The Mystery of Faith, Sermon 6Andrew Gray (1634-1656) - A Powerful Preacher Who Died at a Young Age
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
THERE are three most precious and cardinal graces, which a Christian ought mainly to pursue: there is that exalting grace of faith, that comforting grace of hope, and that aspiring grace of love: and if once a Christian did take up that heavenly difference that is between these sister graces, he might be provoked to move after them most swiftly, as the chariots of Aminadab; and there is this difference between these graces: faith is a sober and silent grace: hope is a patient and submissive grace; love is an ambitious and impatient grace: faith crieth out, I will wait patiently fur the Lord, until the vision shall speak. But love crieth out, how long art thou a coming? and it is waiting to hear the sound of his feet coming over the mountains of separation. This is the motto of hope, – that which is delayed, said hope, is not altogether taken away, and made void: and that may be the divine emblem of the grace of love; it is sight unfolding desire in his arms, and it is desire clothed with wings, treading upon delay and impediments.
There is this second difference between these graces; the grace of faith embraceth the truth of the promises: the grace of hope embraceth the goodness of the thing that is promised; but that exalting grace of love embraceth the promiser: faith crieth out, Hath he spoken it, he will also do it: hope crieth out, Good is the word of the Lord, be it unto thy servant according to thy promise: and love crieth with an higher note, As is the apple-tree among the trees of the wood, so is my well-beloved among the sons.
Thirdly, There is that difference between these graces: faith overcometh temptations; hope overcometh difficulties; and love stayeth at home and divideth the spoil: there is a sweet correspondence between those graces in this ; faith fighteth and conquereth; and hope fighteth and conquereth; but love doth enjoy the trophies of the victory.
And Fourthly, There is this difference: the noble grace of faith shall once evanish into sight; that noble grace of hope shall once evanish into possession and enjoyment; but that constant grace of love shall be the eternal companion of a Christian, and shall walk in with him to the streets of the new Jerusalem.
And I would ask you that question, What a day shall it be, when hope shall yield its place to love, and love and sight shall eternally sit down, and solace themselves in these blessed mysteries – these everlasting consolations of heaven, world without end.
And Fifthly, There is this difference: less will satisfy the grace of faith, and the grace of hope, than will satisfy the grace of love; faith will be content with the promise, and hope will be content with the thing that is promised, but that ambitious grace of love will only be content with the promiser: love claspeth his arms about that precious and noble object, Jesus Christ; love is a suspicious grace. It oftentimes crieth forth, ‘ They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him:’ so that faith oftentimes put to resolve suspicions of love.
I can compare these three graces to nothing so fitly, as to those three worthies that David had. These three graces will break through all difficulties, were it an host of Philistines, that so they may please Christ, and may drink of the well of Bethlehem – the well of everlasting consolation that floweth from beneath the throne of God. Love is like Noah’s dove, – it never findeth rest for the sole of its foot, until once it be within the ark, that place of repose, Jesus Christ.
And, Sixthly, There is this last difference between them ; faith taketh hold upon the faithfulness of Christ; hope taketh hold upon the goodness of Christ; but love taketh hold upon the heart of Christ. And think ye not that it must be a pleasant and soul- refreshing exercise, to be continually taken up in embracing Him that is the eternal admiration of angels? Must it not be an excellent life, daily to be feeding on the finest of the wheat, and to be sa.tisfied with honey out of the rock. O but heaven must be a pleasant place! and if once we would but taste of the first ripe grapes, and a cluster of wine that groweth in that pleasant land, might not we be constrained to bring up a good report of it?
But now to come to that which I promised mainly to speak of at this time; the last thing concerning faith that we purposed from the words, was the object upon which faith exerciseth itself, which is here set down to be the name of his Son Jesus Christ.
First, speak a little to the negative, what things are not the fit object of faith, and then to the positive, showing how this name of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, is that sure ground upon which a Christian may pitch his faith. For the First, Ye must know that a Christian is not to build his faith upon sense, nor sensible enjoyments. Sense may be an evidence of faith, but it must not be the foundation of faith: I know there are some that oftentimes cry out, ‘Except I put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into the hole of his side, I will not believe’ and indeed it is a mystery unto the most part of us, to be exercising faith upon a naked word of promise, abstractly from sense: to love an absent Christ, and to believe on an absent Christ, are the two greatest mysteries of Christianity. But that sense is no good foundation for faith, may appear, 1. That faith which is builded upon sense, is a most inconstant, a most fluctuating and transient faith. I know sense hath its fits of love, and, as it were, hath its fits of faith; sometimes sense is sick of love, and sometimes sense is strong in faith, but ere six hours go about, sense may be sick of jealousy, and sick of unbelief, as you may see from Psalm xxx. 6. Sense, that bold thing will instantly cry out, My mountain standeth strong; I will never be moved: but behold how soon it changeth its note, Thou hidest thy face, and I was troubled. At one time it will cry forth, Who is like unto him that pardoneth iniquity, and that passeth over transgressions? But ere many hours go about, it will sing a song upon another key, and cry out, Why art thou become unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail ?
2. That faith which is built upon sense, wanteth the promise of blessedness, for this is annexed to believing that is founded upon the word, according to that in John 20:29, Blessed are those that have not seen, and yet have believed. Nor hath that faith which is built upon sense such a solid joy waitting on it, as faith that is built upon the naked word of promise, as may be cleared from that word, 1 Pet. 1. 8, where faith exerciseth itself upon Christ not seen, maketh a Christian rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, a joy that doth not attend believing, founded upon sense.
3. That faith that is built upon sense, giveth not much glory to God; for faith that is built upon sense, exalteth not the omnipotency of God. I will tell you what is the divinity of sense ; let me see, and then I will believe; but it knoweth not what it is to believe upon trust, and because the Lord hath spoken im his holiness, and in effect, faith that is built upon sense, is no faith, even as Rom. 8:24, Hope that is seen, is not hope: and therefore when the Lord seeth a Christian making sense an idol, that he will not believe; but when he seeth and feeleth, this doth often provoke the majesty of the Lord to withdraw himself from the Christian, and to deny him that sweet influence of heaven, and those consolations that are above, so that in an instant he hath both his sense and his faith to seek.
2. A Christian is not to make his graces the object of his faith; that is, when a Christian doth behold love burning within him, when he doth behold influences to prayer increasing, and mortification waxing strong, he is not to build his faith upon them : this was condemned in the church, in Ezek. 16:14, compared with the 15th verse, I made thee perfect with my comeliness; but the use that thou didst speak of it; thou didst put thy trust in thy beauty, and then thou didst play the harlot. It is certain, that grace, when it is the object of our faith, doth provoke God to blast the lively exercise thereof, and to make a Christian oftentimes have that complaint, “Wo to me, my leanness, my leanness testifieth to my face.”
I will tell you three great mysteries in Christianity about grace;
The First is, to rid marches between these two, not to deny what they have, and yet to be denied to what they have; many times there is grace-denying and not self-denying; but this that we would press upon you, to be denied to grace, according to that word which is recorded of Moses, “his face did shine, and he knew it not ;“ he did misken it (as it were) and was not at all puffed up with it; for so the words we conceive may run.
Secondly, It is a great difficulty for a Christian to be denied to his self-denial, to be humbled in his being humble: for if pride can have no other foundation, it will build itself upon humility; and a Christian may grow proud in this, that he is growing humble.
Thirdly, it is a difficulty for a Christian to examine his growth in grace, and not to be puffed up ; it is certain, a Christian ought to examine his growth in grace humbly, according to that, Psalm lxiii. 8, ‘ My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me.’ He doth not only take notice of this, that his soul did follow after God; but of the measure of that pursuit, My soul followeth hard after thee; and yet sweetly acknowledgeth, it was not his own feet which carried him, nor his own hand that kept him from falling.
3. Ye are not to build your faith upon your works, and upon the righteousness of the law; I need not stand long to refute that practical popery that is amongst us, that thinketh we can go to heaven through a covenant of works. I told you not long since, what your going to heaven through a covenant of works speaketh, even this horrid blasphemy; that it was an act of monstrous folly to send Christ to die for sinners: for if you can go to heaven without him, was not then Christ crucified in vain? And I would tell you now, that this speaketh out your damnable ignorance of the weakness and deceitfulness of your own hearts. O ye that are so great defenders of salvation by the covenant of works, I beseech you, What is the reason that ye break the covenant of works oftener than any? for there are none that think they will go to heaven this way, but those that are the greatest breakers of the covenant of works. And is not this inconsistent and contradictory divinity, your faith contradicting your practice, and your practice telling you that your faith is a lie?
4. We must not mix our own righteousness with Christ’s as the object of our believing: this is indeed an evil that often lodgeth in the bosom of the most refined hypocrite. When Satan cannot prevail to exclude Christ altogether, then he is content, with the whorish woman, to divide the child, and let the object of our faith be half Christ and half self; and the truth is, many of these poor unwise sons, who stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children, do willingly hearken to this overture, for fear it be presumption for such poor wretches to meddle too boldly with the righteousness of Christ, but it were good such weak ones would consider that word, Rom. 10:3, where the Holy Ghost calleth the making use of his righteousness an act of submission, They have not submitted (saith he) unto the riqhteousness of Christ. O will ye not lay this to heart, that our Lord will take your putting on his righteousness for an act of great humility, and will take your misbelief as a marvellous act of the highest pride and presumption.
5. We are not to make providence the object of our faith. I know there are some that ask the ground of their right to heaven, they will tell us that God hath been kind to them all their days; I will only say to such, He may be feeding you unto the day of slaughter, and no man knoweth love or hatred by anything that is before him. This much of the object of faith negatively.
And now to speak to it positively. We see the text holdeth out Christ himself as that excellent and complete Object of faith, This is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his son: and thus faith closeth with Christ in a fourfold consideration,
First, It closeth with God in Christ, not with God immediately and nakedly – for he dwelleth ‘in light inaccessible, that no man can approach unto; he is higher than heaven, what can we do? And deeper than hell, what can we know?’ Job. 11:Therefore we must approach unto him through a veil, even the veil of Christ’s flesh, Heb. 10:God is a consuming fire, and of purer eyes than can behold iniquity: and therefore we must first cast our eyes upon that blessed Days-man, that laid his hand upon us both; and look upon God as in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and so draw near unto him through a Mediator, “ who is the first and the last, and he that liveth and was dead, and is alive for evermore, able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by him, seeing he liveth for ever to make intercession for them.”
Secondly, Faith closeth with Christ, as tendered freely in a covenant of promise. We would have had nothing to do with Christ, if he had not been given of the Father, and offered himself in a free covenant of promise; but he being thus holden forth upon terms of free love (while he doth utterly abominate hire) and so noble a proclamation issued forth under the great seal of heaven, That whosoever will, may come and drink of the water of life freely – upon this, the poor creature draweth near by virtue of a right, and stretching out the arm of most enlarged affections, doth run upon him with that joyful shout, My Lord, my God: and then maketh an absolute resignation of itself to him, which is holden out in the Scripture by that sweet expression of kissing the Son.
And there are three parts of Christ’s blessed body, that the Christian must endeavour to kiss and embrace – the mouth of Christ, the hand of Christ, the feet of Christ: the kissing of his feet importing the exercise of love, the kissing of his hands the exercise of subjection, and the kissing of his mouth the exercise of communion and fellowship with him.
Thirdly, Faith closeth with Christ as the purchaser and meritorious cause of all the good we receive: he is the person that hath purchased all these things unto us, and there is not one blink of love, there is not the smallest enjoyment that a Christian meeteth with, but it is the price of the blood of Christ: Christ’s precious blood was laid down for it.
Fourthly, Faith closeth with Christ as the efficient and worker of all our mercies; all our enjoyments are from him as the efficient cause; that is, he is the worker of all these things in us; it is his precious fingers that must accomplish that blessed work of grace, and they are from Christ as the dispenser of these things; Christ is the great steward in heaven, that doth communicate unto believers all the treasures of the higher house; for him hath God the Father sealed. O! but that word that Christ once spake is much verified by himself, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Christ is that fountain and treasure in whom all our gifts and graces are treasured up; for before the blessings come to believers, they come to Christ as the head, according to that word, 2nd. Tim. 1:9, Which grace was given to us in him, before the foundations of the world were laid. It was given to Christ before the world was made, and for that end, that it might be communicated unto all his members, and so out of his fulness we all receive grace for grace. But
Secondly, The text holdeth forth more particularly this excellent object of faith to be the name of his Son, That ye believe in the name of his Son. And there indeed we may be at a stand. It is long since Agur did nonplus all the world with that question, What is his name, or what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell? O how little a thing can be known of him? and O how brutish is this generation ! that knoweth not so much that might be known of him in such a day of the gospel. But that we may speak a little, according to our weak measure of faith, of closing with the name of Christ; his name is his glorious attributes, by which he revealeth so much of himself in Scripture, as poor mortals can take up. We did shew you before, that there were three of these that were main pillars of justifying faith – faithfulness, omnipotency, and his infinite love and mercy. And now from these may be answered all the objections of sense, of carnal reason, and of misbelief, arising from convictions of unworthiness. And certain it is, that faith in all its conflicts, maketh use of the names of Christ. And there is not an objection that a poor tempted soul can make, but faith can make an answer to it, out of some of the excellent names of God, or of his Son Christ.
It would be a more longsome work than I intend, to let you see this in all: but I shall only instance that in one glorious name of God, by which he proclaimeth his glory, Exod. xxxiv. 6,7, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty,” &c. I think there are seven ordinary objections which may be answered from that place:
First, It is an ordinary objection which misbelievers do make, that they are under the strength of their corruption, that they are black as the tents of Kedar, and not beautiful as the curtains of Solomon; and doth not the first letter of that name answer this, That he is a merciful Lord? – the one importing his ability to save, and to bring down every high imagination; the other importing his infinite delight to help those who have no strength, and are under the power of their adversaries – the power of God being of no larger extent than his love.
There is that second objection of misbelief, that we have nothing to commend us to Christ; but all we have to boast of are infirmities and imperfections; and this is abundantly answered from that second letter of his name, That he is gracious, which importeth the freedom of the dispensations of his love, that he walketh not with us according to that rule of merit, but according to that golden and excellent rule of love. It is a great dispute whether mercy or grace be the greatest wonder – whether the love of Christ or the freedom of it, be the greatest mystery? Sure both these put together make up a matchless wonder.
Thirdly, Misbelief will object that we have forsaken him days without number; and that we cannot trace back our apostacy unto the first day of its rise; and is not that abundantly answered from that letter of his name, That he is long-suffering? This being that glorious attribute in God, the glory of which he desireth to magnify above all his names.
Fourthly, Misbelief doth ordinarily propose this objection, that we have multiplied our transgressions, and have committed whoredom under every green tree; and have given gifts to our lovers, even hiring our idols; so that we may take up that lamentation – is not our sin great, and our transgressions infinite? And is not this an answer from that letter of his name, That he is abundant in goodness? That though sin abound in us, yet grace doth much more superabound in him. We confess, indeed, that there are some that may walk under that condition, that if they had no other exercise throughout eternity, but to make confession, they might confess, and never make any needless repetition; and truly in some respect, it is a mercy that we are mysteries unto ourselves ; for if we did know completely the seven abominations of our hearts, and those mysterious actings of the body of death, we should be in hazard to choose strangling and death rather than life; yet may not one glimpse of that abundant goodness satisfy us, and calm the storm?
Fifthly, Saith misbelief, We know that we have broken our vows and covenants with God, and that all these things that we have taken on, have been but as flax before the fire of temptation, so that we have no hope that he will have mercy upon those that have broken wedlock, and have not been stedfast in his covenant; but is not that abundantly answered from that letter of his name, That he is abundant in truth? which speaketh thus, that though we deny ourselves, yet he abideth faithful, and doth not alter the words that hath gone out of his mouth. It is the infinite blessedness of men, that though they be changeable, yet they have to do with one that is an unchangeable being.
Sixthly, There is that objection, that notwithstanding all these things are matters of encouragement to some, yet they know not whether or not the lot of everlasting love have fallen upon them; and whether their names be in the ancient records of heaven. But this is answered from that letter of his name, He keepeth mercy for thousands, which sheweth us that great number of those upon whom the lot of everlasting love shall fall; and if there were no other sentence in all the Scripture, this might be a sufficient matter of a song, and might make us cry out, “Who is like unto him, whose compassions have no end? and who desires to magnify his mercy above all his works ?“
And Lastly, Misbelief maketh this objection – they have sinned not only against light, not only against vows, not only after much enjoyment of God, but even after the application of the threatening; so that they conceive that their Maker will not have mercy upon such. Yet this is fully answered likewise from that letter of his name, He forgiveth iniquity, transgression, and sin; which three words do abundantly speak forth, that there is no transgression which he will not pardon – there being but one particular amongst all that innumerable number of sins which lodgeth in the heart of fallen men, that he declareth unpardonable; and there is none of our diseases that is above the infinite art of love, and concerning which we can take up that complaint, There is no balm in Gilead, and there is no physician there. And though providence may muster up many impossibilities, yet let faith take the promise in one hand, and impossibilities in the other, and desire God to reconcile them, that if we cannot see any connection between providence and the word, yet may we reflect upon the omnipotency of God, that can make things that are seeming contrary, sweetly agree together; the commentary will never destroy the text, nor will providence ever destroy the faithfulness of God.
And let me give you this advice, that those objections of misbelief which you cannot answer, and in a manner put you to a nonplus, and when ye have looked over all the names of God, ye cannot find an answer to them, slight them and overcome them as, we have often told you, was the practice of believing Abraham, Rom. 4:19, where that strong objection of misbelief appearing before his eyes, the deadness of his body, and the barrenness of Sarah’s womb, it is recorded of him, he considered not these things, as it were, he had a divine transition from the objections of misbelief to the actings of faith: and this is clear from Matthew 15:25, 26, where that strong objection of misbelief being proposed against that woman, that she was not within the compass of Christ’s commission, she hath a noble way of answering with this, Lord, have mercy upon me. And, if so we may speak, faith hath a kind of divine impertinency in answering the objections of misbelief, or rather a holy slighting of them that gaineth the victory, when cavilling with temptations will not do it: the like also may be instanced in his Son’s name : – O how glorious titles are given to that Prince of the kings of the earth, and to that Plant of renown, upon which the weakest faith may cast anchor, and ride out the greatest storm.
I shall not detain you long on this subject, but this we would have you know, that there is no strait or difficulty that a Christian can be exposed unto, but there is some name or attribute of Christ that may sweetly answer that difficulty, and make up that disadvantage. If a Christian be exposed unto afflictions and troubles in a present world, let him comfort himself in this, That Christ is the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Is a Christian under inward anxiety and vexation of mind? Let him comfort himself in this, That Christ is a God of peace, and of all consolation. Is a Christian under darkness and confusion of spirit? Let him comfort himself in this, That Christ is the Father of life, and the eternal wisdom of God. Is a Christian under the conviction of this, that he is under the power and dominion of his lusts? Let him comfort himself in this, That Christ is redemption ; yea, that I stay no longer, if it were possible that a Christian could have a necessity that he could not find a name in Christ to answer, he may lawfully frame a name to Christ out of any promise in all the book of God, and he should find it forthcoming for the relieving and making up of that necessity; God will not disappoint his expectation.
There is yet one thing further, in reference to the Object of faith, which we shall desire you to take notice of; and it is the way of faith’s closing with its noble Object, and its resting on him and this we conceive may be excellently taken up by our considering of the many several names that faith getteth in scripture, beyond any other of the graces of the Spirit. It is called looking, Isa. xlv. 22, Look unto me. It is called, abiding in Christ, John 15:4. Abide in me. It is called keeping silence unto God, My soul, trust in God; or, as the word is in the original, My soul be silent unto God; and that in Psalm lxii. 1, My soul waiteth; or as the word is, Truly my soul is silent unto God. Likewise, faith is called a leaning, I have leaned upon thee from my mother’s womb. Faith is called an eating of Christ’s flesh, John 6:53; Cast your burden upon God, Isaiah lv. 22: and faith is called a coming unto God, Matth. 11:28. And according to these different names, there are seven noble properties and matchless differences of this grace of faith:
First, That this is the grace by which a Christian doth enjoy much communion with God ; hence it is called a looking, which importeth that faith is a continual contemplation of the immortal soul, upon that precious and excellent object, Jesus Christ. There is that
Second property of faith; That it is that grace by which communion with God is maintained; hence it is called an abiding in God. It is that grace that maketh Christ and the believer to dwell together. The
Third property of faith is, That it is a submissive grace; hence it is called a keeping silence unto God; faith, as it were, knoweth not what it is to repine; it is the noble excellency of faith, it never knew what it was to pass an evil report upon Christ. Faith will promise good things to a Christian in the darkest night, for when love asketh faith that question, Isa. xxi. 11, 12, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? Or, when shall the morning break? Faith answereth it with these words that follow (only a little inverting the order,) “ The night cometh, and also the morning, the morning is approaching, that admitteth of no following night.”
There is that Fourth property of faith, It is the grace that keepeth a Christian in perseverance, by its building upon the rock. Hence it is called a leaning upon God – for a Christian by faith doth perpetually join himself to Christ, so that whatever trouble he be cast into by faith, he cometh out of that wilderness leaning upon his beloved, and by faith he is led up to the rock that is higher than he, where he may sit in safety, and even laugh at death and destruction, when assailing him.
There is the Fifth property of faith; That is the grace that bringeth satisfaction unto the spiritual senses of a Christian, by a close and particular application of Christ as the nourishment of the soul. Hence it is called an eating of the flesh of Christ. There are three senses that faith satisfieth: faith satisfieth the sense of sight, it satisfieth the sense of taste, and it satisfieth the sense of touch: faith will make a Christian handle that eternal world of life : faith will make a Christian see that noble Plant of renown; and faith will make a Christian taste and see how gracious the Lord is. And no doubt those that have once satisfied their sight, will be longing to satisfy their taste.
There is that Sixth property of faith, It is that grace which giveth rest unto a Christian; hence it is called A casting of our burden upon him. It is, as it were, the soul giving unto Christ that unsupportable yoke of our iniquities, and taking from Christ that easy and portable yoke of his commandments.
And Seventhly, There is that last property of faith; It is that grace by which sanctification is promoted; hence it is called a coming to Christ – it is the soul in a divine motion, and travelling from the land of’ Egypt into the land of Canaan: faith is the soul in a pleasant motion from the land of the north, the land of our captivity, unto the land of perfect liberty, all along going out by the “footsteps of the flock, and walking in that new and living way, even in him, who is the way, the truth, and the life.”
And now for a more full application of this, we shall speak but to two things further –
i. We would have it considered, that there are some that come unto the covenant of promise with less difficulty, and after a more divine and evangelic way; and there are somethat close with Christ in a more difficult and legal way; there are some that before they can come to Mount Sion, they must dwell forty days at Mount Sinai. There are some, before the decree of heaven shall be given to them, that must roar as an ox, and cover themselves with sackcloth, having ashes upon their heads. We must be a Benoni before we be a Benjamin: that is, we must be a son of sorrow, before we can be a son of consolation. But this is certain, that Christ leadeth sometimes some to himself through a valley of roses, and I would only have you taking notice of these two, which, though we conceive they be not infallible in the rule, yet oftentimes experience maketh them out to be truth: that there are three sorts of persons who are most ordinarily brought under great terrors, ere they close with Christ.
First, Those who have committed some gross and abominable sin that is most contradicting unto the light of nature.
Secondly, That person who sinneth much against light before conversion. Hence it is observed, in all the books of the gospel, that in the book of the Acts, there was more gospel, and love in the way of converting the Gentiles, than was of converting the Jews, see Acts 2:27. There is a sharp law exercised among them who had crucified the Lord of life: and Acts 9:Paul, that had been a grievous persecutor, at his conversion, is first stricken dead to the ground before he be made a captive to the love of Christ, and constrained to cry out, What wilt thou have me to do? But look to Acts 8:and there you will find a more fair and smooth way of begetting sons to Christ.
And Thirdly, that person who is much in conceit of his own righteousness, useth to be brought to Christ through much terror and exercise of the law: that is clear in Paul’s condition, Phil. 3:and Acts 9:compared: certainly whosoever thinketh to come that length in self-abasement, and will count as the apostle doth in that chapter, must dwell many days at Mount Sinai, and learn his arithmetic there.
2. We would have you taking notice of this, that though the person that is brought to Christ in a more smooth and evangelic way, may have the pre-eminency of the person that is brought to Christ after a more legal and terrible way in some things; yet we conceive that a Christian that is brought to Christ through much of the exercise of the law, and through many of the thunderings of Mount Sinai, after he hath won to see his right of Christ, he is more constant in the exercise of faith; and the reason of it is, be. cause that an ordinary ground of misbelief is our not distinct uptaking either of the time of our conversion, which is oftentimes hid from those persons that are converted in a more evangelic way; as likewise this, that those persons that are brought to Christ in a more gospel chariot, are sometimes put to debate, whether ever they were under the exercise of the law, and this maketh them often (as it were) to raze the foundation, and to cry forth, My hope and my strength is perished from the Lord.
And now to shut up our discourse, we shall add this one word of exhortation; that ye would carefully lay hold of that noble Object, and exercise your faith upon him; and I shall say but this, to all those that have this noble grace of faith, and that are heirs of that everlasting inheritance; there is a four-fold crown prepared for you. There is a crown of life that is prepared for him that shall fight that good fight of faith; but what, may you say, is a crown of life, except we have joy waiting upon that life? For what is life without joy, but a bitterness and a burden to itself? Therefore ye shall have a crown of joy; but what were a crown of life and a crown of joy, except we had the grace of holiness, and were complete in that? Therefore ye shall have also a crown of righteousness. But what were life, joy, and righteousness, without glory? Therefore ye shall have likewise a crown of glory : but what of all these, if that crown should once fall from our head, and we should be deprived of our kingdom? Therefore take this to make up all the rest, it is an eternal crown of glory. That word in Prov. xxvii. near to the close, The crown, saith Solomon, doth not endure for ever: but this precious crown that the hands of Christ fixeth upon the head of an overcoming Christian, this is the motto that is engraven upon it, unchangeable and eternal, eternal and unchangeable. And O what a day suppose ye that shall be, when that precious crown shall be put upon our heads? What think ye will be the difference between Christ and the believers in heaven? They shall have these four crowns which are indeed one; but Christ shall have upon his head many crowns, according to that word, Rev. 19:12.
But let me say one word also to you who are strangers from God, and are destitute of the grace of Christ, and will not by faith close with this excellent object. There is a fourfold crown that once shall be put upon your heads, but do not misinterpret the vision; there is a difference betwixt the butler and baker; ye may prophesy good things to yourselves, but there is a crown of death which ye shall once have put upon your heads; ye shall be always dying, and yet never able to die: there is a crown of sorrow that ye shall have put upon your heads, when ye shall eternally sigh forth that lamentation, O to be annihilate and reduced unto nothing! when the reduction of you would be a heaven, when ye shall be tormented in those everlasting flames. And I would say this by the way, ye will be all miserable and comfortless one to another, there shall be no ground of consolation that ye shall reap, for the community of your sorrow shall increase the degrees of that sorrow; and there is another crown also that ye shall put on, and that is a crown of sin, instead of that crown of righteousness. Would ye know your exercise, O ye that are predestinate unto these everlasting pains? Would you know your exercise? It is this, ye shall eternally blaspheme and curse the God that made you. I am persuaded of this, that the terrors of hell will and do afflict you more, than that of the sinning perpetually in hell ; ye would think nothing, many of you, to be in hell, if there were no pain there; for the exercise of sin will be your delight and life; but be persuaded of it, that when your conscience is awakened, the exercise of sinning shall exceedingly aggravate your pain.
And there is this crown, lastly, that ye shall put on, and that is the crown of shame. The prophet Isaiah maketh mention of a crown of pride; but ye that have put on that crown of everlasting confusion and shame, when ye shall not be able to lift up your eyes to him whom ye have pierced, I would fain desire to know what will be your exercise when death shall summon you to remove, and ye shall be entered heirs into these everlasting pains? I am persuaded ye will reflect much. Will ye not reflect upon many sermons that ye have heard, where.. in ye have been invited to partake of the sweet offers of salvation? I remember of one that, upon his death-bed, cried out, “A world for time, a world for an inch of time,” one that perhaps did hold his head high, and no doubt was greater than the greatest here. His crown could not purchase an inch of time, but dying with this, “Call time again, call time again ;“ that petition was denied, and so shall it be, I fear, to the most part that are here.
I think it was a pretty hieroglyphic of the Egyptians, they painted time with three heads; the first head, that pointed out time that was past, was a greedy wolf gaping, which importeth this, that our time past was mis-spent, and there was nothing left, but like a wolf to gape for it again: and there was that second head of a roaring lion round, which importeth the time present, and for this end was so painted that people might lay hold upon their present opportunities, otherwise it would be the matter of their ruin, and of their eternal undoing. And there was that last head, which was a deceitful dog fawning, which signifies that the people may deceive themselves with the time to come, thinking they will be religious at their death, and that they will overcome at their death, but this is a flattery no better than the fawning of a mad dog. I think we may learn much of this, even to be provoked to lay hold upon our golden opportunities, that we sell not our time, but that we buy it.
There are two things that a Christian must not sell, these are, sell not the truth, but buy it, and sell not your time, but buy it. I am persuaded of this, that one moment of time is worth ten thousand of worlds, if improved; and I would ask you, what advantage shall ye have of all things that ye have tormented yourselves about when time shall be no more? I suppose indeed this is an ordinary evil amongst the people of this age, of which we have our own share and portion; there are many that envy godliness, and the godly, the excellent ones that are in the earth, that think it pleasure to vent their malice against such: I know that ordinary practice; it is older by a thousand years than themselves, that they persecute godliness under the name of hypocrisy; they call godliness hypocrisy, and upon that account, they begin and speak maliciously against it; only I would ask you this question, what will you say in that day when Christ will ask that question at you, that Gideon asked at Zeba and Zalmunna, Who are these that ye killed with your tongue? Must it not be answered, every one did resemble the person of a king: O will ye not believe? Will ye not close with Christ? I know it is ordinary that we run upon these two extremes. Sometimes we do not believe the threatenings of the law, and sometimes we will not believe the promises of the gospel.
But I would only desire to know, what if it had been so ordered in the infinite wisdom of God, that all the letters of this book should have been threatenings? What would have been our lot, if all the promises should have been scraped out of it? But certainly this must be your lot, all the promises of the book of the covenant shall be taken from you, and all the curses thereof shall be a flying roll, that shall enter within your houses, and shall eternally there remain. Know this, O ye that are enemies to Christ, know it, and think upon it, every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and with garments rolled in blood: but that war that Christ shall have against the hypocrites in Zion, and those that are ignorant of him, and will not close with him, it shall be with fuel of fire and eternal indignation. O what will be your thoughts, suppose you, when Christ shall come with that two-edged sword of the fury of the Lord to enter to fight with you? It is no delightsome exercise; O that ye were not almost, but altogether, persuaded to be Christians, and that once Christ may conquer you with that two-edged sword that proceedeth out of his mouth, that so you might subject yourselves to him, and make him the object of your faith. Now to him that hath engraven upon his vesture, and on his thigh, that he is King of kings, and Lord of Lords, we desire to give praise.
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.