No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
~ 1 John 4:12, 1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:14
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
~ 1 John 5:1, John 17:3, 2 Corinthians 4:6
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
~ Galatians 4:9, 1 John 2:4, 1 John 2:9, 1 John 3:6
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
~ John 8:54-55
The Way to Know Sincerity and Hypocrisy Cleared up, by Solomon Stoddard. The following is an excerpt from his work, “A Treatise Concerning Conversion: Shewing the Nature of Saving Conversion to God, and the Way Wherein It is Wrought; Together with an Exhortation to Labour After It”.
1 Joh. IV. latter part of v. 7. and former part of v. 8.
Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God.
Godliness is a thing of great concernment. The acceptance of services, the hearing of prayers, and the salvation of the soul doth depend upon it. And because it is of such moment, the comfort of men doth much depend upon the knowledge of it. But there is a great deal of darkness in the minds of men about it. Many times godly men have scruples, and sometimes great fears, that they are not godly: They often set in judgment on themselves, and are at a loss what sentence to pronounce. And some ungodly men have great hopes that they are in a good estate, and steal comfort that don’t belong to them. Some can’t see their way to condemn themselves, and some give judgment for themselves. But the Apostle doth here direct the one sort and the other in the determination of their condition. First, he tells us how a godly man may know his godliness: He that sees the workings of the grace of love in himself; he that sees more or fewer actings of that grace, may conclude for himself, that he is born of God, hath had a work of regeneration, the gospel has had a saving efficacy on his heart, he has the spiritual knowledge of God, his eyes have been opened to see the glory of God. Secondly, he tells us how hypocrites may know their hypocrisy: He that loveth not, that liveth in the omission of love, that hath nothing of the working of that spirit, that lives in the neglect of it, hath not the spiritual knowledge of God; whatever pretences he makes, this casts the case against him. The we may say with respect to every other grace: He that believeth on Jesus Christ, that loveth God, that has godly sorrow, is born of God: But he that doth not believe in Christ, that loveth not God, that hath not godly sorrow, knoweth not God, whatever profession he maketh.
Doctrine. Men may know their hypocrisy only by their course of life; but their sincerity only by particular acts.
There are two sorts of professors, saints and hypocrites. Some are compared to Wheat, and some to Chaff: Mat. 3.12. He will gather the wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Some are compared to stony and thorny ground, some to good ground, Mat. 13.20. & seq. Some have a wedding garment, some have not, Mat. 22, 11. Some are compared to wise, some to foolish Virgins, Mat. 25, 1.2. Some are compared to men that build upon a rock, others to men that build upon the sand, Mat. 7.24. & seq. And many persons are studying this question, of what sort they are: This doctrine doth resolve it.
Prop. I. Hypocrisy is to be known only by their Course of life only by their walk.
For the clearing of this, consider,
I. Particular acts of sin are no evidence of hypocrisy.
1. Many internal acts of sin, are no evidence of Hypocrisy. Every godly man has a corrupt principle remaining in him, and that principle don’t lie still; but is busy and active. Though it be mortifyed, yet it is full of life, Heb. 12.1. Lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us. It is like a fountain, always springing up. Gal. 5.17. The flesh lusts against the spirit. Rom. 7.21. I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. The choicest saints do find every day the stirrings of corruption. If they are alone, if they are in company, if they are in the works of their calling, if they are exercising themselves in the duties of religion, they are always haunted with a corrupt heart. They have a multitude of evil thoughts, desires, delights, fears, sorrows. Unbelief is often stirring; so pride and worldliness, frowardness and envy. There be many stirrings of sin that they don’t perceive; but abundance that falls under their observation. A corrupt principle will stir upon all occasions; every thing that occurs will awaken it: Therefore saints are warned to keep their hearts with all diligence. Prov. 4:23. And godly men have great occasion every day to repent, and to say as Paul, Rom. 7:24 wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!
2. Many external acts of Sin are no evidence of Hypocrisy. Men have much more command of their words and outward actions than of their thoughts, and the inward workings of their hearts: Yet godly men are often guilty of external sins: They commit many sins in words, Jam. 3.8. The tongue is an unruly evil. Many times their words savour of vanity, pride, unbelief, and uncontentedness. And they are often guilty of other external sins, Psal. 19.12. Who can understand his errors? Every corruption is running them into transgression; sometimes •omitting duty, sometimes committing sin. They are guilty of many sins of ignorance. Men that understand general rules, often fail in applying them to particular cases. There be many proud, worldly, froward carriages that they are not aware of, and are ready to justify. And many sins are committed through inadvertency; they are hurried through fear, or passion, or pride, and consider nor at the time, but presently after they see it, and are sorry for it.
3. An act of gross transgression is no evidence. Gross transgressions are not the ordinary spots of God’s children; but grace is no certain preservation from them. Mortifyed corruption may run a man into such transgression as many natural were never guilty of. Gross transgression of such a nature that they seem to be inconsistent with grace:
But as a man that has corruption in him may do choice acts of holiness, so a man that has grace in him may commit gross acts of sin. If a man’s nature be much weakened, yet in a fit he may act very strongly: So, if men’s corruptions be much weakened, yet they may have fits wherein they may act very powerfully. It is an idle thing to think, that such things are impossible as several times have come to pass. Noah’s intemperance, Lot’s incest, David’s adultery, Peter’s denying of Christ, are unanswerable arguments, that gross transgression is no evidence of an Hypocrite. It is no wonder if a gross transgression should make a man suspect his godliness, but it is no evidence. If God withdraw from a godly man, his grace will not prevent gross transgression. Natural conscience doth often preserve men, but grace doth not always preserve men from gross sin.
II. A Course of sin is an evidence of hypocrisy. If a man makes a profession of religion, and lives in a way of sin against the light of his conscience, he is an hypocrite. He that makes a profession, and contradicts it in his conversation, is an hypocrite. Tit. 1.16. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. He that pretends to godliness, and turns aside to crooked ways, is an hypocrite; for those that are really godly do live in a way of obedience. Psal. 119.1, 2, 3. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, that walk in the way of the Lord, they also do no iniquity. Luk. 1.6. They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But such as live in ways of sin are dissemblers; for all such will be rejected in the day of Judgment: Mat. 7.23. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. The like we have, Luk. 13.27. If Men live in a way of Disobedience they don’t love God; for love will make men keep God’s commands. 1 Joh. 5.3. Herein is love, that we keep his commands, and his commands are not grievous. If men live in a way of disobedience, they have not a spirit of Faith; for faith sanctifies men: Acts 26.68. Sanctified by faith that is in me. If men live in a way of disobedience they are not Christ’s sheep; for his sheep hear his voice, Joh. 10.27. Men that live in a way of disobedience are not born of God; 1 Joh. 3.9. He that is born of God sinneth not. Men that live in a way of disobedience are the servants of sin; Joh. 8.34. He that committeth sin is the servant of sin.
1. A course of external sin is an evidence of Hypocrisy, whether it be a sin of omission or commission. If men live in the neglect of known duties, or in the practice of known evils, that will be their condemnation. Let the sin be what it will; let it be Profaneness, Drunkeness, Uncleanness, or Injustice. Thus it was with the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, they are called sons of Belial, that knew not the Lord, 1 Sam. 2.12. The foundation of their censure was their profaness and uncleanness, v. 13, 14, 22. So it was with Jehu, notwithstanding his zeal in destroying Baal, because he practiced and tolerated the worship of the Calves at Dan and Bethel, 2 Kings 10.31. Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel, with all his heart and with all his soul; for he turned aside after the sin of Jeroboam. So many of the Pharisees were wicked, because they devoured widows houses, Mat. 23.14. Thus Judas appeared to be an hypocrite, because he lived in theft, Joh. 12.6. He was a thief. That shewed the rotteness of the heart of Demas, that he was an Apostate, 2 Tim. 4.10. Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present evil world. To live impenitently in any outward known sin, will cast the case against a man, and prove him a hypocrite.
2. A course of internal sin proves a man to be an hypocrite. Tho’ he washes his hands, if he does not cleanse his heart, he is ungodly. The external conversation of some hypocrites may excell the conversation of some saints; but if there be a way of internal sin, their pretences to godliness are vain. There be two sorts of internal sense, which men may live in a way of, and is a witness against them. One is, a way of corrupt thoughts and affections: If men allow themselves in malice, envy, wanton thoughts, profane thoughts, that will condemn them: Though those corruptions do not break out in any scandalous way, those thoughts are an evidence of a rotten heart. Titus 3.3. We our selves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. If a man allows himself, though he thinks he doth not, in malice or envy, he is an hypocrite; tho’ his conscience disallows it, yet if his heart allows it he is no saint; if he do not hate and mortify those corrupt affections, he is no saint. The other way of living in internal sin is, to live in the omission of spiritual duties: Whether a man knows it or knows it not, it is an evidence of hypocrisy. Many men that make a fair shew, do not believe in Jesus Christ: They have a persuasion of the truth of the gospel, they hope Christ will save them, they have had some joy in hearing the gospel, but they don’t believe in Christ; either they are carnally confident, or discouraged: This doth condemn them. He that believeth not, the wrath of God abideth on him, Joh. 3.36. He that is contentious, and obeys not the gospel will be condemned, Rom. 2.8. So, if a man live in the neglect of love to God. If there be no hearty love to God in his profession in his obedience, he is not godly though there be affection, yet if there hearty love, that will condemn him: that was the condemnation of the Jews, Joh 5.42. I know you, that you have not the love of God in you. If men be zealous men, have tenderness of conscience, delight in sabbaths, but are destitute of love to God, they are hypocrites. So, if there be not a spirit of love to saints, 1 Cor. 13.23. If I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal, So, 1 Joh. 4.8. He that loveth not, knoweth not God.
Prop. II. Sincerity is known by particular acts of Grace.
The habits of Grace cannot be seen immediately: As no man can see his own Soul or any of the faculties of it immediately, so he cannot see the gracious principles that are there immediately. And there is no external act of obedience that is evidential, for an ungodly man may do an external act of obedience. He may give all his goods to the poor and his body to be burned, though he has no charity. 1 Cor. 13.3. But by particular acts of grace they may know their uprightness, and by them only. If a man were to try his sincerity by his certain of his gracious carriages day by day, he would never attain assurance, but be under perpetual uncertainty; but by particular acts grace he may know it.
1. Saints may certainly see particular acts of Grace. Though there be many acts of grace that a man doth not know to be such, yet some acts of grace are plain to be seen. We find Christ enquiring of one whether he did believe, Joh. 9.35. Dost thou believe on the Son of God? and of another whether he loved him, Joh. 21.16. Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? That shews that such things may be known, else to what purpose would it be to ask those questions. And reason shews that they may be seen, for they do greatly differ from all counterfeit acts, and sometimes grace acts very strongly and apparently. And we have an account in Scripture of saints that have spoken very confidently about the workings of a spirit of grace; so Job, Job 42.5, 6. Now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor my self in dust and ashes. He saw the mighty workings of a spirit of repentance, and was at no loss about it. So David, Psal. 116.1. I love the Lord. He speaks of it as of a thing he was assured of. The like workings of heart he found towards the law, Psal. 119.97. O how love I thy law. So, Peter appeals to Christ, who knew his heart, Joh. 21.17. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. And others have had the like experience.
2. Ordinarily, they do certainly see but few particular acts of grace. There is a very great difference in godly men this account. I take it for granted, that there are not two men in ten thousand, that have just the same experience. More generally, godly men do hope and think, that they exercise grace many times every day, in their prayers, and in their callings, and in their conversation with men; but it is but now and then that they can certainly speak up to it. There be great mixtures of corruption with grace, there be many false appearances of grace, which makes them afraid whether they did indeed exercise grace; and this makes it evident, that it is thus with Saints, that many of them are for a long time under doubt whether they be indeed godly; thence we have these precepts, 2 Pet. 1.10. Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. 2 Cor. 13.5. Examine your selves, whether you be in the Faith. Some hypocrites are a great deal more confident than many saints. Many godly men are at a loss whether their faith be any other than what unconverted men may have. And so about their other graces; there be some saints that have assurance, but the foundation of it is, that now and then they see the plain actings of faith and love, and repentance. They see something of encouragement from their daily But that which begets assurance is that sometimes they plainly see grace.
3. By these visible actings of grace, they may conclude: there is a course of gracious carriages. Godly men are described to be men that walk in a course of holiness. Psal. 119.1. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, that walk in the law of the Lord. And we find that godly men have been well satisfyed that they have walked in a way of holiness. Isai. 39.3. Remember, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy fight. If it be enquired, how they do know that their obedience is not the fruit of natural conscience and common grace, as it is with many others: The answer is, that they see now and then the plain exercises of grace, and from thence conclude, that they are under the influence of a gracious spirit in their walk; that though they be guilty of much formality and hypocrisy, yet there is a spirit of holiness working in them, and an hearty care to keep the commandments of God. If a man sees now and then a spirit of love to God, he may safely conclude that his religion is not the fruit of ostentation, or slavish fear, but that a gracious spirit doth stir him up to perform his duty, and that his walk is holy.
Use I. Is of awakening to those that live in a course of sin. Some make pretences to godliness, whereby they do not only deceive others, but which is a great deal worse, they deceive themselves also, but this will condemn them, that they live in a course of sin; & such must go with ungodly man, Psal. 125.5.
As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. If there be a great change in a man’s Carriage, and he be reformed in several particulars, yet if there be one evil way, the man is an ungodly man. If he doth choice service for the church of God, yet he is an ungodly man. If there are twenty hopeful things that may be alledged for him, yet he will not pass for a godly man. Where there is piety, there is universal obedience. A man may have great infirmities, yet be a godly man; so it was with Lot and David and Peter; but if he lives in away of sin, he don’t render his godliness only suspicious, but it is full evidence against him. Men that are godly, have a respect to all God’s commandments, Psal. 119.1. There be a great many commands, & if there be one of them that a man has not a respect unto, he will be put to shame another day. If a man lives in one evil way, he is not subject to God’s authority; but then he lives in rebellion, and that will take off all his pleas, and at once cut off all his pretences, and he will be condemned in the day of Judgment; Luk. 13.27. Depart from me, all ye that work iniquity. One way of sin is exception enough against the man’s salvation.
1. Even though the sin that he lives in is small. Such persons will not be guilty of perjury, stealing, drunkenness or fornication they look upon them to be heinous thing, and they are afraid of them, but they do not much matter it if they oppress a little in a bargain, if they commend a thing two much which they are about to sell, if they break a promise, if they spend the sabbath unprofitably, if they neglect secret prayer, if they talk rudely, and reproach others; they think these things are but small things: If they can keep clear of great transgression, they hope that God will not insist upon small things; but indeed all the commands of God are established by divine authority, and that man that doth not lay weight upon little commands, keeps none as he ought to do. A small shot may kill a man as well as a cannon bullet. A small leak may sink a ship. If a man lives in small sins, that shews that he has no love to God, no sincere care to please and honour God. Little sins are of a damning nature as well as great; if they do not deserve so much punishment as greater, yet they do deserve damnation. There is contempt of God in small sins, Mat. 5.19. He that shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of God. There is rebellion in little sins, Prov. 19.16. He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul, but he that despiseth his ways shall die. If a man says, this is a great command, and so lays wait other is a little commandment, and so does not regard it, but will allow himself to break it, he is in a perishing condition.
2. Though their temptations be great. Some persons delight in iniquity, they take pleasure in rudeness, and intemperate practices: But there be others that don’t delight in sin; when they can handsomely avoid it, they don’t chuse it: Except they be under some great necessity they will not do it: They are afraid to sin, they think it is dangerous, and have some care to avoid it. But sometimes they force themselves to sin: They are reduced to difficulties, and can’t tell how well to avoid it. It is a dangerous thing not to do it. If Naaman do not bow himself in the house of Rimmon, the king will be in a rage with him, take away his office, it may be take away his life, and so he complies; 2 Kings 5:18, In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow my self in the house of Rimmon; when I bow my self in the House of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this. So Jeroboam forced himself to set up the Calves at Dan and Bethel. He thought that if the people went up to Jerusalem to worship, they would return to Rehoboam, and kill him; therefore he must think of some expedient to deliver himself in this strait: 1 Kings 12:28, Whereupon the king took council and made two calves of gold; and said to them it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. He was driven by appearing necessity to take this wicked course. So the stony ground hearers were willing to retain the profession of the true religion, but the case was such that they thought they could not well do it; Mat. 13.21. When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. They would have chose to have lived and died in the profession of the truth, but they can’t brook confiscation, and prisons, and death; and so they must be excused if they drop their profession. So Achan and Gehazi had singular opportunities to get an estate; if they live twenty years, they are not like to have such an advantage, and they force themselves to borrow a point, and break the law of God. They lay a necessity on estate, and liberty, and life, but not upon obedience. If a man be willing to serve God in ordinary cases, but excuse himself when there be great difficulties, he is not godly. It is a small matter to serve God, when men have no temptation; but Lot was holy in Sodom, Noah was righteous in the old world. Temptations try men, but they don’t force men to sin; and grace will establish the heart in a day of temptation. They that do endure temptation, James 1:12, but they are cursed that fall away in the day of temptation.
3. Though they be afterwards sorry for it. Some men fall into great transgression, but when they consider of it they are sorry for it. They don’t justify themselves, neither do they excuse themselves, and say others do so as well as they, and if men be left of God who can help it; but they confess it, and bewail it before God, it is an affliction to them that they were carried away with temptation, they see they have acted foolishly, that they have despised the commandments of God, and they hope they shall never do so again, be drunk again, or lie again. Sometimes men take occasion to talk with them, and they are ready to own their fault, they are ashamed, and they shed tears; but after a while the temptation returns, and they are as bad again: They are like the dead fish, that are carried down the stream; but they are sorry again; and so they keep on, sinning and repenting. Just thus it was with Saul: Jonathan talks to him and he hearkens, 1 Sam. 19.6. Saul hearkened to Jonathan, and Saul sware, as the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain. After a while he is persecuting David again; but upon David’s saving his life, he weeps and makes confession, 1 Sam. 24.16. Saul lift up his voice and wept. But upon invitation of the Ziphites he pursued David again, and David spares his life a second time and upon that Saul confesses and 20.21. Then said Saul, I have son David, for I will no more do thee harm, I have played the fool, and erred exceedingly. There is no trusting such men; if they live in ways of sin, they are ungodly: Godly sorrow will make men live holily; 2 Cor. 7.10. Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of.
Of encouragement to those that have seen gracious actings in their own hearts. I suppose that there be several of you that have seen the actings of grace in your own hearts. You have seen the workings of faith, as Paul, 2 Tim. 1.12. I know him whom I have believed; of love, as Peter, Joh. 21.17. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee; of repentance, as Job, Job. 42.6. I abhor my self, and repent in dust and ashes. You may conclude from hence that you are godly. You may have scruples upon many accounts: You may be under difficulties because God hides his face at present from you: You may have temptation from singular afflictions, and because God denies to answer some prayers, in things that lie much upon your hearts: You may have difficulties from such workings of corruption as seems to be inconsistent with grace: you may have temptation because you do not seem to grow; but do you feel certainly seen the working of a gracious spirit, if a hundred times, if ten times, if one time, you may conclude that you are godly. That which was not in being could not be seen; that which is not, is invisible. If there were no sun, or moon, or stars, none could be seen: So, if there were no faith, or love, they could not be seen. There may be grace where it is not seen, but where it is seen, there it is; and you may conclude that you are godly. For,
1. This shows, that there was at the time a principle of grace. The habits of grace are not immediately to be seen, but only by their workings. If there a gracious act, there must be a gracious principle; if there be not an antecedent one, there must be at least a concomitant one; for while a man remains in his natural condition, he cannot act graciously; Rom. 8.7. The natural mind is enmity to God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. If a man loves God, he is disposed to love him; if he believes in Christ, he is disposed to believe in Christ. It is impossible to do those actions without a disposition to do them; and that disposition is a principle or habit of grace. Every man that acts graciously is a new creature: Until the heart be changed, it will not carry graciously. Any act of grace is a sure token of regeneration: If a man believes in Christ, he is certainly born of God; Joh. 1.12 him gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. If a man breaths, and sees, and hears, and walks, he is certainly a living man. Where there is an act of life, there is a principle of life; 1 Joh. 37. He that doth righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Every effect must have a proper cause. If the heart were utterly opposite to believing, loving or repenting, he would not believe, love or repent. The heart of a man is always inclined to what he chuses. The mind may understand a thing that he is not inclined to understand; but the Will never chuses without an inclination so to do. If there be a change in the behaviour of the heart, there is a change in the disposition of the heart.
2. If a principle of grace were once there, it is always there. It was otherwise under the Covenant of Works: Adam’s grace was perfect but mutable; for he did not fulfil the condition of the covenant; if he had once done that, his grace would have been immutable. But under the new covenant, if a man be once godly, he always will be godly; for every one who is godly, has fulfilled the condition of the covenant, grace may decay, but it will never will be lost. It may wither, but never die. •ay be lost, but saving If grace be once begun it will continue Philippians 1:6, I am confident of this that hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it to the day of Christ. The power of God is engaged for the preservation of grace. Once godly and always godly; 1 Pet. 1.5. Who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. Sometimes they are afraid they shall fall away, but whether they have more strength or less strength, they shall never fall away; God’s Covenant is their security. Such men may have great temptations; Hereticks may endeavour to seduce them, vitious men may seek to debauch them, worldly men may entice them, persecutors may seek to fright them out of their religion; but nothing can be two hard for them. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it, Cant. 8.7. They may have temptation to pride, to presumption, to discouragement; but if they be led into temptation, they will be delivered from evil. A principle of grace is like a living fountain; Joh. 4.14. Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I had gave him, shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life. False hearted men may fall away, but those are sincere will be more than conquerors once godly, he will he lives an hundred and face be begun here, it will be perfected in heaven.
Of direction to godly men, how you may know your sincerity; viz. by renewing the visible actings of grace. Many signs are given of holiness, that will not bear examination; and there is danger that many are deceived thereby. Some godly, and some ungodly men that find them in themselves may be comforted thereby, but they beget no assurance: And some men that find them in themselves, remain at a loss whether they be godly or no. The way to know your godliness, is to renew the visible exercises of grace. When a man sees that he loves God, and believes in Jesus Christ, he will not be unsatisfyed about his godliness. If he has been in the dark, and in great temptations just before, yet this will beget assurance.
Here you may observe,
1. If you do not know that you live in sin, that can be no evidence of your godliness: As you cannot condemn yourself, so you cannot justify yourselves. Some persons examine themselves whether they live in any known sin; and upon the strictest enquiry they do not find that they live in a neglect of any duty, or in the commission of any sin. Their hearts do not reproach them. They duly attend prayer, they are careful to sanctify the Sabbath, they live soberly, chastly, justly, they are true to their word, and faithful in their places, they don’t know upon the most narrow search that they live in any way of sin, yet they cannot justify themselves from hence; 1 Cor. 4.4. I know nothing by my self yet am I not hereby justified: For men that examine themselves may be ignorant that they live in away of sin, yet they may live in a way of sin; men’s understandings are corrupted, and they may live in pride, worldliness and unbelief, and not know it: They may think those corruptions don’t reign when indeed they do reign. Many men that don’t know that they live in sin, are fain to suspend their judgment about themselves; they hope from hence that they are holy, but do not know it. Though men do not know that they live in sin, yet God may know that they do: Prov. 30.12. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, yet are not cleansed from their filthiness.
2. If there be great probability that you live in a way of faith, and love, and repentance does not make it evident. There is some probability of some in faith, because gospel promises have been a comfort to them; because they are zealous and delight in ordinances, and in praising God of their repentance for their sins are a great burden to them, and they are careful to avoid sin: but probabilities prove nothing; that may be probable, that may be false. There may be some probability of a thing, yet the contrary may be certain. Probabilities leave men under uncertainties. If they raise hopes, yet they leave room for fears. There may be probabilities one way, and as great probabilities the other way. Men wont content themselves with a probable title to their land. God will not take men to heaven because there is a probability of their goodness. Twenty Probabilities make the thing more probable, but they don’t make it certain. Probabilities are no Demonstrations. The hopes that are built on them may be disappointed, therefore we are directed to make our Calling and Election sure. 2 Pet. 1.10.
3. All the visible exercises of grace are evidential. The word of God tells that all that believe in Jesus Christ are Children of God. Joh. 1.12. To them that received him, gave he power to become the Sons of God. It tells that all that love God are heirs of heaven. Jam. 1.12, God has promised a crown of life to them that love him. So it that have godly Sorrow shall 7.10. Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation. And that all shall have eternal life. but we are translated from because we love the brethren. Hence if any of these workings be clearly seen, the man has a sure evidence of his good estate: He has ground to cast the case for himself: It is no presumption for him to conclude his Justification: He has a divine warrant to give sentence for himself: At such a time when he pronounces himself a saint, he goes according to law and evidence: His confidence is assurance: For those exercises of grace that he is conscious to are peculiar to godly men, and do assuredly distinguish them from all other men.
4. The more these visible exercises of grace are renewed, the more certain you will be: the more frequently these actings are renewed, the more abiding and confirmed your assurance will be. A man that has been assured of such visible exercises of grace may quickly after be in doubt whether he was not mistaken, but when such actings are renewed again and again, he grows more settled and established about his good estate. If a man see a thing once, that makes him sure; but if afterwards he fear he was deceived, when he comes to see he is more sure he is not mistaken and such passages in a book he is some months after some may bear him down that he was mistaken, so as question it himself; but when again, he is abundantly are men’s grace is multiplied, peace is multiplied. 2 Peter 1:2, peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. The third time the question was put to Peter whether he loved Christ, he answers with greater assurance; the very proposing of the question stirred up the working of a spirit of love, and he speaks with very great confidence, Joh. 21.15, 16, 17. The first and second time he says, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee: But the third time he speaks with greatest assurance, Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee. It went greatly to his heart that his love should be so often questioned, and so he was more abundantly satisfied in the truth of his love.