The Mystery of Faith, Sermon 1Andrew Gray (1634-1656) - A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age
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THIS everlasting gospel (in which there are drawn so many precious draughts and divine lineaments of the transcendent beauty of a crucifed Saviour, and of the riches cf his unsearchable grace) is a most precious and excellent thing, not only because it doth contain most absolute and sublime precepts and commands, in the exercise and obedience of which, we do not only attain unto the highest pitch in holiness, but likewise, because it containeth most rich and precious promises, in the possession and fruition of which, we are advanced to the highest pinacle of eternal blessedness, this is clear in the grace of faith for what doth more purify the heart, and stamp it with the image of the invisible God, than this grace of faith ? And what richer promises are annexed to any duty, than to this duty of believing, to wit, everlasting life, and fruition of God. So that if we dwelt forty days at the foot of mount Sinai, and had been under the greatest discovering and condemning power of the law we may yet come with holiness to mount Sion and there embrace Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to such as believe: Upon which mount he standeth, holding forth the golden sceptre of his peace, desiring us to embrace him, and his crying out that word in Isaiah 65:1. Behold me, behold me.
O! may we not summon angels, and these twenty – four elders about the throne, to help us to wonder that ever such a command as this came forth, that we should believe on the name on the Son of God, after that we had broken that first and primitive command, that we should not eat of the forbidden tree. Was not this indeed to make mercy rejoice over judgement? And O! may we not wonder at the precious oath of that everlasting covenant, whereby he hath sworn, That he delighted not in the death of sinners? What (suppose ye) were poor Adam’s thoughts, when at the first doctrine of free-grace, and of a crucified Christ Jesus a Saviour, was preached unto him in paradise? What a divine surprisal was this, that heaven should have preached peace to earth, after that earth had proclaimed war against heaven Was not this a low step of condescendency, to behold an offended God preaching peace and good-will to a guilty sinner? What could self-destroying Adam think of these morning and first discoveries of this everlasting covenant? Christ, as it were, in the morning of time, giving vent to that infinite Love, which was resting in his bosom and precious heart, before the foundation of the world was laid. We know not whether the infiniteness of his love, the eternity of his love, or the freedom of it, maketh up the greatest wonder; but sure, these three joined together, make up a matchless and everlasting wonder.
Would any of you ask the question, what is Christ worth? We could give no answer so suitable as this, it is above all the arithmetic of all the angels in heaven, and all the men on earth, to calculate his worth; all men here must be put to a divine nonplus: This was Job’s divinity, Job 28:13. Man knoweth not the price of freedom. And must not Jesus Christ who is the precious object of faith, and wisdom of the Father, be a super-eminent and excellent One, who hath that name of King of kings, and Lord of lords, not only engraven on his vesture, (which pointeth out the conspicuouness of his majesty) but even also upon his thigh, to point out, that in all his goings and motions, he proveth himself to be higher than the kings of the earth ?
And howbeit the naked proposing of the Object doth not convert yet if once our souls were admitted to behold such a fight as Christ in his beauty and majesty, and to be satisfied with the divine rays of his transcendent glory, then certainly we should find a blessed necessity laid upon us of closing with him: for Christ hath a sword proceeding out of his precious mouth, by which he doth subject and subjugate his own to himself, as well as he hath a sword girded upon his thigh, by which he judgeth and maketh war with his enemies. We confess it is not only hard, but simply impossible, to commit a hyperbole in commending of him; his worth being always so far above our expressions, and our expressions always far beneath his worth, therefore we be put to propose that desire unto Him, Exalt thyself, ,Lord, above the heavens.
But now to our purpose, being at this time to begin our discourse upon that radical and precious giift of faith, we intend to speak of it under this twofold notion and consideration;
First We shall speak of it as justifying or, As it doth lay hold upon the righteousness of a crucified Saviour, making application of the precious promises-in the covenant of free grace which we call justifying faith.
And in the second place, we shall speak a little unto faith, as it doth lay hold on Christ’s strength, for the advancing the work of mortification, and doth discover the personal excellencies of Jesus Christ by which we advance in the work of holiness, and divine conformity with God, which we call sanctifying faith. However it is not to be supposed that these are different habits of faith, but different acts flowing from the same saving habit, laying hold and exercising themselves upon Christ in different respects, and for divers ends. Now to speak upon the first, we have made choice of these words The apostle John in the former verse, hath heen pointing out the precious advantages of the grace of obedience, and of keeping His commands, that such a one hath as it were an arbitrary power with God, and doth receive many precious returns of prayer: As likewise, that came who is exercised in the grace of repentance, is God’s delight: which is included in this, that he doth things which are well-pleasing in his sight. And now in these words He doth, as it were, answer an objection that might be proposed, about the impossibility of attaining these precious advantages, seeing his commands were so large and that hardly they could be remembered.
This he doth sweetly answer, by setting down in this one verse a short compend or breviary both of law and gospel, viz, that we should love one another which is the compend of the law: and, that we should believe on the name of his Son; which is the compend of the gospel. And by this he sheweth the Christian, that there are not many things required of him for attaining these excellent advantages, but if he exercise himself in the obedience of these two comprehensive commandments, he shall find favour both with God and man. And, as concerning this precious grace of faith; we have, 1.The advantages of it, implied in the words, and clear also from the s cope as (no doubt) all the commandments have infinite advantages enfolded in their bosom, which redounds to a believer by his practising of them. And
2. The excellency of it holden forth in the words, in that it is called His command, as if he had no other command than this; But
3. There is this also the absolute neccessity of this grace, holden forth in this word, His commandment as if he would have said by proposing this command, ‘I do set life and death before you.’ And that ye would not conceive that it is an arbitrary and indifferent thing to you to believe or not: but be persuaded of this, that as an infinite advantage may persuade you to the obedience of it; so absolute neccessity must persuade you to act that which is of your everlasting concernment. And lastly, ‘Ye have the precious Object upon which faith (which is justifying) doth exercise itself and that is upon the name of the Son of God. And (no doubt faith is that excellent grace, which doth elevate the soul into a sweet and inseparable ‘union with Christ: and is that golden and precious knot that doth eternally knit the hearts of these precious friends together. Faith is that grace that draweth the first draughts of Christ’s precious linage on our hearts and by love accommplish and perfect them. Now faith doth take hold, not only on the faithfulness of God, that he is a God of truth, and that in him there is no lie: but likewise it taketh hold on the omnipotency of God, that he is one to whom nothing is too hard; and on the infinite love and mercy of God, that he is one who doth delight to magnify this attribute above all his works, and these are the three great pillars of justifying faith from the first, it answereth all the objections of sense, which do ordinarly cry forth, doth his pronmise fail for evermore? And that with this one word, is he hath once proposed it, he will also do it, and is he that hath once spoken it, he will also make it come to pass.
From the second, it answereth all these objections that may arise from carnal reason and probability, which tend to the weakness of his confidence. And these do oftentimes cry out ‘how can these things be;’ but faith layeth hold on the omnipotency of God, it staggereth not at the promises, but is strong in the faith, giving glory to God . And it is the noble and divine exercise of this heroic grace of faith, that these objections of reason and probability, which it cannot answer, it will lay them aside and yet close with the promise; which was the practice of believing Abraham, who considered not his own body being weak, nor the barrennes of Sarah’s womb. As likewise it was the commendable practise of that woman Matth. 15. Who not being able to answer the second trial of her faith from reason yet, notwithstanding, faith made her cry out, Have mercy on me, O Son of David.
And from the last, a Christian doth answer all the arguments of unbelief, which do arise from the convictions of our unworthiness and sinflulness, which makes us often-times embrace that divinity of Peter’s, Luke v. 8. Depart from me, for I am a sinful .man. But faith taking hold on the infinite mercy and love of Christ, it answereth all with this, He walks not with us according to that rule of merit, but according to that precious and golden rule of love and boundless, compassion.
But before we shall speak any thing unto you of these things, we would a little point out some few things, to be known as previous to these, we shall not dwell long in pointing out the nature of justifying faith: it is that grace whereby a Christian being convinced of his lost estate, and of an utter impossibility to save himself, he doth flee to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and unto him who is that precious city of refuge, and there doth abide till our high-priest shall die, which shall not be forever or if ye will, it is a sweet travelling of the immortal soul, betwixt infinite misery, and infinite mercy; betwixt an utter imposiibility to save ourselves, and a compleat ability in him to save to the uttermost, betwixt abounding sin , and superabounding mercy: hence faith is often holden forth to us in scripture, under that notion of coming, Isa. 55:1. Ho! every one that thirsteth, come to the waters. Rev. 22: 17. Whosoever will, let him take the waters of life freely. Heb. 7:25. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost, that come to God by Him, And we may say by the way, that is once a sinner could be brought to this, to count all his own righteousness but filthy rags, and to believe that a man is as really justified before God by imputed righteousness, as if it were by inherent holiness; surely such an one were not far from the kingdom of God. Neither shall we stand long to point out this unto you, that it is your duty to believe, for it is clear from this place, but likewise from Isa. 45:22. Look unto me , and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. Matt; 11:28. Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. John xiv. 1. Ye believe in God , believe also in me Isa.lv. i. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come, buy without money, and without price.
But O! it is a great misery of many, (and that which may be a subject of perpetual lamentation) that we can neither be subject to the law, as commanding to obey it, or as threatening to believe it: nor to the gospel, as promisng to embrace it, and sweetly to receive it O! but that primitive temptation and delusion, whereby Satan did deceive our first father is, that whereby he yet seeks to catch and delude many souls, viz. That though we eat of the forbidden fruit, and walk in the vain imaginations of our own hearts, yet doth suggest this to us, That we shall not die, but shall once be as God; this is Satan’s great and deluding divinity: And therefore, to enforce this great and precious command a little further, we shall propose these considerations.
First that the gospel hath laid no obstructions in the way of closing with Christ, and partaking of the effects of the gospel; but on the contrary sheweth, that the great impediment is our want of willingness which we lay in our own way, as is clear from John 5:40. Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life, as likewise from Rev. 22:17; Where the gates of the gospel are cast open, and whosoever will are commanded to enter therein: so that although you may father your unbelief upon your inability, or that your spot is not the spot of his people; yet know that the rise and original of it, is want of willingness. But to make this more clear, we would have you all knowing this, that all the qualifications annexed to this commandment of faith, as that in Matth. 11:28. speaketh out the qualifications rather of the these that will come than all those that ought to come: or he inviteth these, that through the spirit of discouragement and misbelief, have the greatest reluctancy to come, and may not that cardinal and soul-refreshing promise, John 6:37. Stop the mouth of misbelief, so that it should have nothing to say? He that cometh unto me, I will in no way cast out -ye may reduce your unbelief rather to the sinfulness of your will, than to the sinfulness of your walk, and once ye would come to the length of willingness to embrace Jesus Christ, all other objections and knots shall be sweetly loosed and dissolved.
Secondly, Consider, that although we should pray the one half of our time and weep the other, yet if we want this noble grace of faith, the wrath of God shall abide on us. What are all the works of these hypocrites and these glittering acts of law sanctification, but a plunging ourselves in the ditch, until our own clothes abhor us? therefore it is, that after the prophet Zechariah hath made mention in the 12th chapter of his prophesy, of making bitter lamentation of him whom we have pierced, as for an only son, yet in the beginning of the 13th chapter, he maketh mention of a fountain opened to the house of David for sin and for uncleaness; which may intimate unto us that although we have washed ourselves with our own tears, yet there is use of the blood of Christ and that we that we must be washed in that fountain, even for our own righteousness which are but as filthy rags.
Thirdly, Consider, that great and monstrous sinfulness that is in this sin of unbelief; we must strain at a gnat, but we will easily swallow down this camel; we will tithe mint and annise, and fast twice in the week, but neglect faith and love and judgment, which are the weightier things of the law. And indeed, there are these things which speak out the sinfulness of unbelief:
1. That when the Holy Ghost is sent to convince the world of sin, John xvi.-9. He pitched upon this sin, as although there were no other sin, of which the world had need to be convinced, He will convince the world of sin, because they believe not on the Son of God: and no doubt there is more sinfulness in that sin than in any branch of the moral law; it being a sin against a matchless love, and against that which, is the remedy of sin.
2. That it is called by way of eminency, disobedience as is clear from Hebrews 4:11 Lest any of you fall after the example of unbelief or as the word may be rendered, lest any of you fall after that example of disobedience. Eph 2:4. 3. That amongst all these that shall be externally excommunicated from the presence of the Lord ,and from the glory of His power, those that are guilty of this sin of unbelief, they are put in the first place Rev. 21:3.
And, 4. That unbelief doth contradict and deny these three precious and cardinal attributes of God
1. Doth not unbelief contradict his faithfulness and make him a liar? 1 John 5:1,
2. Doth it not contradict the infiniteness of his power? And,
3 The infiniteness of His love, and supposeth that there is something too hard for him, which his power cannot reach, – nor his infinite love overcome? We may reduce many of our questions and disputings of his good will to this original, – viz. To the disputings of his power. No doubt if we belong to him, we shall once sing that note of lamentation over our unbelief, That is our infirmity, for changes are from the right hand of the Most High.
And Lastly, to enforce this precious command of faith; consider, that it is his command which speaketh forth this,- that we must not take an indulgence or dispensation to ourselves to believe or not to believe at our pleasure; and is it not a strange thing that Christians are less convinced of the breaches of the commandments of faith than of other commands ? they think misbelief to be but a Zoar, a little sin , and it proceedeth either from this, that the conviction of other sins (as the neglect of prayer, or the sin of swearing, or, committing adultery) do arise from a natural conscience for there is something of nature’s light to make us abominate and hate them: and yet the light of nature will not lead us to the conviction of the sinfullness of unbelief, it being a gospel and more spiritual sin. Or it proceedeth from this, that unbelief doth ordinarily pass valid underthe vizard of some refined virtue, as humility and tenderness, though that rather it may be said, that it is pride and ignorance clothed with the garments of humility. And no doubt Christ doth account obedience to this commandment of faith the greatest act of humility, as is clear from Rom.x.3 Where it is called submission; they submitted not to the righteousness of God. Or else it proceedeth from this, that we conceive that the commandment of faith is not of so large extent as other commands and so doth not bind us to the obedience of it; but know this that it will be the condemnation of the world, that they have not believed on the name of the Son, of God;. and no doubt but it is Satan’s great design and cardinal project, to keep us back from obedience to the commandment of faith, and that we should not listen to the precious promises of the everlasting gospel, but should reject the counsel of God against ourselves, and refuse his precious and divine call.
The Second precious consideration that we would give, shall be to shew you what are the causes that there is so much disputing of our interest, and so little believing that we are so unstable as water, marring our own excellency, spending so much of our time in walking under a cloud, and are so seldom admitted to read our names in these precious and eternal records of heaven? no doubt these things have influence upon it viz
1. That we are more judging of God by his dispensations, than by his word, – supposing ever the change of his dispensations to speak forth the change of our state, this is misbelief’s divinity. That when sense cannot read love in his face, but he appeareth to frown, and to call a cloud over it, then it is presumption (saith sense)- to read love in his heart, or in his word; but know it was a self-denying practice of believing Job to cry out, though He should kill me, yet will I believe in him; therefore make not dispensations your bible; otherwise ye will stumble at noon-tide of the day, and shall halt in your way; knew ye never what such a thing as this meaneth, to ascend overcoming thoughts of his love, nowithstanding any thing that his dispensations might preach? We conceive in that if the eyes of our saith were opened, we might see infinite love engraved on the darkest acts, and most dismal like dispensations of his love to us, though it be oftentimes written in dark and dim characters of sense.
2. There is this likewise which hath influence upon our so much disputing and misbelieving, viz. A guilty conscience, and the entertainment of some predominant lust, which oftentimes occasioneth our walking in darkness, and having no light; this is clear from 1 Tim. 2:19. Where that precious jewel of faith can be holden in no other place, but in a pure conscience, that is that royal place wherein it must dwell; and no doubt if once we make shipwreck of a good conscience, we will err concerning our faith. A bosom idol when it is entertained, doth exceedingly marr the vigorous exercises of these graces, which are evidences of our faith, and certainly grace rather in its degrees, than in its sincerity or simple being only, is that which giveth the clear evidence of faith. Therefore, when we find nor love in its height and eminent actings, we hardly win to make it any way clearly concluding demonstration of our faith.
..3. As likewise a bosom idol, when it is entertained, maketh us to lose much of our high esteem and reputation of Jesus Christ; which doth exceedingly interrupt the sweet and precious actings of faith, for it is certain, that if once the immortal soul be united to Jesus Christ by the bond of love and respect, then our faith will increase with the increase of God. Our entertainment to a bosom-idol is ordinarily punished with the want of the sensible intimations of his grace, and of our interest in him; so that sometimes his own are constrained to cry out, God hath departed from me, and he answereth me not, neither in dreams nor visions.
4. There is that likewise, that hath influence upon it, our not closing absolutely with Jesus Christ, but upon conditions and suppositions. We make not an absolute and blank resignation of ourselves over unto Christ to hold fast the covenant, notwithstanding, he would dispense both bitter and sad things to us; but we conceive that Christ’s covenant with believers is like that covenant that God made with Noah, that there should be summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, night and day unto a Christian. A Christian shall have his night as well as his day: he must once sow in tears, before he reap in joy: he must once go forth bearing his precious seed, before he can return bearing his sheaves in his bosom: and that this hath insistence upon our instability, may be seen from this, that often a Christian, after his first closing with Christ, he meeteth with desertion in point of tenderness, in point of joy, and in point of strength; so that his corruption seems now to be awakened more than formerly, that he wants the seeming enjoyments of him which formerly he had, and that much of his softness of heart hath now vanished, which is clear somewhat from Heb. 10:32. And after they were enlightened, they endured a great fight of affliction; for the word there rendered afflictions, signifieth inward troubles through the motions of sin; as well as outward afflictions, Gal. 5:24.
And God useth to dispense this way to his own, not only so take trial of the sincerity of our closing with him, but to make our faith more stedfast and sure. And no doubt, if we close not absolutely with Christ, (when under these temptations and trials) we must reject our confidence as a delusion, and supppose it to be as a morning dream: therefore it were a noble and divine practice of a Christian, to close with Christ without reservation, seeing he doth dispense, but that which might tend to our advantage. And we would say to such as are under these temptations, that if ye edeavour to resist them, it is the most compendious and excellent way to make your hearts, which now are dying as a stone, to be as a watered garden, and as springs of water whose waters fail not, and to make you strong as a lion, that no temptation can rouse you up; but ye shall be enabled to tread upon the high places of the earth, and to sing songs of triumph over your idols.
5. There is this likewise that hath influence on it, our buildings of our faith more upon sense, than upon Christ or word; and therefore it is that faith is so inconsistent and changeable as the moon; not knowing what such a thing meaneth, to hope against hope: and to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. And we would only say unto you that erect your confidence upon so sandy a foundation, that when the wind and storm of temptation shall blow that house shall fall to the ground. As likewise building of your faith upon sense., doth abate much your joy, and much of your precious esteem of Jesus Christ; it being f saith exercising itself upon an invisible object, that maketh the Christian to rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. 1 Peter. 1:8.
6. There is this last that hath influence upon it, even our slothfulness in the exercise of our spiritual duties, by which faith should be entertained. Faith is a tender grace, and a plant that must not be ruffled, but nourished through the sap of other precious graces; but we grow remiss in our spiritual duties, and do turn ourselves upon the bed of security, as the door upon the hinges, and doth not our drowsyness clothe us with rags and make us fall into a deep sleep : while, as if we were diligent, our soul should be made fat and rich? Yea, slothfulness doth not only impede assurance in this, that it hindereth divine communication of his love and respect by which assurance may be kept on life, Cant. V. 2. But also it maketh our poverty come on us as an armed man, and our want as one that travelleth: and withal, it letteth loose the chain by which our corruptions are tied, and maketh them to lift up their heads, for which our assurance is much darkened and impaired, and our hope is much converted into diffidence and despair. And we would only say this, it is the diligent Christian that is the believing Christian, and is the diligent Christian; there being such a sweet reciprocation between these two precious graces, that they die and live together.
Now Thirdly, We shut up our discourse with this, pointing out a little, what are those things that do obstruct a Christian’s closing with Christ and believing in his precious name?
I. We conceive that this woeful evil doth spring and rise from that fundamental ignorance of this truth, that there is a God, as is clear from Heb. 11:6. Where that is required as a qualification of a comer, that he should believe that God is: and assuredly till once this precious truth be imprinted upon our souls as with a pen of iron, and a point of a diamond, we will look upon the gospel as an utopian fancy, and a deluding notion to teach unstable souls who know not the way to attain unto real blessedness,. and truly it is a fault in many, that they begin to dispute their being in Christ, before they know there is a Christ, as to dispute their interest in him before his being, and that there is such an one as is called Christ.
II. Our coming unto Christ is obstructed from the want, of the real and spiritual convictions of our desperate and lost estate without Jesus Christ, and that our unspeakable misery is the want of him; which is clear from. Jer. ii. 31. We are lords, we will come no more to thee. And it is evident from Rev. iii. 16, 18 that such a delusion as this doth overtake many that they can reign as kings without Jesus Christ and that they can build their happiness and establish their eternal felicity upon another foundation. But O! that we could once win to this, to believe what we are without Christ and to believe what we shall be in the enjoyment of Him, with the one eye to discern and look upon these deep draughts that the mystery of iniquity hath imprinted upon our immortal souls; and withal, to reflect upon the wages of sin which is death, and be consrained to cry, Woe is me for I am undone! and with the other eye, to ascend and look to that help, that is laid upon one that is might, and to make use of the righteousness of a crucified Saviour, that what we want in ourselves, we may get it abundantly made up in him.
III. There is this likewise that obstucteth our closing with Christ, our too much addictedness to the pleasures and carnal delights of a passing world which is clear from Luke 14:18, 22. Matt. 12:5-6, Where those that are invited. to come to the feast of this gospel they do make their apology, and with one consent do refuse it, some pretending an impossibility to come, and some pretending an unavoidable inconveniency in coming. And Oh! what a ridiculour thing is that poor compliment, that these deluded sinners used to Christ, I pray you have us excused? And is not the world the the great plea and argument that they make use of, when they will come and make use of Christ?
IV. There is this lastly, which doth obstruct ones coming to Christ, their unwillingness to be denied to their righteousness, which is clear from Rom. 10:23. And we conceive if once the two were believed , (which are the great topics of which all these arguments may be brought to persuade to embrace Christ;) to wit, The infinite excellency of his person whom we are to believe, and the infinite loss that those sustain who shall be eternally rejected of Him. We might be persuaded to entertain a divine abstractness; and holy retirement from all things that are here below, and to pitch our desire alone upon him, Who is the everlasting wonder of angels, and the glory of the higher house. O! did We once suppose the unspeakable happiness of these, whose faith is now advanced unto everlasting felicity and fruition, and hath entered into that eternal possession of the promises, might we not be constrained to cry out, It is good for us once to be there? Christ weepeth to us in the law, but we do not lament; and he pipeth to us the gospel, but we do not dance: he is willing to draw us with the cords of men, and with the bonds of love, and yet we will not have him to reign over us. May not angels laugh at our folly that we should so undervalue this Prince of love, should contemn him who is holden in so high esteem and reverence in these two great assemblies that are above, us angels, of the spirits of just men made perfect? Christ hath now given us the first and second summons, the day is approaching when the sad and woful summons shall be sent against us, of departing from him into these everlasting flames, out of which there is no redemption: and this shall be the cap-stone of our misery, that we had once life in order, but did reject it; and though there were four gates standing open towards the north, by which we might have entered into that everlasting rest yet we chose rather ‘to walk in the paths that lead down to death, and take hold of the chambers of hell. O! but there many that think the gospel cunningly devised fables and foolishness, (they being unwilling to believe, that which sense cannot comprehend, not reason reach) and this is the reason why the gospel is not embraced, but is rejected as an human invention, and as a morning dream.
Andrew Gray was an exceptionally gifted young preacher. This work is a set of 5 treatises to establish the heart of believers in Christ and give them assurance. Gray is one of the easiest Scottish puritans to read.