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In this case, let a man's heart speak thus :
First: If the Lord do command me to believe, then the promise belongs to me, for I cannot believe unless I apply the promise : now in this time, at this very time of my temptation, the Lord does command me to believe, else it were no sin not to believe; it is a sin for me not to believe, now therefore the Lord commands me to believe; but believe I cannot unless I apply the promise, therefore God would have me to apply the promise, therefore the promise does belong to me, and I may apply it.
Again, secondly, let the heart speak thus : if the Lord does give out a threatening that it may not be fulfilled ; and he does give out a promise that it may be fulfilled : if the very applying of the threatening, makes the threatening not to belong to me; and the very applying of the promise, makes the promise to belong to me; then the threatening does not belong to me, for I have applied it; and the promise does belong to me, for I have applied it: oh! I remember how my soul hath lien trembling before the threatening, the Lord knows I have often applied the threatening: but now this is true, that the very applying of the threatening, makes the threatening not to belong to a man; and the very applying of the promise, makes the promise to belong to a man; and therefore, Satan, the threatening belongs not unto me, but the promise does.
But then again, thirdly, let him say thus: If I be more godly now, than I was when Satan told me, that the threatening did not belong to me, and the promise did belong to me, then there is no reason for this temptation. When I went on in a way of sin, then Satan told me, that the threatening did not belong to me; and then he told me, the promise did belong to me: oh! but now I am more godly than I was then, I have more of Christ than I had then I am sure, and therefore Satan, didst thou tell me, that the promise did belong to me then? therefore it belongs much more to me
Thou toldest me therefore when I went on in a way of sin, the threatening did not belong to me : now then the threatening does less belong to me, for now I am more godly than I was then.
But above all things, remember that of the command to believe. Luther was a man that laboured under great temp
tations: and being once sorely tempted, and the tears trickling down his cheeks; says he, My friend, my spiritual father, came unto me, and said, O my son? why dost thou mourn ? dost thou not know that God hath commanded thee to believe? When, says Luther, I heard that word, command, that God hath commanded me to believe; it prevailed more with my heart, than all that was said, or thought on before. So say I now unto ye, does Satan come with this temptation, and tell thee, the promise does not belong to thee? answer, Aye, but the Lord hath commanded me to believe, Satan, God hath commanded me to beliere, it is my duty at this time to believe; but I cannot believe unless I apply the promise, therefore I may go by commission from God unto the promise, and the promise does belong to me. Thus, give in these answers, so shall ye be able to stand, and to rely upon God, and your faith of reliance shall not fail. This is the first thing, the faith of reliance.
Secondly, How does Satan strike or labour to weaken the faith of assurance, the assurance of God's people ?
Much may be said here, it is a large field; I shall only gather up some few things, and present them to you.
First, Sometimes Satan does labour to weaken the assurance of the saints, by telling them that they have no faith. Assurance is the flower of faith, it grows upon faith; but you have no faith, says Satan, and therefore your assurance is naught. But how unreasonable is this temptation ! for observe I pray, in what rounds Satan goes : he tempts us to believe that we have no faith, because we have no assurance; and he tempts us again, to believe we have no assurance, because we have no faith. For answer hereunto, I shall only turn unto that ivth to the Romans : It is said of Abraham, at the 21st verse, “ Being fully persuaded, that what God had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore (at the 22nd verse,) it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him: but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Abraham was justified by faith, it was imputed to him for righteousness : and says the apostle here, it was not written for his sake, but for us also. We are justified as Abraham was, by the same faith : what faith is that? Is it
the faith of assurance ? Yes! he was assured indeed, but I pray of what? He was assured that God was able to per. form: he being fully persuaded, that what he had
promised, he was able also to perform. Abraham believed that God was able, and so relied upon God, and hereby he was justified. So it shall be with men and women now: if they be assured, and persuaded, that God is able, and so rely upon God; this is the faith that justifies. When therefore this temptation comes, answer unto Satan : Satan, thou sayest I have no assurance, because I have no faith ; but I have this assurance that Abraham had, whereby he was justified, I believe God is able to help me, and so I rely upon God, and therefore, Satan, I am now justified, and stand righteous through Jesus Christ in the sight of God.
Secondly, As he does labour to weaken the faith of assurance, by telling the saints that they have no faith; so, also, by telling them that they have no obedience, that they do not profit under the means, that they are not fruitful: wherever there is true faith, there will be obedience, and men will profit under the means, and be fruitful, but you are unfruitful, and you are barren, and where is your obedience? here is no obedience, therefore no faith : so no assurance, your assurance is wrong.
Well, but how may we ward, and keep off this blow in the time of temptation, that our faith of assurance may not fail ?
Truly, I answer, this blow is not to be warded off, if this be true; that ye never were obedient, never fruitful, never profited by the means of grace; this blow falls dead upon the soul, this blow is not to be warded off, this is no temptation. But
have ever been obedient, if ye have ever profited by the means of grace; though for the present ye may seem dead : yet remember what Job says, “ There is hope
“ There is hope of a tree, though it be cut down, that by the scent of waters it will flourish again.” And so, there is hope of thy soul, that by the scent of the gospel waters thou mayest flourish again. But though there be no obedience in your own eye, though ye do not profit under the means in your own eye; yet your
obedience may be in the eye of others : and, in time of temptation, another man's eye is a better judge than your own.
But suppose there seem to be no obedience, neither in your
own, nor in another's eye; yet the root of the matter may be in you. Ye know how it is with the fish, that are in the water, in a windy and a stormy day: ye put many fish into a pond; and in a fair, sun-shiny day, ye see them playing upon the water, upon the uppermost part of the water; but in a rainy and stormy day, ye see none of them there, but yet you say they are all there, they are in the water, they are at the bottom, though you see them not. And so, it may be, in this stormy time of temptation, your obedience and profiting is not seen, but it may
be there as heretofore. Satan does never more press a child of God, to try himself by signs of grace drawn from his own conversation, than in the time of temptation. There is indeed a good use of signs drawn from our own conversation, but this is agreed upon by all, that there is no use of them in the time of temptation. And therefore says Luther : In the time of temptation, I am as if there were no law, nor no works, but only the righteousness of Christ in the world, and so I do rest upon him. Does Satan come forth, therefore, with this temptation, That you have no obedience, that you do not profit, that you are unfruitful? answer it thus: True, Satan, I confess I am very un profitable, and therefore I will learn to profit more; I confess I am very unfruitful, and therefore I will labour to be more fruitful : but, Satan, I will not now, at this time, determine about my condition; for it may be a time of temptation: hereafter, at another time, I will come and determine about my condition, and I will look after signs, but now, at this time, it may be a time of temptation, and therefore I will forbear to wind, and draw up a conclusion, but lean myself upon God, and rest upon God at this time.
Thirdly, Sometimes Satan does labour to weaken the assurance of God's people, the faith of assurance, to make that to fail, by telling of them, that they have no faith at all, because they have no particular faith, no particular promise; for, says Satan thus : Faith and wavering, faith and doubting, do not agree; he that believeth doubteth not: but now you pray and doubt, you believe and waver; ye have no particular word for what you believe, therefore ye have no particular faith, so no faith at all, and therefore your assurance is naught.
How should we ward off this blow?
In this case, now, let a poor believer say two or three things unto his own soul.
First, Tell thy soul this: Though it pleases God, sometimes, to give out a particular word unto his people, a particular promise, in the time of affliction, or desertion (especially) or temptation; yet the Lord does not, therefore, give out a particular promise, that a man may measure his condition thereby; there is a mistake; but the Lord does therefore give out a particular word or promise, to uphold the soul in the condition : not to measure out his condition by it, but to uphold him; and therefore, though I have not a particular word or promise, I will not conclude against my faith for this.
Secondly, Tell thine own soul, that though it pleases the Lord to give out a particular word or promise sometimes ; yet always he does not. Hezekiah had a particular word for his recovery; but the three children had not a particular word that they should be delivered out of the fiery furnace, yet they believed; and whether God deliver, or does not deliver, say they, we will not bow ourselves to this idolatry. So that, though God is pleased, sometimes, to give out a particular word or promise, yet always he does not, and therefore my faith may be right, Satan, though I have not a particular word now for this business.
Again, thirdly, tell thy soul this: that though God is pleased thus to indulge, and sometimes to give out a particular promise unto his people, and they have a particular faith concerning this or that business ; yet there is always a waiting faith that we read of in Scripture. There is a faith of recumbency, whereby a soul leans upon God, and commits his cause unto God: and there is a waiting faith. Now therefore, Satan, though I have not a particular word, and a particular faith for this business; yet notwithstanding I have a waiting faith, I can wait
the Lord my God, and I can rest upon Jesus Christ : and therefore, Satan, I do yet believe, and my faith is right. Tell your own soul thus; so shall you be able to stand to your faith, and shall not fall off in the time of your temptation.
Thirdly, for the faith of acknowledgment. Sometimes Satan does labour to weaken the faith of the saint's acknowledgment. He does labour either that they should deny the