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can be certainly argued from their confidence, how great and strong soever it seems to be. If we see a man that boldly calls God his Father, and commonly speaks in the most bold, familiar, and appropriating language in prayer, “My Father, my dear Redeemer, my sweet Saviour, my Beloved," and the like ; and it is a common thing for him to use the most confi. dent expressions before men, about the goodness of his state ; such as, “ I know certainly that God is my Father ; I know so surely as there is a God in heaven, that he is my God; I know I shall go to heaven, as well as if I were there ; I know that God is now manifesting himself to my soul, and is now smiling upon me ;" and seems to have done for ever with any inquiry or examination into his state, as a thing sufficients ły known, and out of doubt, and to contemn all that so much ás intimate or suggest that there is some reason to doubt or fear whether all is right; such things are no signs at all that it is indeed so as he is confident it is.* Such an overbearing, high handed, and violent sort of confidence as this, so affecting to declare itself with a most glaring show in the sight of men, which is to be seen in many, has not the countenance of a true Christian assurance : It savors more of the spirit of the Pharisees, who never doubted but that they were saints, and the most eminent of saints, and were bold to go to God, and come up near to him, and lift up their eyes, and thank him for the great distinction he had made between them and
thou strongly confident of its integrity.” Flavel's Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. ii. Sect. 5.
“ Some hypocrites are a great deal more confident than many saints.” Stodo dard's Discourse on the way to know sincerity and hypocrisy, p. 128.
" Doth the work of faith in some believers, bear upon its top branches, the full ripe fruits of a blessed assurance ? Lo, what strong confidence, and high built persuasions, of an interest in God, have sometimes been found in unsanctified ones! Yea, so strong may this false assurance be, that they dare boldly venture to go:o the judgment seat of God, and there defend it. Doth the Spirit of God fill the heart of the assured believer with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, giving him, through faith, a prelibation or foretaste of heaven itself, in those first fruits of it? How pear to this comes what the Apostle surposes may be found in apostates !” Flevol's Husbandry stirituolo izct, Chap. xii. VOL. IV.
other men ; and when Christ intimated that they were blind and graceless, despised the suggestion, John ix. 40. “ And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also ?" If they had more of the spirit of the publican, with their confidence, who, in a sense of his exceeding unworthiness, stood afar off, and durst not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote on his breast, and cried out of himself as a sinner, their confidence would have more of the aspect of the confidence of one that humbly trusts and hopes in Christ, and has no confidence in himself.
If we do but consider what the hearts of natural men are, what principles they are under the dominion of, what blindness and deceit, what self flattery, self exaltation, and self confidence reign there, we need not at all wonder that their high opinion of themselves, and confidence of their happy circumstances, be as high and strong as mountains, and as violent as a tempest, when once conscience is blinded, and convictions killed, with false high affections, and those forementioned principles let loose, fed up and prompted by false joys and comforts, excited by some pleasing imaginations, impressed by Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light.
When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false bope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of the doubting of true saints ; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived. The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just and omniscient Judge. But false comforts put an end to these things and dreadfully stupify the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the deceitfulness of his own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding, that the true saint has. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The
devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does
with the most difficulty brought off from it: I have scarcely known the instance of such an one, in my life, that has been undeceived. The chief grounds of the confidence of many of them, are the very same kind of impulses and supposed revelations (sometimes with texts of scripture, and sometimes without) that so many of late have had concerning future events; calling these impulses about their good estate, the witness of the Spirit ; entirely misunderstanding the nature of the witness of the Spirit, as I shall shew hereafter. Those that have had visions and impulses about other things, it has generally been to reveal such things as they are desirous and fond of: And no wonder that persons who give heed to such things, have the same sort of visions or impressions about their own eternal salvation, to reveal to them that their sins are forgiven them, that their names are written in the book of life, that they are in high favor with God, &c. and especially when they earnestly seek, expect, and wait for evidence of their election and salvation this way, as the surest and most glorious evidence of it. Neither is it any wonder, that when they have such a supposed revelation of their good estate, it raises in them the highest degree of confidence of it. It is found by abundant experience, that those who are led away by impulses and imagined revelations, are extremely confi. dent: They suppose that the great Jehovah has declared these and those things to them ; and having his immediate testimony, a strong confidence is the highest virtue. Hence they are bold to say, I know this or that....I know certainly....I am as sure as that I have a being, and the like ; and they despise all argument and inquiry in the case, And above all things else, it is easy to be accounted for, that impressions and impulses about that which is so pleasing, so suiting their self love and pride, as their being the dear children of God, distinguished from most in the world in his favor, should make them strong. ly confident; especially when with their impulses and revelations they have high affections, which they take to be the inost eininent exercises of grace. I have known of several persons, that lave had a fond desire of something of a tempo. ral nature, through a violent passion that has possessed them
and they have been earnestly pursuing the thing they have desired should come to pass, and have met with great difficulty and many discouragements in it, but at last have had an impression, or supposed revelation, that they should obtain what they sought ; and they have looked upon it as a sure promise from the Most High, which has made them most ridiculously confident, against all manner of reason to convince them to the contrary, and all events working against them. And there is nothing hinders, but that persons who are seeking their salvation, may be deceived by the like delusive impressions, and be made confident of that, the same way.
The confidence of many of this sort of hypocrites, that Mr. Shepard calls evengetical hypocrites, is like the confidence of some mad men, who think they are kings; they will maintain it against all manner of reason and evidence. And in one sense, it is much more immoveable than a truly gracious assurance ; a true assurance is not upheld, but by the soul's being kept in a holy frame, and grace maintained in lively exer: cise. If the actings of grace do much decay in the Christian, and he falls into a lifeless frame, he loses his assurance : But this kind of confidence of hypocrites will not be shaken by sin ; they (at least some of them) will maintain their boldness in their hope, in the most corrupt frames and wicked ways ; which is a sure evidence of their delusion.*
And here I cannot but observe, that there are certain doctrines often preached to the people, which need to be delivered with more caution and explanation than they frequently
* Mr. Shepard speaks of it, a "presumptuous peace, that is not interrupt. ed and broke by evil works.” And says, That “the spirit will sigh, and not sing in that bosom, whence corrupt dispositions and passions break out." And that “though men in such frames may seem to maintain the consolation of the spirit, and not suspect their hypocricy, under pretence of trusting the Lord's mercy; yet they cannot avoid the condemnation of the world.” Par. Table of the ten virgins, Part I. p. 139.
Dr. Ames speaks of it as a thing, by which the peace of a wicked man may be distinguished from the peace of a godly man, “ that the peace of a wicked man continues, whether he performs the duties of piety and rightsousness, or no ; provided those crimes are avoided that appear horrid to nature itself.” Cases of conscience, lib. III. Chap. vii.