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only teacheth, but he also commandeth men to doubt. Therefore, as the Psalm saith, “ There is no truth or certainty in his mouth,” (Psalm v. 9.) And, in another place, “Under his tongue is iniquity and mischief." (Psalm x. 7.)
Here we may see, what great infirmity is yet in the faith of the godly. For if we could be fully persuaded that we are under grace, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the children of God; then, doubtless, we shall be thankful to God for this inestimable gift. But, because we feel contrary motions; that is to say, fear, doubtfulness, anguish, and heaviness of heart, and such like, therefore, we cannot assure ourselves hereof; yea, our conscience judgeth it a great presumption and pride to challenge this glory. Wherefore, if we well understand this thing rightly, and as we should do, we must put it in practice; for without experience and practice, it can never be learned.
Wherefore, let every man so practise with himself, that his conscience may be fully assured that he is under grace, and that his person and his works do please God. And if he feel in himself any wavering or doubting, let him exercise his faith and wrestle against this doubting, and let him labour to attain more strength and assurance of faith : so that he may be able to say, I know that I am accepted, and that I have the Holy Ghost; not for mine own worthiness, my work, my merit, but for Christ's sake; who, of his inestimable love towards us, made himself thrall and subject to the law, and took away the sins of the world; in him do I believe! If I be a sinner and err, he is righteous and cannot err. Moreover, I gladly hear, read, sing, and write of him: and I desire nothing more, than that his Gospel may be known to the whole world, and that many may be converted unto him.
These things do plainly witness, that the Holy Ghost is present with us, and in us. For such things are not wrought in the heart by man's strength, nor gotten by man's industry or travel, but are obtained by Christ alone; who first maketh us righteous by the knowledge of himself in his holy gospel; and afterwards he createth a new heart in us, bringeth forth good motions, and giveth unto us that assurance, whereby we are persuaded that we please the Father for his sake. Also, he giveth us a true judgment; whereby, we prove and try those things which before we knew not, or else altogether despised. It behoveth us, therefore, to wrestle against this doubting, that we may daily overcome it more and more, and attain to a full persuasion and certainty of God's favour towards us; rooting out of our hearts this cursed opinion, that a man ought to doubt of the grace and favour of God: which hath infected the whole world.
Crying, Abba Father. Paul might have said, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,” calling, Abba Father. He saith not so, but crying “Abba Father :" that he might shew and set forth the temptation of a Christian which yet is but weak, and weakly believeth. In the eighth to the Romans he calleth this crying, “an unspeakable groaning." Likewise he saith, “The Spirit helpeth our infirmilies. For we know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit maketh intercession for us with unspeakable groanings,” &c.
And this is a singular consolation, when he saith, " that the spirit of Christ is sent into our hearts, crying, Abba Father.” And again, “ that he helpeth our infirmities, making intercession for us with unspeakable groanings.” He that could assuredly believe this, should never be overcome with any affliction, were it never so great. But there are many things that hinder this faith in us. First, our heart is born in sin. Moreover, this evil is naturally grafted in us, that we doubt of the good-will of God towards us, and cannot assure ourselves
, that we please God, &c. Besides all this, the devil, our adversary, rangeth about with terrible roarings,
and saith, Thou art a sinner, therefore, God is angry with thee, and will destroy thee for ever. Against these horrible and intolerable roarings, we have nothing whereupon to hold and stay ourselves, but only the word which setteth Christ before us as a conqueror over sin, and death, and over all evils. But to cleave fast to the Word in this temptation and these terrors of conscience, herein standeth all the difficulty! For then Christ appeareth to no sense! We see him not: the heart feeleth not his presence or succour in temptation : but rather, it seemeth that he is angry with us, and forsakes us. Moreover, when a man is tempted and afflicted, he feeleth the fiery darts of the devil, the terrors of death, and the anger and judgment of God. All these things cry out horribly against us, so that we see nothing else but desperation and eternal death. But yet in the midst of these terrors of the law, thunderings of sin, assaults of death, and roarings of the devil, the Holy Ghost (saith Paul) crieth in our hearts “Abba Father!” And this crying surmounteth the horrible cries of the law, sin, death, and the devil, &c. It pierceth the clouds and the heavens, and ascendeth into the ears of God.
Paul signifieth, therefore, by these words, that there is yet infirmity in the godly; as he doth also in the sixth chapter to the Romans, when he saith, “the Spirit helpeth our infirmities.” Forasmuch, therefore, as the sense and feeling of the contrary is strong in us; that is to say, for as much as we feel more the displeasure of God than his good-will and favour towards us; therefore, the Holy Ghost is sent into our hearts; which doth not only sigh and request for us, but mightily crieth, “ Abba Father ;” and prayeth for us, according to the will of God, with tears and unspeakable groanings. And how is this done? When we are in terrors and in the conflict of conscience, we take hold of Christ, and believe that he is our Saviour; but then do the law and sin terrify and torment us most of all. Moreover, the devil assaileth us with all his engines and fiery darts, and goeth about with all his power to take away Christ and all consolations from us. Here we feel ourselves almost gone and at the point of desperation : for then, we are that “ bruised reed” and “smoking flax” which Isaiah speaketh of, chap. xlii
. 3. Notwithstanding, in the mean season, the Holy Ghost helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us with unspeakable groanings (Rom. viii. 28;) and certifieth our spirits, that we are the children of God. Thus is the mind raised up in terrors, it looketh unto his Saviour and high bishop, Jesus Christ, it overcometh the infirmity of the flesh, it conceiveth comfort again, and saith, “ Abba Father.” This groaning which then we scantily feel, Paul calleth a “ crying,” and “unspeakable groaning," which filleth both heaven and earth. Moreover, he calleth it the crying and groaning of the “Spirit;” because the Holy Ghost stirreth up the same in our hearts, when we are weak and oppressed with temptation and terror.
Although then the law, sin, and the devil, cry out against us never so much with great and terrible roarings, which seem to fill heaven and earth, and far to exceed this groaning of our heart, yet can they not hurt us. For the more fiercely they assail us, and accuse and torment us with their cryings, so much the more do we groan, and, in groaning, lay hold upop Christ, call upon him with heart and mouth, cleave unto him, and believe that he was made under the law, that he might deliver us from the curse of the law and destroy both sin and death. And thus, when we have taken hold of Christ by faith, we cry, through him, “Abba Father,” (Gal. iv. 6.) And this our cry doth far surmount the roaring of the law, sin, the devil, &c.
But so far is it that we think this groaning which we make in these terrors and this our weakness to be a cry, that scarcely we perceive it to be a groaning. For our faith, which in temptation thus groaneth unto Christ, is very weak, if we consider our own sense and feeling; and therefore, we hear not this cry. We have but only the Word; which, when we apprehend in this conflict, we have a little breathing, and then we groan. Of this groaning some little feeling we have, but the cry we
“ But he (saith Paul) which searcheth the
hearts, knoweth what is the meaning of the Spirit,” &c. (Rom. viii. 27.) To this searcher of the hearts, this small and feeble groaning (as it seemeth unto us) is a loud and mighty cry, and an unspeakable groaning: in comparison whereof, the great and horrible roarings of the law, of sin, of death, of the devil, and of hell, are nothing, neither can they be once heard. Paul, therefore, not without cause, calleth this groaning of a godly afflicted heart, a cry, and a groaning of the spirit which cannot be expressed. For it filleth heaven; so that the angels think they hear nothing else but this cry.
But in us, there is a clean contrary feeling. For it seemeth unto us, that this our small groaning doth not so pierce the clouds, that there is nothing else heard in heaven of God or his angels. Nay, we think, and especially during the time of temptation, that the devil horribly roareth against us, that the heavens thunder and the earth trembleth, that all will fall upon us, that all creatures threaten our destruction, that hell is open and ready to swallow us up. This feeling is in our heart, and these horrible voices and this fearful show we hear and we see. And this it is that Paul saith, in 2 Cor. xii. that “the strength of Christ is made perfect through weakness.” For then is Christ almighty indeed, then doth he truly reign and triumph in us, when we are so weak that we can scarcely groan. But Paul saith, that this groaning is, in the ears of God, a most mighty cry which filleth both heaven and earth!
Christ also, in the eighteenth of Luke, in the parable of the wicked judge, calleth this groaning of a faithful heart a cry; yea, and such a cry, as ceaseth not day and night to cry unto God; where he saith, “ Hear what the unrighteous judge saith. Now shall not God avenge his elect which cry day and night unto him; yea, though he suffer long for them? Yea, I tell you he will avenge them quickly.” We at this day, in so great persecution and contradiction of the Pope, of tyrants and sectaries which fight against us both on the right hand and on the left, can do nothing else but utter such groanings. And these were our guns and artillery, where