Object. Although I be not excluded from the benefit of the new covenant, yet it is not in my power to believe on Christ; for faith is the gift of God, and above the strength of flesh and blood.
Answ. It is true, that saving faith, by which alone a man can heartily close with God in Christ, is above our power, and is the gift of God, as we said before in the premises: yet remember,
1. The Lord hath left it as a duty upon all who hear this gospel cordially by faith, to close with his offer of salvation through Christ, as is clear in the Scripture. And you must know, that although it be in our power to perform that duty of ourselves, yet the Lord may justly condemn us for not performing it, and we are inexcusable; because at first he made man perfectly able to do whatsoever he should command.
2. The Lord commanding this thing which is above our power, wills us to be sensible of our inability to do the thing, and would have us to put him to work it in us. He hath promised to give the new heart, and he hath not excluded any from the benefit of that promise.
3. The Lord uses, by these commands and invitations, and men’s meditations on them, and their supplication about the thing, to convey power to the soul to perform the duty.
Therefore, for answer to the objection, I do entreat thee, in the Lord’s name, to lay to heart these his commandments and promises, and meditate on them, and upon that blessed business of the new covenant, and pray unto God, as you can, over them, “for he will be inquired to do these things,” and lay thy cold heart to that device of God expressed in the Scripture, and unto Christ Jesus, who is given for a covenant to the people, and look to him for life and quickening. Go and endeavour to be pleased with that salvation in the way God doth offer it, and to close with, and rest on, Christ for it, as if all were in thy power; yet looking to him for the thing, as knowing that it must come from him; and if thou do so, “he who meets those who remember him in his ways,” will not be wanting on his part; and thou shalt not have ground to say, that thou movedst towards the thing until thou couldst do no more for want of strength, and so left it at God’s door: it shall not fail on his part, if thou have a mind for the business; yea, I may say, if by all thou hast ever heard of that matter, thy heart loveth it, and desireth to be engaged with it, thou hast it already performed within thee: so that difficulty is past before thou wast aware of it.
Object. Many who have closed with Christ Jesus, as has been stated, are still complaining of their leanness and fruitlessness, which makes my heart lay the less weight on that duty of believing. Answ. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, as has been stated, you may not refuse it under any pretence. As for those complaints of some who have looked after him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say,
1. Many, by their jealousies of God’s love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them: “And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ “have found him a wilderness.” Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in these two great things, namely, how to be found in him in that day: “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” and how to show forth to his praise in the land of the living – “Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep thy word:” “Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living?” They find these two things aloft in the soul, and that is much.
Moreover they shall, after search, if they judge aright, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that abundance of the creature cannot fill up: all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when he but breathes a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This saith, that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart. “Who is God but the Lord? worship him all ye gods.”
Yea, further, those whose heart has closed with God in Christ, as has been said, will not deny that there have been seasonable preventings and quickenings now and then, when the soul was like to fail; “For thou preventest me with the blessings of thy goodness.” “When I said, My foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.