(Owen, Gospel Grounds & Evidences... part 3)

those in whom it is are "alienated from the life of God through the 
ignorance that is in them," Eph.4:18. This life of God is that holiness 
and obedience which he requires of us in their principles and duties; and 
to be alienated from it is to dislike and disapprove of it: and such is 
the frame of mind in all unregenerate persons. 
  Having thus prepared the way, I return unto the declaration and 
confirmation of the assertion, namely,-- 
Treat true and saving faith, in all storms and temptations, in all 
darknesses and distresses, will evidence itself unto the comfort and 
supportment of them in whom it is, by a constant, universal approbation 
of the whole will of God, concerning our holiness and obedience, both in 
general and in every particular instance of it. 
  We may a little explain it:-- 
  1. Faith will not suffer the mind, on any occasion or temptation, to 
entertain the least dislike of this way of holiness, or of any thing that 
belongs unto it. The mind may sometimes, through temptations, fall under 
apprehensions that one shall be eternally ruined for want of a due 
compliance with it; this makes it displeased with itself, but not with 
the obedience required. Rom.7:10,12, "The commandment, which was ordained 
to life, I found to be unto death; but the law is holy, and the 
commandment holy, and just, and good." "However it be with me, whatever 
becomes of me, though I die and perish, yet the law is holy, just, and 
good." It dislikes nothing in the will of God, though it cannot attain 
unto a compliance with it. Sometimes the conscience is under perplexities 
and rebukes for sin; sometimes the mind is burdened by the tergiversation 
of the flesh unto duties that are cross unto its inclinations and 
interests; sometimes the world threatens the utmost dangers unto the 
performance of some duties of religion: but none of these are able to 
provoke the soul that is under the conduct of faith to dislike, to think 
hard of, any of those ways and duties whence these difficulties arise. 
  2. As it will not dislike any thing in this way of holiness, so it will 
not desire on any occasion that there should be any alteration in it, or 
any abatement of it, or of any thing required in it. Naaman the Syrian 
liked well of the worship of the true God in general; but he would have 
an abatement of duty as to one instance, in compliance with his earthly 
interest, which discovered his hypocrisy. Such imaginations may befall 
the minds of men, that if they might be excused, in this or that 
instance, unto duties that are dangerous and troublesome (like profession 
in the times of persecution), or might be indulged in this or that sin, 
which either their inclinations are very prone unto, or their secular 
interest do call for, they should do well enough with all other things. 
Accordingly, the practice of many does answer their inclination and 
desire. They will profess religion and obedience unto God, but will keep 
back part of the price;--will hide a wedge in their tents, through 
indulgence unto some corruption, or dislike of some duties in their 
circumstances: they would give unto themselves the measure of their 
obedience. And according as men's practice is, so do they desire that 
things indeed should be, that that practice should please God which 
pleased them. This faith abhors; the soul that is under the conduct of it 
is not capable of any one desire that any thing were otherwise than it is 
in the will of God concerning our holiness and obedience, no more than it 
can desire that God should not be what he is. No; though any imagination 
should arise in it, that by some change and abatement in some instances 
it might be saved, which now is uncertain whether that be so or no, it 
will admit of no such composition, but will choose to stand or fall unto 
the entire will of God. 
  We shall therefore, in the next place, proceed to inquire on what 
grounds it is that faith does thus approve of the whole will of God, as 
unto our holiness and obedience; as also, how it evidences itself so to 
do. And these grounds are two:--the one respecting God; the other, our 
own souls. 
  First, Faith looks on the holiness required of us as that which is 
suited unto the holiness of God himself,--as that which it is meet for 
him to require, on the account of his own nature, and the infinite 
perfections thereof. The rule is, "Be ye holy, for I the LORD your God am 
holy;"--"I require that of you which becomes and answers my own holiness; 
because I am holy, it is necessary that you should be so; if you are mine 
in a peculiar manner, your holiness is that which becomes my holiness to 
  We have before declared what this gospel holiness is, wherein it does 
consist, and what is required thereunto;--and they may be all considered 
either as they are in us, inherent in us, and performed by us; or as they 
are in themselves, in their own nature, and in the will of God. In the 
first way, I acknowledge that, by reason of our weaknesses, 
imperfections, and partial renovation only, as to degrees, in this life, 
with our manifold defects and sins, they make not a clear representation 
of the holiness of God; however, they are the best image of it, even as 
in the meanest of believers, that this world can afford. But in 
themselves, and their own nature, as it lies in the will of God, they 
make up the most glorious representation of himself that God ever did or 
will grant in this world; especially if we comprise therein the 
exemplification of it in the human nature of Christ himself: for the 
holiness that is in believers is of the same nature and kind with that 
which was and is in Jesus Christ, though his exceed theirs inconceivably 
in degrees of perfection. 
  Wherefore we are required to be holy, as the Lord our God is holy; and 
perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect: which we could not be, but 
that in our holiness and perfection there is a resemblance and 
answerableness unto the holiness and perfection of God. And if a due 
sense hereof were continually upon our hearts, it would influence us unto 
greater care and diligence in all instances of duty and sin than, for the 
most part, we do attain unto and preserve. If we did on all occasions 
sincerely and severely call ourselves to an account whether our frames, 
ways, and actions bear a due resemblance unto the holiness and 
perfections of God, it would be a spiritual preservative on all 
  Faith, I say, then, discerns the likeness of God in this holiness, and 
every part of it,--sees it as that which becomes him to require; and 
thereon approves of it, reverencing God in it all: and it does so in all 
the parts of it, in all that belongs unto it. 
  1. It does so principally in the inward form of it, which we before 
described,--in the new creature, the new nature, the reparation of the 
image of God that is in it: in the beauty hereof it continually beholds 
the likeness and glory of God. For it is created "kata Theon",--according 
unto God, after him, or in his image,--"in righteousness and true 
holiness," Eph.4:24. "The new man is renewed after the image of him that 
created him," Col.3:10. 
  When God first created all things, the heavens and the earth, with all 
that is contained in them, he left such footsteps and impressions of his 
infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, on them, that they might signify 
and declare his perfection,--his eternal power and Godhead; yet did he 
not, he is not said to have created them in his own image. And this was 
because they were only a passive representation of him in the light of 
others, and not in themselves; nor did they represent at all that wherein 
God will be principally glorified among his creatures,--namely, the 
universal rectitude of his nature in righteousness and holiness. But of 
man it is said, peculiarly and only, that he was made in the image and 
likeness of God: and this was because, in the rectitude of his nature, he 
represented the holiness and righteousness of God; which is the only use 
of an image. This was lost by sin. Man in his fallen condition does no 
more represent God; there is nothing in him that has any thing of the 
likeness or image of God in it; all is dead, dark, perverse, and 
confused. This new nature, whereof we speak, is created of God for this 
very end, that it may be a blessed image and representation of the 
holiness and righteousness of God. Hence it is called the "divine 
nature," whereof we are partakers, 2 Pet.1:4. And he that cannot see a 
representation of God in it, has not the light of faith and life in him. 
  Hereon, I say, faith does approve of the form and principle of this 
holiness, as the renovation of the image of God in us; it looks upon it 
as that which becomes God to bestow and require, and therefore that which 
has an incomparable excellency and desirableness in it. Yea, when the 
soul is ready to faint under an apprehension that it is not partaker of 
this holy nature, because of the power of sin in it and temptations on 
it, it knows not whether itself be born of God or no (as is the case with 
many);--yet where this faith is, it will discern the beauty and glory of 
the new creation in some measure, as that which bears the image of God; 
and thereon does it preserve in the soul a longing after it, or a farther 
participation of it. 
  By this work or act of it does faith discover its sincerity; which is 
that which we inquire after. Whilst it has an eye open to behold the 
glory of God in the new creature, whilst it looks on it as that wherein 
there is a representation made of the holiness of God himself, as that 
which becomes him to require in us, and thereon approves of it as 
excellent and desirable, it will be an anchor unto the soul in its 
greatest storms; for this is a work beyond what a mere enlightened 
conscience can arise unto. That can approve or disapprove of all the acts 
and effects of obedience and disobedience, as unto their consequent; but 
to discern the spiritual nature of the new creature, as representing the 
holiness of God himself, and thereon constantly to approve of it, is the 
work [of faith] alone. 
  2. It does the same with respect unto the internal acts and effects of 
this new creature, or principle of new obedience. The first thing it 
produces in us is a frame of mind spiritual and heavenly; they that are 
after the Spirit are "spiritually-minded," Rom.8:5,6. It looks on the 
opposite frame, namely, of being carnally-minded, as vile and loathsome; 
it consisting in a readiness and disposition of mind to actuate the lusts 
of the flesh. But this spiritual frame of mind, in a just constellation 
of all the graces of the Spirit, influencing, disposing, and making ready 
the soul for the exercise of them on all occasions, and in all duties of 
obedience,--this is the inward glory of the "King's daughter," which 
faith sees and approves of, as that which becomes God to require in us; 
whatever is contrary hereunto, as a sensual, carnal, worldly frame of 
mind, it looks on as vile and base, unworthy of God, or of those who 
design the enjoyment of him. 
  3. It does the same with respect unto all particular duties, internal 
and external, when they are enlivened and filled up with grace. In them 
consists our "walking worthy at God," Col.1:10; 1 Thess.2:12, such a walk 
as is meet for God to accept; that whereby and wherein he is glorified. 
The contrary hereunto, in the neglect of the duties of holiness, or the 
performance of them without the due exercise of grace, faith looks on as 
unworthy of God, unworthy of our high and holy calling, unworthy of our 
profession, and therefore does constantly condemn and abhor. 
  All this, as we observed before, faith will continue to do constantly, 
under temptations and desertions. There are seasons wherein the soul may 
be very weak, as unto the powers, effects, and duties of this spiritual 
life; such the psalmist oftentimes complains of in his own case, and it 
is evident in the experience of most. Few there are who have not found, 
at one time or another, great weakness, decays, and much deadness in 
their spiritual condition. And sometimes true believers may be at a loss 
as unto any refreshing experience of it in its operations. They may not 
be able to determine in the contest whether sin or grace have the 
dominion in them. Yet even in all these seasons faith will keep up the 
soul unto a constant high approbation of this way of holiness and 
obedience, in its root and fruits, in its principle and effects, in its 
nature, disposition, and duties. For when they cannot see the beauty of 
these things in themselves, they can see it in the promises of the 
covenant, in the truth of the gospel, wherein it is declared, and in the 
effects of it in others. 
  And great advantage is to be obtained by the due exercise of faith 
herein. For,-- 
  (1.) It will never suffer the heart to be at rest in any sinful way, or 
under any such spiritual decays as shall estrange it from the pursuit of 
this holiness. The sight, the conviction of its excellency, the 
approbation of it, as that which in us and our measure answers the 
holiness of God, will keep up the mind unto endeavours after it, will 
rebuke the soul in all its neglects of it; nor will it allow any quiet or 
peace within, without an endeavour after a comfortable assurance of it. 
That soul is desperately sick which has lost an abiding sense of the 
excellency of this holiness, in its answerableness unto the holiness and 
will of God. Fears and checks of conscience are the whole of its security 
against the worst of sins; and they are a guard not to be trusted unto in 
the room of the peace of God. This is one great difference between 
believers and those that have not faith. Fear of the consequent of sin, 
with an apprehension of some advantages which are to be obtained by a 
sober life and the profession of religion, do steer and regulate the 
minds of unbelievers, in all they do towards God or for eternity; but the 
minds of believers are influenced by a view of the glory of the image and 
likeness of God in that holiness, and all the parts of it, which they are 
called unto. This gives them love unto it, delight and complacency in it, 
enabling them to look upon it as its own reward. And without these 
affections none will ever abide in the ways of obedience unto the end. 
  (2.) Where faith is in this exercise, it will evidence itself, unto the 
relief of the soul, in all its darkness and temptations. The mind can 
never conclude that it wholly is without God and his grace, whilst it 
constantly approves of the holiness required of us. This is not of 
ourselves; by nature we are ignorant of it. This "life is hid with Christ 
in God," Col.3:3, where we can see nothing of it; hereon we are alienated 
from it, and do dislike it: "Alienated from the life of God through the 
ignorance that is in us," Eph.4:18. And most men live all their days in a 
contempt of the principal evidences and duties of this life of God, and 
of the principle of it, which they look on as a fable. Wherefore, the 
mind may have great satisfaction in a sight of the beauty and approbation 
of this holiness, as that which nothing can produce but sincere and 
saving faith. 
  Secondly, Faith approves of this way of holiness and obedience, as that 
which gives that rectitude and perfection unto our nature whereof it is 
capable in this world. It is the only rule and measure of them; and 
whatever is contrary thereunto is perverse, crooked, vile, and base. Some 
men think that their nature is capable of no other perfection but what 
consists in the satisfaction of their lusts; they know no other 
blessedness, nothing that is suitable to their desires, but the saving of 
nature, in the pursuit of its corrupt lusts and pleasures. So are they 
described by the apostle, Eph.4:19. The business of their lives is to 
make provision for the flesh, to fulfill it in the lusts thereof; they 
walk in the lusts of the flesh, "fulfilling" (so far as they are able) 
"the desires of the flesh and of the mind," Eph.2:3. They neither know 
nor understand what a hell of confusion, disorder, and base degeneracy 
from the original constitution, their minds are filled withal. This 
perfection is nothing but the next disposition unto hell; and it does 
manifest its own vileness unto every one who has the least ray of 
spiritual light. 
  Some among the heathen placed the rectitude of nature in moral virtues 
and operations, according unto them; and this was the utmost that natural 
light could ever rise up unto: but the uncertainty and weakness hereof 
are discovered by the light of the gospel. 
  It is faith alone that discovers what is good for us, in us, and unto 
us, whilst we are in this world. It is in the renovation of the image of 
God in us,--in the change and transformation of our nature into his 
likeness,--in acting from a gracious principle of a divine life,-- in 
duties and operations suited thereunto,--in the participation of the 
divine nature by the promises,--that the good, the perfection, the order, 
the present blessedness of our nature do consist. 
  Hereby are the faculties of our souls exalted, elevated, and enabled to 
act primigenial powers, with respect unto God and our enjoyment of him; 
which is our utmost end and blessedness. Hereby are our affections placed 
on their proper objects (such as they were created meet for, and in 
closing wherewith their satisfaction, order, and rest do consist),-- 
namely, God and his goodness, or God as revealed in Jesus Christ by the 
gospel. Hereby all the powers of our souls are brought into a blessed 
frame and harmony in all their operations,--whatever is dark, perverse, 
unquiet, vile, and base, being cast out of them. But these things must be 
a little more distinctly explained. 
  1. There is in this gospel holiness, as the spring and principle of it, 
a spiritual, saving light, enabling the mind and understanding to know 
God in Christ, and to discern spiritual things in a spiritual, saving 
manner; for herein "God shines into our hearts, to give us the knowledge 
of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ," 2 Cor.4:6. Without this, in 
some degree, whatever pretence there may be or appearance of holiness in 
any, there is nothing in them of what is really so, and thereon accepted 
with God. Blind devotion,--that is, an inclination of mind unto religious 
duties, destitute of this light,--will put men on a multiplication of 
duties, especially such as are of their own invention, in "a show of 
wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body," as the 
apostle speaks, Col.2:23; wherein there is nothing of gospel holiness. 
  "The new man is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that 
created him," Col.3:10. That this saving light and knowledge is the 
spring and principle of all real evangelical holiness and obedience, the 
apostle declares in that description which he gives us of the whole of 
it, both in its beginning and progress, Col.1:9-11, "We desire that ye 
might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and 
spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all 
pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the 
knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious 
power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness." It is a 
blessed account that is here given us of that gospel holiness which we 
inquire after, in its nature, original, spring, progress, fruits, and 
effects; and a serious consideration of it as here proposed,--a view of 
it in the light of faith,--will evidence how distant and different it is 
from those schemes of moral virtues which some would substitute in its 
room. It has a glory in it which no unenlightened mind can behold or 
comprehend; the foundation of it is laid in the knowledge of the will of 
God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. This is that spiritual, 
saving light whereof we speak; the increase hereof is prayed for in 
believers by the apostle, Heb.1:17,18, even "that the God of our Lord 
Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto you the spirit of 
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your 
understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his 
calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the 
saints;" which here is called "increasing in the knowledge of God," verse 
10. The singular glory of this saving light, in its original, its causes, 
use, and effects, is most illustriously here declared: and this light is 
in every true believer, and is the only immediate spring of all gospel 
holiness and obedience; for "the new man is renewed in knowledge after 
the image of him that created him," Col.3:10. 
  This light, this wisdom, this spiritual understanding, thus 
communicated unto believers, is the rectitude and perfection of their 
minds in this world. It is that which gives them order, and peace, and 
power, enabling them to act all their faculties in a due manner, with 
respect unto their being and end. It is that which gives beauty and glory 
to the inward man, and which constitutes a believer an inhabitant of the 
kingdom of light,--whereby we are "delivered from the power of darkness, 
and translated into the kingdom of the Son of God's love," Col.1:13; or 
"out of darkness into his marvelous light," 1 Pet.2:9. 
  That which is contrary hereunto, is that ignorance, darkness, 
blindness, and vanity, which the Scripture declares to be in the minds of 
all unregenerate persons; and they are really so, where they are not 
cured by the glorious working of the power and grace of God before 
  Now, faith discerns these things, as the spiritual man discerns all 
things, 1 Cor.2:15. It sees the beauty of this heavenly light, and judges 
that it is that which gives order and rectitude unto the mind; as also, 
that that which is contrary unto it is vile, base, horrid, and to be 
ashamed of. As for those who "love darkness more than light, because 
their deeds are evil,"--it knows them to be strangers unto Christ and his 
  2. Again: there is required unto this holiness, a principle of 
spiritual life and love unto God. This guides, acts, and rules in the 
soul, in all its obedience; and it gives the soul its proper order in all 
its operations: that which is contrary hereunto is death, and enmity 
against God. Faith judges between these two principles and their 
operations: the former in all its acting it approves of as lovely, 
beautiful, desirable, as that which is the rectitude and perfection of 
the will: and the other it looks on as deformed, froward, and perverse. 
  3. The like may be said of its nature and operations in the affections, 
as also of all those duties of obedience which proceed from it, as it is 
described in the place before mentioned. 
  It remains only that we show by what acts, ways, and means, faith does 
evidence this its approbation of gospel holiness, as that which is lovely 
and desirable in itself, and which gives all that rectitude and 
perfection unto our minds which they are capable of in this world. And it 
does so,-- 
  1. By that self-displicency and abasement which it works in the mind on 
all instances and occasions where it comes short of this holiness. This 
is the chief principle and cause of that holy shame which befalls 
believers on every sin and miscarriage, wherein they come short of what 
is required in it: Rom.6:21, "Those things whereof ye are now ashamed." 
Now when, by the light of faith, you see how vile it is, and unworthy of 
you, what a debasement of your souls there is in it, you are ashamed of 
it. It is true, the principal cause of this holy shame is a sense of the 
unsuitableness that is in sin unto the holiness of God, and the horrible 
ingratitude and disingenuity that there is in sinning against him; but it 
is greatly promoted by this consideration, that it is a thing unworthy of 
us, and that wherein our natures are exceedingly debased. So it is said 
of provoking sinners, that they "debase themselves even unto hell," 
Isa.57:9; or make themselves as vile as hell itself, by ways unworthy the 
nature of men. And this is one ground of all those severe self 
reflections which accompany godly sorrow for sin, 2 Cor.7:11. 
  And hereby does faith evidence itself and its own sincerity, whilst a 
man is ashamed of, and abased in, himself for every sin, for every thing 
of sin, wherein it comes short of the holiness required of us, as that 
which is base and unworthy of our nature, in its present constitution and 
renovation; though it be that which no eye sees but God's and his own, he 
has that in him which will grow on no root but sincere believing. 
Wherefore, whatever may be the disquieting conflicts of sin in and 
against our souls, whatever decays we may fall into,--which be the two 
principles of darkness and fears in believers, whilst this inward holy 
shame and self-abasement, on account of the vileness of sin, is 
preserved, faith leaves not itself without an evidence in us. 
  2. It does the same by a spiritual satisfaction, which it gives the 
soul in every experience of the transforming power of this holiness, 
rendering it more and more like unto God. There is a secret joy and 
spiritual refreshment rising in the soul from a sense of its renovation 
into the image of God; and all the acting and increases of the life of 
God in it augment this joy. Herein consists its gradual return unto its 
primitive order and rectitude, with a blessed addition of supernatural 
light and grace by Christ Jesus; it finds itself herein coming home to 
God from its old apostasy, in the way of approaching to eternal rest and 
blessedness: and there is no satisfaction like unto that which it 
receives therein. 
  This is the second way wherein faith will abide firm and constant, and 
does evidence itself in the soul of every believer. However low and mean 
its attainments be in this spiritual life and the fruits of it, though it 
be overwhelmed with darkness and a sense of the guilt of sin, though it 
be surprised and perplexed with the deceit and violence thereof, yet 
faith will continue here firm and unshaken. It sees that glory and 
excellency in the holiness and obedience that God requires of us,--as it 
is a representation of his own glorious excellencies, the renovation of 
his image, and the perfection of our natures thereby,--as that it 
constantly approves of it, even in the deepest trials which the soul can 
be exercised withal; and whilst this anchor holds firm and stable we are 
The third evidence of the faith of God's elect 
Thirdly, Faith will evidence itself by a diligent, constant endeavour to 
keep itself and all grace in due exercise in all ordinances of divine 
worship, private and public. 
  This is the touchstone of faith and spiritual obedience, the most 
intimate and difficult part of this exercise; where this is not, there is 
no life in the soul. There are two things whereby men do or may deceive 
themselves herein:--1. Abounding in the outward performance of duties or 
a multiplication of them. Hereby hypocrites have in all ages deceived 
themselves, Isa.58:2,3. And it was the covering that the church of Rome 
provided for their apostasy from the gospel: an endless multiplication of 
religious duties was that which they trusted to and boasted in. And we 
may find those daily that pretend a conscience as unto the constant 
observation of outward duties, and yet will abstain from no sin that 
comes in the way of their lusts. And men may and do ofttimes abide 
constantly in them, especially in their families and in public, yea, 
multiply them beyond the ordinary measure, hoping to countenance 
themselves in other lusts and neglects thereby. 2. Assistance of gifts in 
the performance of them; but as this may be where there is not one dram 
of grace, saving grace, so when rested in, it is a most powerful engine 
to keep the soul in formality, to ruin all beginning of grace, and to 
bring an incurable hardness on the whole soul. 
  Wherever faith is in sincerity, it will constantly labour, endeavour, 
and strive to fill up all duties of divine worship with the living, real, 
heart acting of grace; and where it does not so, where this is not 
attained, it will never suffer the soul to take any rest or satisfaction 
in such duties, but will cast them away as a defiled garment. He that can 
pass through such duties without a sensible endeavour for the real 
exercise of grace in them, and without self-abasement on the performance 
of them, will hardly find any other clear evidence of saving faith in 
  There are three evils that have followed the ignorance, or neglect, or 
weariness of this exercise of faith, which have proved the ruin of 
  1. This has been the occasion and original of all false worship in the 
world, with the invention of those superstitious rites and ceremonies 
wherein it consists. For men having lost the exercise of faith in the 
ordinances of worship that are of divine institution, they found the 
whole of it to be useless and burdensome unto them; for without this 
constant exercise of faith there is no life in it, nor satisfaction to be 
obtained by it. They must, therefore, have something in it, or 
accompanying of it, which may entertain their minds, and engage their 
affections unto it. If this had not been done, it would have been utterly 
deserted by the most. Hereon were invented forms of prayer in great 
diversity, with continual diversions and avocations of the mind from what 
is proposed; because it cannot abide in the pursuit of any thing 
spiritual without the exercise of faith. This gives it some entertainment 
by the mere performance, and makes it think there is something where 
indeed is nothing. Hereunto are added outward ceremonies of vestments, 
postures, and gestures of veneration, unto the same end. There is no 
other design in them all but to entertain the mind and affections with 
some complacency and satisfaction in outward worship, upon the loss or 
want of that exercise of faith which is the life and soul of it in 
believers. And as any persons do decay herein, they shall find themselves 
insensibly sinking down into the use of these lifeless forms, or that 
exercise of their natural faculties and memory which is not one jot 
better; yea, by this means, some, from an eminency in spiritual gifts, 
and the performance of duties by virtue of them, have sunk into an Ave 
Maria or a Credo, as the best of their devotion. 
  2. This has caused many to turn aside, to fall off from and forsake the 
solemn ordinances of divine worship, and to retake themselves unto vain 
imaginations for relief, in trembling, enthusiastical singing and feigned 
raptures; from hence have so many forsaken their own mercies to follow 
after lying vanities. They kept for a while unto the observance of the 
divine institutions of worship; but not having faith to exercise in them, 
by which alone they are life and power, they became useless and 
burdensome unto them: they could find neither sweetness, satisfaction, 
nor benefit in them. It is not possible that so many in our days, if ever 
they had tasted of the old wine, should so go after new;--if ever they 
had experience of that savour, power, and life, which is in the 
ordinances of divine worship, when acted and enlivened by the exercise of 
faith, should forsake them for that which is nothing: "They went out from 
us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have 
continued with us." "Had they known it, they would not have crucified the 
Lord of glory." This, therefore, is the true reason why so many in our 
days, after they have for a season abode under, and in the observation 
of, the gospel ordinances of worship, have fallen off from them, namely, 
not having faith to exercise in them, nor endeavouring after it, they did 
really find no life in them, nor benefit by them. 
  3. Some, on the same ground, fall into profaneness, pretending to take 
up with a natural religion, without any instituted worship at all. Of 
this sort of persons we have multitudes in the days wherein we live; 
having nothing of the light of faith, they can see no form or comeliness 
in Christ, nor in any thing that belongs unto him. By these means are 
souls every day precipitated into ruin. 
  Herein, therefore, I say, true faith will evidence itself in all 
darknesses and distress whatsoever: it will always endeavour to keep 
itself, and all other graces, in a due and constant exercise in all 
duties of worship, private and public. It may sometimes be weakened in 
its acting and operations, it may be under decays, it may be as a sleep, 
and that not only as unto particular duties and seasons, but as unto the 
inward habitual frame of the mind; but where it is true and genuine, it 
will shake itself out of this dust, cast off the sin that does so easily 
beset us, and stir up itself, with all might and contention, unto its 
duty. And there is no more dangerous state for a soul than when it is 
sinking down into formality, and neglect of the exercise of faith, in a 
multitude of duties; then is it assuredly ready to die, if it be not dead 
  If we are wise, therefore, we will watch, and take care that we lose 
not this evidence of faith; it will stand us instead when, it may be, all 
other things seem to be against us. Some have been relieved by the 
remembrance of this exercise of faith, when they have been at the door of 
desperation:--such or such a season they had experience of the work of 
faith in prayer, has been their relief. An experience hereof is a jewel, 
which may be of no great use whilst it lies by you locked up in a 
cabinet, but which you will know the worth of if ever you come to need 
bread for your lives. 
  It is, therefore, worthwhile to inquire what we ought to do, or what 
means we ought to use, that we may keep up faith unto its due exercise in 
all the parts of divine worship, so as that it may give us a comforting 
evidence of itself in times of temptation and darkness? And unto this end 
the ensuing directions may be of use:-- 
  1. Labour to have your hearts always affected with a due sense of the 
infinite perfections of the divine nature in all our approaches unto him, 
especially of his sovereign power, holiness, immensity, and omnipresence; 
and this will produce in us also a sense of infinite distance from him. 
As this is necessary, from the nature of the things themselves, so the 
Scripture gives us such descriptions of God as are suited to in generate 
this frame in us. This is that which Joshua aimed to bring the people 
unto, when he designed to engage them in the service of God in a due 
manner, Josh.24:19-22; and that which the apostle requires in us, 
Heb.12:28,29. And unto the same end glorious descriptions and appearances 
of God are multiplied in Scripture. If we fail herein, if we do not on 
all occasions fill our minds with reverential thoughts of God, his 
greatness and his holiness, faith has no foundation to stand upon in its 
exercise in the duties of worship. This is the only inlet into the due 
exercise of grace: where it is wanting, all holy thoughts and affections 
are shut out of our minds; and where it is present, it is impossible but 
that there will be some gracious working of heart in all our duties. If 
we are empty hereof in our entrance of duties, we shall be sure to be 
filled with other things, which will be clogs and hindrances unto us; but 
reverential thoughts of God, in our approaches unto him, will cast out 
all superfluity of naughtiness, and dissipate all carnal, formal frames, 
which will vitiate all our duties. Keep your hearts, therefore, under 
this charge in all your accesses unto God, and it will constantly open a 
door unto that exercise of faith which we inquire after. 
  Hereon and herewith we shall be affected with a sense of our infinite 
distance from him; which is another means to stir up faith unto its due 
exercise in reverence and godly fear. So Abraham was affected, Gen.18:27. 
[This is that] which the wise man directs us unto, Eccles.5:2. 
  Carnal boldness in the want of these things ruins the souls of men, 

(continued in part 4...)

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