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us to call upon him as our Father, to open our eyes, and to make the truth of things believed evident unto our minds, is much mightier in operation than the common light of Nature, whereby we discern sensible things: wherefore we must needs be more sure of that we believe, than of that we see; we must needs be more certain of the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, than we are of the light of the sun when it shineth upon our faces. To that of Abraham, “ He did not doubt;" I answer, that this negation doth not exclude all fear, all doubting, but only that which cannot stand with true Faith. It freeth Abraham from doubting through infidelity, not from doubting through infirmity; from the doubting of unbelievers, not of weak believers; from such a doubting as that whereof the Prince of Samaria is attainted, who, hearing the promise of sudden plenty in the midst of extreme dearth, answered, “ Though the Lord would make windows (2 Kings
vii. 2.] in heaven, were it possible so to come to pass ?” But that Abraham was not void of all doubting, what need we any other proof than the plain evidence of his own words? The Gen. reason which is taken from the power of the Spirit were effectual, if God did work like a natural agent, as the fire doth inflame, and the sun enlighten, according to the uttermost ability which they have to bring forth their effects : but the incomprehensible wisdom of God doth limit the effects of his power to such a measure as it seemeth best unto himself; wherefore he worketh that certainty in all, which sufficeth abundantly to their salvation in the life to come; but in none so great as attaineth in this life unto perfection. Even so, O Lord, it hath pleased thee; even so it is best and fittest for us, that feeling still our own infirmities, we may no longer breathe than pray, Adjuva, Domine-Help, Lord, our incredulity.” Of the third question, this I hope will suffice, being added unto that which hath been thereof already spoken. The fourth question resteth, and so an end of this point.
6. That which cometh last of all in this first branch to be considered concerning the weakness of the Prophet's Faith is, Whether he did by this very thought, “ The Law doth fail," quench the Spirit, fall from Faith, and shew himself an unbeliever, or no? The question is of moment; the repose and tranquillity of infinite souls doth depend upon it. The Prophet's case is the case of many; which way soever we
cast for him, the same way it passeth for all others. If in him this cogitation did extinguish Grace, why the like thoughts in us should not take the like effect, there is no
Forasmuch, therefore, as the matter is weighty, dear, and precious, which we have in hand, it behoveth us with so much the greater chariness to wade through it, taking special heed both what we build, and whereon we build ; that if our building be pearl, our foundation be not stubble; if the doctrine we teach be full of comfort and consolation, the ground whereupon we gather it be sure: otherwise we shall not save, but deceive, both ourselves and others. In this we know we are not deceived, neither can we deceive you, when we teach that the Faith whereby ye are sanctified cannot fail; it did not in the Prophet, it shall not in you. If it be so, let the difference be shewed between the condition of unbelievers and his, in this or in the like
imbecility and weakness. There was in Habakkuk that (1 John which St. John doth call “the seed of God," meaning
thereby the first grace which God poureth into the hearts of them that are incorporated into Christ; which having received, if, because it is an adversary unto sin, we do therefore think we sin not both otherwise, and also by distrustful and doubtful apprehending of that which we ought stedfastly to believe, surely we do but deceive ourselves. Yet they which are of God do not sin either in this, or in any thing,
any such sin as doth quite extinguish Grace, clean cut them [ver. 9.] off from Christ Jesus; because the seed of God “abideth"
in them, and doth shield them from receiving any irremediable wound. Their Faith, when it is at the strongest, is but weak; yet even then, when it is at the weakest, so strong, that utterly it never faileth, it never perisheth altogether, no not in them who think it extinguished in themselves. There are for whose sakes I dare not deal slightly in this cause, sparing that labour which must be bestowed to make it plain. Men in like agonies unto this of the Prophet Habakkuk’s, are through extremity of grief, many times in judgment so confounded, that they find not themselves in themselves. For that which dwelleth in their hearts they seek, they make diligent search and enquiry. It “abideth,” it worketh
in them, yet still they ask, where? Still they lament as for (Jere. a thing which is past finding: they mourn as Rachel, and is ; and as if that, which is not were; as if they did not believe when they do, and, as if they did despair when they do not. Which in some, I grant, is but a melancholy passion, proceeding only from that dejection of mind, the cause whereof is in the body, and by bodily means can be taken away. But where there is no such bodily cause, the mind is not lightly in this mood, but by some of these three occasions : One, that judging by comparison either with other men, or with themselves at some other time more strong, they think imperfection to be a plain deprivation, weakness to be utter want, of Faith. Another cause is, they often mistake one thing for another. St. Paul, wishing well to the Church of Rome, prayeth for them after this sort, « The God of hope fill you with all joy of believing.” (Rom.
refuse to be comforted, as if that were not which indeed
xv. 13.) Hence an error groweth, when men in heaviness of spirit suppose they lack Faith, because they find not the sugared joy and delight which indeed doth accompany Faith, but so as a separable accident, as a thing that may be removed from it; yea, there is a cause why it should be removed. The light would never be so acceptable, were it not for that usual intercourse of darkness. Too much honey doth turn to gall; and too much joy, even spiritually, would make us wantons. Happier a great deal is that man's case, whose soul by inward desolation is humbled, than he whose heart is through abundance of spiritual delight lifted up and exalted above measure. Better it is sometimes to go down into the pit with him, who, beholding darkness, and bewailing the loss of inward joy and consolation, crieth from the bottom of the lowest hell, “My God, my God, why hast (Psalm thou forsaken me?" than continually to walk arm in arm with Angels, to sit as it were in Abraham's bosom, and to have no thought, no cogitation, but “ I thank my God it [Luke
xviii.11.) is not with me as it is with other men." No, God will have them that shall walk in light to feel now and then what it is to sit in the shadow of death. A grieved spirit therefore is no argument of a faithless mind. A third occasion of men's misjudging themselves, as if they were faithless when they are not, is, they fasten their cogitations upon the distrustful suggestions of the flesh, whereof finding great abundance in themselves, they gather thereby, Surely unbelief hath full dominion, it hath taken plenary possession of me; if I were faithful it could not be thus: not marking the motions of the
Spirit and of Faith, because they lie buried and overwhelmed
with the contrary: when notwithstanding, as the blessed (Rom., Apostle doth acknowledge, that the Spirit groaneth, and viii. 26.)
that God heareth when we do not; so there is no doubt but that our Faith may have, and hath, her privy operations secret to us, in whom, yet known to him by whom they are. Tell this to a man that hath a mind deceived by too hard an opinion of himself, and it doth but augment his grief: he hath his answer ready, Will you make me think otherwise than I find, than I feel in myself? I have throughly considered and exquisitely sifted all the corners of my heart, and I see what there is; never seek to persuade me against my knowledge; I do not, I know, I do not believe. Well, to favour them a little in their weakness, let that be granted which they do imagine; be it that they are faithless and without belief. But are they not grieved for their unbelief? They are. Do they not wish it might, and also strive that it may, be otherwise? We know they do. Whence cometh this, but from a secret love and liking which they have of those things that are believed? No man can love things which in his own opinion are not. And if they think those things to be, which they shew that they love when they desire to believe them; then must it needs be, that by desiring to believe they prove themselves true believers : for without Faith no man thinketh that things believed are. Which argument all the subtilty of infernal powers will never be able to dissolve. The Faith therefore of true believers, though it have many and grievous downfalls, yet doth it still continue invincible; it conquereth and recovereth itself in the end. The dangerous conflicts, whereunto it is subject, are not able to prevail against it. The Prophet Habakkuk remained faithful in weakness, though weak in Faith. It is true, such is our weak and wavering nature, that we have no sooner received Grace, but we are ready to fall from it: we have no sooner given our assent to the Law, that it cannot fail, but the next conceit which we are ready to embrace is, that it may, and that it doth fail. Though we find in ourselves a most willing heart to cleave
unseparably unto God, even so far as to think unfeignedly [Luke with Peter, “ Lord, I am ready to go with thee into prison xxii.33.) and to death;" yet how soon and how easily, upon how
small occasions, are we changed, if we be but awhile let
alone, and left unto ourselves? The Galatians to-day, for their sakes which teach them the truth in* Christ, content, if need were, to pluck out their own eyes, and the next (Gal.
iv. 15.] day, ready to pluck out theirs which taught them. The love of the Angel of the Church of Ephesus, how greatly inflamed, and how quickly slacked! The higher we flow, the nearer we are unto an ebb, if men be respected as mere men, according to the wonted course of their alterable inclination, without the heavenly support of the Spirit. Again, the desire of our ghostly enemy is so uncredible, and his means so forcible to overthrow our Faith, that whom the blessed Apostle knew betrothed and made hand-fast unto Christ, to them he could not write but with great trembling; “ I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I have (2 Cor.
si. 2, 3.] prepared you to one Husband, to present you a pure Virgin unto Christ: but I fear, lest as the Serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ.” The simplicity of Faith which is in Christ, taketh the naked promise of God, his bare Word, and on that it resteth. This simplicity the Serpent laboureth continually to pervert, corrupting the mind with many imaginations of repugnancy and contrariety between the promise of God and those things which sense or experience, or some other fore-conceived persuasion, hath imprinted. The word of the promise of God unto his people is, “ I will not leave thee nor forsake thee:" upon this the (Josh. simplicity of Faith resteth, and it is not afraid of famine. But mark how the subtilty of Satan did corrupt the minds of that rebellious generation, whose spirits were not faithful unto God. They beheld the desolate state of the Desert in which they were, and by the wisdom of their sense concluded the promise of God to be but folly; " Can God (Psalm prepare a table in the Wilderness?" The word of the pro- 19.) mise to Sarah was,
6. Thou shalt bear a son." Faith is simple, and doubteth not of it: but Satan, to corrupt this simplicity of Faith, entangleth the mind of the woman with an argument drawn from common experience to the contrary; A woman that is old; Sarah now to be acquainted (Gen. again with forgotten passions of youth! The word of the 12.) promise of God by Moses and the Prophets made the
* [Eph. iv. 21.]