[Page] A Touchstone or Tryall OF FAITH, BY The Originall from whence it springs, and the Root out of which it grows: Held out By way of EXPOSITION of the 12 and 13 verses of the first Chapter of Iohn's Gospel, and of the six former verses of the third Chapter, which treat expresly about this point: Intended Not for the disquiet of any, but for the eternall Rest and Peace of all, to whom the Lord shall please to make it usefull thereunto.

To which is added, The Spirituall Practise of CHRISTIANS in the Primitive Times.

LONDON, Printed for Giles Calvert at the Black Spread-Eagle, at the West end of Pauls, 1648.

To the Reader.


IF thou hast any leasure from partaking in, or exclaming against the bitter con­tentions of this present age, which have eat out most mens content in themselves, and their pleasingnesse to others; Here are some seri­ous considerations proposed to thee, as thou wilt one day acknowledge, when thine eyes come to be fully opened.

It is high time to look out after some other place and certainty of entertainment there, when this earth by its continuall shaking and cracking under us, doth so often threaten that it will not long support us. There is no true security for us, but by Faith in Chrisst; he is the only Rock, and there is no stepping thither but by Faith: there is no certainty, but by an assured know­ledge of the truth of this Faith; whereof there are so [Page] many and such accurate cheats, that it is not possible to discern the difference without through sifting and scanning. The Devill, that great cozouning mer­chant, hath all kinde of counterfeit wares which hee paints and guilds, that he may put off for true. He hath grosser ware for the grosser sort, whom he can content with any thing; but more refined stuffe for such as look more narrowly into things: Men that are openly vaine and prophane, yet can hardly bee beaten off from it, but that they love God, and have such a Faith as will carry them to heaven; though they doe not live so strictly as others, yet they believe in Christ, and that is it God looks after.

This deceit thou seest through oh stricter soule! but know withall, the Devill hath more curious coun­terfeits, wherein there is the exact proportion of the thing resembled, all but the life and power; yea, he is cunning also in imitating the life and power of every thing, he hath a resemblance of that too (for those that will not otherwise be content) to keep them from attaining the truth and substance which if they were not thus deceived by him, with the simili­tude of, they would not cease to pursue.

Thou art confident thou art not deceived, so are all that are deceived; the Devill could not deceive thee, with that which is false, if he did not withall work [Page] in thee a perswasion that it is true: What will it hurt thee to try and try thoroughly? Nay, surely it will much advantage thy very confidence: After tryall, thou mayst be confident upon knowledge, now thou art confident but upon supposition; and if thou shouldest at last prove mistaken, thou wouldest have too much time to befoole thy selfe, and bewaile thy confidence; thou wilt be more angry that thou wert pressed no further to tryall, then thou art now offended that thou art pressed so much to it. Thou art but a Traveller in this world, and yet thou wilt look after a sure title in these transitory things; oh look that there be not a flaw in thy title to thy true inheritance: And if thy spirit be seriously bent towards this employment, here perhaps the Lord may administer to thee some help and direction, or furnish thee better some other way when he shall see good.

The way of tryall here propounded, is certaine, though somewhat difficult, yea, indeed altogether im­possible without the help of Gods Spirit: And yet, what sweeter, safer, truer direction can be given, to us poore, weak, empty creatures, who are nothing, who can doe nothing, then to fly to him who is able to do all things, to issue out that power to us, and manage it in us, whereby the thing we desire may be effected; and to waite quietly upon him in our present uncer­taine [Page] condition till he shall please to do it, rather then patch up a satisfaction of our own?

And this way of tryall is not any invention of mine, but it is plainly represented in these Scriptures, from the mouth of Iohn and Christ, referring the tryall of Faith, to the birth, and of the birth to the Spirit, as thou mayst more fully see in the Discourse it selfe; to which I now leave thee to make what use of it, the Lord shall direct thee.

Thine in what the Lord pleaseth, Isaac Pennington.

A Touchstone or Tryall OF FAITH:

JOHN 1. VERS. 12. 13.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sonnes of God, even to them that believe on his Name;

Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

THis sweet and soaring Evangelist having glanced at the excellency of our Lord Christ, in his relation to God (being his Word) his presence, and one­nesse with God, vers. 1. in his influence upon all things, he gave them their being, vers. 3. he gave them their life too (for it was first in him) and his life containes all that light that man at any time receiveth, either naturall or spiri­tuall, either from and through the creatures, in at the win­dowes of his own sence and reason; or more immediately from the Spirit of God, into his own spirit, vers. 4.

Having thus given a generall and pithy description of him, [Page 2] who was to be the maine subject of his discourse; he comes in the next place to speak of his fore-runner, and what of Christ might be learned from him.

He describeth this fore-runner: 1. By his mission, he was sent from God; hee did not goe of his owne head, but God bid. him goe: 2. By his name, His name was John, vers. 6. 3. By the end of his comming it was for to be a witnesse, to testifie somewhat from God unto the world: 4. Concerning what he was to witnesse; It was concerning that light he had spoken of, that came into the world and shined in the dark­nesse, uncomprehended by the darknesse, that this was the light indeed: 5. To what end he was to witnesse this, that all through him might believe; that by his meanes men might universally come to acknowledge this light, and to cast themselves upon it, to lead them unto life, vers. 7.

In vers. 8. he removes a mistake which might arise in men minds, concerning this end; He was not that light, but to beare witnesse of that light; as if hee had said, do not mistake, he was not this light himself, he came not to that end to be the light, but only to give in a testimony from God concerning the light; to tell men which was it, that men might not have recourse to him but to the light; he was to point with the finger at Christ, and to send men thither.

And hee gives a reason why Iohn could not bee this light, vers. 9. because he wanted the property of this light: This light is the originall light as it was described before, who hath all light in him who giveth out all light, who is the very light; The true light that lightneth every man that commeth into the world: It is he gives the light of reason to every man that comes into this outward world, it is he gives the light of the spirit to every man that enters by faith into the inner world. Now Iohn was not this true light, this very light, but only had his candlelighted by it.

Vers. 10. The Evangelist proceeds further to describe this light: He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world know him not: He did not only enlighten the world from the beginning of it, but at length he himselfe came into the world; and the world had a neere relation to him, for hee [Page 3] gave it its being, it was the workmanship of his hands, and yet the world knew him not; though he had not fo [...]gotten the world, but came in due time to look after it, yet the world had forgotten him and knew not who he was.

Yea, he came to his owne, vers. 11. his own people the Iewes, whom he had selected out of the world; whom he had al­wayes cherished, to whom hee had promised this comming of his, and who had long expected it, and yet they received him not.

All this seemeth to be the Answer of an Objection, such an Objection as this:

Object. If Christ was the light, what need he have such an one as Iohn to goe and proclaime it? what need Iohn come to beare witnesse of him? light discovers it selfe: The Sun needs none to goe and proclaime that there is light in it; If this were the fountaine of light, the very light indeed; what need hath he of Iohn's testimony, of Iohn's finger to point at him?

Answ. Yes, saith he, need enough, for though he was in the world; yea, and was the great Architect of the world, yet the world knew him not; and though he came to his own people, who had all the light of God that was in the world, yet they received him not. The world, they did not know him; the Iewes they would not own him; though they did partly know him, yet they did not like him. Surely, he who was thus un­known, who lay hid in the field of the world, to the world; who was thus rejected by his own, had great need of a witnesse, to declare to the world who he was, and to testifie to the stubborn Jewes, their rebellion against the light.

But then it may further be demanded, what did the Iewes loose by not receiving, or what should the world gaine by com­ming to this light, when they were pointed to it by Iohn?

Why very much, as verse the 12th holds out: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sonnes of God: They should gaine this great dignity to be the sons of God, comming into Union and Fellowship with him, they should partake of his honour from, and interest in the Father. Christ would give them this priviledge, to become the sonnes of the most High; to go and call him Father, and desire any fatherly [Page 4] act of him; and if he be questioned for it, tell him Christ bid him doe so; hee gave him this right and priviledge, to bee a sonne: What meanes that? what is it to have a Father? what is it to be a sonne?

It includes these three things in it.

  • 1. Carefull education by the Father.
  • 2. A sonlike spirit in himself from the Father.
  • 3. A sonlike inheritance for himself with the Father.

Each of these is included in this prerogative of being a sonne.

1. Carefull education by the Father. The Father is to nur­ture, and bring up his child, sutable to his own state and degree. This is an universall law of nature, and universally observed by every creature; every creature brings up, what it brings forth; and doubtlesse the substance of this law is written on Go [...]s heart, who hath written the image of it on every thing that comes from him. Now Education hath these three things in it.

First, Instruction in such literature, as becomes such a sonne: Thou maist goe to God, for such knowledge as becomes a sonne of God; thou art to bee brought up in the knowledge of the most High, this is thy right; It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be all taught of God; they shall all know me from the least to the greatest. The least of them shall not want sutable know­ledge; They shall all know God who is the greatest thing to be known, and whom it requires the highest life to know: This is life eternall, to know thee the only true God.

Secondly, Preservation from dangers. The Father is to pro­vide Tutors and Governours to look to the child, that he doe not wrong himselfe, nor that any else wrong him; When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and thorow the ri­vers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee: All things shall work together for good to them that love God: The stones of the field shall be at peace with thee. Creatures, men, devils, temtations, sins, corruption; nothing shall hurt them, nor they shall not hurt themselves; nothing can hurt them but departing from God, and their Father will look to [Page 5] that too; I will put my feare in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me, Ier. 32. 40.

Thirdly, Provision of meat, drink, cloathes, recreations, and whatsoever else is needfull for him, sutable to his degree: This God wil take care for too, he will take care of this for the bo­dy, Hee that feeds the Ravens, and cloathes the Lillies, shall he not much more feed and cloath you? but it is their spirit he [...]s specially the Father of, that is his child, and spirituall meat, drink, cloathes, recreations, &c. hee will not faile to provide for it: He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he with­hold: The Lions may suffer hunger, and want food for their bodies; but none of his shall want food for their spi­rits; as he promiseth the poore captive exile, who is banished from his presence and in captivity under Satan, bound in his pit; he promiseth him that he shall not die there, nor his bread faile there, Esay 51. 14. The words in the Hebrew are in the future tense, He shall not die in the Pit, and his bread shall not faile.

2. A sonlike spirit: It is naturall to the sonne, to be, like the father; but why? because he hath it from his father. God also will put his Spirit into his Sonnes, I will put my Spirit within you; Indeed, it is the spirit of a son makes a sonne; and there­fore those that want the spirit of sonnes, we say they are unna­turall. God should beget unnaturall children if he should not endue them with a sonlike Spirit: He could not be a true Father, beget a true child, unlesse he begat his own spirit in him: There can be no life of a sonne, no voyce of a sonne, no motion of a sonne without the spirit, Rom. 8. 9, 26. Sonship and the spirit are knit together, Gal. 4. 6. Because yee are Sonnes, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Sonne into your hearts, crying, Abba Father. It belongs to the Father both to beget, and cherish a sonlike spirit in his son: God hath undertaken for his, as well that they shall be sons and daughters, as to be a Father to them, 2 Cor. 6. 18. He will beget in them, and poure out upon them such a sonlike spirit, that neither he, nor they, shall be ashamed of the relation.

3. A sonlike inheritance: Such an one as becomes such an heir; what God now possesses, he must inherit; if he be his son, his heir, it is his priviledge; what power, wisdome, goodnesse, glory, &c. God now enjoyes, he must have when he is grown up to it, Rom. 8. 17.

[Page 6] This all that receive Chri [...]t, must have from and with Christ; all this God hath given unto Christ, and he giveth it all with himselfe, so that take him and take all.

Quest. But what is this same receiving of Christ? who are those persons that receive him? how may we know them?

Answ. The next words tell you, It is them that believe on his Name? The name of Christ is his power to save, to bring men out of their misery and wretchednesse unto this. This light comes to lighten men out of their darknesse into it selfe; and who ever lay hold on him he fetcheth them out; who ever is fastened unto him, cannot abide in darknesse, but must come out with him: Now to believe on his name, is to fasten on this power of his; faith is that glue which makes the soule in whom it is, stick and cleave to Christ; and any such soules he fetcheth them out of the clutches of the Devill presently, and from a­middest that power of darknesse under which they lay, and giveth them this priviledge to become sons of God, Act. 26. 18.

Quest. But how may we know those who believe? or how come these persons to believe and receive him before others? his own they receive him not; how comes it about that these receive him?

Answ. That is resolved in the following verse, (vers. 13.) they have a new principle of life put into them, which inclines them so to doe, Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. These persons come to it by a new birth, they come not to faith by the powers of nature, but they are new born before they believe: They have a new seed of a new life put into them, out of which faith growes, and from which it fetcheth its ability to act. Now concerning this birth, that we may not be deceived about it, he shewes first what it is not, whence it doth not proceed; and then what it is, whence it doth proceed: It is not a birth of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

1. Not of blood: Blood may import that instruction in Religi­on and disposion towards Religion, which a man receiveth from his Parents; There is a veine of Religon runnes along with the blood, and there is a kind of naturall inclination in all [Page 7] persons towards Religion, both which meeting together with some addition of instruction, will carry a person very farre in Religious practises. This was the Religion of the Iewes ge­nerally; what they drank in from their parents, and were ac­customed to by their education, that they were very strict in the observation of. And this is the root of most of the Religion, at this day in the Word; Turkes, Papists, yea, Protestants ge­nerally suck in their Religion with their blood; indeed, they all pretend to a power of God, and strive to make up a kind of satisfaction to themselves one way or other, whereas the ground­work whereupon they build is rotten. But this is not the true birth; man in the naturall way of generation cannot con­vey it; Abraham did not thus convey it to Isaac, but he was a sonne by Promise; it is not the blood of Abraham through which the Faith of Abraham runnes.

2. Nor of the will of the flesh: The will of the flesh being di­stinguished from the will of man, denoteth the corrupt part with the desires thereof, which also doth operate and has a power to produce a birth in Religion though not the true birth. This will of the flesh may work a twofold way; either in ones selfe, or in others; and either way may effect a great change in the person, in the reference to Religion, though not the true one.

First, There is the will of the flesh working in a mans selfe; when a man for by-ends, as vaine-glory profit, quietnesse sake, or any such like thing, taketh up the profession and practice of Religion; this is from the flesh, from a corrupt principle; when a man takes up Religion, not from a pure con­viction of conscience, not for Religions sake, but because it suites with such and such by-ends of his, tends to advantage him in this or that respect. Thus the Pharisees took up most of their practises, out of a desire of honour and gaine; and it hath beene observed, and known of many in former times, that they have been Puritanes on such termes as these, to obtaine a wife, to please their friends, to encrease their custome and the like; And thus are many things maintained among us at this day, which the light that is abroad would quickly and clearly [Page 8] dispell, only corrupt ends keep them alive. And thus a man may be born anew as it were, a great change may be made in him, and he appeare a new man to all that behold him; when as it is indeed but the working of the flesh, his prosecuting some corrupt ends of his own which maketh him thus forward and zealous in Religion.

Secondly, There is this corrupt part, or will of the flesh, not only working in a mans selfe but in others also; and that is, when other men for corrupt ends of their own, strive to bring on persons (specially such as may be more easily led) to such and such practises in Religion, and to zeale in such and such par­ticular things: Thus the Pharisees did bring the people into many practises, for their own corrupt ends; and thus were the poore Proselytes born, they were brought into a way of Reli­gion by the Iewes, who took great paines to effect it, but made them ten times more the children of hell then they were before: And this we shall see, will be the case of many poore soules at last, who have followed such guides as have had glorious pre­tences in view, but corrupt ends in their hearts; they become ten times worse at present, and will be ten times more miserable at last then if they had never known such and such wayes of Religion, or had not been so zealous in them. But this is not the true birth neither whence true Faith doth flow; all the changes that are made in us, from any corrupt end or desire of our own, or of any others whatsoever, will bee of little va­lew to us.

3. Nor of the will of man: The will of man being di­stinguished from the will of the flesh, notes the purest and most ingenuous part; and that either in a mans selfe or any o­ther; It notes, that desire that is naturally in man, to finde out God and his will, and to worship and please him, and so to use the best meanes the soule can meet with in reference there­unto, as seeking into his word, hearing, conferring, praying, and observing what it findes to be his will; This indeed is noble, ingenuous, and acceptable in the sight of God in its kind and degree; but yet it doth not rise so high as this birth that is here spoken of: All this prosecuted by the soule, yet will never [Page 9] bring it to God, though God doth ordinarily (if not al­wayes) bring such persons to himselfe, whom he thus seri­ously and constantly inclines.

Nor will this desire in others, with all the meanes they can use accomplish it; though they themselves be new born, yet this will not beget another; though the most pretious Saint that is, should never so earnestly desire the begetting of a soule to God; out of the purest ends that might be, and should use all spirituall means towards it, pray hard to God, diligently spread the knowledge of Christ before the person and begge on him day after day with teares, to pitty his poore perishing soule, yet all this will not doe; Abraham did as much for Ishmael as could be done, if the will of man would have done it; he was carefull to instruct his whole Family, but in a speciall manner very faine would he have had grace breathed into him, Oh that Ishmael might live before thee! How faine would Isaac have had the blessing runne to Esau! how much did Christ doe for the Iewes, how large were his affections; Oh that thou hadst known at least in this thy day the things that belong unto thy peace! how vaste his paines! All the day long have I stretched out my hands to a foolish and gain-saying people. So Paul for the Iewes, Rom. 9. 2, 3. The Apostles of Christ though they did travell with men, yet they could not beget or bring forth whom they would; and those persons that were born of this will of theirs, yet that birth came to nothing, they fell away from the Faith afterwards, both from Christ while he was alive, (as this book abundantly testifies) and from the Churches after his ascention. So that here are the three great engines of Religion, which turn all the world upside downe, and make almost all the changes in Religion among men, Tradition, Corruption, Reason and Ingenuity, they are all here discarded, as not being able to convey the true birth whence true Faith proceeds.

Then at last, the Evangelist having shewn whence it did not proceed, sheweth also whence it did proceed, both the birth and the faith; but of God, the birth comes from God, the faith [Page 10] from the birth or from the new born child: God by his Spirit, breathes a breath of life into him, puts a new princi­ple within him, and by vertue of this he comes to believe on Christ: God by the power of his Grace, changeth him and maketh him a new creature, and then he comes to put forth this new act of true and spirituall Faith: God soweth a seed in him, causeth this seed to grow and at length bringeth it forth, so that the child is born; and then Faith natural­ly, after the law and manner of the Divine nature sprouts from it: The first act of the living child, is to exercise the power of Faith, which before lay hid in him. And this is done, this birth is brought about, not from a mans own will, whether corrupt or ingenuous, nor from the will of any else, but from God, from his will, of his own will begat he us, Iam. 1. 18. This, and this alone is the true birth.

For a close to these two verses, take notice of these foure great truths, wherein much of the Gospel doth lie; three of them are contained in these two verses, the first of them in the fore-going part of the Chapter.

1. That Christ is the light come into the world to lighten men out of their darknesse; there is no getting out of spiri­tuall darknesse, but by Christ the true and only spirituall light.

2. The persons for whom he doth this, must believe, must receive him by faith for their light.

3. Faith proceeds from the new birth, a man must be new born that he may believe.

4. The great priviledge Christ bestowes on those that be­lieve, which is this, he gives them Authority to become the sonnes of God.

Those that will be the sonnes of God, must believe on his Christ.

Those that will believe on Gods Christ, must be born of God.

Those that are born of God, cannot but believe on Christ, and Christ cannot but lighten them out of their darknesse, for that end he came.

[Page 11]

Vers. 1. There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Iewes:

2. The same came to Iesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou' art a teacher come from God: for no man can doe these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

3. Iesus answered, and said unto him, Verily, veri­ly I say thee: except a man be borne againe, he can­not see the Kingdome of God.

4. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when hee is old? can he enter the second time into his mothers womb, and be borne?

5. Iesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Ex­cept a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdome of God.

6. That which is borne of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is borne of the spirit is spirit.

Here is an excellent Dispute betweene Christ and Ni­codemus concerning true Faith; Iohn had described it be­fore in the twelf and thirteenth verses of the first Chapter, where hee had shewed that those that did indeed believe, were born of God: This act of Faith in them, which did entitle them unto Christ, and whereupon they did receive the right of Sonship in and from him, did not proceed from any light set before them by men; nor from any inclination of heart which man could work in them; but from a new principle of life breathed into their soules by God.

Here the case is more fully argued betweene Christ and Nicodemuus. Nicodemus a Pharisee, and Rules of the [Page 12] Iewes, comes to Christ by night, acknowledging him to be a Teacher from God, one who had the will of God revealed unto him by God himselfe, and came to make it known unto the sonnes of men: Hee giveth Christ the ground which induced him thus to believe, which was, because of the signes hee shewed, the wonders hee did, which no man could doe unlesse God were with him. Those things he did were beyond the working of any hu­mane power, therefore God must needs be with that person who doth them; he comes as one that would be a disciple (though hee comes not so openly as others did) and at his first salute, hee acknowledgeth Christ to be a Teacher sent from Heaven by God, rendring his reason withall, where­by hee could not chuse but so judge, which was no meane one neieher, but drawn from the mighty things Christ did, wherein the very power of God did appear to the eye of reason evidencing unto it that living Spring from whence he came, and the Pres [...] of that living Spring with him: This is expressed in the first and second verses.

In the third verse, Christ applyeth himselfe to his par­ticular state, wishing him to consider the ground whence this acknowledgement of his did arise; telling him plainly, that true Faith must arise from another root then sight of his miracles; Iesus answered, and said unto him, verily, verily, &c. as if hee had said, Mark what I say, I know what I speak, Verily, verily, it is most certainly so, unlesse a man be born againe, he cannot see the kingdome of God.

What is the Kingdome of God? The kingdome of God, is that state of life and blessednesse, which God hath brought to light by Iesus Christ. As the kingdome of the Devill is that state of death and misery man lies in by nature; so the Kingdome of God is th [...] state of life and glory man is advanced to by grace: Philip preached the things con­cerning the Kingdome of God, and the Name of Iesus Christ, Act. 8. 12. He opened the life and blessednesse that belongs to this Kingdome, and the name of Christ who is to bring us into it.

[Page 13] To see this Kingdome, is an act of Faith, which is the eye wherewith wee behold every spirituall thing; this eye no man hath, but he that is born againe, he that is born from above: This eye doth not lie hid in nature, and so only wants somewhat to cleare it, and draw forth the act of it; but it belongs to a new birth; he that is begotten and born of God, hee hath this eye in him, and none else: There­fore Nicodemus consider thy mistake, Thou thinkest be­cause thou seest by an eye of reason that I am come from God, and art drawne by thy reason and ingenuity to acknowledge and owne it, that therefore thou believest: No, no, Nicodemus, if thou hast Faith, it ariseth from another ground then the sight of my miracles, it comes from a new birth in thee, though God may make this usefull to thee also to help thee to believe; but if thy Faith have no better ground-work then this, it is like the fore-mentioned Faith of those in the former Chapter, vers. 23. whom I dare not, I cannot owne as Disciples. Oh weigh and consider this, all wise and ingenuous men, behold your snare, and take notice of this also, which may help to enervate the force of it.

That sight and acknowledgement of any spirituall thing which wee are drawn to by a power of reason, by such evidences as reason it selfe cannot withstand (as miracles were) wee have just cause to suspect as not true and spirituall: It is the sight of reason not of Faith; it is such an act of Faith as proceeds from the naturall man, not from the spirituall man; it is that act the eye that was in us before puts forth, not the new eye. Oh see, how men are quite out in seeking after the truths of God in every kind: They call for reason, for evidences to have it brought by such hands as no man could justly refuse: Ah! they should call for new eyes, or least for Gods discovering his truths in a spirituall way to their eyes which all the miracles in the world cannot doe: They may by miracles bee brought to a rationall sight, and so to a present acknowledgement of truths; but never to a spi­rituall [Page 14] sight, which alone [...]s satisfactory, and which alone w [...]ll be lasting.

Verse 4. Nicodemus apprehends this spirituall truth very carnally and grossely, of a fleshly birth of the fleshly part; and it seemeth a direct absurdity to him, what Christ had now affirmed: He thinks he hath caught the great Master (whom hee acknowledged just now a Teacher come from God) in a trap, and hee so expresseth it, as if Christ had overshot himself, and could not tell how to make good what hee had laid downe; How can a man be borne againe when hee is old? is there any possibility of this? can hee enter the second time into his mothers wombe and bee borne?

Verse 5. Christ doth not abate any thing of what hee hath said, but affirmeth it againe with the same vehemency, further opening, and confirming it, Iesus answerd, Verily, ve­rily, I say unto thee, Except a man be borne of water and of the Spirit, hee cannot enter into the Kingdome of God.

Doest thou come to be a Disciple to learn the way to happinesse? wouldst thou enter into that state of blessed­nesse, that I come to preach? thou must be born againe; and not carnally, not of carnall things; but of water and of the spirit.

For the better apprehending of this, let us enquire a little into these ensuing particulars.

  • 1. What is meant by water?
  • 2. What it is to be borne of water?
  • 3. What it is to be borne of the Spirit?
  • 4. What this entring into the Kingdome of God is, which none none can doe, but that person which it born of water and of the Spirit?

1. What is meant by water? By water is meant, the know­ledge of God in Christ, the sight of God in the face of Christ, wherein eternall life consists. If thou hadst known the gift of God, &c. thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water, Ioh. 4. 10. What is this living water? Why, this is life eternall, to know thee the [Page 15] onely true God, and Iesus Christ whom thou hast sent? Ioh. 17. 3. The heavenly doctrine of life and salvation, is often ex­pressed in Scripture, by this tearm of water, My doctrine shall drop as the raine, my speech shall distill as the dew, Deut. 32. 2. & Is. 55. 10. Heb. 6. 7. As God is the fountaine whence all the life and sweetnesse of the creature flowes, whether naturall (Is. 65. 9.) or spirituall (Ier. 2. 13.) So those beames of eternall light, those streamings forth of life, which issue out from God in the knowledge of Iesus Christ, they are waters from this fountaine.

2. What it is to be born of water? It notes that fundamen­tall and radicall change which is made in the heart by the power of the truths of Christ conveyed thither, and working there.

There are three great effects of this water.

It begets, it washeth, it nourisheth; It begets a dead man to life, it begets a man unto God; for it is a living and active water; or rather it is the seed whereof a man is begotten and born; or at least the vessel, that living vessel which con­taines it: It is that also wherewith he is washed after hee is born (though there be a washing with blood too.) And it nourisheth him after hee is both borne and washed, hee lives upon the very same water that he was borne of and with: It is the first of these effects that is here spoken of, that stroke that water hath in the generation and birth of the new creature, He is born of it. It is by letting in these waters upon the soule and into the soule that God changeth it, and maketh it a new. Our change in our spirits, and our con­version to God proceedeth from, and is to be attributed to that power of truth that God lets in upon us; and to that the Apostle ascribeth it (as in many other places) Rom. 6. 17. Iam. 1. 1 [...]. As our first change from God, was by drinking of the Devils waters, which were waters of darknesse and death, waters of errour and deceit; so this great change to God againe, is wrought by drinking of Gods waters, his spirituall waters of life, which are his truths which hee holds out unto us, wherein there is no darknesse nor [Page 16] deceit at all, but they are cleare, living, and substan­tiall.

3. What is it to be born of the Spirit? It is to have this change from these waters wrought in us by the spirit. A man can never change his own heart, by any of the truths of God; but it must be the spirit that must doe it. This wa­ter is too spirituall a seed for any man to sow in his own heart: No man, no creature can sow anothers seed; this is the spirits seed, and hee must sow it if it be sown: Christ himselfe openeth and illustrateth this further in the eigth verse of the third Chapter, The winde bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it commeth, nor whither it goeth: So is every one that is borne of the Spirit. The Spirit breathes his own breath, blowes his own blast, makes his own sound of life himselfe in our spirits, and thus are wee born of him. It is not all the changes a man can make by the light of naturall truths, nay by the light of spirituall truths, working them upon his heart with never so much paines, that will amount to a new birth; but it must be the spirit of Christ breathing this seed into him, and forming him into a new creature by this seed▪ As it is water or the word of truth, whereby we are begotten; So it is God alone who begets, and that hee doth of his own inclination too, Iam. 1. 18. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.

4. What is it to enter into the Kingdome of God? The King­dome of God, is his spirituall dominion in Christ, to which every spirituall thing belongs, and in which all spirituall ex­cellencies and blessednesses are laid up: To enter into this Kingdome, is by a spirituall act of the soule to come within the verge and bounds of it, even that very act which Ni­codemus was speaking of, vers. 3. namely, an act of true saith; by laying hold on Iesus Christ and becomming one with him, a man presently hath right unto, and entrance into this Kingdome.

Now saith Christ, it is impossible for any man to doe this who is not first new borne; hee can never truly mount [Page 17] upward, whose earthly nature is not first changed.

A man may talk of spirituall glories and his right unto them, but of a truth he is not entred into the Kingdome, nor cannot by true Faith, who is not born againe, and that both of water and the spirit. To partake of the pri­viledges of Christ, to have life and blessednesse from him, requires a birth of water, and of the spirit: There must a new birth of water and the spirit precede there, with­out which the person is not in a capacity of it; he must bee made up againe of water, and that not of his own forming neither, but of the spirits forming; and then by Faith he en­ters into the Kingdome, and becomes entituled to all the priviledges of the Kingdome, which without this birth fore-going cannot be done.

Vers. 6. In this verse, Christ layeth down a position, to confirme the truth he had spoken in the former verse: There is a necessity of being born of water and the spi­rit, or else a man cannot enter into the Kingdome; for that is a spirituall act, and a man can act no higher then hee is, and hee is not spirituall, he is but flesh, if hee be borne but of flesh, That which is borne of flesh is flesh.

Flesh here is not to be taken in its latitude, but for that part of it which is powerfull in spirituall generation and production; for that power of man, together with the meanes and engines that hee can come by (whether natu­rall or spirituall) whereby he works a change in his own heart or upon others, in imitation of that change which God alone doth, and can work, by his Spirit: Nature, Reason, Art, with all the advantages they can possibly de­sire or have; Nature enlightened and purified by reason and art; Nature furnished as much as may bee with the knowledge of God, with desires to be like God, to recover his image, to obey him &c. This is here meant by flesh, and doth more directly thus reach the state of Nicodemus, to whom Christ spake (whose present conviction was wrought by Christs Miracles meeting with his reason and in­genuity) [Page 18] then if it were understood in a more grosse ence.

To bee borne of the flesh, denotes the greatest change that possibly can be made in a man by this power with all the meanes that it can use: The change is so great, that a man is new born, becomes a new man, is changed inside and out­side, both to his own appearance, and in the thoughts of others. It is an imitation of that work whereby God brings a man forth a new man. The flesh will take his tooles, set about his work and seem to produce the same effect, bring forth the New Birth; but, in truth and sub­stance, it fals short of it, for it is but flesh: This birth, when a man hath done all he can, used all the spirituall meanes hee can, yet it is but flesh. The fruit can have no more vertue or strength and spirituality then the root had from whence it did proceed, which was but flesh; and though there were never so many spirituall engines in the hand of flesh, yet this will not alter the case; for those engines cannot work of themselves, and the flesh cannot make them work spiritu­ally: So that all the births produced by man, are but fleshly, all the changes man can make in his own heart, or any else, is but from flesh to flesh, from grosser flesh to flesh somewhat more refined. Conversion by Miracles and strong arguments, is but a fleshly conversion; all the wayes that man can take to bring his owne heart to believe, to close in with Christ, to love Christ, can produce but a fleshly Faith, a fleshly love; all the wayes man can take to kill and subdue sinne in him, it is but a fleshly mortifying of sinne; sinne is truly alive for all this, and will discover its life again, when it sees its time. Christ doth especially allude to the Miracles that were in Nicodemus his eye; wer't thou born of these? thy birth is but fleshly; how spirituall soever such a person may seeme, how spiritually soever he may seem to act, yet at the root he is but fleshly; The change is made but by flesh, and the thing changed is still but flesh, how glorious soever the change may seeme. Think well of it, it cannot be said too often; all the wayes and meanes man [Page 19] can use, to bring up his heart to God, they are but fleshly, and can produce but fleshly operations in him; all this Faith and holinesse, though raised to never so great an height, it is but that his heart must bee mortified to, if ever he live spiritually.

Oh! it would be sweet and profitable to consider the a­bundance of fleshly changes, wherewith the Devill cozens men▪ They see a reall change in themselves, and so think they are sure; whereas it is but a reall fleshly change, not a reall spirituall change, and so indeed not reall in the true sence; a change from naturall unbeliefe to naturall Faith, (for there is a power in nature to believe, which may either bee afrighted or perswaded to put forth it selfe, for its own preservation. (Nature being convinced of its present danger, and that there is no way of safety, but by believing on Christ, which Faith must bee accompanied with love to Christ, the truths of Christ, the people of Christ; and that this love must shew it selfe in obedience: Nature I say, being convinced of this, does presently muster up all its forces of Faith, love, obedience, laying them at Christs feet to dispose of; it will trust him, love what he will have it love obey what he will command it, hate what he will have it hate, deny it selfe, its own ends, interests &c. there is nothing so spirituall, but it will undertake and goe thorough after its manner rather then perish: and alas! what is this? All this is but nature working from its own principle, with its own power, to its own end. There is no new birth necessary to all this, though all this doth also proceed from a new birth (where it is) af­ter more a excellent manner then nature can at­taine to.

But now, that which is borne (or begotten) of the Spi­rit is Spirit; that which the spirit begets, which the spirit produceth is spirit: That Faith, that love to God which hee breathes into a man, that is truly spirituall. If a mans heart bee changed, not by reason, not by the power of Miracles, but by him, by his immediate power, then the [Page 20] change is true and sound: As it is the spirit who be­gets, so that which is begotten by him, with that water which he useth in his act of generation, is a true and spiri­tuall birth.

There are three particulars which discover the reality of spirituall things, as well as of other things.

1 The originall from whence they come, 2 the nature where­of they are, and 3 the effects which they produce. Eve­ry spirituall thing it commeth from the spirit, it is spiri­tuall it selfe, and it worketh spiritually, there is a true tin­cture of its nature, and of its originall in every effect it produceth: As every naturall man is begotten by a man, hath the nature of a man in himselfe, and acteth like a man, worketh the operations of a man▪ So every new man, every spirituall man is begotten by the spirit, hath the nature of the spirit in him, and discovereth his nature and originall, in every one of his spirituall motions and actions. His Faith, his love, every thing in him proceeds from the spirit, partakes of the nature of the spirit, moveth and acteth spi­ritually.

The former of these, Chirst argues the truth of the new birth from, in this place, its comming from the spirit, that which is born of the spirit is spirit. What ever the spirit work­eth in a man, is truly spirituall; that light he shews, is true spirituall light; that grace he gives, is true spirituall grace; that change hee makes, is a true spirituall change: but all other changes are but countersets of that true spirituall one, which he alone can make.

And this may shew us the reason why there are so many changes in this flitting age; it is because most men are changed by the flesh, the greatest power of flesh still changeth them: A strong Objection which they cannot answer, will startle any man that is changed by a power of flesh. Hence men take up one practise to day, another to morrow; now acknowledge this or that for a truth, by and by it is false, then true againe; why? because they see not things by the light of the spirit which never varies, but [Page 21] by a force of argument, by a power of reason which some­times appeares stronger, sometimes weaker, sometimes grea­ter, sometimes lesser; but a soule whose light is changed, whose practises are changed by the spirit, that change re­maineth good, let all the winds and gusts of arguments blow never so strongly.

Take heed therefore of changing your apprehensions or practises about any thing, till you can say the spirit chang­eth them, else it will be but a fleshly change.

What further remaines, but that every one that loveth his soule should lay this to heart, and consider thoroughly ac­cording to the weightinesse and importance of it, how it is with him? what that religion is, whereupon he groundeth his hopes, what oyl feeds his lamp, whence his Faith, his love came, and of what rank and kind they are. And not to doe this slightly, or determine suddenly (as is most usuall with men in matters of Religion;) but, as on the one hand, to be thankfull unto God for, and make much of the least hope (which is not every ones lot;) so on the other hand, not to rest satisfied or let God alone, till he hath brought us to an absolute certainty; then and not till then we may safe­ly without hazard give over the debate of this question. And though we may perhaps be a long while before we at­taine it, yet if God carry on our hearts in the pursuite, we may meet with sweet pledges and refreshings in the way, as may much mitigate Gods seeming tediousnesse in deferring our full satisfaction herein. And indeed, though God leads his people in such harsh and difficult wayes to the eye of sence and reason, as would affright any carnall heart; yet he hath withall such sweetnings to mingle with them, as maketh them very passable to all whom he leads through them: Egypt, the bondage of it he can make tolerable; The Wildernesse, the intricacies of it he can make a plaine way through; Canaan, the high Wals and strong enemies thereof, even the children of Anack, whose very sight strikes terrour, he can make conquerable to his Christ and to his seed.

[Page 22] Onely take heed of suddennesse, of sudden judgement. Men that are apt to be sudden, are as liable to deceit, and com­monly are deceived, especially in abstruse and difficult cases; he that will give sentence at first dash, without weighing the matter thoroughly, and the severall circumstances of it, may easily erre in judgment; and an error herein is of no small concernment; there cannot be a worse and more dange­rous mistake.

There are two sorts of persons very prone to be sudden in the judgement they passe on spirituall things, and their own estate in spirituall things.

The weak and dark Christian, who is ready still through his fear which ever accompanies weaknes, & darknes to conclude all against himselfe: and the slight and superficiall Christian, who never thoroughly looked into spirituall things, nor hath been well versed in the deceits about them, he is apt to take the likenesse and appearance of every thing for the thing it selfe; and to conclude all for himselfe with as great confi­dence, as the other thrusts all from himselfe with over-much diffidence.

The former, lay any promise before him; he will say it be­longs not to him: bring him to any tryall, he is presently cast: Try his Faith; alas! there is nothing but unbeliefe to be found in him: Try his love, it is but a naturall affection: Try his o­bedience, it is but forced by the command: Try his upright­nesse, why, there is nothing more deceitfull then his heart.

The latter, he is in a clean contrary posture: Mention any promise, he can presently lay hold o [...] it, it belongs to him, and he can suck a great deale of sweetnesse out of it: Speak of Faith, why he hath it; he knowes that he is undone with­out Christ, and that he is the only way to life, such as believe on him shall be saved, and him hath he trusted with his soul: Tell him this Faith must be wrought by God, why he knowes that no man can work it himselfe, it is the gift of God: Tell him it must be a spirituall Faith, hee knowes that too, every grace is spirituall. Name any thing else, so soone as you have spoke it, he hath it; Speak of love, either to God or [Page 23] the brethren, his heart will presently witnesse to him that he doth love both God and the brethren, and it is a sincere love, not for any by-ends in one kind or other: Come to obedience, he holds sound there too, he obeyes the will of God, at least in desire and endeavour; he performes duties, he strives against his corruptions; nay, and hee doth not this in in a legall way, as thinking to be saved hereby, hee knowes he must be saved by Christ alone, by Faith in him: and for his heart, though he faile in many things, yet hee blesseth God that it is u right, and he knowes God is merci­full to pardon his failings, and accept of his integrity: So that he hath no cause to feare or trouble himselfe about any thing; for he is sure what ever may befall him here, it will be well at last, and so he is at rest.

Now both these are commonly mistaken: The former; for the promises many times belong to such a soule, though hee cannot apply them; and hee may have true faith, and true love, and true obed [...]ence, though he cannot see it: The seed may bee sown in him, and grow up in him, though hee know not how, and so cannot acknowledge it; and he is not to be blamed for not acknowledging it (for how can he till hee know it?) nor for suspecting it; but only for such a sudden and positive determining of the contrary, which hee hath as little if not lesse ground for, then for his suspition.

And for the latter, The promises doe seldome belong to such a person: The promises doe not so easily meet with and melt into our spirits, as such kind of language implyes; and for his Faith, his love, his obedience, his uprightnesse, they may be but of the stamp of nature; and if they should meet with such tryals and blasts as God hath generally appointed, and doth usually prepare for his, they would soon discover themselves.

Now marke the danger of each: The former loseth his peace, his comfort; The latter his soule, if hee be de­ceived; and both by the same miscarriage, their forward­nesse and suddennesse in judgement; the one determines for himselfe, the other against himselfe, upon their own [Page 24] imagination and apprehension, before they have the thing laid before them, and opened to them, which they should judge; or the light held to them, by which they should judge; The one determines against his Faith, The other for his Faith; and yet neither knowes what Faith is, and they both doe it by their own reason, which is no true light to discern or judge spirituall things by.

It were a more modest and sutable action for either, to bewaile their own ignorance with a sence of their need of understanding and determining this thing, and to pray and wait for light and help from him by whom it is cleere­ly discerned, and who can make it discernable unto them.


THE Spirituall Practise OF CHRISTIANS IN The Primitive Times: Wherein Are contained the sweet goings forth of life in the soule which is en­stated in Christ, and in the sweetnesse and clearnesse of the GOSPEL.

HAving laid down the tryall of a Christian in the fore-going Treatise, it may not be amisse to adde somewhat concerning the Practise of a Christian, (as it was cast in upon reading the Episte to the Ephesians) or some part of the Rule whereby their practise [Page 26] was squared, which in that Epistle resolves it selfe into these foure streames.

  • 1 To suck in the sweetnesse of the Gospel.
  • 2 To admire God and Christ who have been at the great cost to purchase and prepare this feast of fatnesse and sweet­nesse for the soule.
  • 3 To walk worthy of this his his goodnesse: And
  • 4 To stand upon our guard that wee bee not driven from it, from enjoying the sweetnesse of it, from honouring God with it: This is the path whereinto Christians then were led, and wherein they walked.

1. To suck in the sweetnesse of the Gospel, to be ever seeding upon Christ; to be ever delighting in that glorious state, and in those glorious priviledges God hath bestowed upon us in Christ; and this is to bee done two wayes.

I. By considering the mercies and priviledges we have in Christ: As

First, we have redemption, pardon of sinne in him, we are bought from our captivity and misery by his blood, we are washed from our sinfulnesse, from our filthinesse by the same blood, Eph. 1. 17.

Secondly, we are made sonnes and have a sonne-like inheritance; we are made Gods portion, and God is made our portion, vers. 5. & 11.

Thirdly, we have all we can desire in this life, we have accesse to God for any thing (Chap. 2. 18. & Chap. 3. 12.) who will bee sure to doe every thing for us we need, freely, and to put us upon praying for every thing wee need, and also upon believing and waiting, that we may misse of no mercy his grace hath designed us; God will take care of us as of his own houshold, Chap. 2. 19. He will be as sure of our growing up, as he is of the foundation he has laid to bottome us upon, vers. 20. 21.

II. We further suck in, and better rellish the sweet­nesse of the Gospel by comparing our present state with our former: We were dead, but are alive; We were darknesse but now are light; We were cursed with all spirituall curses [Page 27] in Adam, but now are blessed with all spirituall blessings in Christ; Wee were without God, without hope, strangers to life and blessednesse; but now wee are in God and full of hope, and every way nigh unto him, and every excellency in him, Chap. 2. 1. 2, 3. & vers. 6. 12. 13. and Chap. 1. 3.

2. To admire that God and that Christ who have done this for us, who have made such a sweet change in our condition.

1 Admire that great love wherewith they loved us, which was working from all eternity to effect that for us, which now they are carrying on amaine, Chap. 2. 4. Chap. 3. 19.

2 Admire that abundant free-grace that has made no spare of any thing for us, but has acted fully according to the strength of love, Chap. 1. 7. Chap. 2. 5. & 7. There were but two pretious lives, The life of God, and the life of Christ; and grace hath given us them both: To reco­ver us from death, the life of Christ was given for us; and to keep us in life, the life of God is given to us.

3 Admire that rich mercy wherein all our former sinnes, and every dayes unkindnesses even against Christ and his pretious Gospel, and God our Father and the sweet Spirit, are continually buried, Chap. 2. 4.

4 Admire that various, that manifold, that [...], (Chap. 3. 10.) which laid all the plot of love, and which worketh us up daily more and more into the heart of God, and nearer and nearer to our happinesse, notwithstanding all the pull backs in our selves, in the world, in our spiritu­all enemies, in the varieties of our conditions, which all almost distemper us, that though we are untoward under every thing, and in danger by every thing, yet we lose nothing.

5 Admire the mighty power which hath thus translated us from darknesse to light, which daily preserves us from [...]lling back againe, and is often mightily working in us to [Page 28] raise us up to further degrees of perfection, Chap. 1. 19. 20. Chap. 3. [...]0.

3. To walk worthy of this blessed Gospel state (Chap. 4. 1.) (wherein God is our Father, and Christ our head; wherein we have so many pretious priviledges at present, and hopes for the future; wherein we professe our selves broken to the world, and to all the powers of nature in our selves too,) to live like men that live upon a new principle, from God, and in God, and to God.

Walking, it notes our whole course, all the service wee are now to perform to Christ, whose we are, and whom alone we are now to serve; in care over our own hearts, in all duties of worship, in our callings, in our converse, in every thing.

This walking worthy, principally appeares in our man­ner of acting towards men, whereof there are three sorts.

1 Our fellow-Christians, 2 the World, and 3 Persons that stand in outward relations to us.

First, Our fellow-Christians, and specially those in Church-Communion with us, for they are those God hath more spe­cially set us to walk with, they are those with whom we are chiefly to worship, and whom we must especiall love, and of whom wee must especiall take care, and watch over.

Now the manner of our acting towards them, must bee:

1. With all humblenesse and meeknesse with low thoughts of our selves, and in a meet manner, Chap. 4. 2.

2. With long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, vers. 2. We must not be apt to apprehend injuries, or seek re­compence for injuries, but suffer long, and forbeare one another; and not simply because it is the will of Christ (who hath forborn us much, and forgiven us much) that wee should so doe, but from the love we beare one to another, from a tender brotherly affection, and in a tender brother­ly manner.

[Page 29] 3. The Apostle tells us what should be our great aime and endeavour in our actings one towards another, vers. 3. To keep up unity, the unity of the spirit, to keep it in the bond of peace, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; we must not keep a sinfull unity, a carnall unity in the bond of peace; no, the bond of peace must bind up no such unity in it, but there must be warre with, and opposition against, all such unity; but the unity of the spi­rit, that unity the foundation whereof God hath laid among us, (who hath made us perfectly one in spirituals) being all of the same body, having all the same spirit of life running in us, having all the same hope to attaine the same end, all the same Lord to serve, all the same way of union with him, subjection to him, and owning of him, all the same God and Father who begate us all, vers. 4. 5, 6. to which might bee added, wee have all also the same enemies and the same dangers.

Now God having laid such a foundation of unity in all our spirits, we must endeavour to keep up unity so farre as it is spirituall, and not to rent one from another, in that where­in God hath made us one.

Humblenesse, takes away the root of contention, (which is the bane of all societies, quickly eating out both the sweet­nesse and benefit of them) for that still flowes from pride; pride begets, pride feeds contention; A man that has low thoughts of himselfe, has little minde to contend; It is height of spirit that blowes up the fire of contention.

Meeknesse, takes away the occasion of contention, which arises much from a rough harsh manner of expression; a meek spirit as it seldome takes occasion of contention, but quietly lets it passe, so it seldomes gives others occasion to contend with it.

Long-suffering and forbearance, puts a stop to the breaking forth of contention, when occasions are given.

But besides all these; there must be an endeavour, an in­dustry used to keep up true and spirituall unity.

4. The Apostle directs us how to make use of our severall [Page 30] gifts profitably, according to the end for which they were given, which is, not to set up our selves by them, but to perfect this unity, to build up one another in Faith, in know­ledge, and that so we may in all things grow up into Christ the head, vers. 7. to 16.

Secondly, The World; towards them we must walke wise­ly, Chap. 5. 15. First, taking heed of partaking with them in any evill, nay, of countenancing the least evill in them, Chap. 4. 17. Chap. 5. 7. 11. Secondly, redeeming the time from them as much as may be for converse with God. Third­ly, doing as much good as we can to them while we are with them; both which are included in that phrase of redeem­ing the time, vers. 16.

Thirdly, those in neare relations to us, whether brought home to Christ, or in their naturall condition, we are to ob­serve the strict Lawes of that relation we stand debtours to them in, which wee are not to faile in towards them, bee they superiour or inferiour, how ever they act towards us, Chap. 5. vers. 22. to the end of the Chapter, and Chap. 6. to vers. 10. Our engagement to Christ does not set us free from our relations and duties in any kinde to men, but onely layes a bond on him to furnish us with free spirits, and power to fill up what wee owe in every relation; Christ gives us not freedome from, but freedome unto every thing that is of God.

4. To stand upon our guard, not to be driven from the sweetnesse of the Gospel, nor from acknowledging and ad­miring God in every step of his love, mercy, wisdome, power and grace; nor from this walking worthy of the Gospel, by any enemy, any temptation, or any thing that befals us in any kind, Chap. 6. 10. 11. but to stand armed against our enemies, who are spiritually mighty, and lay the sorest temptatious and baits in spirituall things, vers. 12. We are to stand armed thus:

1. With an understanding having its light clear about it, and with a will having an holy disposition ready to act in any kind God shall please to call it out unto, vers. 14. To [Page 31] have an understanding ready to put forth it selfe, know­ing how to carry it selfe; how to obey, how to suffer; how to embrace, how to resist; and a will graciously di­sposed to either, whensoever God shall call it forth: Our loynes commonly are ungirt, our light is to seek, our grace hangs loose about us, that we are unfit to act for God at all, much more unfit to doe it in the face of that opposition which we are still likely to meet with in every spirituall undertaking: And for want of this piece of ar­mour, we lie open to our spirituall enemies.

2. With an holy resolution to act for Christ, according to that light hee shall give in to the conscience; to med­dle with no evill, to omit no duty of any kinde; this is that brest-plate that keeps the heart or conscience pure and safe, vers. 14. when the Devill do [...]s not finde us re­solved against sinne, or resolved for duties, (bee it how it will with us) hee commonly takes us in his snare.

3. With affections taken with the sweet truths of the Gospel▪ (as pardon of sinne &c.) and ready to hold out these truths for the Gospel to make out its way into mens hearts, vers. 15. Troubles and [...]fflictions wee meet with within and without, will quickly damp our af­fections, if they bee not well fenced with these.

4. With Faith over all these, defending even these as well as our selves in other respects by Faith; by Faith interpo­sing the power of Christ between us and every enemy that may come to assault us in these or in any other respects; that may come to ungird us and make us unfit to act, to damp our holy resolution for God, to deaden our af­fections towards the sweet truths of the Gospel which pre­pare the way for Christ, or to wound us with any temptation whatsoever; Faith is a true shield, it defends both the person and the rest of his armour, as we know a shield does: the Devill cannot prevaile in any point against a believing soule, vers. 16. Alas! we can doe nothing our selves; doe no good, avoid no evill; all our strength lies in trusting God with our selves in every condition, and with every spi­rituall [Page 32] advantage and help hee hath given us to manage it as he pleaseth for us.

5. With hope of salvation by grace, both for eterni­ty and from any present distresse in GODS time: Be­cause many seeming miseries may befall the believing soule, contradictions to his Prayers, Desires, Faith, yea, to all the motions of GODS Spirit in him; hee must have an helmet of hope, (vers. 17.) as well as a shield of Faith: And this will keep up his spirit, that hee shall not feare looking up to GOD what ever befals him.

6. With the sword of the Spirit, the Word of GOD, the living Word, the Word which is Spirit and Life; This will kill all false reasonings, and every thing that exalts it selfe against CHRIST; this will make ene­mies flye from the soule (for they hate the Word of life, they know it is their death) and it will al­so make the soule it selfe subject unto CHRIST, vers. 17.

And all this and every thing else must bee done by Prayer, vers. 18. wee can doe nothing, not gaine this ar­mour, not put it on, not use it; all must be done by Prayer, by intreating another to doe it for us; wee cannot be­lieve, wee must pr [...]y for Faith; neither can we pray, we must believe for prayer; we cannot doe either, both must flow from the spirit, and be done in the spirit, praying alwayes with all prayer and supplication in the spirit: Oh, how are we stripped! when every motion sends us out of our selves to another, and yet withall tells us, wee are altogether unable to goe out of our selves, or step the least step towards that other.

And wee must watch unto prayer, catch opportunities to breathe out our hearts to GOD to doe that in us which he bids us doe; not being discouraged with any difficulties, but persevering in our requests for our selves, and all the people of God, vers. 18.

[Page 33] Behold ô Christian thy spirituall employment, thine easie, and painfull employment, easie to thy spirit, painefull to thy flesh; and as yet, somewhat painfull to thy spirit also, by reason of the cum­berance of thy flesh, the weak­nesse of thy spirit, the power and fury of thine adver­saries.


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