and I am his. I am my well-beloved’s, and his desire is towards me,’ Cant. ii. 16, and vii. 10. ‘The Lord is my portion and the lot of mine inheritance,’ Ps. xvi. 5. ‘I have none in heaven but thee, neither is there any on earth that I desire in comparison of thee,’ Ps. lxxiii. 25. ‘Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,’ 2 Tim. iv. 8. ‘Make haste, my beloved,’ &c., Cant. viii. 14. Such power, majesty, and glory, attends the glorious testimony of the Spirit of Christ, as scatters all clouds, as resolves all doubts, as answers all objections, as silences the wrangling soul, &c. If the testimony of the Spirit of Christ were not a full, satisfying testimony, it could never fill the soul with such joy as is ‘unspeakable and full of glory,’ and with ‘such peace as passes understanding;’ if the testimony were not satisfactory, the soul would still be under fears and doubts, the heart would still be a-wrangling and quarrelling, I may perish, and I may be undone, I may have the door of mercy shut against me, &c. If you bring news to a condemned person that the king hath pardoned him, and that he will receive him to favour, and confer such and such dignity upon him, yet this doth not quiet him nor satisfy him, till he knows it is the king’s act, till he is satisfied in that, he cannot say it is enough, he cannot be cheerful, he cannot be delightful, &c. But when he is satisfied that it is the king’s act, that the king bath certainly done this and that for him, then he is satisfied, and then sighing and mourning flies away, and then he rejoices with joy unspeakable. So it is with a believing soul under the testimony and witness of the spirit of Christ.
(4.) The fourth difference. Fourthly, Though the Spirit be a witnessing Spirit, yet he doth not always witness to believers their adoption, their interest in Christ, &c. There is a mighty difference between the working of the Spirit and the witness of the Spirit. There are oftentimes many glorious and efficacious works of the Spirit, as faith, love, repentance, holiness, &c., where there is not the witness of the Spirit, Isa. 1. 10. David at that very time had the Spirit, and many sweet workings of the Spirit in him and upon him, when he had by sin lost the witness and testimony of the Spirit, Ps. ii. 10-12. Though the Spirit of the Lord be a witnessing and a sealing Spirit, yet he doth not alway witness and seal up the love and favour of the Father to believers’ souls, as you may see by the scriptures in the margin, and as the experience of many precious Christians can abundantly evidence. All believers do not see alike need of this testimony, they do not all alike prize this testimony, they do not all alike observe it and improve it; and therefore, it is no wonder if the Spirit be a witnessing Spirit to some and not to others. You do but gratify Satan and wrong your own souls, when you argue that certainly you have not the Spirit, because he is not a witnessing and a sealing Spirit to your souls. Though it be the office of the Spirit to witness, yet it is not his office always to witness to believers their happiness and blessedness. The Spirit may act one way and in one room of the soul, when he doth not act in another. Sometimes the Spirit works upon the understanding, sometimes upon the will, sometimes upon the affections, sometimes upon faith, sometimes upon fear, sometimes upon love, sometimes upon humility, &c. Our hearts are the Spirit’s harps. If a man should always touch one string in an instrument, he should never play various tunes, he should never make pleasant music; no more would the Spirit, if he should be always a-doing one thing in the soul. Therefore he acts variously. Sometimes he will shew himself a quickening Spirit, sometimes an enlightening Spirit, sometimes a rejoicing Spirit, sometimes a sealing Spirit, and always a supporting Spirit, &c.
(5.) The fifth difference. Fifthly, The testimony and witness of the Spirit is a sure testimony, a sure witness. The Spirit is truth itself; he is the great searcher of the deep things of God. The Spirit of the Lord is the discoverer, the confuter, and destroyer of all false spirits. The Spirit is above all possibility of being deceived, he is omnipotent, he is omniscient, he is omnipresent, he is one of the cabinet.council of heaven; he lies and lives in the bosom of the Father, and can call them all by name upon whom the Father hath set his heart, and therefore his testimony must needs be true. It is a surer testimony than if a man should hear a voice from heaven pronouncing him to be happy and blessed. You may safely and securely lay the weight of your souls upon this testimony; it never bath, it never will deceive any that hath leaned upon it. This testimony will be a rock that will bear up a soul, when other false testimonies will be but ‘a reed of Egypt,’ that will deceive the soul, that will undo the soul; as I am afraid many in this deluding age have found by sad experience.
(6.) The sixth difference. Sixthly, The testimony of God’s Spirit is always accompanied with the testimony of our own. These may be distinguished, but they can never be separated. When the Spirit of God gives in witness for a man, his own spirit doth not give in witness against him. Look, as face answers to face, so doth the witness of a believer’s spirit answer to the witness of the Spirit of Christ. Rom. viii. 16, ‘The Spirit witnesseth together with our spirits that we he the sons of God.’ Now, if our own consciences do not testify first, that we are sons and heirs, the Spirit doth not testify; for the Spirit bears witness together with our spirits. St John is very express in 1 John iii. 21, ‘But if our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. But if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.’ 1 John v. 8-12, and ‘There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one.’ The Spirit doth witness eminently and efficiently, but water and blood materially, and our spirits and reason instrumentally. By the Spirit we may understand the Holy Ghost, by whose strength we lay hold on Christ and all his benefits. By water we may understand our regeneration, our sanctification; and by blood we may understand the blood and righteousness of Christ, that is imputed and applied by faith to us. ‘And these three agree in one,’ that is, they do all three of one accord testify the same thing.
(7.) The seventh difference. Seventhly, The witness of the Spirit is ever according to the word. There is a sweet harmony between the inward and the outward testimony, between the Spirit of God and the word of God. The scriptures were all indited by the Spirit, 2 Peter i. 20, 21; and therefore the Spirit cannot contradict himself, which he should do, if he should give in any testimony contrary to the testimony of the word. It is blasphemy to make the testimony of the Spirit to contradict the testimony of the word. The Spirit hath revealed his whole mind in the word, and he will not give a contrary testimony to what he hath given in the word. The word saith, They that are born again, that are new creatures, that believe and repent, shall be saved. But thou art born again, thou art a new creature, thou believest and repentest; therefore thou shalt be saved, saith the Spirit The Spirit never looseth where the word bindeth, the Spirit never justifies where the word condemns, the Spirit never approves where the word disapproves, the Spirit never blesses where the word curses. In the Old Testament all revelations were to be examined by the word, Deut. xiii. 1-4. Isa. viii. 20, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light (or no morning) in them.’ So in that of John xvi. 13, ‘The Spirit shall lead you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but what he shall hear, that shall he speak.’ Here the Holy Ghost is brought in as some messenger or ambassador who only relates things faithfully according to that he hath in charge. Such as look and lean upon the hissing of the old serpent, may have a testimony that they are happy, against the testimony of the word; but wherever the Spirit of Christ gives in his testimony, it is still according to the word. Look, as indenture answers to indenture, or as the counterpain exactly answers to the principal conveyance; there is article for article, clause for clause, covenant for covenant, word for word; so doth the testimony of the Spirit exactly answer to the testimony of the word.
(8.) The eighth difference Eighthly, It is a holy witness, a holy testimony. It is formally, it is originally holy, it is effectually holy. Nothing makes the heart more in the love, study, practice, and growth of holiness, than the glorious testimony of the Holy Spirit; and the more clear and full the testimony is, the more holy and gracious it will make the soul. Nothing puts such golden engagements upon the soul to holiness, as the Spirit sealing a man up to the day of redemption, as the Spirit speaking and sealing peace, love, and pardon to the soul, Ps. lxxxv. 8; 1 Cor. xv. 31; 2 Cor. v. 14. Nothing makes a man more careful to please Christ, more fearful to offend Christ, more studious to exalt Christ, and more circumspect to walk with Christ, than this testimony of the Spirit of Christ. Verily, that is not the blessed whispering of Christ’s Spirit, but the hissing of the old serpent, that makes men bold with sin, that makes men daily with sin, that makes man a servant to sin, that breeds a contempt of ordinances, a neglect of holy duties, a carelessness in walking with God. And from those hissings of the old serpent, O Lord, deliver my soul, and the souls of all thy servants that put their trust in thee.
(9.) The ninth difference. Ninthly and lastly, Assurance is a jewel, a pearl of that price, that God only bestows it upon renewed hearts. The Spirit never sets his seal upon any, but upon those that Christ hath first printed his image upon. God gives to none the white stone, Rev. ii. 17, but to those from whom he hath taken the heart of stone; Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26, 27 compared. Christ never tells a man that his name is written in the book of life, till he bath breathed into him spiritual life, Luke x. 20. Christ never says, Son, be of good cheer, thy sin is pardoned, till he hath first said, Be thou healed, be thou cleansed, Luke v. 18-20. Christ never gives a man a new name, that is better than the names of sons and daughters, till he hath made them new creatures, Isa. lvi. 5 ; 2 Cor. v. 17. Of slaves Christ first makes us sons, before we cry Abba, Father, Rom. viii. 15. Of enemies, he first makes us friends, before he will make us of his court or counsel, Eph. ii. 13-20. Christ will never hang a pearl in a swine’s snout, nor put new wine into old bottles, nor his royal robes upon a leprous back, nor his golden chain about a dead man’s neck, nor his glisteririg crown upon a traitor’s head. The Spirit never sets his seal upon any, but upon those that Christ hath first set as a seal upon his heart, Eph. i. 13; Cant. viii. 6. The Spirit only bears witness to such as hate sin as Christ hates it, and that love righteousness as Christ loves it, that hate sin more than hell, and that love truth more than life, Ps. xlv. 7. A soul sealed by the Spirit will pull out right eyes, and cut off right hands, for Christ such souls will part with a Benjamin, and offer up an Isaac, for Christ. And this is to be seriously minded against those deceived and deluded souls, that remain yet in their blood, and that wallow in their sins, and yet boast and brag of the seal and of the witness and testimony of the Spirit.
And thus I have shewed you the difference between the whisperings of the Spirit and the hissing of the old serpent, between a true testimony and a false.
THOMAS BROOKS [1608-1680] Singularly little is known about Thomas Brooks as a man, other than can be ascertained from his many writings. Born, probably of well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640 at the latest. Before that date he seems to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet. He is thus able to speak of his numerous friends abroad, and of the scenes and happenings he had ‘observed in other nations and countries’. Mention, too, is made of ‘some terrible storms’. ‘I have been some years at sea’, he tells us, ‘and through grace I can say that I would not exchange my sea experiences for England’s riches’. ‘Troubles, trials, temptations, dangers and deaths’ were all encountered during his experiences on board ship.
The Civil War over, Brooks became minister of the Word at Thomas Apostles, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on the 26th December, 1648. Three or four years later he moved to St. Margaret’s Fish-street Hill, London, but encountered considerable opposition as he refused baptism and the Lord’s Supper to those clearly ‘unworthy’ of such privileges. The following years were filled with written as well as spoken ministry.
In 1662 he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached the Word as opportunity offered. Treatises continued to flow from his agile pen. In 1677-8 he married for the second time, ‘she spring-young, he winter-old’. Two years later he went home to his Lord. No portrait of him survives.
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