CHAP.  6.

A Principle of Comfort from something within us,
confirmed Irons several Testimonies and Instances of Scripture, and by one Reason.

THIRDLY. There is a precious principle in the mystery of salvation, which, as a comforting cordial water, serves to quicken and revive in the swoonings and faintings of the body, defection of the spirits, and sinking of the heart; so it may be sovereign to support and succour in afflictions and dejections of soul, and weaknesses of our spiritual state. It is thus delivered by divines: —

“A constant and earnest desire to be reconciled to God, [[259]] to believe and to repent, if it be in a touched heart, is in acceptation with God as reconciliation, faith, repentance itself[1].”

“A weak faith shows itself by this grace of God, namely, an unfeigned desire, not only of salvation (for that the wicked and graceless man may have), but of reconciliation with God in Christ. This is a sure sign of faith in every touched and humbled heart, and it is peculiar to the elect[2].”

“Those are blessed who are displeased with their own doubting and unbelief; if they have a true earnest desire to be purged from this distrust, and to believe in God through Christ[3].”

“Our desire of grace, faith, and repentance, are the graces themselves which we desire; at least, in God's acceptation, who accepteth of the will for the deed, and of our affections for the actions [4].”

“Hungering and thirsting desires are evidences of a repenting heart[5].”

True desire argues the presence of things desired, and yet argues not the feeling of it[6].”

“It may not be dissembled, that there are in the world many definitions or descriptions of faith, such as do not comprehend in them that only thing which is the chief stay of thousands of the dear servants of God, and that is, desires which may not be denied to be of the nature of faith. I express my meaning thus: That when a man or woman is so far exercised in the spiritual seeking of the Lord his God, that he would be willing to part with the world and all things thereof if he had them in his own possession, so that by the Spirit and promises of God he might be assured that the sins of his former life, and such as presently do burthen his soul were forgiven him; and that he might believe that God were now become his God in Christ;—I would not doubt to pronounce that this person (thus prizing remission of sins at this rate, that he would sell all to buy this pearl) did undoubtedly believe. Not only because it is a truth (though a paradox) that the desire to believe is faith; but also because our Saviour Christ cloth not doubt to affirm that they are blessed that ' hunger and thirst after righteousness, because they shall be satisfied' (Matt. v, 6).

[[260]] And to r him that is athirst I will give to drink of the water of life freely' (Revel. xxi, 6). And David doubted not to say, The Lord heareth the desire of the humble' (Psalm x, 17)[7].”

“I think, whensoever the humbled sinner sees an infinite excellency in Christ, and the favour of God by him, that it is more worth than all the world, and so sets his heart upon it that lie is resolved to seek it without ceasing, and to part with all, for the obtaining it; now, I take it, is faith begun.”— “What graces thou unfeignedly desirest, and constantly usest the means to attain, thou halt[8].”

“There is no rock more sure than this truth of God, that the heart that complaineth of the want of grace, desireth above all things the supply of that want, useth all holy means for the procurement of that supply, cannot be destitute of saving grace[9].”

“Such are we by imputation as we be in affection. And he is now no sinner, who for the love he beareth to righteousness would be no sinner. Such as we be in desire and purpose, such we be in reckoning and account with God, who giveth that true desire and holy purpose to none but to his children whom he justifieth[10].”

“We must remember that God accepts affecting for effecting; willing for working; desires for deeds; purposes for performances; pence for pounds; and unto such as do their endeavour, hath promised his grace enabling them every day to do more and more[11].”

“If there be in thee a sorrow for thine unbelief; a will and desire to believe; and a care to increase in faith by the use of good means; there is a measure of true faith in thee, and by it thou mayest assure thyself that thou art the child of Godl.”

“It is a great grace of God to feel the want of God's graces in thyself, and to hunger and thirst after them[12] .”

“If you desire healing of your nature, groan in desire for grace, perceive your foulness unto a loathing of yourself, fear not, sin bath no dominion over you.”— “Sense of want of grace, complaint and mourning from that sense, desire, settled and earnest, with such mourning to have the want supplied, use of good means, with attending upon him therein for this supply, is surely of grace.” — “What graces [[261]] thou unfeignedly desirest and constantly usest the means to attain, thou hast[13].”

Take it in short from me thus:—

A true desire of grace argues a saving and comfortable estate.

The truth of which appears clearly by scripture, reason, both ancient and modern divines.

Proofs: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. v, 6). Here to a desire of grace is annexed a promise of blessedness, which comprehends all the glory and pleasures of Christ's kingdom here, and all heavenly joys and everlasting bliss hereafter. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink” (John vii, 37). “'The Lord heareth the desire of the humble” (Psalm x, 17). “He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him” (Psalm cxlv, 19). “The Lord filleth the hungry with good things” (Luke i, 53). “Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. xxii, 17). “Ho! ever one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,” &c. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground” (Isa. lv, 1; and xliv, 3).

“O Lord, I beseech thee,” saith Nehemiah, “let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants who desire to fear thy name.” Here those who desire to fear the Lord are styled his servants; and proposed as men qualified and in a fit disposition to have their prayers heard, their petitions granted, their distresses relieved, their affairs blessed with success. And no doubt this man of God would make special choice of such attributes and affections, which might prove powerful and pleasing arguments to draw from God compassion, favour, and protection. And therefore a true-hearted desire to fear the Lord is a sign of his servant.

Abraham, as you know, Gen. xxii, did not indeed when it came to the point, sacrifice his son; an angel from heaven stayed his hand. Only he had a will, purpose, and resolution, if the Lord would so have it, even to shed the blood of his only child. Now this desire to please God was graciously accepted at his hands as though the thing had been done, and thereupon crowned with as many blessings as there are stars in the heaven, and sands upon the sea shore. “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou least done this thing, and hast not spared thine only son” (and yet he spilt not a drop of his blood, save only [[262]] in purpose and preparedness to do God's will), “therefore will 1 surely bless thee and greatly multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore” (Gen. xxii, 16, 17).

Rich men cast into the treasury large gifts and royal offerings no doubt (Mark xii); far it is there said, “Many that were rich cast in much ' (ver. 41); and yet the poor widow's two mites, receiving worth and weight from her holy and hearty affection, in Christ's esteem did out-value and overweigh them all. “Verily,” saith Christ, “I say unto you, that this poor widow bath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury.”

Reasons. I. One argument may- be taken from the blessed nobleness of God's nature, and the incomparable sweetness of his divine disposition, which by infinite distance, without all degree of comparison and measure of proportion, cloth surpass and transcend the ingenuousness of the noblest spirit upon earth. Now, men of ingenuous breeding and generous dispositions are wont to receive sweetest contentment, and rest best satisfied in prevailing over and winning the hearts, good wills, and affections of those who attend or depend upon them. Outward performances, gratifications, and visible effects, are often beyond our strength and means; many times mingled and quite marred with hypocrisies, disguisements, feigned accommodations and flatteries, with self-advantages, bye-respects, and private ends. But inward reverence and love, kind and affectionate stirrings of the heart, are ever and alone in our power, and ever by an uncontrollable freedom exempted from enforcement, dissembling, and formality. No marvel then though the most royal and heroical spirits prize most, and be best pleased with possession of men's hearts, and being assured of them can more easily pardon the want of those outward acts of sufficiency and service (most minded by basest men) which they see to be above the reach of their ability and power. Now if it be so that even ingenuous and noble natures accept with special respect and esteem the affectionateness and hearty well willing of their followers and favourites, though they want dexterity and means to express it actually in visible effects and executions answerable to their affections, how much more are spiritual longings, holy affections, thirsty desires, graciously accepted of that God, in respect of whose corn-passions the bowels of the most merciful man upon earth are cruelty; in respect of whose unmeasurably amiable, melting, sweetest disposition, the ingenuousness of the noblest spirit is doggedness and disdain. Especially since [[263]] men's good turns and offices of love turn many times to our good and benefit, to our advancement, profit, preferment: but our “well-doing extendeth not unto God” (Psalm xvi, 2). That infinite essential glory with which the highest Lord, alone to be blessed, adored, and honoured by all for ever, was, is, and shall be everlastingly crowned; can neither be impaired by the most desperate rebellions, nor enlarged by the most glorious good deeds, “Can a man,” saith Eliphaz to Job, “be profitable unto God: as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? if thou sinnest, what doest thou against him? Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what doest thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? or what receiveth he of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man, as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man” (Job xxii, 2, 3 and xxxv, 6, 7, 8). Were all the wicked men upon earth turned into human beasts, desperate Belials, nay, incarnate devils; and the whole world full of those outrageous giants of Babel, and those also of the old world: and all with combined force and fury should bend and band themselves against heaven, yet they could not hurt God. “The Lord is king, be the people never so impatient; he sitteth between the cherubim, be the earth never so unquiet?' Or were all the sons of men Abrahams or angels, and as many in number as the stars in heaven; and as shining both with inward graces and outward good deeds as they are in visible glory; yet could they make no addition unto that incomprehensible Majesty above; they could not confer so much as one drop to that boundless and bottomless sea of goodness, or the least glimpse unto that Almighty Sun of Glory. “All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity” (Isa. xl, 17). Our sins hurt him not; our holiness helps him not. It is only for our good, that God would have us good. No good, no gain accrues unto him by our goodness. For what good can come by our imperfect goodness to that which is already infinitely good? What glory can be added by our dimness to him, which is already incomprehensibly glorious? Every infinite thing is naturally and necessarily incapable of addition; possibility of which supposed, implies contradiction, and destroys the nature of infinity. If it be so then, that good turns do good unto men, and yet out of their ingenuousness they most esteem good wills, true-heartedness, kind affections, and can well find in their hearts to pass by failings where there is heart [[264]] and good will; to pardon easily want of exactness in performance where there are unfeigned purposes; how much more will your gracious God, who gains nothing by all the good works in the world, out of the depth of his dearest compassions, kindly interpret and accept in good part the holy longings and hungry desires of a panting and bleeding soul? How dearly will he love the love of a true-hearted Nathanael I How willingly will he take the will for the deed, the groanings of the heart before the greatest sacrifice?

But lest you mistake, take notice here of a twofold glory: —

1. Essential, infinite, everlasting. It is impossible that this should either receive disparagement and diminution, or addition and increase by any created power. And this I meant in the precedent passage.

2. The other I may call accidental, finite, temporary. This ebbs or flows, shines or is overshadowed, as goodness or gracelessness prevails in the world; as the kingdom of Christ or powers of darkness get the upper hand amongst the sons of men. In this regard indeed, rebellious wretches dishonour God upon earth, 1 confess; and godly men by their holy duties, good works, and gracious behaviour, make his name more illustrious in the world; but what is this to that essential, infinite, everlasting glory, which was as great and full in all that former eternity, before the world was, when God, blessed for ever, enjoyed only his glorious self, angels, men, and this great universe lying all hid as yet in the dark and abhorred dungeon of nothing, as now it is or ever shall be?

[1] Perkins, in his Grain of Mustard Seed, Cond. 3.

[2] Idem, in his Exposition of the Creed.

[3] Idem, open the Sermon on the Mount.

[4] Downam, in his Christian Warfare, chap. xlii.

[5] Dyke, of Repentance, chap. xv.

[6] T. T. upon Psalm xxxii.

[7] Byfield, in his Exposition upon the Epistle to the Colossians, chap. i, ver. 4.

[8] Rogers of Dedham, in his Doctrine of Faith, chap. ii.

[9] Crook, serm. iii.

[10] Greenhorn.

[11] Dyhe, of Self-Deceivi»g, chap. six.

[12] Perkins, on Galatians. Broad, p. 88

[13] Wilson on Faith.