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well assured of a celestial palace; there we shall lodge with God, Christ, angels, and glorified spirits for ever.
2. Nor is this assurance communicated by divine revelation only, but may be obtained in the diligent use of God's appointed means, hearing the word, prayer, meditation, exciting and exercising of grace, holy warfare, and victory over temptations and corruptions, walking close with God, and particularly by a practical syllogism, where the word of God is the major, conscience the minor, and the Spirit makes the conclusion. Thus, such whose eyes are opened, who are turned from "darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, shall have an inheritance among them that are sanctified," Acts xxvi. 18. Next, conscience brings in the minor, I have found my heart and life thus changed by conversion; then the Holy Spirit brings in the inference or conclusion, therefore I do groundedly hope, I shall obtain the inheritance of glory with the rest of the saints. This is called the witnessing of the Spirit "with our spirits that we are the children of God," Rom. viii. 16.
3. Therefore it is the duty of all Christians to endeavour after it, we are commanded to "give diligence to make our calling and election sure:" we "desire," saith the apostle, " that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end." Such as look not after assurance conscientiously, render their spiritual state suspicious; for it is the nature of grace to put the possessor forwards to perfection. The sincere Christian will be "perfecting holiness in the fear of God," and press forward to enjoy more of God's presence. "Let us," saith the apostle, "draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith."*
4. And O the advantage and benefit that God's chil* 2 Pet. i. 10. Heb. vi. 11. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Heb. x. 22.
dren have by a well-grounded assurance of their salvation; it will raise your hearts in praise of God, and transport your spirits to love and delight in him. This drops sweetness into all worldly enjoyments; it cheers up the heart in sufferings, Heb. x. 34; fortifies the soul against temptations; excites the Christian to all acts of new obedience; gives contentment in every condition; strengthens against fears of death, and is a certain prelude and forerunner of heaven. O happy soul that can say, God is my father, saints my elder brothers, and I shall meet them all in glory, and sing praises with them to God and the Lamb for ever
But how shall a person know that he shall be one of those that shall be gathered together to Christ, in that solemn day?
In reply, I desire that you will faithfully answer these seven questions:
1. Have you been gathered to Christ by converting grace? "To him," that is, to Shiloh," shall the gathering of the people be," Gen. xlix. 10. Hath the Spirit of God in the word convinced you of your distance from God, prevailed with you to enter into solemn covenant with him? Alas, by nature we are as sheep going astray,* prodigals in a far country, have neither skill nor will to return to God, but Christ the good shepherd calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out, they know his voice and follow him,” John x. 3, 4. Formerly, saith the returning sinner, I heard but the voice of man, now methinks I hear the voice of God rending my heart, discovering those concealed lusts which no mortal can know of, the very secrets of my heart are made manifest; then you must "fall down on your face and worship God, and must report * Psalm cxix. 176.
that God is there" in such an ordinance, " of a truth," 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25. What concussions and shakings of soul have you found to unsettle you from your carnal peace and security? Hath the Lord "hewed you by his prophets, and slain you with the words of his mouth?" What convictions of your lost condition? What tremblings, when the Lord roareth as a lion? Are you of those that tremble at the word of the Lord, yet it doth not drive you from him, but to him? I can be safe no where but under the shadow of his wings. Come "let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten," Jer. 1. 5. I will bind this slippery heart to the Lord, with the strongest and straitest ties: I will not only say it with my mouth, but "subscribe it with my hand; yea, and swear myself to be the Lord's, and his only." Some indeed swear by the name of the Lord, but "not in truth, nor in righteousness;" but the sincere Christian is most afraid of hypocrisy, longs after sincerity, approves his heart to God, resolves to resort to his standard, fight his battles, and be on his side for ever. Let flesh and blood, and all the devils in hell say what they can to the contrary, is this your peremptory resolution?
2. Have you separated from sinners, 2 Cor. vi. 17, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you" for, "what communion hath light with darkness?" As men cannot carry their vain companions to heaven, so not into the church state. No unclean thing or person can enter the gates of this holy city; for without are dogs.‡ Saints may not deny
* Hos. vi. 5.
+ Isa. xliv. 5.
xi. 10, 11. Isa. lxvi. 5.
xlviii. 1. lxv. 16.
civil converse with the worst of men in a neighbourhood or near relations, 1 Cor. v. 10. But in two respects, the apostle denies society with gross sinners: First, there should not be too much or needless familiarity with them, so as to be mingled with them; as water and oil will not mix, Christians must not, will not be intimate as cronies with dissolute persons: and, secondly, in a special manner with such as are pretended Christians, and belie their profession by scandalous actions: these of all others we must keep at a distance from, as a part of their punishment to bring them to shame, and so to repentance.* If you act as Christians, you will let a person of this description see a strangeness in you towards him, that he may turn into himself by self-reflection, recognize his disorder, or seek where to hide himself. But that is not all, for a godly person hath a kind of aversion to wilful sinners, and avoids them as afraid of being infected by them, as Joseph kept himself from his mistress; and as Solomon adviseth, Prov. v. 8, 9. By familiar converse you may encourage them in sin, and prejudice yourselves: hence all pious persons have been afraid to associate with sinners, so David, Psal. xxvi. 4, "I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers;" for, in their company I shall get either guilt or grief; if I act as they, I shall be guilty, if not, I shall be grieved; the best is, to meddle as little as I can with them, for God's honour, and my own peace. I will resolve with old Jacob, Gen. xlix. 6, "O my soul come not into their secret ;" I dare not touch the rope, lest I hear the bell; I will "abstain from the appearance of evil;" and hate the garment spotted by the flesh.”†
3. Have you associated yourselves with them that
* 2 Thess. iii. 14.
+ 1 Thess. v. 22. Jude, 23.
fear God? Pious persons were holy David's intimate friends," Psal. xvi. 3; the saints were in his account the "excellent of the earth, in whom was all his delight; a companion," saith he, "am I to all them that fear thee;"* I have wise senators, and valiant soldiers, but what are these to me, if they be not truly religious? one Jonathan is better than many Joabs, one Hushai better than a thousand Ahithophels; I love them that fear God with a peculiar affection, yea, though they should be severe upon me if I offend, I will not only patiently bear it, but thankfully own them as my benefactors. "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness-Faithful are the wounds of a friend." will love Nathan the better whilst I live, for his faithfulness: let my soul be united to saints. I will live with them on earth with whom I would sing praises in heaven. Communion of saints is not only an article in my creed, but a main point of practice, and next to communion with God, my highest privilege. These, these will I converse familiarly with; I will confer with them about the things of God, pray and praise God with them, sit down with them at the holy supper, and walk hand in hand with them in my journey heaven-wards. There is a holy union of all saints, which yet is not natural or corporal, political or even personal, but yet it is real; and this union is either mystical, as members of the same mystical body, Eph. v. 30, or ecclesiastical. Converts are said to be added to the church, and to have mutual external fel-lowship, Acts ii. 41, 42. Thus Paul when converted, "assayed to join himself to the disciples," Acts ix. 26; and others consorted with Paul and Silas, ‡ and indeed it is natural for a child of God to desire, yea and † Psal. cxli. 5. Prov. xxvii. 6.
* Psal. cxix. 63.
Acts xvii. 4.