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the former Notion, then the Sense is this; that as it is the Cuftom amongst Men, to confirm their Agreements and Covenants by mutually fetting their Seals to the Inftruments wherein the Articles of them are recorded, fo God having made a Covenant with all faithful Chriftians, wherein he promises to give them eternal Life in the other World, he is pleased to ratify this Covenant, and the Promifes therein made on his Part, by fending down the Holy Spirit into their Hearts; which is the ftrongest Affurance that he can poffibly give, that he fincerely intends to make good to us what he has promised, and that on his fide the Contract is inviolable. And fuch a Seal hath God fet to this Covenant of Christianity, as hath infinitely the Preeminence above the Seal of the Jewish Covenant that was before it, and gives greater Security to us that God will perform it. The Seal of that Covenant was only an outward Seal, an external Mark in the Flefh, viz. Circumcifion: But this is an inward Seal, a Seal in the Heart and Mind. The Ifraelites were fealed in their Flesh to the Poffeffion of the earthly Land of Canaan; but Chriftians are fealed in the inward Man by the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon their Minds, to the Poffeffion of that Inheritance that is eternal in the Heavens. But we may well fuppofe that the Apostle doth by this Phrafe of fealing allude to the other
Ufe of a Seal, as it was, and is still used by Merchants and Men of Trade, viz. as a Declaration of their Right and Propriety in a Thing. Thus it was the Custom of thofe Perfons, [that] whatever Commodity was bought by them, or confign'd to them, to have their Seal or Mark put upon it, whereby it might be diftinguished from all others, and known to be theirs only: Nay, in thofe Times they did not only fet their Seal upon Goods, but upon Persons too, whom they bought or had any Property in. And accordingly, in Allufion to this, we find in the Revelations, that the true Worshippers of Jefus Chrift, that were to be faved in the midst of the Judgments and Calamities that were to fall upon the Antichristian Churches, are faid to have the Seal of God on their Foreheads: And on the other fide, they who belonged to the Beast, who were Subjects of Antichrift, are faid to have the Mark of the Beast upon them. And in this Senfe the Phrafe is used even of our Lord Jefus Christ, for he is faid John 6.26.to be fealed by the Father, viz. God, by his fending the Holy Spirit down upon him at his Baptifm, did declare to all the World, that Jefus Chrift was owned by him. And in this Senfe all Chriftians may be truly faid to be fealed by the Holy Spirit to the Day of Redemption; that is, God, by giving them the Spirit, hath marked them for his own; they have an Evidence in
themselves that they belong to him, and that they fhall certainly have their Portion in the Resurrection of the Juft. And this I take to be the full Meaning of the Phrase in my Text, of being fealed.
III. My third and laft Enquiry is, How, and in what Senfe the Spirit doth feal us to that Day. There are three Notions of it.
The firft of which is very falfe, though commonly received.
The fecond is true, but yet not full; nor, I fuppofe, principally intended in this Place.
And therefore I conceive the third is to be preferred.
1. The firft Account of the Spirit's fealing is this. We commonly take the Spirit's fealing us to the Day of Redemption, to be his testifying to our Hearts that God is reconciled to us, and hath forgiven us all our Sins. We fancy that he doth, as it were, whisper it into our Ears; we feem to hear a Voice within us that bids us be of good Comfort, for God hath accepted us. Now when we have thefe Suggeftions, we believe that then the Spirit doth feal us, and witness with our Spirit: But when we find our Minds cloudy and melancholy, fo that we think not so well of ourselves, then we believe that we are in a State of Desertion, that God hath forfaken us, and refuses to feal us with the Holy Ghoft. Now, acVOL. V. cording
cording to this Notion, the Senfe of my Text muft be, Have a Care that you do not grieve the Holy Spirit; for if you do, he will not testify to your Minds that you are the Children of God, but you fhall be in a very doubtful and uncertain Condition, and want all that Comfort and Joy in the Holy Ghoft, which otherwife you might have. But to this I fay, that tho' I doubt not but that God fometimes, and in fome particular Cafes, is pleafed to manifest his Goodness to the Souls of pious Persons in an extraordinary Manner, and to fill them with inexpreffible Joy and Confolation, and to poffefs them with an undoubted Affurance of their eternal Happiness, more particularly at the Hour of Death, or in a Time of difficult Trials, efpecially in the Cafe of Martyrdom: Yet I deny utterly, that this is the fealing of the Spirit spoken of in the Text, and that for thefe Reafons; Firft of all, there is no Text of Scripture that gives Countenance to fuch an Interpretation of the fealing of the Spirit; for all thofe that I know of, place his Sealing in his being within us, and not in his fuggefting to our Minds a good Opinion of ourfelves: And thus it is we must interpret Rom. 8. that famous Text of St. Paul, of the Spirit's witneffing with our Spirits, that we are the Sons of God; as any one will be convinced, who carefully examines the Context, and confiders
confiders the Occafion upon which these Words are made ufe of.
Sedondly, It is no where promised by God in Scripture, that Men fhall ordinarily have that Teftimony of the Goodness of their Condition that this Notion implieth, and confequently the fealing of the Spirit cannot confift in it. The ordinary Way of coming to an Affurance of our future Happiness is, by reasoning with our own Hearts, examining and comparing our Lives and Actions with the Rule that Chrift hath given us to walk by. If our Consciences, upon fuch an Examination, give us in Evidence that we have fincerely performed the Conditions of the Chriftian Covenant required on our Parts, viz. that we do truly believe and repent; then we may conclude that we are in a safe and good Condition. I fay, this is the Way that the Scripture Lam.3.40. chalketh out to us for the gaining of Affu- Gal. 6. 4. rance; and no Man can come to it otherwife, unless God be pleased to deal with him in an extraordinary and miraculous Way, which, I fuppofe, every one is not to expect.
2 Cor. 13.
Thirdly, If the fealing of the Spirit be the Spirit's poffeffing our Minds with a Atrong Perfuafion that our Sins are forgiven, what will become of them who never had this strong Perfuafion, and yet, for all that, are very honeft, and fincere, and devout Chriftians? There are a great many in the World,