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thou honoured me so as to lay the blame and fault of all my trials on thyself for thy sins, clearing my justice in all things? hast thou honoured me so as to magnify mercy to wait and hope on it for all this? hast thou trusted me so as to remain faithful in all thy miseries? Then the Lord puts unto the witness of our spirit the seal of his Spirit, as we may read, says the apostle : "In" whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." Here is the difference betwixt faith and sense, faith takes hold of general promises, draws them down to particulars, applies them, and makes them her own, lives and walks by them, squaring the whole life by them in all things. But sense is another thing; even that which is mentioned when there is a full report made to the soul of its assured happiness, "Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation." When a man hath thus been gathered home by glorifying him, and believing his truth, then comes a special evidence to the soul with an unwonted joy, and saith, "I am thy salvation," which in effect is that which Christ in another place speaks, "He" that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself unto him." And as it is in the Canticles, chap. I. ver. 2. "Then he will kiss us with the kisses of his mouth," so as we shall be able to say, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." When God hath heard us cry awhile till we be thoroughly humbled, then he takes us up into his arms, and dandles us.
Ephes. chap. 1. ver. 13.
P John, chap. 14. ver. 21.
So that a meditation of the word being past, a man having viewed his charter and the promises, surveying heaven, the privileges of believers, and the glory that is to come; then comes in the Spirit and makes up a third, with which comes joy unspeakable and glorious in such a measure, that for the present we can neither wish nor
• Psalm 35. ver. 3.
desire any thing else, the soul resting wonderfully ravished and contented. This cannot, nor shall not always continue, but at sometimes we shall have it, yet it remains always so, as it can never be finally taken away, as our Saviour's promise is: "And ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy shall no man take from you." This is the root of all consolation, that God will not forsake for ever: but will at last come again, and have compassion on us, according to the multitude of his mercies.
But here some may object: What? doth the Spirit never seal but upon some such hard trials after the witness of our spirit?
I answer, the sealing of God's Spirit with our spirit is not always tied to hard foregoing trials immediately, for a man may be surveying heaven and the glory to come, or praying earnestly with a tender and melting heart, applying the promises, and wrestling with God, and at the same time God's seal many times may be and is put unto the same. For as the wind bloweth where it listeth, and no man discerneth the coming thereof: so may the Spirit seal at divers times, and upon divers occasions; yea and why may it not seal in time of some great suffering for the truth, as we read of the apostles, "Who' went away from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name."
Lastly for trial we must now see how to distinguish this testimony of the true Spirit, from the counterfeit illumination of the Anabaptists and some friars who will have strange sudden joys, the Devil no question then transforming himself into an angel of light unto them. This trial therefore is made by three things going before, and three things following after. For the things that go before:
First, see that the ground work be true. If a man be in the faith, and do believe the word, if upon believing and meditation, there be an opening unto the knock of
4 John, chap. 16. ver. 22.
Acts, chap. 5. ver. 41.
Christ at the first, and not a delaying him like the lazy spouse in the Canticles, if in this case the Spirit come and fill the heart with joy, then all is sure and well, it comes with a promise, for then Christ promised to enter; but if a man have a dull dead delaying ear, and therewith great fantastic joys, he may assure himself the right spirit hath not wrought them, they are but idle speculations, but if this joy comes upon the surveying of our charter and evidences, it is sure we may build upon it.
Secondly, a man must consider, if he hath as yet overcome strong passions and temptations, and passed through much hazard and peril for Christ, having been buffeted with divers temptations of which he hath obtained mastery; for the seal of God's Spirit with our spirit comes as reward of service done, as you may see: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."
Whereby he means he will give a secret love token to the soul, whereby it rests assured of the unspeakable love of God, and freedom from condemnation. Now what was this white stone? The Athenians had a custom, when malefactors were accused and arraigned, to have black and white stones by them, and so according to the sentence given, those condemned had a black, and the acquitted had a white stone given them, unto this the Holy Ghost here alludes, that this stone, this seal shall assure them of absolute acquittance from condemnation, and so free them of the cause of fear. Again he tells us, Christ will give a man a new name, that is, write his absolution in fair letters in the white stone, with a clear evidence as if he should say (when Christ hath seen a man overcoming, and how he hath conflicted with temptations, and yet holds out, pressing for the crown unto the end of the race ;) Christ will come in then and stroke him on the head, easing him of all his pains and sores with
Rev. chap. 2. ver. 17.
such a sweet refreshing as is unspeakable. When a man hath won it, he shows he then shall wear it.
Thirdly, if the Spirit seal after meditation on the word, it is right, the apostle says, " in whom after that ye believed ye were sealed." Examine the root of this joy, Spirit gives no comfort but by the word. If a man do meditate on the promises, and thereupon have a flame of love kindled, this is sure a man may say, the word did stir it up if it be God's comfort, God will have his word to make way unto it; some there are who find no sweetness in the word, what is the cause thereof? because they chew not the word to imprint it on their memories and in their heart. If comfort come whilst a man meditating on the promises doth wedge it home upon his heart; it is of God, otherwise it is counterfeit and false. These are the forerunners to this seal.
In the next place, there are three things that follow after this sealing which the Spirit leaves behind it. As, First, humility, as in his knowledge, so in his sense, it makes a man more humble. There is naturally in all a certain pride, which must be overcome: says the apostle, "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" But by the contrary, the nearer a man comes unto the glory of God, he finds so much the more rottenness in his bones, as we see in Job: "I have heard of thee," says he unto God, "by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee," his inference is, "therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
Secondly, another thing the Spirit leaves behind it, if it seals rightly, is a prevention of security for time to come. In this case we must look for a new encounter, a false persuasion makes a man to fall into security, because Satan is then most malicious and busy, a man must stand faster than ever. The Devil hates them most that are most endued with God's image, whom, because he cannot reach, he persecutes in his members. And therefore in this case it must be with us as it was with Eliast. After such an
1 Kings, chap. 10. ver. 8.
enlightening a man must now think that he hath a great journey to go, and so walk on in the strength of that a long time. The Devil we see watcheth a man, and when he is at the best, then endeavours to overcome him. As we may see in Adam and Eve, no sooner were they placed in that estate of innocency but he tempts them; how much more a man having a sweeter taste of the Spirit, and less strength now, may he look to be set upon. And therefore in these feasting days he had need to be more on his watch and pray more for we have more given us than Adam had, we have a new name given us, a secret love token: further we see Christ says, Behold", I stand at the door and knock, if any man will open unto me, I will come in and sup with him and he with me." Now in this case if we be such persons who let our hearts fly open to let him in, we are safe; as if he should say, if you would be sure of reconciliation, to be at peace with me, sup with me and I will sup with you for we know if men who were enemies be once brought to keep company together, and to eat and drink one with another, we use to say all is done and wrapped up in the table cloth, all old reckonings are taken away, now they are certainly become friends. But if, like the spouse in the Canticles, " we let him stand knocking and will not let him in," we also may have great and sound knocks and blows ourselves before we find him again; as we read it befel the Church there, whom the watchmen found, beat and took away her veil, as she was seeking Christ. If we would have comfort therefore, let us mark the knocking of the Spirit, and not grieve him by withstanding holy motions; and then we shall find him sealing up our salvation, "witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God." Men you see wait for the wind, and not the wind for them, otherwise they may wait long enough before they reach home: so must we watch the knockings of Christ, and let him in, that his Spirit may seal us up to the day of redemption.
Thirdly, another thing the true witness of the Spirit
u Rev. chap. 3.