Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief. (Mark 9.24)
Though we find ourselves not what we ought to be, yet there is a principle of comfort to be had by those with afflicted consciences, as Robert Bolton describes it, if our sincere inward desire is grieved at how short we fall of the holy standard of perfection to which we are called and earnestly longs to be united to Christ and his perfect righteousness, then we may thank God for such an evidence of true saving faith, however weak that faith might be.
Henry Scudder, The Christian's Daily Walk, pp. 311-312:
Many think that they are hypocrites, who yet are sincere; wherefore try whether you be an hypocrite or upright, by the signs of uprightness before delivered, Chap. XI., Sect. I.
Only for the present, note this; when was it known, that an hypocrite did so see his hypocrisy, as to have it a burden to him, and to be weary of it, and to confess it, and bewail it, and to ask forgiveness heartily of God; and above all things to labour to be upright? If you find yourselves thus disposed against hypocrisy and for uprightness, although I would have you humbled for the remainder of hypocrisy which you discern to be in you; yet chiefly I would have you to be thankful to God, and to take comfort in this, that you feel it, and dislike it: thank God therefore for your uprightness, comfort yourselves in it, and cherish and nourish it in you, and fear not.
Robert Bolton, A Treatise on Comforting Afflicted Consciences, pp. 258-261:
There is a precious principle in the mystery of salvation, which, as a comforting cordial water, serves to quicken and revive in the swoonings and faintings of the body, defection of the spirits, and sinking of the heart; so it may be sovereign to support and succour in afflictions and dejections of soul, and weakness of our spiritual state. It is thus delivered by divines: --
"A constant and earnest desire to be reconciled to God, to believe and to repent, if it be in a touched heart, is in acceptation with God as reconciliation, faith, repentance itself." 1
"A weak faith shows itself by this grace of God, namely, an unfeigned desire, not only of salvation (for that the wicked and graceless man may have), but of reconciliation with God in Christ. This is a sure sign of faith in every touched and humbled heart, and it is peculiar to the elect." 2
"Those are blessed who are displeased with their own doubting and unbelief; if they have a true earnest desire to be purged from this distrust, and to believe in God through Christ." 3
"Our desire of grace, faith, and repentance, are the graces themselves which we desire; at least, in God's acceptation, who accepteth the will for the deed, and of our affections for the actions." 4
"Hungering and thirsting desires are evidences of a repenting heart." 5
"True desire argues the presence of things desired, and yet argues not the feeling of it." 6
"I think, whensoever the humbled sinner sees an infinite excellency in Christ, and the favour of God by him, that it is more worth than all the world, and so sets his heart upon it that he is resolved to seek it without ceasing, and to part with all for the obtaining it; now, I take it, is faith begun." -- "What graces thou unfeignedly desirest, and constantly usest the means to attain, thou hast." 8
"There is no rock more sure than this truth of God, that the heart that complaineth of the want of grace, desireth above all things the supply of that want, useth all holy means for the procurement of that supply, cannot be destitute of saving grace." 9
"Such are we by imputation as we be in affection. And he is now no sinner, who for the love he beareth to righteousness would be no sinner. Such as we be in desire and purpose, such we be in reckoning and account with God, who giveth that true desire and holy purpose to none but to his children whom he justifieth." 10
"We must remember that God accepts affecting for effecting; willing for working; desires for deeds; purposes for performances; pence for pounds; and unto such as do their endeavour, hath promised his grace enabling them every day to do more and more." 11
"If there be in thee a sorrow for thine unbelief; a will and desire to believe; and a care to increase in faith by the use of good means; there is a measure of true faith in thee, and by it thou mayest assure thyself that thou art the child of God." 12
"It is a great grace of God to feel the want of God's graces in thyself, and to hunger and thirst after them." 13
"If you desire healing of your nature, groan in desire for grace, perceive your foulness unto a loathing of yourself, fear not, sin hath no dominion over you." -- "Sense of want of grace, complaint and mourning from that sense, desire, settled and earnest, with such mourning to have the want supplied, use of good means, with attending upon him therein for this supply, is surely of grace." -- "What graces thou unfeignedly desirest and constantly usest the means to attain, thou hast." 14
Take it in short from me thus: --
A true desire of grace argues a saving and comfortable estate.
1 [William] Perkins, in his Grain of Mustard Seed, Concl. 3.
2 Idem, in his Exposition of the Creed.
3 Idem, upon the Sermon on the Mount.
4 [John Downame], in his Christian Warfare, chap. xlii.
5 [Daniel] Dyke, of Repentance, chap. xv.
6 T.T. upon Psalm xxxii.
8 [John] Rogers of Dedham, in his Doctrine of Faith, chap. ii.
9 [Samuel] Crook, serm. iii.
10 [Richard] Greenham.
11 Dyke, of Self-Deceiving, chap. xix.
12 Perkins, on Galatians.
13 Broad, p. 88.
14 Wilson on Faith.