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" a new exercise. Hereon, it may be, they find not “ that sensible vigour in their spiritual affections, nor " that delight in spiritual duties, which they have done “ formerly. This makes them sometimes ready to e conclude, that grace is decayed in them, and the " springs of holiness dried up: So that they know “ neither where nor what they are. And it may be the « real work of sanctification is still thriving and effec* tually carried on in them*.” And says the same excellent writer on the cxxxth Psalm, “ A man may « have grace acting in him; and yet not know, nor be * sensible, that he hath acting grace." Such as duly consider these things will not find Mr. Hervey erroneous for saying, that the good qualifications of believers are sometimes not easily, if at all, discernable. The truth on this head seems to be well expressed in our Larger Catechism, in the answer to question 81 : “ Assurance of grace and salvation” (that is, assurance of sense) « not being of the essence of faith, true be“ lievers may wait long before they attain it; and, after “ the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and “ intermitted, through manifold distempers, tempta« tions and desertions. Yet are they never left with“ out such, a presenoe and support of the Spirit of " God, as keeps them from sinking into utter despair."
With regard to the course which ought to be taken by persons in the case now supposed, Mr. Hervey expresses his judgment both negatively and positively. He would not have persons in that case pore on their hearts to discover, by inherent qualities, their interest in Christ. His meaning is, that they should not do so without or in order to their essaying the direct act of
* On the Spirit, book iv. chap. 2d.
faith ; as if they were to seek some ground for it in their inherent qualifications. That such a poring of their own hearts is meant as would be a hindrance to that act of faith, appears from the beautiful simile, which is used in the same place, taken from the practice of the industrious fisherman, who does not spend his time in idle triumphs on account of his success ; who does not stand to measure the dimensions of the fish or to compute the value of the prize. In short, the poring on our own heart, against which Aspasio cautions us, is just the evil of seeking a ground of confidence or the restoration of our evidences in and from ourselves, in opposition to the course which he positively recommends ; namely, that of renewing our application to the free and faithful promise of the Lord ; that of seeking afresh to the inexhaustible fulness of our Saviour for renewed communications. This is no other doctrine than what is ordinarily taught by protestant divines. “ It were good for you," says à pious writer, “ who doubt of your faitlr, to set your“ selves for actual present believing. Some people, 6 who are apt to be weary of long debates in their « minds, whether they have believed or not, and tempt“ ed to give it over, are, by the blessing of God upon « this mean, relieved of their fears and cleared of their “ doubts. Addressing themselves to the Lord with « all the reverence and seriousness they can attain, and, “ in the sense of their sin and need of a Saviour, they u set themselves to receive and embrace Christ as their 6 Redeemer and Lordt.” " I suppose," says another, " that you do not know, that you are regenerate or “ born of God; should this hinder or discourage you «s from believing forgiveness, from closing with the
+ Craighead on the Sacrament.
'* promises ? Not at all. First, to take up mercy, " pardon and forgiveness absolutely on the account of “ Christ; and then to yield all obedience in the strength « and for the love of Christ, is the life of a believer, * Ephes. ii. 8, 9, 10. Obedience, duties, mortification « of sin and the like, are precious stones to build with ; * but unmeet to be first laid, to bear upon them the * whole weight of the building. The foundation is to
be laid in mere grace, mercy, pardon in the blood of Christ. This the soul is to accept of and rest ia merely as it is grace, without the consideration of any thing in itself, but that it is sinful and obnoxious
to ruint.” Thus protestant divines used to direct a sinner to lay the foundation of his hope, not in any inoral good thing felt in him or done by him, but tyholly without himself, in the gospel-testimony and promise of God in Christ. In full consistency with this doctrine, they represented the sense' or consciousness, which believers have, of the work of the Holy Spirit in their own souls; and of their having in some measure the characters laid down in the scriptures of the children of God, as a great encouragement to continue in the exercise of faith, and as necessary to distinguish true faith from the presumptuous confidence of hypocrites.
Mr. Bellamy insinuates, that Mr. Hervey “ pares what our Saviour calls a rock to the stalk of a u tulip*.” Mr. Hervey has indeed the following words: " When we are advised to prove our title to comfort by
genuine marks of conversion; and taught, on this “ ground, to fix the capital of assurance ; I would “ rather propose a question, than advance objections.
| Owen on the 130th Psalm.
* Mr. Bellamy's Dial. p. 9&
& Is not this somewhat like placing the dome of a ca
thedral upon the stalk of a tulipt?".
A writer's words ought to be understood agreeably to the manifest design of his discourse and according to their connexion with what goes before and follows them. Mr. Hervey is here speaking of the foundation of faith, not of the evidences of it. “For, in the very Next paragraph of Aspasio's discourse, he allows, that “ the love of the brethren may very justly be admitted
as an evidence that our faith is real, and our assurance no delusion." As to the passage in Matth. vii. 34478. it may be observed, that, though our Lord represents those, who hear his words and do them, as building upon a rock, it will not follow, that their own doings or inherent good qualities, (which Mr. Hervey compares in one respect to a tulip) are the rock upon which the truly wise, build for eternity. Their doing Christ's words is rather an evidence of their building upon the unshaken rock of the Mediator's righteousness and Jehovah's faithfulness pledged in the gospelpromise. " This rock," as Chemnitius observes on the place, s is not our contrition
on nor our works. For * Paul says, 1 Corinth. iii. 11. Other foundation can no « man lay, than that which is laid, even Jesus Christ. **. And what that rock is upon which Christ will have « his church built; so that the gates of hell may not « prevail against it, Peter explains in his first epistle, « ü. 4. Christ-is apprehended and dwells in our hearts “ by faith. Faith, however, cannot be without repen* tance : a good tree brings forth good fruit. Doing “ Christ's words may here be understood of every part 56 of his doctrine ; provided every part be kept in its
+ Theron and Aspasio, Dial. xyi.
“ own place; Christ being still regarded as the only “ foundation, and entitled to the whole glory and honour < of our salvation."
Mr. Marshal, having observed, that the saints recorded in scripture had an assurance of their interest in God and his salvation," which was not founded on 6 the certainty of their good qualifications ;">Mr. Bellamy puts the following questions: “ Was not “ Abraham,” says he, “ certain of his sincerity, when, 66 out of love and obedience to God, he left his father's “ house, &c. Was not Moses certain of his sincerity, « when he despised the treasures of Egypt? Were “ not Job, Hezekiah, Peter, so ?” All this is granted, and what then? Why, concludes Mr. Bellamy, because they had assurance arising from the evidence of their sincerity; therefore, they had no assurance of faith previous to their attainment of that evidence. This conclusion is no better than it would be to infer, that, because a man, having a farm or plantation, occupied by a tenant, obtains an evidence of his property in it by the tenant's payment of his rent; therefore he has no other assurance of his title ; no assurance of it arising from his possession of the deeds of conveyance. A person's attainment of the assurance of sense upon a distinct view of the work of grace begun in him, is nothing against his having had, in some measure, an assurance of faith before. Hereby, says the apostle John, we know, that we know him, if we keep his commandments. This text is nothing against the admitting of both these kinds of assurance. By the assurance of faith we may first know, that God hath made over to us the saving knowledge of himself in the gospel-promise, Jerem. xxiv. 7. I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord. And then in the consequent course of new obedience we may have an assurance of