Of Comforts

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
~ 1 John 4:12-13

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
~ 1 John 4:8

All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
~ Matthew 11:27-29

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
~ John 7:37

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
~ 2 Corinthians 6:1

Stable and General Comforts, by Richard Baxter. The following contains Directions Eight and Nine of his work, “The Right Method For A Settled Peace Of Conscience, and Spiritual Comfort, In 32 Directions”.

Written for the use of a troubled friend: and now published.

1 John 4.16.

God is Love.

Luke 14.17. Mat. 22.4.

Come, for all things are now Ready.

Direction VIII.

8. The next thing that you have to do, for building up a stable Comfort, and setling your Conscience in a solid Peace, is this; Be sure to get and keep a right Understanding of the Nature of Saving Faith.

As you must have right thoughts of the Covenant of Grace (of which before,) the want whereof doth puzzle and confound very many Christians; so you must be sure to have right thoughts of the Condition of the Covenant. For indeed that Grace which causeth you to perform this Condition, is your first special saving Grace, which you may take as a certain evidence of your Justification: And this Condition is the very link which conjoyneth all the General foregoing Grace to all the rest of the following special Grace. The Scripture is so full and plain in Assuring pardon and salvation to all true Believers, that if you can but be sure that you are a Believer, you need not make any doubt of your interest in Christ and your salvation. Seeing therefore that all the question will be, Whether you have true Faith? Whether you do perform the Condition of the new Covenant? (For all other doubts God hath given you sufficient ground to resolve, as is said,) how much then doth it concern you to have a right understanding of the Nature of this Faith? Which that you may have let me tell you briefly what it is. Mans soul hath two faculties, Understanding and Will: Accordingly the Objects of mans soul (all Beings which it is to Receive) have two Modifications; Truth and Goodness (as those to be Avoided are Evil.) Accordingly Gods Word or Gospel hath two parts; the Revelation of Truth, and the Offer and Promise of some Good. This offered Good is principally and immediatly Christ himself, to be joyned to us by Covenant as our head and husband: The secondary consequential Good, is Pardon, Justification, Reconciliation, Adoption, further Sanctification and Glorification, which are all offered with Christ. By this you may see what saving Faith is: It is first a Believing that the Gospel is True; and then an Accepting of Christ therein offered to us, with his benefits: or a consenting that he be ours and we be his; which is nothing but a true willingness to have an offered Christ. Remember this well; that you may make use of it, when you are in doubt of the truth of your Faith. Thousands of poor souls have been in the dark, and unable to see themselves to be Believers, meerly for want of knowing what saving Faith is. And, it is a truth that cannot be hid, that Divines who should have taught them better, have been the great cause of their errour; not well and cleerly understanding this themselves. It is a shamefull confession: but the world knoweth it already. The Papists place almost all in the meer Assent of the Understanding. Our great Reformers made it to be either an Assurance of the pardon of our own sins; or a strong perswasion of their pardon, excluding doubting; or (the moderatest) a perswasion of our particular pardon, though mixt with some doubting: The Antinomians strike in with them, and say the same: Hence even the greatest of our Divines (Chamier, Polanus, Twisse, &c.) conclude, that Justification and Remission go before faith (a desperate errour) because the Act doth alway suppose its object: For they thought that Remission already past, was the object of Justifying Faith: supposing faith to be nothing else but a Belief that we are pardoned: Yea ordinarily, it hath been taught in the writings of our greatest refuters of the Papists, That this Belief is properly a Divine faith, or the Belief of a Divine Testimony, as is the Believing of any Proposition written in the Scripture (a foul error which I have confuted in my book of Rest, Part. 3. Chap. 7.) Most of late have come neerer the truth, and affirmed Justifying Faith to consist in Affiance, or Recumbency, or Resting on Christ for salvation. No doubt this is one Act of Justifying faith; but not that which a poor troubled soul should first search after and try it self by (except by Affiance, any should mean as Amesius doth, Election of Christ: and then it is the same act which I am asserting; but very unfitly exprest.) For 1. Affiance is not the Principal act, nor that wherein the very life of Justifying faith doth consist: but only an imperate following act, and an effect of the vital act (which is Consent, or Willing, or Accepting Christ offered:) for it lyeth mainly in that which we call the sensitive part, or the Passions of the soul. 2. It is therefore lesse constant, and so unfitter to try by: For many a poor soul that knowes it self unfeignedly willing to have Christ, yet feeleth not a Resting on him or Trusting in him, and therefore crys out, O I cannot believe; and think they have no Faith. For Recumbency, Affiance, or Resting on Christ, implieth that easing of themselves, or casting off their fears, or doubts, or cares, which true believers do not alwayes finde. Many a poor soul complains, O I cannot rest on Christ; I cannot trust him! who yet would have him to be their Lord and Saviour, and can easily be convinced of their willingness.

3. Besides, Affiance is not the Adequate act of faith, suited to the object in that fullness as it must be Received: but Willingness, or Acceptance, is, Christ is Rested on only for our selves as our Deliverer: but he is Accepted also for Himself as our Lord and Master. The full proof of these, I have performed in other Writings, and oft in your hearing in publike, and therefore omit them now. Be sure then to fix this truth deep in your minde. That Justifying faith is not an Assurance of our Justification, no nor a perswasion or belief that we are Justified or pardoned, or that Christ died more for us then for others; nor yet is Affiance or Resting on Christ the vital, principal, certain, constant full act: but it is the Understandings belief of the truth of the Gospel, and the Will’s Acceptance of Christ and Life offered to us therein: which Acceptance is but the hearty Consent or Willingness that he be yours and you his. This is the Faith which must Justifie and save you.

Object. But 1. May not wicked men be Willing to have Christ?

2. And do not you oft tell us that Justifying faith comprehendeth Love to Christ and Thankfulness, and that it receiveth him as a Lord to be obeyed, as well as a Deliverer? and that Repentance and sincere Obedience, are parts of the Condition of the new Covenant?

Answ. I will give as brief a touch now on these as may be, because I have handled them in sitter places. 1. Wicked men are willing to have Remission, Justification and freedom from hell (for no man can be willing to be unpardoned or to be damned:) But they are not willing to have Christ himself in that nature and office which he must be Accepted; that is, As a holy Head and Husband, to save them both from the Guilt, and Power, and all defilement and abode of sin, and to Rule them by his Law, and Guide them by his Spirit, and to make them happy by bringing them to God, that being without sin, they may be perfectly Pleasing and Amiable in his sight, and enjoy him forever. Thus is Christ offered, and thus to be accepted of all that will be saved; and thus no wicked man will accept him (but when he ceaseth to be wicked.) 2. (To cut all the rest short, in a word, I say, That) in this fore-described Willingness or Acceptance, Repentance, Love, Thankfulness, Resolution to obey, are all contained, or neerly implyed, as I have elsewhere manifested; so that the Heart of saving faith, is this Acceptance of Christ, or Willingness to have him to Justifie, Sanctifie, Guide and Govern you. Finde but this Willingness, and you finde all the rest, whether you expresly see them or not. So much for that Direction.

Direction IX.

9. Having thus far proceeded, in discovering and improving the General Grounds of Comfort, and then in discovering the Nature of Faith, which gives you Right to the special Mercies of the Covenant, following it; Your next work must be, To perform this Condition by actual Believing.

Your soul stands in extreme need of a Saviour: God offereth you a Saviour in the Gospel, what then have you next to do, but Accept him? Believe that this offer is general, and therefore to you: and that Christ is not set to sale, nor doth God require you to bring a Price in your hand: but only heartily and thankfully to Accept of what he freely giveth you. This must be done before you fall on trying your Graces to get Assurance: for you must have Grace, before you can discover it: and this is the first proper special saving Grace (as it comprizeth that knowledge and Assent which necessarily go before it.) This is not only the method for those that yet never believed, but also for them that have lost the sense of their faith, and so the sight of their evidence. Believe again, that you may know you do believe; or at least may possesse an Accepted Saviour. When God in the Gospel bids you, Take Jesus Christ, and beseecheth you to be reconciled to him; what will you say to him? If your heart answer, Lord I am willing, I will Accept of Christ and be thankfull; why, then the match is made between Christ and you: and the marriage Covenant is truly entered, which none can dissolve. If Christ were not first willing, he would not be the suitor and make the motion: and if he be willing, and you be willing, what can break the match? If you will say, I cannot believe, if you understand what you say, either you mean that you cannot believe the Gospel is true; or else that you cannot be willing that Christ should be yours. If it be the former, and you speak truly, then you are a flat Infidel (yet many temptations to doubt of the truth of Scripture, a true believer may have, yea and actual doubtings; but his faith prevaileth and is victorious over them:) But if you really doubt whether the Gospel be true, use Gods means for the discovery of its truth. Read what I have written in the second part of my book of Rest: I will undertake now more confidently then ever I did, to prove the truth of Scripture, by plain, full, undeniable force of Reason. But I suppose this is none of your case. If therefore when you say, that you cannot believe, you mean that you cannot Accept an offered Christ, or be willing to have him: then I demand, 1. What is your reason? the Will is lead by the Reason of the Understanding. If you be not willing, there is something that perswades you to be unwilling. This Reason must be from something reall, or else upon a mistake, upon supposal of something that is not in being. If it be upon mistake, either it is that you be not convinced of Christs willingness to be yours; and if you thought he did consent, you would consent willingly: If this be it, you do truly believe while you think you do not: for you do consent (and that’s all on your part to make the match) and Christ doth certainly consent, though you do not understand it: In this case it concerneth you, to understand better the extent of the new Covenant, and then you will be past doubt of the willingness of Christ, and see that wherever the match breaks, it is only for want of consent in men; for Christ is the first suitor, and hath long ago in the Covenant proclaimed his consent, to be the Head and Husband of every sinner, on condition they will but consent to be his.