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past. As we see a wise father would never beat his child for faults that are past, but for the prevention of that which is to come, for we see in time of correction, the child cries out, O I will never do so any more. So God deals with us, because our resolutions and promises are faint and fail, and that without much mourning, humiliation and stripes, we attain not this hatred of sins past, and strength against them for time to come, therefore it is that our humiliation and sorrow must be proportionable to that work which is to be done, otherwise any measure of it were sufficient which fits us for the time to come.
But I will add, there are indeed divers measures of it, according unto which the conscience is wounded or eased; when there is a tough melancholy humour that the powers of the soul are distracted, good duties omitted, and the heart so much the more hardened: when upon this the Lord lets loose the band of the conscience, oppressing the same with exceeding fears and terrors, this the Lord uses as a wedge to cleave in sunder a hard piece of wood. God then doth show us, because we would not plough ourselves we shall be ploughed. If we would judge ourselves, saith the apostle, we should not be judged, and therefore the Church confesses and complains, that "the" ploughers ploughed upon her back and made deep furrows." Why? How came this, she did not plough up her own fallow ground, wherefore the Lord sent her other strangers and harsh ploughers, that ploughed her soundly indeed. Wherefore doth God thus deal with his children? because he is the great and most wise husbandman, who will not sow amongst thorns. Therefore when he is about to sow the seed of eternal life in the soul, which must take deep root and grow for ever, he will have the ground throughly ploughed.
The way then to avoid these things, that are so harsh and displeasing to flesh and blood, is to take the rod betimes and beat ourselves, for when we are slow and secure,
y Psalm 129. ver. 2.'
and omit this, God doth do the work himself: but yet God makes a difference of good education in those who have kept themselves from the common pollutions, and gross sins of the times, it pleaseth God, faith comes into them, they know not how, nor the time, grace drops in by little and little, now a little and then a little by degrees, sin is more and more hated, and the heart inflamed with a desire of good things in a conscionable life. But in a measure, I say, such must have had, have, or shall have fears and terrors; so much as may keep them from sin, and quicken them to go on constantly in the ways of holiness; or when they fly out of the way they shall smart for it and be whipped home again; yet for the main they find themselves as it were in heaven they know not how. But if a man have stuck deep and long in sin, he must look for a greater measure of humiliation and fear, and a more certain time of his calling, there must be haling and pulling such a man out of the fire with violence; and he must not look to obtain peace and comfort with ease, God will thunder and lighten in such a man's conscience in Mount Sinai, before he speak peace unto him in Mount Zion.
A second time there is also, of a great measure of humiliation; which is, though a man may be free from great, gross sins, and worldly pollutions, when the Lord intends to show the feeling of his mercy and the sense thereof to any in an extraordinary measure, or fit them for some high services, then they shall be much humbled before, as we see St. Paul was: God did thunder upon him, and beat him down in the highway to the ground, being stricken with blindness for three days after.
Thus much shall suffice to have been spoken of the fifteenth verse, touching the spirit of bondage, and the spirit of adoption. The apostle tells them, they may thank God the spirit of fear thus came, that hereafter they might partake of the spirit of adoption to fear no more; he stirs
Acts, chap. 8. ver. 9.
them up, as it were, to be thankful, because now they had obtained a better state: why, what estate? A very high one: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God."
& Verse 16.
ROMANS, CHAP. VIII. VER. 16.
The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God.
HAVING spoken concerning the spirit of bondage and the spirit of adoption in the former verse, the apostle, in these words that I have now read, doth, as it were, stir up those unto thankfulness; to whom he writes, because they had now attained to a better state; the Spirit itself bearing witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God.
The thing then is, to know ourselves to be the children of God, there must be found evidences; here then are two set down, whose testimony we cannot deny. I will touch them as briefly as I can, and so will make an end. First, the witness of our spirit.
Secondly, the witness of God's Spirit with our spirits. These are two evidences, not single, but compounded; wherein you see there may be some work of our spirit.
But some may say, our spirit is deceitful; how then can our own spirit work in this manner to testify?
I answer, in this place, our spirit is as it were an evidence of God from heaven, as a loud token given, assuring me upon good grounds, that I have not misapplied the promises; but though God do write bitter things against me, yet that I love him still, and cleave unto him, that for all this I know that I still hunger and thirst after righteousness; that I will not be beaten off, nor receive an ill report of my Lord and Saviour; that I rest, wait, fear and trust in him still. When thus our valour and
faith is tried, then comes the same Spirit, and seals with our spirit, that we are the children of God: when our seal is first put, then God seals with our spirit, the same thing by his Spirit. To this effect is that in 1 John, chap. III. ver. 8. we read three witnesses are set down, the spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one. These three witness that we have everlasting life, and that our names are written in heaven. How do these three agree with these two witnesses? very well: St. John, he ranks them according to the order of their clearest evidence; first the spirit, then the water, then the blood: the apostle here, he ranks them according to their natural being; first, our spirit in justification and sanctification, and then God's Spirit. For the Spirit, of all other, this is the clearest evidence; and when this is bright and manifest, there needs no more, the thing is sealed. So the testimony of water is a clear evidence, whereby is meant sanctification, this is put next unto the spirit; for when the spirit is silent, yet this may speak: for though I have many wants and imperfections in me, yet if my spirit can testify unto me that I have a desire to please God in all things, that I resolve upon and set up his service as the pitch of all my utmost endeavours, that with allowance I willingly cherish no corruption, but set myself against all sin; this water will comfort and hold up a man from sinking; as we see in all the sore trials of Joba. Still he stood upon the integrity of his own spirit, and would not let that go, though he were sore beaten of the Almighty, and slandered for a wicked person. But the water may be muddy, and the struggling of the flesh and spirit so strong, that we happily shall not be able to judge which is master: what then? Then faith lays hold of the blood in justification, which, though it be the darkest testimony, yet is as sure as any of the other. Now in comparing of these witnesses together in St. John and in my text, I rank the water and the blood with the testimony of our spirit. And the spirit mentioned in
Job, chap. 28. ver. 2.