THE VVAY TO A BLESSED ESTATE IN THIS LIFE.

BY EZEKEL CVLVERVVELL.

LONDON Printed by Iohn Dawson, for William Sheffard, and are to be sold at his Shop, at the entring in of Popes-head Alley out of Lum­bard-streete. 1623.

THE VVAY TO A BLESSED ESTATE IN THIS LIFE.

THAT which our Lord Iesus from Heaven writ vn­to the Church of Sardis; Rev. 3.1. Thou hast a name that thou liuest, but art dead, may be truly spoken of the greater sort of not-counterfeit Professors of the Faith in our time: for it is cleare by the Text, that this is not spoken of hypo­crites, who are starke dead, but [Page 2]of such who having some life remaining in them, are in a dead sleepe:Many drowsie profes­sors. for these of whom I speake, take good paines to keepe vp a name of Christiani­tie, both in the exercises of Reli­gion, and in their outward be­hauiour, (though in both there be much sayling) but in very truth there is but a little life of faith and loue in all their Pro­fession, as may appeare in their cold and vncomfortable pray­ers, in their wandering and drowsie hearing of the Word, and vnfruitfull receiving of the Sacraments, and much more in their abuse and neglect of the secret exercises of Prayer, rea­ding, and meditation by them­selues, and conference with o­thers, seldome deepely beway­ling their estate, lesse reioycing in the assurance of their salvati­on by Christ, as seldome deligh­ting in God, with a zeale to set forth his glory in every part of [Page 3]their life.

Though this be the state of the greater part of those that haue some truth of grace in them, yet may we say againe,A few worthy. that there are with vs, (as in the Church of Sardus) a few names that haue not defiled their gar­ments, that is, doe liue vnrebu­kably, and walke worthy their holy calling, having a sweet fee­ling of Gods favour vnto them, and so can boldly come vnto him in time of need, with assu­rance that he doth graciously re­spect them, their prayers, and vnfeigned obedience; who like­wise doe more delight them­selues in God, then in all earth­ly things, accounting it their greatest griefe to offend him, and greatest ioy to please him; possessing their soules with con­fidence and patience in their greatest trialls, looking for the appearing of Christ.

This is that blessed estate to be [Page 4]inioyned in this life,What a blessed life here may be attained. which God hath prepared, (though in di­vers measures) for the faithfull, all which may well bee contai­ned in this short sentence of the Psalmist. Psal. 37.4. Delight thy selfe in the Lord, and he will giue thee thy hearts desire: which I doubt not but all true Christi­ans (when they haue well consi­dered it) would be glad to at­taine vnto:Desired by many, not attained. But either through ignorance of the way how to at­taine it; or through negligence; not putting in practise what they know: they spend many yeares, either securely, or vn­comfortably, seldome attaining to that heauenly feasting, which (if they were wise) might be their daily refreshing:How this life is at­tained. whose e­state I much tendring, doe en­devour to shew them, how this happie life may be attained; which I conceiue to be onely by a more plentifull feeding vpon Christ by faith. It is without [Page 5]question, that all and every part of our spirituall life is in Christ, of whose fulnesse we receiue grace for grace: and this is as cleare,Ioh. 1.26. that we receiue no grace first or last from Christ, but by belee­ving: in which respect Christ is truly and principally said to be our spirituall food,Ioh. 6.27.35. and belee­ving to be the true feeding vp­on him. Which being so,34. it ne­cessarily followes, that feeding seldome or weakely, we cannot haue much spirituall strength: and otherwise feeding plentiful­ly and soundly, we shall be fat, and flourishing in grace, and so attaine vnto the blessed life spo­ken of.

How to feed oft in the day on Christ.For the better vnderstanding and practising whereof, this is specially to be considered, How every true beleever may daily, yea, oft in the day, by faith feed vpon Christ, that so he may re­ceiue from him all spirituall nourishment, for his refreshing [Page 6]and strengthening to every good worke.

This is done by setting before vs those sweet promises, which God hath made to vs, for the strengthening of our faith in all our necessities: and, so particu­larly to apply them to our selues. Whereby we may com­fortably assure our selues, that we shall enioy that which God hath promised. Wherein we are first to get the true meaning of that which is promised.

Secondly, To see we haue a good warrant, that this is pro­mised to vs, that therevpon we may conclude, we shall certainly enioy that which God hath pro­mised, seeing he is faithfull who hath promised.

But seeing this is not well conceived by many,Example. I will make it plaine by example, 1 Cor. 1.30 it is said; But of him are yee in Christ Iesus, who of God is made vnto vs wisedome, and righteous­nesse, [Page 7]and sanctification, and re­demption. In which is as much sayd as may be conceived, or de­sired; the meaning whereof is, that every true beleever, is by Gods spirit made a living mem­ber of Christ Iesus, from and in whom, he is made by God a true partaker of all things need­full to salvation: that whereas he is by nature foolish, guiltie, fil­thy, and in bondage, now in Christ he is made perfectly wise righteous, holy, freed from all his enemies, and so restored to full happinesse. This promise of God being clearely vnder­stood, must now be applyed particularly by every beleever to himselfe, thus: Seeing God who is all-sufficient; and faith­full, that in his Word, which is Truth it selfe, promised these great benefits (in which all are contained) to every true belee­ver, therefore I who doe truly, though weakely, beleeue in [Page 8]Christ, may boldly assure my selfe, that all these be mine, and therefore I shall not want any thing needfull for my present comfort, or eternall happinesse. Which whosoever doth daily practise in this manner to main­taine, and increase his faith by application of this, and all other of Gods promises, he shall daily more and more enioy in this life that blessed estate wee speake of.

Pray for faith.But for as much as faith is the gift of God, and we cannot further beleeue then wee be drawne by Gods spirit, there­fore wee must ioyne often and fervent prayer, that God by this meanes would increase our faith.

This may seeme easie to be performed,Not easie. but vpon better triall, it will not be found so ea­sie to doe it effectually; for be­sides our owne great vntoward­nesse to beleeve, I cannot thinke [Page 9]of any dutie, wherein our com­mon Adversary, will vse more cunning, and diligence to hin­der vs, then in this: either by keeping vs from rhe worke, or beguiling vs in it: whereby it comes to passe, that very few doe (to any good purpose) practise the same.

Two chiefe letts.Amongst many lettes which hinder the faithfull practise hereof, I obserue these two, in two divers sorts of beleevers. The former in those,1. Not pri­zing Christ. in two divers sorts of beleevers. The former in those, who not sufficiently feeling their wants, and too much contented with their estate, doe not so prize Christ, and this blessed estate in him, as may moue them to take this paines, and therefore neuer reach vnto this growth in grace wherevnto they might come, if the fault were not in them selues. The other let is in those who highly prizing the benefit,2. Our vn­worthines. and earnestly labouring for it, are by the sense of their owne [Page 10]vnworthinesse, so kept downe' that they cannot with any hope looke vp, for so great a bles­sing.

Remoue of the first let.For the remooving of both these lettes, the first sort are to bethinke themselues, what an vncomfortable account it will be, when God shall call them to it, to see how many yeares they haue spent, with little growth in grace, either to the glory of God, or good example to o­thers, or to the peace of their owne soules. Whereas on the other side, they might haue at­tained vnto such a sweet life, as would haue beene a heauen vp­on earth; namely, To reioyce al­wayes in the Lord.

Of the se­cond let.For the other poore soules, who are kept downe with the sense of their owne vnworthi­nesse, they are to know, that all Gods promises, are free and vn­deserved, so as no vnworthines ought to hinder them from be­leeving: [Page 11]yea, rather they that haue the most sense of their owne vnworthinesse, haue most incouragement to beleeve, for that voice of Christ,Mat. 11.28. Come vnto me all you that are weary and hea­vie laden, and I will ease you: serue not onely for our first conversion, but in all our di­stresses whatsoever, throughout the whole course of our life.

Satan will beguile;If any escape both these lets, and goe about this worke, then will Satan vse all his skill to be­guile both sorts: such as are weake and heauie hearted,Some that they be­leeue not; soone discouraged, he tempts and perswades, they labour in vaine, and doe not beleeue, when indeed they doe, as shall appeare.Others, that they haue more faith then they haue. The other sort who are too well conceited, and light hearted, Satan labours to per­swade, that they haue more faith then indeed they haue, and that their case is better then in truth it is.

[Page 12] It shall be therefore the wise­dome of all who will not be de­ceived, carefully to examine and try themselues; which that they may the better doe, let them consider of these markes that follow: whereby either sort may certainely iudge of them­selues.

Foure markes of faith not seene.For such as conscionably en­devour to nourish their faith in such manner as hath beene shewed, and yet finde no com­fort, but feare they doe not be­leeue, (when as indeed they doe) these are to discerne their faith by such secret operations, as doe certainely shew faith to be there, though it be not seene: namely, An vnfeigned griefe for the want of faith,1. Griefe for want of faith. with an vncessant indevour for the at­taining of it. Againe, A reve­rent esteeme of God, and hearty affection of vnfeigned loue to him, which cannot be without some former apprehension of [Page 13]Gods loue to them, which is in many, (though they see it not). And lastly, A tender Consci­ence,4. A tender conscience. fearing to displease God, even in smaller matters, which others little regard. Whosoever shall find these fruits, (which cannot come but from faith) may certainly know, that there is a roote of faith grounded in their hearts, though they see it not.No fruits: no faith. But such as haue no feeling of their faith, and see no such effects in their liues, haue iust cause to thinke that they haue no faith at all.

Notes of true and false com­fort.As for the other sort, who are too well perswaded of them­selues, that they finde comfort in meditating on Gods promi­ses, whereas indeed they deceiue themselues, and haue not that faith they imagine, as their fruits doe shew.

This may be discerned by these notes;

1. True, is hardly got.First, True comfort is vsual­ly [Page 14]very heardly gotten, with much prayer and labour, and it is oft a long time before this be felt: therefore they who vpon their first thoughts on these promises, finde comfort that they haue part in them, may so farre mistrust, all is not sound, till they shall see some better proofe thereof: which if they doe not, but for all this will be confident, that all is well, it is to be feared, their comfort is not sound.

2. Feare of deceit.For this is another propertie of that true comfort which springs from faith, especially in young and weake beleevers, that they (so highly valewing the benefit) are very fearefull of being deceived, and must see good evidence, before they will be perswaded, that they haue this saving faith.

3. Poore in spirit, mourne, and lowly.Whereof if they shall be per­swaded, yet therwithall is ioyned such a feeling of the weakenesse [Page 15]of their faith, and so of all grace, as makes them poore in their owne eyes, and mourne for their wants, thinking lowly of them­selues, and more highly reue­rencing the graces of God in o­thers. Whereas they who be de­ceived, are as the Laodiceans; rich and wanting nothing, and so be merry, and too light hear­ted, thinking too well of them­selues, and too slenderly of o­thers, better then themselues.

4 Hunger and labour for more.Another sure marke of sensi­ble faith and comfort, is this; That they that haue tasted of it, can never be satisfied, but still hunger and labour for more: none more diligently vse all good meanes to grow in grace then they: Even as the strong and most healthfull bodie, doth feed better then the weake and sickly. But such as being well satisfied with that they haue, and feele no hunger, nor labour for more, it is evident their faith [Page 16]and comfort are not good.

5. Answera­ble obedi­ence.To proceed, and not to gather all that might be added hereto, this shall serue for all; That as like fire, like heate: so like faith, like life, great or small. So that where there is strong faith, there must needs be great obedience, and therefore whosoever hee be that is carelesse of his conversa­tion, and barren in the fruits of a holy life, his faith must needs be weake, if not dead.

Wherefore to conclude, I ad­vise every one, who by these markes shall discerne himselfe to be deceived, with fancie in stead of faith; to goe about this worke more seriously, and to lay a better foundation of faith, and not to say, he hath found com­fort, till he can bring good wit­nesse thereof. Which whosoe­ver shall neglect, shall in the end (to say no more) lament his fol­ly, when he who seeing his er­rour, shall more carefully and [Page 17]constantly put in practise this maine dutie of daily feeding vp­on Christ, shall grow in grace, and attaine to that blessed life here, whereof we speake besides eternall life: the full reward of all his labour.

FINIS.

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