3. Counsel. Neglect no means for getting thy truth of heart and sincerity evidenced to thee. It is to be had. This is the ‘white stone’ with the ‘new name’ in it, ‘which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it,’ promised, Rev. 2:17. And I hope thou dost not think this to be such an ens rationis—an imaginary thing, as the philosopher’s stone is, [of] which none could ever say to this day that he had it in his hand. Holy Paul had this white stone’ sparkling in his conscience more gloriously than all the precious stones in Aaron’s breast‑plate. ‘Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity…we have had our conversation in the world,’ II Cor. 1:12. And Job, sure, was not without it when he durst, with such a confidence, appeal to the thoughts that God himself had of him, even then when God was ransacking and searching every corner of his heart by his heavy hand—‘thou knowest that I am not wicked,’ Job 10:7. Mark, he doth not deny that he hath sin in him—that you have again and again confessed by him—but he was not wicked; i.e. a rotten‑hearted hypocrite. This he will stand to, that God himself will not say so of him, though, for his trial, the Lord gives way to have him searched, to stop the devil’s mouth, and shame him who was not afraid to lay suspicion of this spiritual felony to his charge.
Objection. But may be thou wilt say, these were saints of the highest form, and though they might come to see their sincerity, and have this ‘white stone’ in their bosoms; yet such jewels cannot be expected to be worn by ordinary Christians.
Answer. For answer to this, consider that the weakest Christian in God’s family hath the same witness in him that these had. ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him,’ I John 5:10. Mark, it is indefinite, every one that believeth; not this eminent Christian, or that, but every one. ‘The witness’ is the same; for, the same Christ and Spirit dwell in thy heart, that do in the highest saint on earth; the same blood thou hast to sprinkle, and the same water to wash thee. These can and will, when the Lord please, testify as much for thy grace and sincerity as it doth for theirs; only, as witnesses in a court stay till the judge call them forth, and then, and not till then, give their testimony, so do these; and God may and doth use his liberty, when he will do this. Just as it is also on the contrary. Every wicked impenitent sinner carries a witness in his own bosom that will condemn him; but this doth not always speak, and presently make report of the sad news it hath to tell the sinner; that is [only] when God calls a court, and keeps his private sessions in the sinner’s soul, which are at his pleasure to appoint. Only, means must not be neglected, of which I shall propose a few.
(1.) Means. Reach forth, Christian—for such I must call thee, whether thou wilt own the name or no—to further degrees of grace. The more the child grows up, the more it comes to its right complexion; and so doth grace. There is so much slavish fear, selfishness, with other imperfections at present, like so much scurf on the face of this new‑born babe of grace, that they do hide its true favour. This, however, by degrees will wear off as it grows up. Yea, the spiritual reason of a Christian ripens, as the whole body of grace grows, whereby he is more capable, by reflecting on his own actions, to judge of the objections Satan makes against his sincerity; so that if you would not be always tossed to and fro with your own fluctuating thoughts, whether sincere or not, but grow up to higher stature, and thou wilt grow above many of thy fears, for, by the same light that thou findest the growth of thy grace, thou mayest see the truth of it also. Though it be hard in the crepusculum, or first break of day, to know whether it be daylight or nightlight that shines; yet when you see the light evidently grow and unfold itself, you, by that, know it to be day. Paint doth not grow on the face fairer than it was; nor do the arms of a child in a picture get strength by standing there months and years. Do thy love, hope, humility, godly sorrow, grow more and more, poor soul, and you yet question what it is—whether true grace or not? This is as marvelous a thing, that thou shouldst not know what thy grace is, and whence, as it was that the Jews should not know who Christ was, when he had made a man born blind to see so clearly, John 9:2.
(2.) Means. Readily embrace any call that God sends thee, by his providence, for giving a proof and experiment of thy sincerity. There are some few advantages that God gives, which, if embraced and improved, a man may come to know more of his own heart and the grace of God therein, than in all his life besides. Now these advantages do lie wrapped up in those seasons wherein God more eminently calls us forth too deny ourselves for his sake. But be ready to entertain and faithful to obey that heavenly call, and thou wilt know much of thy heart; partly because grace in such acts comes forth with such glory, that, as the sun when it shines in a clear day, it exposeth itself more visibly to the eye of the creature; as also, because God chooseth such seasons as these to give his testimony to the truth of his children’s grace in, when they are most eminently exercising it. In this way, when does the master speak kindly to his servant and commend him, but when he takes him most diligent? Then he saith, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ May be, some time or other, God is calling thee to such an act of self-denial, wherein, if thou wilt answer God’s call, thou must trample upon some dear enjoyment or other, as credit, estate, or it may be a sweet child, a dear wife; yea, it may be thou canst not do the work God calls thee to but with hazard to them all—these, and more too. Well, friend, be not sick to think of thy great strait, or disquieted at the sight of the providence that now stands at thy door. Didst thou know what errand it comes about, thou wouldst invite it in, and make it as welcome as Abraham did the three angels, whom he feasted in his tent so freely. I will tell thee what God sends it for, and that is to bring thee to a sight of thy sincerity, and to acquaint thee with that grace of God in thee whose face thou hast so long desired to see. This providence brings thee a chariot—to allude to Joseph’s waggons sent for old Jacob—wherein thou mayest be carried to see that grace alive, whose funeral thou hast so long kept in thy mournful soul. And does not thy spirit revive at the thought of any means whereby thou mayest obtain this? Abraham was called to offer up his son, and he went about it in earnest. Now such a piece of self-denial God could not let pass without some mark of honour; and what is it he gives him but his testimony to his uprightness? ‘Lay not thine hand upon the lad;…for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me,’ Gen. 22:12. Why? God knew this before. Yes, but he speaks it that Abraham may hear, and take it from God’s mouth that he was sincere. May be thou art called to deny thy own education, and principles sucked in by it, [to deny] thy own company, and cross the judgment of those thou highly esteemest, yea, thy own wisdom and reason, to entertain a truth, or take up a practice, merely upon account of the word. If thou canst do this, and that without affectation of singularity, or a humour of pride, blowing thee that way, it is an act of deep self-denial, and goes most cross to the most ingenuous natures, who are afraid of drawing eyes after them, by leaving their company to walk in a path alone, yea, [are] very loath to oppose their judgments to others, more, for number and parts, than their own; in a word, who love peace so dearly, that they can be willing to pay anything but a sin to purchase it. In these it must needs be great self-denial; and therefore such have the greater ground to expect God’s evidencing their sincerity to them. He did it to Nathanael, who had all these bars to keep him from coming to Christ, and believing on him; yet he did both, and Christ welcomes him with a high and loud testimony to his uprightness. ‘Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile,’ John 1:47.