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Chap. 4. - Containing several motives to provoke Christians to be restless until they have obtained a well-grounded assurance of their eternal happiness and blessedness.

(1.) The first motive. Now, the first motive that I shall lay down to provoke you to get a well-grounded assurance, is, solemnly to consider, That many are now dropped into hell who have formerly presumed of their going to heaven: as those who came bouncing at heaven-gate, crying out, "Lord, Lord, open to us, for we have prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name have done many wonderful works;" and yet that direful and dreadful sentence is passed upon them, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquities," Matt 7:22,26-27.[1]

The foolish virgins were in a golden dream that they were as happy as the best, and yet, when they were awakened, they found the bridegroom entered into his glory, and the door of mercy shut against them, Matt 25:10-12. So were the Jews that cried out, "The temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord!" Men are naturally prone to flatter themselves that their sins are not sins, when indeed they are; and that they are but small sins, when they are great and grievous, Isa 40:27; Deut 29:19; and they are apt to flatter themselves that they have grace when they have none; and that their grace is true, when it is but counterfeit; and that their condition is not so bad as others, when it is worse; and, with Agag, that the bitterness of death is past, when God has his sword in his hand ready to execute the vengeance written. [Prov 30:12; Rev 3:17-18; Mic 3:11] I judge as in this world, so in hell—the most self-flattering souls will be the most miserable souls.

I have read of a madman at Athens, who laid claim to every rich ship which came into the harbor, whereas he was poor, and had no part in any. Ah! this age is full of such mad souls, who lay claim to God and Christ, and the promises and gospel privileges, and all the glory of another world—when they are poor, and blind, and miserable, and wretched, and naked, when they are Christless and graceless, etc. Ah, souls! does it not therefore behoove you to labor much for a well-grounded assurance, that so you may not miscarry to all eternity—but may at last be found worthy to receive a crown of glory and to enter into your Master's joy, which is a joy too great and too glorious to enter into you, and therefore you must enter into it, Matt 25:21,23.

(2.) The second motive to provoke Christians to get a well-grounded assurance is this, consider, That there are a great many soul flatterers, soul-deceivers, and soul-cheaters in the world. The devil has put his angelic robes upon many of his chief agents, that they may the more easily and the more effectually deceive and delude the souls of men. This age affords many sad testimonies of this. A hidden enemy is far worse than an open enemy.

Ah! what multitudes are there, that to some bleary eyes appear as angels of light, and yet in their principles and practices are but servants to the prince of darkness, laboring with all their might to make proselytes for hell, Matt 23:15, and to draw men to those wild notions, opinions, and conceits which will leave them short of heaven, yes, bring them down to the hottest, darkest, and lowest place in hell, if God does not prevent it by a miracle of grace. Therefore you had need look about you, and see that you get a well-grounded assurance, and not allow Satan to put a cheat upon your immortal souls. Christ has foretold us, "That in the last days there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, that shall say, Lo, here is Christ, and lo, there is Christ," Matt 24:23-24. And truly this scripture is this day fulfilled in your ears. Ah, how many blasphemous wretches have there been in these days, who have asserted themselves to be the very Christ! And it is to me no little miracle, that the very earth has not opened her mouth and swallowed up such monsters, such firebrands of hell.

The apostle tells you of some that "lie in wait to deceive, by such sleights" as cheaters and false gamesters use at dice; he tells you of cunning crafty men that do diligently watch all advantages to work, draw, and win weak and unstable souls to those opinions, principles, and practices, which tend to drown them in everlasting perdition. Satan's disciples and agents have a method of deceiving, they are doctors in all the arts of cozenage, and they will leave no means unattempted whereby they may draw men to build upon hay and stubble, upon this opinion and that notion, etc., that so men and their works may burn forever together, 1 Cor 3:15.

It is reported of king Canutus, that he promised to make him the highest man in England, who should kill king Edmund Ironside, his co-rival; which, when one had performed, and expected his reward, he commanded him to be hung on the highest tower in London. So Satan and his emissaries, they promise poor souls that such and such opinions, and notions, etc., will thus and thus advantage them, and advance them; but in the end, poor souls shall find the promised crown turned into a noose, the promised comfort turned into a torment, the promised glory turned into ignominy, the promised exaltation turned into desolation, the promised heaven turned into a hell. This age is full of soul-flatterers, of soul-undoers, who, like evil physicians, skin over the wound—but kill the patient. Flattery undid Ahab, and Herod, and Nero, and Alexander. Not bitter words—but flattering words, do all the mischief. This many have found true by woeful experience.

Those flatterers who told Dionysius, that his spittle was as sweet as honey, undid him; and those flatterers that told Caesar, that his freckles in his face were like the stars in the firmament, ruined him. And ah! how many young and old in these days have been lost and undone by those soul-flatterers, who lie in wait to ensnare and deceive the souls of men. Smooth talk often proves sweet poison. Many in these days have found it so. Oh that this very consideration might be set home by the hand of the Spirit, with that life and power upon your souls, as effectually to stir and provoke you to get a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness, that so you may stand fast, like the house built upon the rock, in the midst of all tempests and storms, that nothing may unsettle you, nor disquiet you, and that none may take away your crown, Matt 7:24-25; Rev 3:11.

(3.) The third motive to stir you up to get a well-grounded assurance is this, consider, That a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness will ease you, and free you of a threefold burden. It will free you,

  1. From a burden of cares.
  2. From a burden of fears.
  3. From a burden of doubts.

1. Now the burden of cares, ah Christians! causes you to sit down sighing and groaning; ah! how do the cares of getting this and that, and the cares of keeping this and that worldly contentment, disturb and distract, vex and rack the souls of men who live under the power of carking cares, Matt 13:22. Oh—but now assurance of better things makes the soul sing care away, as that martyr said, "My soul is turned to her rest; I have taken a sweet nap in Christ's lap, and therefore I will now sing away care, and will be carefree." Assurance of an eternal kingdom and crown, is a fire which burns up all those cares which ordinarily fill the head and distract the heart. There is no way to get off the burden of cares but by getting assurance.

2. Again, assurance will free you from the burden of fears, as well as from the burden of cares. Men are apt to make elephants of flies, and giants of pigmies. Until men reach assurance, they will still create fears, rather than extinguish them. Now, your hearts are filled with fears of possessing the creature, with fears of lacking the creature, with fears of losing the creature, etc. And these fears make men turn, like the chameleon, into all colors, forms, and fashions, yes, they make their lives a hell. Oh—but now assurance will scatter all these fears, as the sun does the clouds; it will extinguish these fears, as the sun does the fire. Assurance made David divinely fearless, and divinely careless: Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me," Psalm 23:3. Ah! how full of fears and perplexities was Hagar, until the Lord opened her eyes to see the well of water that was near her, Gen 21:16. So the soul will be full of fears and perplexities until it comes to see assurance, to enjoy assurance. Christians, when all is said that can be, this will be found at last a most certain truth, that there is no way to be effectually rid of your fears—but by obtaining a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness.

3. Again, assurance will rid you of your burden of doubts. Remember, Christians:

  1. that doubts are bred and fed by ignorance and unbelief, and therefore are sinful;
  2. that they rob the soul of all joy, comfort, and contentment;
  3. they render men babes in Christianity;
  4. they throw reproach upon God, Christ, and the promises;
  5. they give Satan the greatest advantage against us.

Now you are still a-doubting. Sometimes you doubt whether that you are a thorough Christian, and not an Agrippa, an almost Christian, a half Christian, as most professors are. Sometimes you doubt of your sonship, and that leads you to doubt of your heirship. Sometimes you doubt of your acquaintance with God, and that leads you to doubt of your access to God, and acceptance with God. Sometimes you doubt of your union with God, and those doubts lead you to doubt of the truth of your communion with God, etc. The truth is, your whole life is a life of doubting, and so it will be—until you reach to a well-grounded assurance.

Though the two disciples had Christ for their companion, yet their hearts were full of fears and doubts, while their eyes were blinded so that they should not know him, Luke 24:14-15, etc. Until a Christian's eyes be open to see his assurance, his heart will be full of doubts and perplexities. Though Mary Magdalene was very near to Christ, yet she stands sighing, mourning, and complaining that they had stolen away her Lord, because she did not see him, John 20:13-16. Christians! though you may be very near and dear to Christ, yet until you come to see your assurance, you will spend your days in doubting, mourning, and complaining.

The sum of all is this, as you would be rid of your burden of cares, your burden of fears, and your burden of doubts, get a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness; but if you are in love with your burdens, then neglect but the making of your calling and election sure, and you shall certainly make sure your burdens; they shall rise with you, and walk with you, and lie down with you, until they make your lives a hell.

(4.) The fourth motive to provoke you to labor after a well-grounded assurance is, To consider that Satan will labor with all his arts and deceits, with all his power and might, to keep you from attaining a well-grounded assurance of your happiness and blessedness. Such is Satan's envy and enmity against a Christian's joy and comfort, that he cannot but act to the utmost of his ability to keep poor souls in doubts and darkness. Satan's envy is such against the joy and comfort of the saints, that he cannot rest, nor cease from making use of all his wiles, whereby poor souls may be kept off from assurance, and their lives made a burden to them.

Satan knows that assurance is that pearl of great price, which will make the soul happy forever; he knows that assurance makes a Christian's wilderness to be a paradise; he knows that assurance begets in Christians the most noble and generous spirits; he knows that assurance is that which will make men strong to do exploits, to shake his tottering kingdom about his ears; and therefore he is very studious and industrious to keep souls off from assurance, as he was to cast Adam out of paradise.

It is no wonder that Satan, who envied the first seeds of grace which divine love sowed in your soul, that he should envy the increase of your grace, yes, your assurance, which is the top and royalty of grace. When you were a babe, Satan cast water upon your smoking flax, that it might not flame forth into assurance; and now you are grown up to some more maturity, he is raised in his enmity, so that he cannot but put out his power and policy to keep you from assurance of felicity and glory. Satan envies your candlelight, your torchlight, your starlight, how much more that the sun should shine upon you! Satan envies your eating of the crumbs of mercy under the table, how much more that, as a child, you should sit at Wisdom's table, and eat and drink abundantly of Wisdom's delicates! Satan envies your feeding on husks among the swine, how much more that you should eat of the fattened calf! Satan envies your sitting with Mordecai at the king's gate, how much more that you should wear the king's robes! Satan envies your tasting of the least drop of comfort, how much more your swimming in those pleasures that are at God's right hand for evermore! He envies your sitting upon God's knee, how much more, then, your lying in his bosom! He envies your being admitted into his service, how much more that you should be of his court and council!

Some say of the crystal, that it has such a virtue in it, that the very touching of it quickens other stones, and puts a luster and beauty upon them. Assurance is that heavenly crystal which quickens souls, and which casts a beauty and a glory upon souls; and this makes the devil mad.

Satan knows that assurance is manna in a wilderness, it is water out of a rock, it is a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He knows that assurance is a salve for all sores, and medicine for all diseases, and a remedy against every malady. He knows that assurance is a Christian's anchor at sea, and his shield upon land; and that it is a staff to support him, and a sword to defend him, and a pavilion to hide him, and a cordial to cheer him; and therefore it is that he labors, both as a lion and as a serpent, to keep poor souls from a well-grounded assurance. This son of the morning has fallen from the top of glory to the bottom of misery, and therefore he strives to make all as miserable and unhappy as himself.

Ah! Christians, have not you need to seek assurance with all your might, who have to do with so mighty an adversary, who cares not what torments he heaps upon himself, so that he may prove your tormentor, by keeping your souls and assurance asunder? Oh that this very consideration might make you restless, until you have got this "white stone" in your bosoms!

(5.) The fifth motive to provoke you to get a well grounded assurance is this, consider that a well grounded assurance is a jewel of that incomparable value, it is such a pearl of great price as will abundantly recompense the soul for all the cost and effort it shall be at to enjoy it. Yes, the enjoyment of assurance in that hour of death, when the soul shall sit upon your trembling lips, ready to take her leave of you, and all the world, will richly recompense you for all those prayers, tears, sighs and groans which you have breathed out in one place or another, in one service or another.

Surely the gold in the mine will recompense the digger; the crown, in the end, will recompense the runner; the fruit in the vineyard will recompense the vine-dresser; the corn in the barn will recompense the reaper; and the increase of the livestock will recompense the shepherd. Just so, assurance at last will abundantly recompense the soul for all its knocking, weeping, and waiting at mercy's door. God will never allow "the seed of Jacob to seek his face in vain," Isa 45:19. There is a reward not only in keeping—but also for keeping of his commands, Psalm 19:11. Joseph, for his thirteen years' imprisonment, had the honor to reign eighty years like a king; David, for his seven years' banishment, had a glorious reign of forty years' continuance; Daniel, for his lying a few hours among the lions, is made chief president over a hundred and twenty princes; the three children, for taking a few turns in the fiery furnace, are advanced to great dignity and glory.

Ah! doubting souls, pray hard, pull hard, work hard for assurance; the pay will answer the pains. Christ will, sooner or later, say to you, as the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, "I am yours, and all that I have," 1 Kings 20:4. 'I am yours, O doubting souls,' says Christ, 'and assurance is yours, and joy is yours; my merit is yours, my Spirit is yours, and my glory is yours; all I am is yours, and all I have is yours. Oh, this is a hive full of divine comfort; oh this will recompense you for all your wrestling and sweating to obtain assurance, Matt 25:34-41; Rev 3:11-12.

Augustine, in his Confessions, has this notable expression, "How sweet was it to me, to be suddenly without those sweet earthly vanities. And those things which I was afraid to lose—with joy I let go; for you who are the true and only sweetness, did cast out those from me, and instead of them did enter in yourself—who is more delightful than all pleasure, and more clear than all light."

Ah! Christians, do but hold up and hold on, and assurance and joy will come, and you shall, after your working and waiting, sit down and sing it out with old Simeon, "My eyes have seen your salvation;" my heart has found the sweetness of assurance, and "now, Lord, let your servant depart in peace," Luke 2:30.

(6.) The sixth motive to provoke you to get assurance, is this, Consider what labor and pains worldlings take to obtain the vain things of this life. Ah! what riding, running, plotting, lying, swearing, stabbing, and poisoning, is used by men of this world—to obtain the poor things of this world, which are but shadows and dreams, and mere nothings! How do many with Samson lay heap upon heap, to make their crowns and kingdoms sure, to make the tottering glory of this world sure to themselves! what bloody butchers do they prove! they will have the crown, though they swim to it through the blood of innocent men. Men will venture life and limb to obtain those things which hop from man to man, as the bird hops from twig to twig.

Oh! how should this stir and provoke us to be up and doing, to labor as for life—to make sure of spiritual and eternal things! Is earth better than heaven? Is the glory of this world greater than the glory of the world to come? Are these riches more durable than those which corrupt not, which "are laid up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal?" Matt 6:19-20. No! Oh then be ashamed, Christians, that worldlings are more studious and industrious to obtain pebbles, than you are to obtain pearls! They labor to obtain those things which at last will be their burden, their bane, their plague, their hell. You are to labor to obtain those things which will be your joy and crown in life, in death, and in the day of judgement.

The laborious, the active Christian, is tempted but by one devil; but the idle, slothful Christian, is tempted by all devils. It is very sad, when worldlings are a-reaping; that saints as to spirituals, should be slumbering and sleeping.

Pambus wept when he saw a harlot dressed with much care and cost, partly to see one take so much pains to go to hell, and partly because he had not been so careful to please God, as she had been to please her sluttish lovers. Ah, Christians! what great reason have you to sit down and weep bitterly—that worldlings take so much pains to make themselves miserable, and that you have taken no more pains to get assurance, to get a pardon in your bosoms, to get more of Christ into your hearts!

(7.) The seventh motive to provoke you to get assurance, is to consider, That assurance will enable you to bear a burden, without a burden, as in Hebrews 10:34, "You joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." Here you see that assurance of heavenly things makes these worthies patiently and joyfully bear a burden, without a burden. So the apostles, knowing that they had "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, went through honor and dishonor, evil report and good report," 2 Cor 5:8, and 2 Cor 6:8-11. They went through many weaknesses, sicknesses, wants, and deaths; they had nothing, and yet possessed all things; they had burden upon burden cast upon them by the churches, by false apostles, and by an uncharitable world, and yet they cheerfully bore all burdens without a burden, through the power of a well-grounded assurance.

Assurance makes heavy afflictions light, long afflictions short, bitter afflictions sweet, 2 Cor 4:16-18. Where a man lacks assurance, there the shadow of a burden frights him, and the weight of the least burden sinks him. Such a man is still a-crying out, "No man's burden to my burden; my burden is greater than others, my burden is heavier than others." The lack of assurance oftentimes makes men's very mercies a burden, their comforts a burden, their relations a burden, yes, their verylives a burden unto them. Ah! Christians, you will never bear burdens without a burden—until you come to attain an assurance of better things. This will enable you to leap under the weight of any cross, to rejoice under the weight of any mountain, Job 7:20.

Assurance fits a man's heart to his condition, and when a man's heart is fitted to his condition, nothing proves a burden to him. Assurance of better things to come takes away the sting, the poison which attends these lower things; and the sting and the poison being taken away, the very worst of these things are so far from being a burden to a man, that they become rather a pleasure and a delight unto him. When the sting is taken out of this or that venomous creature, a man may play with it and put it in his bosom. Ah! assurance pulls out the sting which is in every cross, loss, etc., and this makes the assured soul to sit down singing, when others who are under far less crosses and losses, sit down sighing, mourning, and complaining, "Our burdens are greater than we are able to bear!"

If there were but more assurance of better things among Christians, there would be less complaints among them of this burden, and that molehills then would be no longer mountains. Christians, it is not new notions, new opinions, new nothings, as I may say, in your heads—but the gaining of a well-grounded assurance in your hearts, which will enable you to bear all kinds of burdens without a burden.

(8.) The eighth motive to provoke you to get assurance, is drawn from those particular commands of God, whereby he engages Christians to get assurance, as that in 2 Pet 1:10, "Therefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things you shall never fall." So 2 Cor 13:5, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?" So Heb 6:11, "And we desire that everyone of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end." (The saints in heaven have a happy necessity of obeying God always; but we have an unhappy necessity of disobeying continually.)

Ah! you dull, doubting, drowsy Christians, you should take all these commands of God, and press them with all the power and authority you can upon your hearts, to awaken them and provoke them to get assurance of your eternal well-being. 'The precepts of God,' says Lactantius, 'do so change the whole man, and make him so new, that you can hardly know him to be the same person—a thing which philosophy has much labored in—but could never achieve. Christians! the pressing of those very commands last cited upon your hearts, may produce that comfort and peace, and make such a blessed change in your inward condition, as may bespeak much admiration.

Take one command, and charge that upon the heart; if the heart is stout and will not yield, then take another command, and press it upon your heart; if that will not do, then take another, and lay that home upon the heart; and never leave this work until your souls are effectually stirred up to labor for assurance with all your might. Christians! you should tell your souls that the commands of God bind directly and immediately, that they bind absolutely and universally. You must obey God upon the bare sight of his will, and in one thing as well as another. Christians! if I am not much mistaken, you should make as much conscience of those commands of God which require you to get assurance of your future happiness, as you do of those commands which requires you to pray, to hear, etc.

It is very sad to consider that many who complain much of the lack of assurance, should make so little care and conscience of those commands of God which require them to get assurance. Truly, Christians! while you make light of any of God's commands, God will make as light of your comforts. Did you make more conscience to act answerable to the forementioned commands, I am very apt to believe that the Sun of righteousness would certainly and speedily cause his love and glory to beam out upon you. Mind God's commands more than your own wants and complaints, and light will break in upon you. By obeying Christ's commands, you will gain more than you can give; by kissing the Son, you will even command him, and make him and assurance yours.

(9.) The ninth motive to provoke you to get assurance is this, You cannot gratify Satan more, nor injure yourselves more, than by living without assurance. By living without assurance, you lay yourselves open to all Satan's snares and temptations; yes, you instigate and provoke Satan to tempt you to the worst of sins, to tempt you to the greatest neglects, to tempt you to the strangest shifts, and to reduce you to the saddest straits. Ah, Christians! in what, in what has Satan so gratified you—that you should thus gratify him? Has he not robbed you of your glory in innocency? Has he not kept your souls and your Savior long asunder? When with Joshua you have been standing before the Lord, Zech 3:1-2, has not he stood at your right hand as an adversary to resist you? Has he not often set the glory of the world before you, that he might bewitch you and ensnare you? Matt 4:8. Has he not often cast water upon those divine motions which have been kindled in you? Have you not often found him a lion and a serpent, a tempter and a deceiver, a liar and a murderer? 1 Thess 2:18. Yes! Oh, then, never gratify him any longer by living without assurance.

He who lives without assurance, lives without a comfortable fruition of God, and so gratifies Satan. He who lives without assurance, lives upon some creature enjoyment more than upon God, and so gratifies Satan. He who lives without assurance, lives not like the beloved of God, and so gratifies Satan. He who lives without assurance is very apt to gratify Satan, sometimes by complying with him, sometimes by following after him, and sometimes by acting his part for him, etc. Truly, Christians! there is no way effectually to prevent this sore evil—but by getting a well-grounded assurance of your everlasting happiness and blessedness. Assurance will make a man stand upon terms of defiance with Satan, it will make the soul constant in resisting, and happy in overcoming, the evil one. An assured soul will fight it out to the death with Satan; an assured soul will not fly like a coward—but will stand and triumph like a David.

And as you gratify Satan by living without assurance, so you wrong your own souls by living without assurance.

  1. In the point of comfort and joy, you wrong your own souls.
  2. In the point of peace and content, you wrong your own souls.
  3. In the point of boldness and confidence, you wrong your own souls.

A man who lives without assurance, lays his precious soul open to many blows and knocks, to many frowns and wounds, from God, from the world, from carnal friends, from hypocrites, and from Satan; therefore as you would not, Christians, gratify Satan, and wrong your own souls, and exercise over yourselves spiritual cruelty and tyranny, which is the very worst of all cruelty and tyranny—give God no rest until he has made known to you the sweetness of his love, and the secrets of his bosom, until he has gathered you up into himself, until he has set you as "a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm," Song 8:6.

(10.) The tenth motive, to provoke you to get a well-grounded assurance is this, Consider the sweet profit and glorious advantage which will redound to you by gaining assurance; and if the gain which will certainly redound to you by assurance will not provoke you to get assurance, I know not what will.

[1.] The first advantage. It will bring down heaven into your bosoms; it will give you a possession of heaven, on this side heaven, Heb 11:1. An assured soul lives in paradise, and walks in paradise, and works in paradise, and rests in paradise; he has heaven within him, and heaven about him, and heaven over him; all his language is Heaven, heaven! Glory, glory!

[2.] The second advantage. Assurance will exceedingly sweeten all the changes of this life. This life is full of changes. Assurance will sweeten both sickness and health, both weakness and strength, both wants and abundance, both disgrace and honor, 2 Cor 4:16-18, etc. While a man lives in the sense of God's unchangeable love, no outward changes can make any considerable change in his spirit. Let times change, let men change, let powers change, let nations change, yet a man under the power of assurance will not change his countenance, nor change his master, nor change his work, nor change his hopes. Though others under changes turn, like the chameleon, into all colors to save their little all, yet the assured soul under all changes is semper idem—always the same.

Souls which lack assurance are like him in Aesop, who blew hot and cold with the same breath. The wind is not more subject to change and shift from one quarter to another, from one corner to another, than they are subject to change and shift in changing times.

Antistines, a philosopher, to make his life happy, desired only that he might have the spirit of Socrates, who was always in a quiet temper of spirit, whatever wrongs, injuries, crosses, losses, etc., befell him. Let the trials be what they would, yet he continued one and the same. Ah, Christians! the lack of assurance has made many changelings in these days; but if ever you would be like Socrates, if ever you would be like the philosopher's good man, that is, Tetragonos—four square, that cast him where you will, like a dice, he falls always sure and square, then get assurance of everlasting happiness.

Assurance will make your souls like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which alters not. Assurance will sweeten the darkest day, and the longest night; under variety of changes, it will make a man sit down with Habakkuk, and rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation, Hab 3:17-19.

[3.] The third advantage. Assurance will keep the heart from an inordinate running out after the world, and the glory thereof. Moses having an assurance of the recompense of reward, and of God's love and favor, could not be drawn by all the honors, pleasures, and treasures of Egypt. He slights all, and tramples upon all the glory of the world, as men trample upon things of no worth, Heb 11:24-27. So after Paul had been in the third heaven, and had assurance that nothing should separate him from the love of God in Christ, he looks upon the world as a crucified thing: "The world is crucified to me," says he, 2 Cor 12:1-3, and Rom 8:38; "and I am crucified unto the world," Gal 6:14. The world is dead to me, and I am dead to it: the world and I am well agreed; the world cares not a pin for me, and I care not a pin for the world.

The loadstone cannot draw the iron when the diamond is in presence; no more cannot the vanities of this world draw the soul after them, when assurance, that choice pearl of price, is in presence.

I have read of Lazarus, than after he was raised from the grave, he was never seen to smile. The assurance that he had of more glorious things, did deaden his heart to the things of this world; he saw nothing in them worthy of a smile. Ah! were there more assurance among Christians, there would not be such tugging for the world, and such greedy hunting and pursuing after it, as is in these days, to the dishonor of God, the reproach of Christ, and the shame of the gospel.

Get but more assurance, and less money would satisfy you; get but more assurance, and less places of honor and profit would satisfy you; get but assurance, and then you will neither transgress for a morsel of bread, nor yet violently pursue after the golden wedge, etc.

So when God gave Galeacius, that Italian marquis, an assurance of everlasting happiness, he withstood many golden temptations, and cried out, 'Cursed be he who prefers all the glory of the world to one day's communion with Christ!' Justice would not be sold and bought, as it is in these days, were there more assurance in the world.

[4.] The fourth advantage. Assurance will exceedingly heighten you in your communion with God, and it will exceedingly sweeten your communion with God. Assurance of a man's property in God raises him high in his fellowship with God, 1 John 3:2. There are none who have such choice and sweet communion with God as those who have the clearest assurance of their interest in God, as may be seen throughout the whole book of Solomon's Song. "My beloved is mine, and I am his," says the spouse, Song 2:16. I am assured of my property in him, says she, and therefore he shall lie all night between my breasts; and upon this account it is that she holds king Jesus in the galleries, that she is sick with love, that she is raised and ravished with his kisses and embraces: "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand does embrace me," Song 1:13; Song 7:5; Song 2:6. None had more assurance of her interest in Christ than she, and none higher and closer in communion with Christ than she.

The wife's assurance of her interest in her husband, sweetens and heightens her communion with her husband. The child's assurance of his interest in his father, sweetens his commerce and fellowship with his father. So the believer's assurance of his interest in God, will exceedingly heighten and sweeten his communion and fellowship with God. Assurance of a man's interest in God sweetens every thought of God, and every sight of God, and every taste of God, and every good word of God. God is as sweet to the assured soul when he has a sword in his hand—as when he has a scepter; when he has the rod of indignation—as when he has the cup of consolation; when his garments are rolled and dyed in blood—as when he appears in his wedding robes; when he acts the part of a judge—as when he acts the part of a father, etc. He has all—who has the owner of all.

[5.] The fifth advantage. Assurance will be a choice preservative to keep you from backsliding from God and his ways. Ah! assurance will glue the soul to God and his ways, as Ruth was glued to her mother Naomi. It will make a man "stand fast in the faith, and be courageous like a good soldier of Christ," Gal 5:1; 2 Tim 2:3. 2 Pet 1:10-11, "Therefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall." Stumble you may, and he who does but stumble gets ground by his stumbling. Assurance will keep a man from falling foully and from falling utterly. Verily, the reason why there is so many apostates in these days is, because there are so few who have a well-grounded assurance in these days. Luther, writing to his fearful friend Melancthon, says, 'if we fall, Christ falls.'

Pliny speaks of some fish which swim backward. Ah! many professors in these days swim backward; they swim from God, and Christ, and conscience; yes, they swim from the very principles of morality and common honesty. Believe it, friends! it is not high notions in the brain—but sound assurance in the heart, which will keep a man close to Christ when others backslide from Christ. An assured Christian will not exchange his gold for copper; he knows that one old piece of gold is worth a thousand pennies; one old truth of Christ is worth a thousand new errors, though clothed with glistening robes; and therefore he will prize the truth, and own the truth, and keep close to the truth, when others who lack a sound assurance make merchandise of Christ, precious truths, and of their own and others' immortal souls. Get assurance, and you will stand when seeming cedars fall; lack assurance, and you can not but fall, to the breaking of your bones, if not to the utter loss of your precious soul, 2 Pet 2:3.

[6.] The sixth advantage. Assurance will very much embolden the soul with God. It will make a man divinely familiar with God; it will make a man knock boldly at the door of free grace; it will make a man come boldly before the mercy-seat; it will make a man enter boldly within the holy of holies. Heb 10:22, "Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." Such full assurance as fills all the sails of the soul. Assurance makes the soul converse with God as a favorite with his prince, as a bride with her bridegroom, as a Joseph with a Jacob.

Luther, under the power of assurance, lets fall this transcendent rapture of a daring faith, 'let my will be done; my will, Lord, because it is your will. It is the lack of assurance which makes the countenance sad, the hands hang down, the knees feeble, and the heart full of fears and tremblings, Heb 12:12. Oh therefore get assurance, and that will scatter your fears, and raise your hopes, and cheer your spirits, and give wings to faith, and make you humbly bold with God. You will not then stand at the door of mercy with a 'may I knock?' with a 'may I go in?' with a 'may I find audience and acceptance?' But you will, with Esther, boldly adventure yourselves upon the mercy and goodness of God.

"Now truly, I think," says one, speaking of Christ, "he cannot despise me, who is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; for if he neglects me as a brother, yet he will love me as a husband: that is my comfort." Assurance will remove all strangeness from between Christ and the soul; of two, it will make Christ and the soul one.

[7.] The seventh advantage. Assurance will sweeten the thoughts of death—and all the aches, pains, weaknesses, sicknesses, and diseases—which are the forerunners of death; yes, it will make a man look and long for death. Nazianzen said of the king of terrors, "Devour me, devour me! Death cures all diseases, the aching head, and the unbelieving heart!"

It will make a man sick of his absence from Christ. It makes a man smile upon the king of terrors; it makes a man laugh at the shaking of the spear, at the noise of the battle, at the garments of the warriors rolled in blood. It made the martyrs to desire the lions, to dare and tire their persecutors, to kiss the stake, to sing and clap their hands in the flames, to tread upon hot burning coals, as upon beds of roses.

The assured soul knows that death shall be the funeral of all his sins and sorrows, of all afflictions and temptations, of all desertions and oppositions. He knows that death shall be the resurrection of his joys; he knows that death is both an outlet and an inlet; an outlet to sin, and an inlet to the soul's clear, full, and constant enjoyment of God; and this makes the assured soul to sing it sweetly out, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" "Make haste, my beloved." "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!" [1 Cor 15:55-57; Phil 1:23; Song 8:14; Rev 22:20] Now death is more desirable than life. Now says the soul, 'let him fear death, who is averse to go to Christ.' So I may be with Christ, though I go in a cloud, I care not, says the assured soul. Just so, I may be with Christ, I care not though I go in a fiery chariot, says the assured soul.

The Persians had a certain day in the year, in which they used to kill all serpents and venomous creatures. The assured Christian knows, that the day of death will be such a day to him, and that makes death lovely and desirable. He knows that sin was the midwife which brought death into the world, and that death shall be the grave to bury sin; and therefore death is not a terror—but a delight unto him. He fears it not as an enemy—but welcomes it as a friend; as crookback Richard the Third in his distress cried, "A kingdom for a horse, a kingdom for a horse!"

So souls who lack assurance, when they come to die, will cry out, 'A kingdom for assurance, a kingdom for assurance!' and as Severus said, "If I had a thousand worlds, I would now give them all for Christ." So a soul who lacks assurance, when he comes to enter upon a state of eternity, will cry out, 'Oh, had I now a thousand worlds, I would give them all for assurance!' Whereas the assured soul would not for a thousand worlds but die. When his glass is out, and his sun is set, he cries not out, as Queen Elizabeth did, "A world, a world for an inch of time!" but rather, "Why is it, why is it, Lord, that your chariots are so long a-coming?"

[8.] The eighth advantage. Assurance will very much sweeten that little oil which is in the cruse, and that handful of meal which is in the barrel," 1 Kings 17:12, etc. Assurance will be sauce to all meats, it will make all your mercies to taste like mercies. It will make Daniel's vegetables to be as sweet as princes' delicates, Dan 1:8,12. It will make Lazarus's rags as pleasurable as Dives's robes, Luke 16:20. It will make Jacob's bed upon the stones, to be as soft as those beds of down and ivory, which sinful great ones stretch themselves upon, Gen 28:18; Amos 6:4.

Look! as the lack of assurance embitters all a sinner's mercies, that he cannot taste the sweetness and goodness of them. Just so, the enjoyment of assurance casts a general beauty and glory upon the believer's lowest mercy. And hence it is, that assured souls live so sweetly, and walk so cheerfully, when their little all is upon their backs and in their hands; whereas the great men of the world, who have the world at will—but lack this assurance, which is more worth than the world—live as slaves and servants to these mercies, Job 20:22. In the midst of all their abundance, they are in straits and perplexities, full of fears and cares; nothing pleases them, nor is sweet unto them, because they lack that assurance which sweetens to a believer the ground they stand on, the air he breathes, the seat he sits on, the bread he eats, the clothes he wears, etc.

Ah! were there more assurance among Christians, they would not count great mercies small mercies, and small mercies no mercies; no, no; then every mercy on this side hell would be a great mercy, then every mercy would be a sugared mercy, a perfumed mercy. Look! as the tree which Moses cast into the waters of Marah made those bitter waters sweet, Exod 15:23-25, so assurance is that tree of life which makes every bitter sweet; and every sweet more sweet.

A believer knows,

  1. that his little mercies are from great love;
  2. that they are pledges of greater mercies;
  3. that his blessings are blessed unto him;
  4. that they shall not at last be witnesses against him.

(9.) The ninth advantage. Assurance will make a man very angelical. It will make him full of motion, full of action; it will make him imitate the angels, those princes of glory, that are always busy and active to advance the glory of Christ. They are still a-singing the song of the Lamb; they are still pitching their tents about those who fear the Lord, Psalm 34:7; they are ministering spirits sent forth for the good of those who are heirs of salvation, Heb 1:14. Assurance will make a man fervent, constant, and abundant in the work of the Lord, as you may see in Paul. The assured Christian is more motion than notion, more work than word, more life than lip, more hand than tongue. When he has done one work, he is a-calling out for another; 'What is the next, Lord,' says the assured soul, 'what is the next?' His head and his heart are set upon his work, and what he does, he does it with all his might, because there is no working in the grave. Assurance makes a saint all fire—it makes him like the burning seraphim.

An assured Christian will put his hand to any work; he will put his shoulder to any burden; he will put his neck in any yoke for Christ; he never thinks that he has done enough, he always thinks that he has done too little; and when he has done all he can, he sits down sighing it out, "I am but an unprofitable servant." Bellarmine is of opinion that one glimpse of hell would be enough to make a man not only turn Christian—but a monk, to live after the strictest rules, to be abounding in well-doing. Surely assurance of heaven will make a man do more.

In a word, assurance will have a powerful influence upon your heart. In all the duties and services of religion, nothing will make a man love like this, and live like this; nothing will make a man humble and thankful, contented and cheerful, like assurance. Nothing will make a man more serious in prayer, nor sincere in praises, than assurance. Nothing will make a man more cheerful and joyful than assurance. Nothing will make a man fit to live and more willing to die, than assurance.

Ah, Christians! if ever you would act as angels in this world, get an assurance of another world; then you shall be dumb no more, nor dull no more—but be active and lively, like those whose hopes and whose hearts are in heaven.

(10.) The tenth advantage. Assurance will sweeten Christ, and the precious things of Christ, to your soul. Ah! how sweet is the person of Christ, the natures of Christ, the aims of Christ, the offices of Christ, the benefits of Christ, the blood of Christ, the word of Christ, the threatenings of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, the ordinances of Christ, the smiles of Christ, the kisses of Christ—to an assured soul. Now your meditations on Christ will be no more a terror, nor a horror to you; nay, now your heart will be always best, when you are most in pondering upon the sweetness and goodness, the kindness and loveliness, of the Lord Jesus. Now all the institutions and administrations of Christ will be precious to you. Upon everything where Christ has set his name, there you will set your heart. Now you will call things as Christ calls them, and count things as Christ counts them; that shall not be little in your eye, which is great in the eye of Christ; nor that shall not be great in your eye that is—but little in the eye of Christ.

Assurance will also exceedingly sweeten your behavior to all who bear the image of Christ. Nothing will make men bear with those weak saints, whose light is not so clear as yours, whose parts are not so strong as yours, whose enjoyments are not so high as yours, whose judgments are not so well informed as yours, whoseconsciences are not so well satisfied as yours, and whose lives are not so amiable as yours.

Assurance makes men of a God-like disposition—easy to pardon, ready to forgive, abundant in goodness, admirable in patience. It makes men to study the good of others, and rejoice in all opportunities wherein they may strengthen the feeble, and comfort the dejected, and enrich the impoverished, and recover the fallen, and enlarge the straitened, and build up the weak. Truly, the reason why men are so bitter and sour, and censorious, is because God has not given into their bosoms this sweet flower of delight, assurance.

Ah! were their souls fully assured that God had loved them freely, and received them graciously, and justified them perfectly, and pardoned them absolutely, and would glorify them everlastingly—they could not but love where God loves, and own where God owns, and embrace where God embraces, and be one with everyone who is one with Jesus. Were there more assurance among Christians, there would be more of David's and Jonathan's spirit among Christians, than there is this day.

Were there more assurance among Christians, there would be more life and more love, more sweetness and more tenderness. Were there more assurance, there would be less noise, less contention, less division, less distraction, less biting, and less devouring among the saints. Love is the attractive loadstone of love.

Assurance will make the lion and the calf, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the bear and the cow, lie down together, and feed together, Isa 11:6-8. Men who lack assurance love their brethren as flies love the pot. So long as there is any meat in the pot, the flies love it. Just so, those men will love as long as there is an external motive to draw love—but when that ceases, their love ceases.

Dionysius loved his bottles when they were full—but hurled them away when they were empty. So many who lack assurance love the saints while their bags are full, and their houses full of the good things of this life; but when they are empty, then they throw them away, then they cast them off, as Job's friends did him.

Ah! but assurance will make a man love as God loves, and love as long as God loves. The assured Christian will not cease to love so long as the least buds and blossoms of grace appear. Lazarus in his rags is as lovely to an assured Christian, as Solomon in his robes. Job is as delightful to him upon the ash-heap, as David is upon his throne. It is not the outward pomp and bravery—but the inward beauty and glory of saints, which wins the assured Christian.

(11.) The eleventh motive to provoke you to get a well-grounded assurance of your everlasting happiness is this, consider that as there is a great deal of counterfeit knowledge, counterfeit faith, counterfeit love, counterfeit repentance, etc. in the world, so there is a great deal of counterfeit assurance in the world. Many there are who talk high, and look big, and bear it out bravely—that they are thus and thus, and that they have such and such glorious assurance, whereas, when their assurance comes to be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, it is found too light; and when it comes to withstand temptations, it is found too weak; and when it should put the soul upon divine action, it is found to be but a lazy presumption. Shall the counterfeit gold which is in the world make men active and diligent to get that which is genuine, and which will abide the touchstone and the fire? and shall not that counterfeit assurance that is in the world provoke your hearts to be so much the more careful and active to get such a well-grounded assurance that God accounts as genuine, and which will abide his touchstone in the day of discovery, and which will keep a man from shame and blushing when the thrones shall be set and the books shall be opened?

I have been the longer upon these motives to provoke your souls to get a well-grounded assurance, because it is of an eternal concernment to you, and a work to which men's hearts are too backward.

Though assurance carries a reward in its own bosom—yet few look after it; though the pains of getting it are nothing, compared to the profit which accompanies it—yet few will sweat to gain it.

If the inducements laid down will not awaken and provoke you to be restless until you have got the "white stone" and "new name," until you have got the assurance of your pardon in your bosoms, I know not what will.

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