I come now to speak a little to the other part of sanctification, which concerneth the change of our nature and frame, and is called vivification, or quickening of the new man of grace; which is called the new man, as having all its several members and parts, as well as the old man; and called new, because posterior to the other; and after regeneration is upon the growing hand, this duty of growing in grace, as it is called, 2 Pet. iii. &c. is variously expressed and held forth to us in Scripture; for it is called |an abiding and bringing forth fruit in Christ,| John xv.5; |adding to faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge,| 2 Pet. i.5, 6, 7; |a going on to perfection,| Heb. vii.1; |a growing up in Christ in all things,| Eph. iv.15; |a working out our salvation,| Phil. ii.12; |a perfecting of holiness,| 2 Cor. vii.1; |a walking in newness of life,| Rom. vi.4; |a yielding of ourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God,| Rom. vi.13, 18; |a bringing forth fruit unto God,| Rom, vii.4; |a serving in newness of spirit,| Rom. vii.6; |a being renewed in the spirit of our minds, and a putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,| Eph. iv.23,24. Col. iii.10, and the like: some whereof do more immediately express the nature of this change, as to the root, and some as to the fruit and effects thereof, and some the progress and advancement that is made or to be made therein. And all of them point out a special piece of work, which lieth on all that would see the face of God, viz. to be holy, gracious, and growing in grace.
This, then, being a special piece of the exercise and daily work of a Christian, and it being certain, as some of the places now cited do also affirm, that without Christ they cannot get this work either begun or carried on, the main difficulty and question is, How they are to make use of Christ for this end?
For answer whereunto, though by what we have said in our former discourse, it may be easy to gather what is to be said here; yet I shall briefly put the reader in mind of those things, as useful here.
1. The believer would consider what an ornament this is to the soul, to have on this new man, which is created after the image of God, Eph. iv.23. What an excellency lieth here, to recover that lost glory, holiness and the image of God? and what advantage the soul reapeth hereby, when it |is made meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light,| Col. i.12; |and walking worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God,| Col. i.10; |and strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering, with joyfulness,| ver.11; and when the abounding of the graces of the Spirit maketh them |that they shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,| 2 Pet. i.8; |and to be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every work,| 2 Tim. ii.21. What glory and peace is here, to be found obedient unto the many commands given to be holy: what hazard is in the want of holiness, when without it we cannot see God, Heb. xii.14: how unanswerable it is unto our profession, who are members to such a holy head, to be unholy: what profit, joy, and satisfaction there is, in being temples of the Holy Ghost, in walking after the Spirit, in bringing forth fruit unto the glory of the Father, &c. The consideration of these and other motives unto this study of sanctification, would arm the soul with resolution, and harden it against opposition.
2. It would be remembered, that this work, though it be laid upon us, as our duty, and we be called thereunto of God, yet it is beyond our hand and power. It is true, at conversion, the seed of grace is cast into the soul, new habits are infused, a new principle of life is given, the stony heart is changed into an heart of flesh; yet these principles and habits cannot act in themselves, or be brought into act, by any thing that a believer, considered in himself, and without divine help, can do. But this work of sanctification and growth in grace must be carried on by divine help, by the Spirit of Jesus dwelling and working within; and therefore it is called the sanctification of the Spirit, 2 Thess. ii.13.1 Pet. i.2. The God of peace must sanctify us, I Thess. v.23. We are said to be sanctified by God the Father, Jude 1.; and by the Holy Ghost, Rom. xv.16; see also 1 Cor. vi.11. |We would remember that of ourselves we can do nothing,| 2 Cor. iii.5, and |that he must work in us both to will and to do of his own good pleasure,| Phil. ii.13. Albeit no believer will question the truth of this; yet it may be, it shall be found after trial, that one main cause of their not growing in grace, and making progress in this work, is their not acting as believing this, but setting about the work, as if it were a work which they themselves could master and do without special divine help. Therefore the believer would abide, live, and act, in the faith of this truth.
3. Therefore believers would not, in going about this work, either trust to their own strength, to the habits of grace, to their former experiences, to their knowledge and parts, or the like; nor yet would they trust to any external mean, which they are to go about; because the wisdom, strength, and help, which their case calleth for, is not to be found in them; yet they should not think of laying these means and duties aside, for then should they sin against God; they should prejudge themselves of the help, strength, and supply, which God useth to convey to the soul, in and by the use of the means. And withal, they should tempt the Lord, by prescribing another way to him than he hath thought good to take. The believer, then, would use the means and duties prescribed, and that diligently, seriously, and constantly; and yet would lean as little to them, and expect help and relief as little from them, as if he were not using them at all, as we said above. And indeed this would be a right way; yea, the most advantageous and profitable way, of going about duties, to be diligent in the use of them, because of God's command, and yet to place our hope and expectation in God alone, and to look above the ordinances for our help.
4. Albeit it be true that the power and grace of God alone, doth begin and carry on this work of sanctification in the soul: yet though he might, did he but see it for his glory, carry on and finish this work in the soul, without the intervention of second causes or means, he hath notwithstanding thought it fit, for the glory of his name, to work this work by means, and particularly by believers setting about the work. He worketh not in man as if he were a block or a stone, but useth him as a rational creature, endued with a rational soul, having useful and necessary faculties, and a body fired by organs to be subservient to the soul in its actions. Therefore the believer must not think to lie by and do nothing, for he is commanded to work out his own salvation, and that because it is God that worketh in him both to will and to do. Because God worketh all, therefore he should work; so reasoneth the apostle. So that God's working is an argument and motive to the man to work, and not an argument to him to lie by idle and do nothing. And here is the holy art and divine skill requisite in this business, to wit, for the believer to be as diligent and active as if he could bring forth fruit in his own strength, and by his own working; and yet to be as abstracted from himself, his own grace, ability, knowledge, experience, in his working, as if he were lying by like a mere block, and only moving as moved by external force.
5. The soul that would make progress in Christianity, and grow in grace, would remember that Christ is proposed to us as a copy, which we are to imitate, and that therefore we should set Christ continually before us as our pattern, that we may follow his steps, 1 Pet. i.15, and ii.21. But withal it would be remembered, that he is not like other ensamples or copies, that can help the man that imitateth them in no other way than by their objective prospect; for looking by faith on this copy, will bring virtue to the man that studieth to imitate, whereby he shall be enabled to follow his copy better. O! if we knew in experience what this were, to take a look of Christ's love, patience, long-suffering, meekness, hatred of sin, zeal, &c, and by faith to pore in, till, by virtue proceeding from that copy, we found our hearts in some measure framed into the same disposition, or at least more inclined to be cast into the same mould!
6. The believer would act faith on Christ, as the head of the body, and as the stock in which the branches are ingrafted, and thereby suck sap, and life, and strength from him, that he may work, walk, and grow, as becometh a Christian. The believer must grow up in him, being a branch in him, and must bring forth fruit in him, as the forementioned places clear. Now, Christ himself tells us, that the branches cannot bring forth fruit, except they abide in the vine; and that no more can his disciples bring forth, except they abide in him, John xv. Therefore, as it is by faith that the soul, as a branch, is united to Christ, as the vine; and as it is by faith that they abide in him; so it is by faith that they must bring forth fruit; and this faith must grip Christ as the vine, and the stock or root from which cometh sap, life, and strength. Faith, then, must look to Christ as the fountain of furniture -- as the head from whence cometh all the influences of strength and motion. Christ hath strength and life enough to give out, for |the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in him bodily;| and he is also willing enough to communicate of his fulness, as the relations he hath taken on do witness. The head will not grudge to give to the members of the body, spirits for action and motion; nor will a vine grudge to give sap into the branches. Nay, life, strength, and furniture will, as it were, natively flow out of Christ unto believers, except they, through unbelief, and other distempers, cause obstructions; as life and sap doth natively and kindly flow from the root to the branches, or from the head to the members, unless obstructions stop the passage. It is necessary, therefore, that believers eye Christ under these and the like relations, and look upon him as standing, (so to speak,) obliged by his place and relation, to grant strength and influences of life, whereby they may become fruitful in every good work; and so with holy, humble, and allowed boldness, press in faith for new communications of grace, virtue, strength, courage, activity, and what else they need; for, from the head, all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. ii.19. Eph. iv.16.
7. For this cause believers would lie open to the influences of Christ, and guard against the putting of obstructions in the way, through grieving of the Spirit, by which he conveyeth and communicateth those influences unto the soul; and through questioning and misbelieving Christ's faithfulness and unchangeable willingness, which as a violent humour stoppeth the passage. So then believers would lie open by looking and waiting, drawing, seeking from him what they need, and by guarding against every thing that may provoke the Lord to anger, whether in omission or commission. Here is requisite, an holy, humble, sober, and watchful walk; an earnest, serious, and hungry looking out to him, and a patient waiting for supply and furniture from him. This is to open the mouth wide that he may fill it; to lie before the Sun of Righteousness, that the beams thereof may beat upon them, and warm and revive them; and to wait as a beggar at this King's gate, till he give the alms.
8. For the strengthening their hope and faith in this, they would lay hold upon Christ dying, and by his death purchasing all those influences of life and strength which are requisite for carrying on the work of grace and sanctification in the soul. For we must be |blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings,| Eph. i.3. The believer, then, would look upon these influences, as purchased at a dear rate, by the blood of Jesus Christ; so that the divine power giveth unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue, 2 Peter i.3. And this will encourage the soul to wait on, and expect the flowing down of influences, and spiritual blessings and showers of grace, to cause the soul to flourish and become fruitful, and to urge and press more earnestly by faith the bestowing of the purchased benefits.
9. Moreover, the believer would look on Jesus as standing engaged and obliged to carry on this work, both receiving them as for this end, from the Father. Hence we are said |to be chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy,| &c. Eph. i.4; and as dying for them. For he gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, that it should be holy, Eph. v.25-27. He hath reconciled them, in the body of his flesh, through death, to present them holy, Col. i.2, 22. So that the noble covenant of redemption may found the certain hope and expectation of the believer, upon a double account: (1.) Upon the account of the Father's faithfulness, who promised a seed to Jesus, viz. such as should be his children, and so be sanctified through him, and that the pleasure of the Lord, which in part is the work of sanctification, should prosper in his hand. And, (2.) Upon the account of Christ's undertaking and engaging, as is said, to bring his sons and daughters to glory, which must be thought sanctification; for without holiness no man shall see God. And they must look like himself, who is a holy head, a holy husband, a holy captain; and therefore they must be holy members, a holy spouse, and holy soldiers. So that he standeth engaged to sanctify them by his Spirit and word, and therefore is called the sanctifier, Heb. ii.11; |for both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all one.| Yea, their union with Christ layeth the foundation of this; for |being joined to the Lord, they become one Spirit,| 1 Cor. vi.17, and are animated and quickened by one and the same Spirit of life and grace, and therefore must be sanctified by that Spirit.
10. The believer likewise would act faith upon the promises of the new covenant, of grace, strength, life, &c, whereby they shall walk in his ways, have God's laws put into their minds, and wrote in their hearts, Heb. viii.10. Jer. xxxi.33; and of the new heart, and new spirit, and the heart of flesh, and the Spirit within them, to cause them walk in his ways or statutes, and keep his judgments, and do them, Ezek. xxxvi.26, 27, and the like, wherewith the Scripture aboundeth; because these are all given over to the believer by way of testament and legacy, Christ becoming the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance, Heb. ix.15. Now, Christ, by his death, hath confirmed this testament; |for where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force after men are dead,| vers.16, 17. Christ, then, dying to make the testament of force, hath made the legacy of the promises sure unto the believer; so that now all the |promises are yea and amen in Christ,| 2 Cor. i.20. |He was made a minister of circumcision to confirm the promises made to the fathers,| Rom. xv.8. That the eyeing of these promises by faith is a noble mean to sanctification, is clear, by what the apostle saith, 2 Cor. vii.1, |Having therefore these promises, let us cleanse ourselves; perfecting holiness in the fear of God.| And it is by faith that those promises must be received, Heb. xi.33: So that the believer that would grow in grace, would eye Christ, the fundamental promise, the testator establishing the testament, and the executor or dispensator of the covenant, and expect the good things through him, and from him, through the conduit and channel of the promises.
11. Yet further, believers would eye Christ in his resurrection, as a public person, and so look on themselves, and reckon themselves as rising virtually in and with him, and take the resurrection of Christ as a certain pawn and pledge of their sanctification; for so reasoneth the apostle, Rom. vi.4, 5, 11, 13. |We are buried,| says he, |with him by baptism unto death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life: For -- we shall be also planted in the likeness of his resurrection; and if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: -- therefore reckon ye also yourselves to be -- alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.| The right improving of this ground would be of noble advantage to the student of holiness: for then he might with strong confidence conclude, that the work of sanctification should prosper in his hand; for he may now look upon himself as |quickened together with Christ,| Eph. ii.5. Christ dying and rising, as a public person, and he by faith being now joined with him, and united to him.
12. Moreover this resurrection of Christ may yield us another ground of hope and confidence in this work; for there is mention made of the power of his resurrection, Phil. iii.10. So that by faith we may draw strength and virtue from Christ, as an arisen and quickened head, whereby we also may live unto God, and bring forth fruit unto him, and serve no more in the oldness of the letter, |but in the newness of the Spirit,| Rom. vii.4, 6. He was quickened as a head, and when the head is quickened, the members cannot but look for some communication of life therefrom, and to live in the strength of the life of the head: see Col. iii.1, 2.
13. Faith may and should also look to Christ, as an intercessor with the Father. For this particular, John xvii.17, |Sanctify them through thy truth, thy Word is truth:| and this will add to their confidence, that the work shall go on; for Christ was always heard of the Father, John xi.41, 42, and so will be in his prayer, which was not put up for the few disciples alone.
The believer then would eye Christ as engaging to the Father to begin and perfect this work; as dying to purchase the good things promised, and to confirm the same; as quickened, and rising as head and public person, to ensure this work, and to bestow and actually confer the graces requisite; and as praying also for the Father's concurrence, and cast the burden of the work on him by faith, knowing that he standeth obliged, by his place and relation to his people, to bear all their burthens, to work all their works in them, to perfect his own work that he hath begun in them, to present them to himself at last a holy bride, to give them the Spirit |to dwell in them,| Rom. viii.9, 11 |and to quicken their mortal bodies,| ver.11, |and to lead them,| ver.14; |till at length they be crowned, and brought forward to glory.| This is to live by faith, when Christ liveth, acteth, and worketh in us by his Spirit, Gal. ii.20. Thus Christ dwelleth in the heart by faith; and by this his people become rooted and grounded in love, which is a cardinal grace; and knowing the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, they become filled with all the fulness of God, Eph. iii.17, 19. So that the believer is to commit by faith the work to Christ, and leave the stress of all the business on him who is their life. Yet the believer must not think he is to do nothing, or to lay aside the means of ordinances, but using these diligently, would in them commit the matter to Christ, and by faith roll the whole work on him, expecting, upon the ground of his relations, engagements, promises, beginnings, &c., that he will certainly perfect the work, (Phil. i.6,) and take it well off their hands, and be well pleased with them for putting the work in his hands, and leaving it on him |who is made of God to us sanctification.|
As in the former part, so here it will not be amiss to give a few words of caution, for preventing of mistakes.
1. We would beware of thinking that perfection can be attained here: the perfect man and measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ is but coming, and till then the body will be a perfecting and edifying, through the work of the ministry, Eph. iv.12, 13. Believers must not think of sitting down on any measure of grace which they attain to here; but they must be growing in grace, going from strength to strength, till they appear in the upper Zion with the apostle, Phil. iii.13. |Forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, they must press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.| It must then be a dreadful delusion for any to think that they can reach to such a degree of perfection here, as not to stand in need of the ordinance any more. Let all believers live in the constant conviction of their shortcoming, and be humbled, and so work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
2. Nor should every believer expect one and the same measure of holiness, nor can it be expected with reason that all shall advance here to the same height of sanctity; for every part of the body hath its own measure, and an effectual working in that measure: and so every joint of the body supplieth less or more, according to its proportion, and contributeth to the increase of the body, and to the edifying of itself in love, as the apostle clearly sheweth, Eph. iv.16. As in the natural body the diversity of functions and uses of the members requireth diversity of furniture and strength, so in the mystical body of Christ the members have not all alike measure, but each hath his proper distinct measure, according to his place and usefulness in the body. Believers then would learn much sobriety here and submission, knowing that God may dispense his graces as he will, and give them to each member in what measure he thinketh good: only they would take heed, that their poverty and leanness be not occasioned through their own carelessness and negligence, in not plying the means of grace with that faithfulness and single dependence on Christ that they ought.
3. It would be remembered, that there may be some progress made in the way of holiness, when yet the believer may apprehend no such thing; not only because the measure of the growth may be so small and indiscernible, but also because even where the growth in itself is discernible, the Lord may think it good, for wise ends, to hide it from their eyes, that they may be kept humble and diligent; whereas, if they saw how matters stood indeed with them, they might (without a new degree of grace) swell and be puffed up, yea, even forget God, and misken themselves and others too. Likewise this may proceed from such an earnest desire after more, that they forget any measure they have gotten, and so despise the day of small things.
4. There may be a great progress in holiness, though not in that particular which the believer is most eyeing to his sense and apprehension: for when he thinks he is not growing in love to and zeal for God, &c, he may be growing in humility, which is also a member of the new man of grace; and when he can perceive no growth in knowledge, there may be a growth in affection and tenderness. And if the work be carried on in any joint or member, it decayeth in none, though it may be better apprehended in one than another.
5. There may be much holiness, where the believer is complaining of the want of fruits, when under that dispensation of the Lord towards him, he is made to stoop before the Most High, to put his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope, and pleasantly to submit to God's wise ordering, without grudging or quarrelling with God for what he doth, and to accept sweetly the punishment of his iniquity, if he see guilt lying at the root of this dispensation. Where there is a silent submission to the sovereign and only wise disposing hand of God, and the man is saying, if he will not have me to be a fruitful tree in his garden, nor to grow and flourish as the palm-tree, let me be a shrub, only let me be kept within the precincts of his garden, that his eye may be upon me for good; let me abide within his courts, that I may behold his countenance, there is grace, and no small measure of grace. To be an hired servant is much, Luke xv.19.
6. But withal, it would be observed, that this gracious frame of soul, that is silent before God, under several disappointments, is accompanied with much singleness of heart, in panting after more holiness, and with seriousness and diligence in all commanded duties, waiting upon the Lord, who is their hope and their salvation in each of them, and with mourning for their own sinful accession to that shortcoming in their expectations.
7. We would not think that there is no progress in Christianity, or growth in grace, because it cometh not our way, or by the instruments and means that we must expect it by. Possibly we are too fond on some instruments and means that we prefer to others; and we think, if ever we get good, it must be that way, and by that means, be it private or public: and God may give a proof of his sovereignty, and check us for our folly, by taking another way. He would not be found of the bride, neither by her seeking of him secretly on her bed by night; nor more publicly, by going about the city, in the streets and broad ways; nor by the means of the watchmen, Cant. iii.1, 2, 3.
8. Nor would we think that there is no growth in the work of grace, because it cometh not at such or such prelimited or fore-set time; nor would we think the matter desperate, because of our looking long, and waiting, and asking, and labouring, and yet seeing no sensible advantage. Such and such a believer, saith the soul, made great progress in a short time, but I come no speed, for as long as I have been at this school. O! we should beware of limiting the Holy One of Israel. Let us be at duty, and commit the event to him.
9. It is not a fit time to take the measure of our graces, as to their sensible growth and fruitfulness, when devils are broken loose upon us; temptations are multiplied, corruptions make a great noise, and we are meeting with a horrible tempest shaking us on all hands: for it will be strong grace that will much appear then; it will be strong faith that will say, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him. At such a time it will be much if the man keep the ground he hath gained, though he make no progress. It will be much for a tree to stand, and not to be blown out of the ground, in the time of a strong and vehement storm, of wind, though it keep not its flourishes and yield not fruit The trees, which in a cold winter day bear neither leaves nor fruit, must not be said to go back, nor not to grow; because when the spring cometh again, they may revive and be as fruitful as ever.
10. We would not always measure our graces by what appeareth outwardly; for there may be some accidental occurrence that may hinder that, and yet grace be at work within doors, which few or none can observe. The believer may be in a sweet and gracious frame, blushing before the Lord, yea, melting in love, or taken up with spiritual meditations and wondering, when as to some external duties, it can find no present disposition, through some accidental impediment or other, so that to some, who judge most by outward appearance, no such things as the active working of grace in life can appear.
11. We would think it no small measure or degree of holiness, to be with singleness of heart pursuing it, even though it should seem to flee from us; to be earnestly panting after it, and hungering and thirsting for it. Nehemiah thought this no small thing, when he said, Neh. i.11, |O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servants who desire to fear thy name.|
12. Whatever measure of holiness the believer win to, he would take special heed that he place no part of his confidence of his being accepted and justified before God in it, as if that could come in any part of the price to satisfy justice: but when he hath done all, let him call and account himself an unprofitable servant. Though believers will not be so gross as to speak thus, yet sure their justifying of their holding a-back from God, because they find not such a measure of grace and holiness as they would have, looketh too much this way, and saith, that they lean too much hereunto in the matter of the acceptance of their persons before God. Now this should be specially guarded against, lest their labour be in vain.
An objection or two must here also be removed. And 1. Some may say, that though they have been labouring, and striving, and working now for some long time, yet they can perceive no advancement; they are as far short as ever.
Ans. Hath it not been found, that some have complained without cause? Have not some complained of their unfruitfulness and want of growth, that other good Christians would have thought themselves very happy, if they had but advanced half so far as they saw them to have done?
But be it so, as it is alleged, what if the fault be their own? What if the cause of this be, that they attempt things in their own strength, leaning to their own understanding, or habits of grace, or means, &c., and that they do not go about duties with that single dependence on Christ that is requisite, nor do they suck life, strength, and sap from him, by faith through the promises, nor give themselves up to him by faith, that he may work in them both to will and to do. Should not this be seen, mourned for, and helped?
3. If all this shortcoming and disappointment cause them lie in the dust, and humble themselves more and more before the Lord, the grace of humiliation is growing, and that is no small advantage, to be growing downward.
4. Withal, they would do well to hold on in duty, looking to Christ for help, and rolling all difficulties on him, give themselves away to him, as their head and Lord, and so continue their life of faith, or their consenting to let Christ live in them by faith, or work in them by his Spirit what is well-pleasing in his sight, and wait for the blessing and fruit in God's own time.
Next, It will be objected, Though we might wait thus, yet how unedifying are we unto others, when there appeareth no fruit of the spirit of grace in us.
Ans. A Christian behaviour and deportment under the sense of fruitlessness, expressing an holy submission of soul unto God, as sovereign, much humility of mind before him, justifying of God, and taking guilt to themselves, with a firm resolution, to wait on patiently in the use of means appointed, cannot but be edifying to Christian souls; such exercises being really the works and fruit of the spirit of grace working within.
But, thirdly, some may say, How then are the promises of the covenant made good?
Ans.1. The same measure of sanctification and holiness is not promised to all.
2. No great measure is promised to any absolutely. So much indeed is secured to all believers as shall carry them to heaven, as without which they cannot see God. But much as to the degree depends on our performing through faith the conditions requisite, to wit, on condition of our abiding in the vine, of our acting faith on him, &c.; and when these and the like conditions are not faithfully performed by us, what can we expect? So the Lord hath appointed a way wherein he will be found, and will have us to wait for strength and influence from him; and if we neglect these means which he hath appointed, how can we expect the good which he hath promised in the use of these means?
3. The Lord has his own time of making good all his promises, and we must not limit him to a day.
4. Hereby the Lord may be trying and exercising thy faith, patience, hope, dependence, submission, diligence, &c., and |if these be in thee, and abound, they shall make that thou shalt neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,| 2 Pet. i.11.
But lastly, It will be inquired, what can support the believing soul in this case?
Ans.1. The consideration and faith of the covenant of redemption, wherein both the Father's engagement of the Son, and the Son's engagement to the Father, secureth grace and holiness, and salvation to the believer. And whatever we be, they will be true to each other, -- our unbelief will not make the faith of God of none effect.
2. The consideration of the noble and faithful promises contained in the covenant of grace, which shall all be made good in due time.
3. If we be humbled under the sense of our failings and shortcomings, and made to mourn before the Lord, stirred up to more diligence and seriousness, that may yield comfort to our soul. If we be growing in humility, godly sorrow, repentance, diligence, and be gripping faster by faith to the root, we want not ground of joy and support; for if that be, we cannot want fruit.
4. It should be matter of joy and thanksgiving, that the believer is kept from turning his back on the way of God, and kept with his face still Zion-ward. Though he make but little progress, yet he is still looking forward, and creeping as he may, waiting at God's door, begging and asking, studying, labouring, and endeavouring for strength to go faster.
5. It is no small matter of peace and comfort, if we be kept from fretting, grudging and repining at the Lord's dispensations with us, and be taught to sit silent in the dust, adoring his sovereignty, and ascribing no iniquity to our Maker.