The Saint’s TreasuryJeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) - A Popular Independent Puritan Preacher and a Member of the Westminster Assembly.
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“The holiness of God is the height of God’s excellency.”
The Saint’s Treasury
Late Minister of the Gospell.
J. Cross Sculpsit.
THE SAINTS TREASURY.
- 1. The incomparable Excellency and Holinesse of God.
- 2. Christs All in All.
- 3. The glorious enjoyment of Heavenly things by Faith.
- 4. The Naturall mans bondage to the Law, and the Christians liberty by the Gospell.
- 5. A preparation for judgement.
Being sundry SERMONS preached in LONDON, By the late Reverend and painfull Minister of the Gospel, JEREMIAH BURROUGHES.
LONDON, Printed by T. C. for John Wright at the Kings head in the Old-baily. 1654.
TO THE HONOURABLE, FRANCIS ROUS, Esq Speaker of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England, and Provost of Eaton-Colledge.
IF a Heathen Poet could say, Non omnis moriar, I shall live though I die; supposing his Works immortall, though himselfe were mortall; Upon how much better an account may a Prophet of the Lord say, Non moriar, sed vivam, I shall not die, but live; both in respect of his immortall soule, to which death is as the gate of life; and in respect of the immortall travell of his soule, being conversant in the Word of the Lord that abideth for ever.
The workes of the Saints of God in whom is the spirit of prophecie, not onely live when they are dead; but are instrumentall in the hand of grace, both to plant life where it is not, and water it where it is, that it may spring forth more abundantly.
The chosen Vessell of the Lord, by whose Ministry he was pleased to give out the Heavenly treasures laid up in these Sermons, hath some yeares since put off his earth, and put on that Inheritance of the Saints in light, for which the Lord seemed earlie to have fitted him, by his earnest and assiduous Travail in sitting others. But though the Vessell be broken, or rather indeed refined and translated to his masters more immediate use, yet the Treasures abide for the common enrichment of the Saints. For spirituall Treasures (like the loaves blessed by our Saviour) multiply in their use, and when thousands have been enriched by them, doe still remaine sufficient to enrich thousands.
To you honoured Sir, is this small, but Precious treasury presented, not as though your own store were not already full; for who knowes not how many precious Jewels (through the riches of Christ in you) you have richly set and polished for the adorning the Bride the Lambs wife? Surely the spirit of Christ seemes to have chosen and sealed your Spirit to celebrate his own Nuptials in your Mystical Marriage and song of loves.
But as gold, besides its own internal worth, receives an Authentick impression from the Image and Superscription of the Prince: And as in honouring the Lord with the best part of our substance, An humble acknowledgement of his Interest both in the whole and our selves (not any Addition to his fulnesse) is intended: So is this Treasury presented to the touch and test of your Judgement, First as the Standard of approving things that are excellent. And then as an humble testimony how much he owes himselfe to you that presents it.
That the Lord would make you long an Ornament and defence to his Saints, and prosper his own pleasure in your hands, is the prayer of,
The most humble, and most obliged of your Servants, J. W.
To the Christian Reader.
THe Authour of these ensuing Sermons hath so abundantly approved himselfe to the Church of God by his former labours, both in preaching and writing, that it would be rather a disparagement to him to offer any thing by way of commendation. His name is yet like a precious Oyntment; and so may it be so long as the Sunne and Moon endures. These Sermons will discover themselves to be his genuine issue; the severall lineaments and proportions of his stile (though stiles differ as much as faces) are here discernable. Those that had the happinesse to be conversant with him, and auditors to him, are able to say, Sic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ora ferebat, So he opened his Text, so he handled his Doctrine, so he delivered his Application. It is true, these fragments of his are under the prejudice of being Posthumus works; yet we may say of them as Paul said concerning himselfe, We suppose they are not inferiour to the rest of his Works, though they are born out of due time; and fragments though they are, yet are they to be esteemed, Ramenta auri sunt pretiosa. These Sermons are to be prized for their own worth and intrinsecall excellency, whoever was Authour. And this Authour is to be honoured for his reall worth, whatsoever he is the authour of.
We shall adde this also for thy encouragement, that these Sermons have been very happily taken by the pen of a ready writer, Mr. Farthing, now a Teacher of Shortwriting; one who hath given ample testimonie of his great skill and dexteritie in writing Short-hand. We think we may say, there are not many words delivered by the Author, that are left out. However, confident we are that there is nothing materiall which was by him preached, but is here by the care and faithfulnesse of the Scribe presented to thy view.
The desire of the publishers is, that the name of this worthy man of God may be kept in honour, that thou maist transferre these things to thy own use, and expresse them in thy life, that what was spoken to some may be common to all; what was accepted by them that heard it, may be received and improved by those that read it. This is all we have to communicate to thee; it would be an injury to detaine thee longer from the reverend Author; we only commend thee to the grace of God which is able to make thee abound in every good work, and bid thee Fare-well.
- Ja. Nalton.
- Wil. Cooper.
- Tho. Jacomb.
- Matthew Poole.
- Allen Geare.
- Ralph Venning:
Septemb. 29. 1653.
THE SAINTS TREASURY.
EXODUS 15. 11.
Who is like unto thee, O Lord, amongst the Gods! who is like unto thee, glorious in holinesse, fearfull in praises, doing wonders!
THis Scripture is this day fulfilled in our Eares, and before our eyes; that which God hath already begun to doe for this Kingdome and the neighbour Churches, doth shew unto us, that there is none like unto the Lord, Who is glorious in holinesse, fearfull in praises, doing wonders.
The words though they be in the middle of the song, yet they are a kinde of an Epiphonema, which usually is at the end; but the spirit of Moses being raised in admiring at, and blessing God for the great things he had done for his people, he containeth not himselfe till he comes to the end, but breakes forth in the very middle with this applause of the glory of God, Who is like unto thee, O Lord amongst the Gods, who is like unto thee, glorious in holinesse, fearefull in praises, doing wonders! You see then the words are a part of Moses his song, occasioned upon the goodnesse of God in delivering of his people from Egypt, and carrying of them through the Red-sea. And this song, is the most ancient song that ever was in the world; it is the first in Scripture, and we know of no Author before Moses; those that were skilfull in the way of Poetry were many hundred yeares after Moses. It is a spirituall and most excellent song; the stile of it is full of Elegancy, the matter of exceeding variety; it is Eucharisticall, Triumphant, Propheticall, and ’tis pitty we have not such an excellent song as this is, turned into Meeter, to be sung in our Congregations. And it is a most delightfull song, and therefore you shall observe when God promised a great mercy to his people in which they should exceedingly rejoyce, he hath reference to this song, Hosea 2. 15. And I will give her Vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a doore of hope, and she shall sing there as in the dayes of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the Land of Egypt. When God intended any great mercy to his people, he would have them sing according to this song of Moses: So then, if God be in a way of mercy, if he be opening a doore of hope to us, you see how seasonable this song is. And ’tis a Typicall song, as of the deliverance of Gods people out of Egypt, so a Type of the deliverance of Gods people from the bondage of Antichrist; therefore it is very observable, that this song was to be sung againe when the people of God should be delivered from Antichrist; In Revel. 15. and the beginning, you may see Gods judgements upon Antichrist. and in vers. 3. it is said they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy workes Lord God almighty; just and true are thy wayes, thou King of Saints. By this you may see that God would shew us, that the bondage under Antichrist is like the bondage in Egypt; and therefore Rome is called Egypt in the Revelations, because when we shall be delivred from Antichristian bondage, we shall renew this song of Moses: So that if we now expect deliverance from bondage under Antichrist, it is good for us to acquaint our selves with this song, because it is that which shall be sung over againe when the bondage of Antichrist is removed. It is a miraculous song according to the opinion of Austin; he brings in this song as one of the miracles, that is, that God did at the same time by the spirit inspire all the people of Israel, that they sung together one and the same song; and therefore it was miraculous true if it had been so, but the Scripture is not cleere in that.
But we leave generalls and come to the words; though there be many excellent things in the Chapter to make way to that I have read; yet because I would not be hindered, I will come instantly to the words, which are as it were a recapitulation of all, containing the substance of all; as if he had said, I have spoken of many particulars that God doth for his people; but there is none like unto the Lord, who is glorious in holinesse, fearefull in praises, doing wonders. There are four things (you see then) wherein the name of God is advanced here: First, there is none like the Lord: Secondly, glorious in holinesse: Thirdly, fearefull in praises: Fourthly, doing wonders.
I confesse when my thoughts were first to speake upon this Text, I intended onely the third particular, the opening of that Title of God, fearefull in praises; we finde not any such Title that I know of in all the book of God but onely in this place; but because I saw there was much of God in the two former, therefore I thought it might be usefull to shew you what there is of God in them, and was unwilling to passe them by. For the two first then, who is like to thee, O Lord, amongst the Gods, who is like unto thee, glorious in holinesse, who is like to thee? this you see is put by way of interrogation; now interrogations in Scripture are especially brought in two wayes: First, by way of admiration. Secondly, by way of negation. Sometimes by way of admiration, Isaiah 63. 1. Who is this that cometh from Edom with died garments from Bozrah! Many others we might name by way of admiration: and by way of negation you know there are hundreds of examples; and both these we are to understand here in the Text: First, by way of admiration, who is like unto thee O Lord amongst the Gods, &c. The spirit of Moses and the people being struck with astonishment at the glory of God, now manifested by the great workes he did, they ••mire and say, who is like unto thee O Lord? and then by way of negation, who is like unto thee O Lord? that is, there is none like unto thee; that is the first expression of the glory of God, the lifting up of the name of God above all things whatsoever; there is none like to God.
And God doth much glory in this expression of his glory, that there is none like to him; we have it very often in Scripture, 1 Chron. 17. 20. O Lord there is none like thee, neither is there any God besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our eares: So in Psalm. 86. 8. Among the Gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord: and Psalm. 89. 6. For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord? we might name divers other places where God glories much in this expression of his glory: and the people of God have gloried much in it; and there is great cause they should doe so. It is said of the godly Machabees that at first by reason their name was an offence, meeting with this sentence,*who is like unto thee O Lord amongst the Gods? and being much taken with it, they wrote the first Hebrew Letter of every word in this sentence in their ensignes of warre, and carried them about with them; and upon this ground they were called the Machabees, glorying in this Title of God, who is like unto thee? And upon this ground the Holy Ghost concludes, that all should honour and glorifie God, because there is none like unto him. Psal. 86. 8. Among the Gods there is none like unto thee O Lord, neither are there any works like unto thy works. Mark what followes in 9. 10. 11. 12. verses. All Nations whom thou hast made, shall come and worship before thee, O Lord, and shall glorifie thy name; for thou art great and doest wondrous things, for thou art God alone; teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walke in thy truth; unite my heart to feare thy name; I will praise thee O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorifie thy Name for evermore. Thus you see how the holy Prophet was taken with this expression of God; that there is none like to him, therefore teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walke in thy truth, &c.
There is none like unto the Lord amongst the Gods: So it is here, it may be translated as well amongst the mighties. God is lifted up here not onely above the Heathen gods, so that there is none like to him amongst them; but he is lifted up above whatever hath any excellency in it; there is none like to thee amongst the mighties: who ever is mighty & great, or let there be what might and greatnesse and excellency soever in the world, yet God is infinitely above all. It would take up too much of our time, if we should dilate our selves in shewing to you somewhat of the glory of God in this, how he is above all things, and that there is none like to him: I will therefore but briefly name a few passages, and apply this particular, and passe to the second, that we shall dwell longer upon.
There is none like to God: First, in that whatever is in God, is God himselfe; this is a propriety of God: there is no creature hath any excellency in it that reaches to this excellency, that whatever is in that creature should be the being of it, all creatures being made up of severall things; but now whatever is in God is God himselfe. Againe, there is an universall goodnesse in God, and there is none like to him in that; one creature hath one good in it, and another, another: but God hath all good in him, there is all excellency and beauty in God in an eminent manner; there is none like to him in that. And then all beings are but one excellency in God, however we apprehend God in severall excellencies; one attribute shining through one creature, and another through another, yet all are united in God; And all that is in him is primitively in him, he is of himselfe, and from himselfe, and for himselfe. And then none can communicate himselfe so as God can; none can inflict evill, or convey good so as God can, and that this expression of God hath reference too: for it is peculiar to God to communicate as much of himselfe as he will, which no creature can doe; though the creature hath but little, some drops onely of goodnesse in comparison of the infinite Ocean that is in God, yet the creature cannot communicate of those drops as it will; it is the propriety of God onely to communicate of his goodnesse as he will. And not onely so, but he can make the creature that he communicates his goodnesse to, to be as, sensible of his goodnesse as he pleases, which none else can doe; though one creature can communicate good to another, yet it cannot make that creature as sensible of that good as it will, which God can doe. And so in inflicting of evill there is none like to the Lord in that, the Lord is able to let out all evill, to bring all evill at once; which none else can doe; and he is able to make the creature upon whom he inflicts an evil, to be as sensible of that evill as he will; one that hurts another, yet cannot make him as sensible of that hurt as he pleases, but this is the propriety of God; as he can bring all evill together, so he is able to make the creature as sensible of all as he will; and God challengeth this as his own propriety, that he alone can doe good, and he alone can doe evill; and therefore there is none like to him; from hence it follows then, that there is none to be worshipt as the Lord, there is none to be honoured as the Lord; the Heathen gods, because they did but communicate some particular good, therefore they challenged but particular service; externall worship, and worship in some particulars would serve the Heathen gods, and they were satisfied with it, and required no more; and there was reason for it, because they could not challenge to themselves a communication of a universall good; for one god was for one particular good, and another for another particular good; and therefore they had but particular worship sutable thereunto: but now there is none like to the Lord, he challengeth a universall worship and obedience: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength: so that there is no such worship to be given to any as is given to God; and all because there is none like to him in the excellency of his nature, and in the way of communicating of himselfe unto his creature.
Now this that I have spoken, is exceeding usefull in the whole course of our lives, in ordering of our wayes and thoughts toward God: consider how usefull this is, thus: It should be our care in beholding any beauty, any good, or excellency in the creature, to keep still in our thoughts and hearts, the sense and apprehension of the infinite distance that there is between God and that creature; the want of this is the cause of almost all the evill that there is in the world, and the true apprehension of this is a speciall meanes to enable us to glorifie God as a God. I say thus, when thou beholdest any excellency, beauty, or comlinesse in a creature, and tastest any sweetnesse in it, be sure thou doest then keep in thy heart the sense of this truth, that though there be some sweetnesse here, yet God is infinitely above the creature, and there is an infinite disproportion between that good, and beauty, and excellency that is in these creatures, and that which is in God himselfe. God gives us leave to let out our hearts upon, and to take the comfort of the creature, when we see a beauty and excellency in it; and that because it is his similitude upon the creature, and it is Gods excellency that is there, and a spirituall heart hath more freedome to let out it selfe to the comforts of the creature then any in the world besides, because he can meet with, and taste God there; but though God give us leave to doe this, yet evermore so that we be sure to reserve our hearts to God; to be sensible of the infinite excellency that is in God above any creature; and if we be not carefull of this, we shall soon fall off from glorifying God as God, and our hearts will sticke in the creature. And this hath been the ground of all the outward Idolatry and spiritual Idolatry in the world: Of outward Idolatry, which did arise thus; men at first seeing some excellency and worth in the creature, as the Sun and Moon, and Stars, they did acknowledge God above them; and that these were but creatures, and that there was more excellency in God then in any of these: but at last comming to look upon the creature too much, and being taken with the excellency they saw there, their hearts stuck in the creature, and they lost the apprehension of the infinite excellency of God above the creature, and so fell from God, and worshipt them that were no gods.
And so for spirituall Idolatry; those that commit Idolatry with riches, or any creature: come to them at first, and say to them, how doe you apprehend the comforts of the creature? is there not infinitely more in God then there is in the creature? yes, they will say. I but by letting our hearts out upon the creature, and by poring upon the beauty of the creature, we begin at length to lose the power of this apprehension that was at first upon our hearts, and so commit spirituall Idolatry with the creature; and therefore it must be our care to keep intire and fresh our apprehension and sense of that infinite distance that there is between God and all the comforts of the creature: and so long as thou doest keep thy apprehensions fresh and strong here, there is no danger, and thou sinnest not in letting thy selfe out to the creature, if it have not abated thy apprehensions of the infinite disporportion that there is between God and all creatures, therefore now seeing there is an infinite stupendious height of excellency in God above all creatures, there should be the like thoughts in our hearts towards God and the creature, thus: as there is an infinite distance between the excellency of God and the excellency of all creatures, so there ought to be a kinde of infinitenesse in the distance and disproportion between that esteem and delight, and dependance we have in, and upon the creature, and that we have in and upon God; therefore you should not satisfie your selves in this that you acknowledge God above the creature, for all will do so; but you are to finde in your souls such a disproportion between your esteem and joy, and desire after the creature, and that you have after God, as is somewhat like the distance that there is between God and the creature, now the distance is infinite that is between God and the creature, therefore there should be a kinde of infinitenesse in the distance between your esteem of, and the working of your hearts and endeavours after the creature; and that esteem and working of your hearts and souls which you have towards God; and this is to glorifie God as a God; this is the soul worship we owe to God in the world; this is the true sanctifying of the name of God when this comes practically upon our hearts.
Secondly, if there be none like to God, then it followes that there is none like to the people of God; for as a mans god is, so is he; look what god a man chuseth, he is as his god is; a covetous man, if he make riches his god, he is so to be judged; and so a voluptous man or a Heathen. Now if the Saints of God have chose this God to be their God, and there be none like to him, then it must needs follow, that there is no people like to Gods people: and marke how the Holy Ghost makes this reference in divers Scriptures, as Deut. 33. 26, 29. compared: verse 26. There is none like unto the God of Iesurun, who rideth upon the Heaven, in thy help and in his excellency in the skie; what is the inference of the Holy Ghost upon this? verse 29. Happy art thou O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, &c. So that you see according to the glory of God in any particular there is a reflection of it upon the Saints of God, and this is the wonderfull excellency of Gods Saints to have the reflection of God upon them, happy are they that have God to be their God; if God be excellent, so are they: if God be above all, and there is none liketo him, so are they above all, and there is none like to them. You have the same inference of the Holy Ghost, 2 Samuel 7. 22, 23. Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God, for there is none like thee, neither is there any God besides thee; according to all that we have heard with our eares. Marke what followes, and what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel? &c. So that there is none like the people of God; and it must needes follow from hence, for they are as their God; therefore sayes Moses (when he speaks of the people of God) Exod. 33. 16. So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the earth, so you read it in your Bibles; but the word in the originall signifies wonderfully separated; Gods people are wonderfully separated from the world; as God is wonderfully high above all creatures so are his people, therefore in Numb. 23. 9. it is said that Gods people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the Nations: why because they are the people of God and the people of that God that hath none like to him, and therefore there is none like to them; that is for the consolation of the Saints of God.
Thirdly, it followes from hence, that therefore it should be our care that none should doe for their gods so as we doe for ours: for if there be none like to our God, then it is a shame, that any that chuse other gods should doe that for them that is above that which we doe for our God. As now for Idolators, to instance in outward and spirituall Idolatry: why, there is none like to our God, certainly all the Idolaters in the world have not such a God as we have, their rocke is not as our rocke, our enemies themselves being judges. What a shame then were it, if we should not doe more for our God then they doe for theirs? yea, we should labour to doe that for our God that may come up to that height of excellency which we apprehend to be in him. Will you see what Idolaters doe for their Gods: First, observe the earnestness of the spirits of Idolaters after their gods, their hearts are enflamed after their Idols: so we have it Isaiah 57. 5. enflaming your selves with Idols under every green Tree: their hearts were enflamed after their Idol gods, which are not like our God: O how then should our hearts be enflamed after our God! should we content our selves with, and rest satisfied in cold and in dead services to our God! how much strength should that exhortation of the Apostle have upon us Rom, 12. 11. Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord? It is the Lord we serve, it is our God, the great and glorious God, and therefore we should be fervent in spirit, serving him.
Secondly, the Scripture sayes that Idolaters, those that worship false gods, are mad upon their Idols Jer. 50. 38. The people of God then should have their hearts run after God, so that those that are carnall and not able to judge, should look upon them even as mad men, and indeed they doe so: whensoever the hearts of the Saints are after God fully, they are lookt upon as mad men; St. Paul was counted a mad man by Festus, Acts 26. 24. and we should not be afraid of the reproaches of the world in this kinde; though they despise us and thinke us base and vile, and out of our wits: Why Idolaters are mad upon their Idols, therefore if there be any thing God calls for at our hands, though the world account it madnesse, yet our hearts must worke after God in it: and it is a shame that any mens hearts should be more after their gods, then our hearts are after ours; because there is none like unto our God.
Thirdly, the earnestnesse of the hearts of Idolaters after their Idoll gods appeares from Jer. 8, 1, 2. At that time saith the Lord, they shall bring out the bones of the Kings of Judah. &c. And they shall spread them before the Sun, and the Moon, and all the host of Heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried, &c. I have often thought of this Scripture, it is exceeding remarkable: I know no one Scripture in all the book of God, that hath so many expressions together, to shew the strength of the hearts of Gods people after God, as here we have to shew the strength of Idolaters after their Idols: And they shall spread them before the Sun, and the Moon, and all the host of Heaven. Marke, 1. Whom they have loved. 2. Whom they have served. 3. After whom they have walked. 4. Whom they have sought. 5. Whom they have worshipped; and all in so few words. Thus their hearts were after their Idoll gods: how much more then ought it to be said of us concerning our God, whom we have loved, and whom we have served, and after whom we have walked, and whom we have sought, and whom we have worshipped?
Againe, observe how the Scripture sets out the spirits of men after their Idoll gods, in regard of the cost they are willing to bestow upon them. Isa. 46. 6. They shall lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the ballance, and hire a goldsmith, and he maketh it a god. They care not what cost they are at to worship their Idols. O what a shame would it be if we should not be willing to part with much of our estates for the true worship of the true God: and though we should lose our estates, yet if we can serve God better, and in a purer way, we should be content; for Idolaters will lavish gold out of the bag upon their Idols. Now there is none like to our God; therefore it is a shame that they should doe more for their gods then we doe for ours. And then what are Idolaters willing to suffer for their gods? 1 Kings 18. 28. how did Baals Priests there cut themselves after their manner, with Knives and Lancers, till the blood gushed out, to shew their respect to their Idols: let us then be willing to suffer any thing that God calls us to. And how constant were they to their Idols therefore sayes God, Jer. 2. 10, 11. Consider diligently and see, if there be such a thing: hath a Nation changed their gods which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit; how ill doth God take this that Idolaters should not change their gods that are infinitely below him, and yet that his people should change their God who is infinitely above them?
Againe let us take heed lest there be any found that should have their hearts set more upon their lusts, then we are upon God: take all the excellencies in the world, and they are infinitely below God; how much more then is a lust? for what is a lust in comparison of all creatures in heaven and earth? and yet how are mens hearts set upon their lusts? yea, how hath thy own heart been set upon wicked lust heretofore? thinke then with thy selfe what an infinite unreasonable thing is it that the heart of any man in the world, or thy own heart, should be set more upon a base lust then upon the living, eternall, and infinite God. ‘Tis said of Ahab, that he sold himselfe to worke wickednesse, 1 Kings 21. 20. be thou willing then to sell thy self to God, to give up thy self to God; the hearts of the sonnes of men, (it is said) are set, and fully set to doe evill, Eccles. 8. 11. doe not thou content thy selfe with some faint wishes and desires after God, but let thy heart be set and fully set for God. In Micah 7. 3. it is said they doe evill with both hands earnestly; marke, they doe evill, and they doe evill earnestly, and they doe evill earnestly with both hands. Now then, for shame be not thou sluggish in doing service for thy God; doe that which is good, and doe it with both thy hands, and doe it earnestly with all thy heart.
Againe, we have one notable Scripture more that shewes how the hearts of men are set upon that which is evill, Prov. 19. 28. The mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity; ’tis an elegant expression of the Holy Ghost; its a metaphor taken from the practice of brute creatures; as now take a beast that hath been kept from drink a long time, and is exceeding thirsty, if you bring it to the water, it will thrust its head into the water, as if it would devour the whole River, and could never be satisfied: that is the meaning of this phrase, the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity, that is, when he comes to his sinne, he is as greedy upon it, as the beast that hath been kept long from water is greedy of water. O how should our hearts be infinitely more greedy after God, and his service, then wicked men are or can be after the service of their lusts! to conclude all this, with that you have Exodus 30. from verse 34. to the end; there was a perfume there to be made by the composition of the Apothecary; but there was this charge given, as for the perfume which thou shalt make, you shall not make to your selves, according to the composition thereof, it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord, &c. So I conclude this point, there is none like to God, he being above all: when your hearts therefore are in any good frame towards God, perfumed and lifted up towards God, take heed they be not lifted up towards any creature in the same manner as they are towards God: for your service to God must be sutable to the nature of God; now there is none like to God, therefore there should be no such service tendred to any, as is tendred to God: thus much for the first thing, whereby the name of God is advanced here; who is like unto thee O Lord among the gods!
We come now to the second, glorious in holinesse; The word translated here glorious, doth as well signifie magnificent, noble, and so it is used in many places: thou art magnificent and noble in thy holinesse. Brethren, it is the greatest magnificence, the greatest nobility, and height of spirit, that can be, to be holy: God himselfe is a magnificent God, and he is ennobled by his holinesse: this sets out the excellency of holinesse.
Againe, glorious in holinesse, it is rendred by some glorious in holy things: that is, glorious in thy holy Angels, glorious in thy holy Saints, glorious in thy holy word, glorious in thy holy Ordinances, glorious in thy holy worship; God indeed is very glorious in his Angels, and in his Saints, and in his word, and in his worship, and in his Ordinances; but we will take the words as you have them here, glorious in holinesse.
And for the explication of the glory of God in this Title, there are these three things to be done: First, to shew you a little what holinesse in God is. Secondly, I shall open unto you, how God is said to be glorious in holinesse. And then Thirdly, I shall shew you why God hath this Title given him here in this place; why he is rather said here to be glorious in holinesse, then glorious in power: for it was an act of power rather, that God did put forth in the destruction of the Egyptians, and deliverance of his people.
For the first: what is holinesse in God; we understand this (as generally we doe almost all things of God) rather by way of negation then otherwise; rather by what it is not, then by what it is, therefore we use to say that Gods holinesse is that whereby his nature is free from all kinde of mixture, and from the least soil and filth of sinne; therefore God is called light, because light is so pure a creature and so free from any mixture of pollution, that it can be amongst filthy things without any defilement of it selfe: so God can worke with sinne it selfe, and yet without any defilement of his nature; but besides this negation, if you would know somewhat positively, what the holinesse of God is, I would describe it briefly to you thus: It is the infinite rectitude and perfection of the will of God especially, whereby he doth will and worke all things sutable to the infinite excellency of his own being; the excellency of God is the highest▪ and therefore the rule of all excellency; and the will of God being alwayes sutable to his owne infinite excellency, and impossible to vary in the least from it, therefore his will is the rule of all holinesse. Let us consider it a little by looking into the holinesse of the creature, and by that we shall see somewhat of the holinesse of God: for as we cannot see the glory of the Sun by looking directly upon it, it being too bright an object for us: but by the reflection of its beames in the water we may behold its glory: so, the holinesse of God is too bright to be beheld in it selfe; we cannot behold the infinite purity and holinesse of God immediately: but by looking upon the holinesse of the creature, which is as it were the reflection of Gods holinesse upon it, and a ray and beam of it, we may come to see somewhat of the holinesse of God. Now the holinesse of a creature is this, the separation of it from common things to a holy use, or the dedication of a creature in some immediate manner to God, for the lifting up of the name of God; the holinesse of the Saints is this, the separation of their spirits from all common things to God as the highest and last end. And when they are able to worke to God as the utmost end, and to will that they doe in order to God as the last end; and so as is sutable to God as the highest end, that is the holinesse of their wills: so it is in Gods holinesse: Gods holinesse is a dedication, as it were, of God to himselfe: that is, God being of and from himselfe, and himselfe being his own last end, he gives up himselfe unto himselfe, and wills himselfe as the highest and utmost end, and so wills all things in order to himselfe as the last and highest end: this is the holinesse of God; and the image of this holinesse is that stampe and worke of grace that is upon the creature: when the creature is enabled to will God as the highest end, and all things in subordination to him, the creature is then said to be holy, because it hath a stampe of God upon it: this is Gods holinesse.
But glorious in holinesse: how is God glorious in holinesse? God is glorious in all his attributes and workes: and the truth is, there is not one thing in God more glorious then another, every attribute of God being in it selfe equally glorious; but in regard of manifestation and according to our apprehension, so one thing appeares more glorious then another; and God is pleased to speak to us according to our apprehensions: therefore you may see how the Saints doe especially glory in God as a holy God: looking upon him as a holy God, they doe exceedingly rejoyce and glory in him: therefore sayes the Psalmist, Psal. 99. 3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name, for it is holy: and verse 5. Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his foot-stool, for he is holy: and again, verse 9. exalt the Lord our God and worship at his hily hill, for the Lord our God is holy. Thus the people of God look upon God in his holinesse as the speciall ground of his praise and exaltation; yea the Angels themselves in heaven, look upon God in his holinesse, and especially exalt him from thence, Isaiah 6. 3. the Cherubims and Seraphines cry three times, holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. You never finde any of Gods attributes mentioned so three times together: though it is true, God is infinite in power, and in wisedome, as well as in holinesse; yet you never finde in Scripture that God is said to be wise, wise, wise, or, almighty, almighty, almighty: but holy, holy, holy, three times together: and as the Angels of Heaven adore God especially for his holinesse, so the Church of God, Rev. 4. 8. cryes out, holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, shewing the blessed condition of the Church of God, when it shall be hereafter more sanctified, and God shall dwell amongst them, they shall exceedingly then adore God in his holinesse above any other attribute: yea God himselfe seemes to glory in his holinesse above any other attribute; therefore when God would lift up himselfe in his glory, and give you the highest expression of himselfe, he doth it in this, as he is holy. Isaiah 57. 15. For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy. When God would lift up himselfe, it is in this whose name is holy: and so when God would sweare by himselfe (Amos 4. 2.) he sweares by his holinesse. Now as the Scripture sayes, when God could sweare by no greater, he sware by himselfe: so I may say, when God could sweare by no excellency above this, he swares by his holinesse.
Again, God glories in heaven it selfe as the habitation of his holinesse: heaven is the habitation of Gods glory, there God lets out his glory fully: but what is that glory? why the top of all, is, the holinesse of God. Isaiah 63. 15. Looke downe from heaven and behold from the habitation of thy holinesse and thy glory: yea the throne of God is Gods holinesse, Psal. 47. 8. God sitteth upon the throne of his holinesse; you know Kings upon their thrones are exalted and lifted up, so is God lifted up upon the throne of his holinesse. Solomon, he made himselfe a throne of Ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold, 1 Kings 10. 18. But the throne of God is a throne of holinesse, a throne of bright shining holinesse.
Again, when God reloyces in his people, he doth it as they are a holy people, Deut. 7. 6. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himselfe above all the people that are upon the face of the earth. Yea further, you shall finde that this attribute of holinesse is more especially ascribed to the third person in the Trinity: God the Father is a holy God; the Son, he is the holy one of God; but the Holy ghost hath his name from Holinesse: and tis very observable, that all the three persons challenge an equall share in the working of holinesse in the creature, it being such a part of Gods glory, that all the three persons work it wheresoever it is: as the Father, he is a Sanctifier. Jude speaks of the work of sanctification wrought by God the Father in the first verse of his Epistle, To them that are sanctified by God the Father. And then for the Son, Eph. 5. 25, 26. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himselfe for it, that he might sanctifie and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word. Christ he gives himselfe for his Church; to what end? Not that he might bring it to Heaven onely, but that he might sanctifie it also; and then the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 6. 11. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. So that all the three persons come in for a share in this work: this is the glorious work of Father, Son, and Holy ghost.
But yet further for the demonstration of it: holinesse must needs be the glory of God, because it is the highest perfection and rectitude of an Intelligent free Agent. An Intelligent free Agent is the highest being of all, and holinesse is the rectitude of that being, and therefore must needs be glorious. Hence it is, that grace is called Gods image, because it is that which represents God in his highest excellency: for that is properly an Image of another thing, that sets it out in the excellency of it: if it doe it onely in a common and generall way, it is not an Image of it. And then, in Scripture, holinesse is called the beauty of God, Psalm. 27. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seeke after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the dayes of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his Temple. Now what is Gods beauty but the beauty of holinesse, the holinesse of God appearing in his Ordinances, and his worship is the luster and beauty of the infinite glory of God, as Psalm. 110. 3. the Ordinances are called the beauty of holinesse: Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power in the beauties of holinesse, &c. Yea holinesse, some seeds of it, the very Image of it, onely in the creature, is called the glory of God, Rom. 3. 23. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; the very beginnings of the work of holiness in the hearts of Saints is called the glory of God; much more then the infinite holinesse of Gods own nature. Further, it is holinesse that puts a luster upon all the other attributes of God, and makes them glorious and honourable, Psalm. 111. 9. Holy and reverend is his name; the name of God is therefore reverend, because holy; so take all the height of excellencies that are in God, yet if they be such as you can conceive them separated from his holinesse, they doe not make his name reverend: and this shewes how infinitely it concernes us to labour after holinesse; if all the excellencies of God cannot make his name reverend, being separated from holinesse, then let the creature have what excellency it wil, for parts, for estate, for dignity, and honour in the world; take away holiness, & you cannot say reverend is his name; but, holy and reverend is his name; so it is said of God, his name is reverend, because holy.
Again, Gods name is glorious by holinesse, because it is the speciall end of all his works, to advance holinesse: a workman when he drawes a worke, he shewes Art in the beginning of it: but when he comes to the top of it, there he shewes the excellency of his workmanship: ’tis so with God, God will be honoured in all his workes, of creation and providence: but now come to the height and pitch of all, and ’tis that he might be honoured as a holy God; and that he might have a holy people to honour him here, and to all eternity. I say holinesse is that which God aymed at in creating of heaven and earth; ’tis that which God aymes at in all the wayes of his providence: It is the great businesse for which the son of God came into the world, that he might redeem to himselfe a people to serve him in holinesse: ’tis the end of the great councell of God from all eternity; yea and that he might manifest the beauty of his own holinesse in those two great attributes, Mercy and Justice, which are the branches of his holinesse, that he might make them shine to all eternity: this is that God aymes at; therefore holinesse must needes be the glory of Gods name.
Now a little for the third: but what is the reason that this Title is given to God here in this Song of Moses, glorious in holinesse? the reason is this: to shew, that the infinite excellency of Gods power is such, that it is without any mixture of the least evill in the exercise of it: here was an act of mighty power put forth, and God was infinitely holy in this act of his power. It is otherwise with men (observe the difference between God and man) It is a very hard thing for a man to doe great things, and to manifest great power without a mixture of evill: as ’tis with the waters, while they run shallow, they may run clearely: but when once the waters rise and overflow, they run muddy, and usually there is a great deale of filth comes in with great streames: so though in common and ordinary workes we doe not manifest our uncleannesse, yet ’tis seldome when we ayme to doe great things, but we manifest a great deale of filthinesse: but it is otherwise with God; God is great in power, and in that keeps the glory of his holinesse. And God manifested here the greatnesse of his wrath upon his enemies, and yet the glory of his holinesse too. It is a very hard thing for men to doe so; let men have their anger stirr’d a little, O how much filth doe they presently discover? how many have we that all the while they are pleased are exceeding meeke and loving, but let any thing stirre their passion, and O what a great deale of filth appeares, like a pond that is full of mud at the bottome, and cleare at top, but stirre it a little and then its nothing but filth. A father or a mother cannot tell how to be displeased with a childe or correct it, but abundance of corruption comes with that anger; and so a governour a servant. Who can execute Justice upon others, but there will be much of self, self-ends and self-interest; but now here is the glory of God, that when he manifesteth his wrath, though it be sore wrath, yet he is glorious in holinesse in great wrath; he is infinitely powerfull in his wrath, and in the execution of his Judgements, and yet infinite in holinesse too; therefore the vials of Gods wrath are said to be of gold, which is the purest mettall; so is God in the executing of his Judgements. O let us labour to imitate God in this: thou that hast a passionate spirit, and art soon provoked, and discoverest abundance of filthinesse, see how unlike thou art unto God; though thou shouldest be displeased with that which is sinfull, and mayst correct thy children and servants, yet be sure to keep that which is the beauty of all in thy correcting of others, and that is holinesse.
Againe, this Title is given to God here, because in this great worke of his he did manifest his faithfulnesse in fulfilling of his promises to his people; many promises God had made to his Church for their preservation and deliverance: and God in this worke of his did fulfill these promises: now Gods faithfulnesse is a branch of his holinesse; therefore because he manifested his faithfulnesse in this worke, Moses and the people extoll his name by this Title, glorious in holinesse. It is observable, and it is of great use to us, that Gods faithfulnesse is a branch of his holinesse: if you compare two Scriptures, you will finde it so; Isaiah 55. 3. sayes God, I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. and this Scripture is quoted Acts 13. 34. I will give you the sure mercies of David: so we read it; but in the originall it is the holy and faithfull things of David: so that when God comes to shew mercy according to his word, he doth manifest the glory of his holinesse, and it is of admirable use to Gods people to strengthen their faith. You have heard that the glory of God is his holinesse, now one part of this holinesse is his faithfulnesse, in fulfilling his promises to his people: therefore it concernes God as he loves his own glory, to be faithfull in fulfilling of his promises, and God lookes at it as his glory to doe it; thy comforts are deere to thee, and thy preservation is deere to thee, but Gods glory is dearer to him, yea Gods glory is dearer to him then thy soul, or thy eternall estate can be to thee; and the top of Gods glory is his holinesse; and his holinesse consists in this (in one thing) his faithfulnesse in his promises.
Now for the application of this, first: hence you may observe, whether ever you understood God aright or no; let me put this question to you, what is that excellency of God that your soul closeth with? we speak much of Gods excellency, and we all say, we love God, and delight in God, and blesse God; but now, what is it in God that drawes thy heart so to him, and causeth thy soul to love thy God, and to blesse thy God, and to delight in thy God (as thou sayest) since the time that ever thou knewest him? what, is it that God will shew mercy to thee, and pardon thy sinne, and save thy soul, and bring thee to heaven? these are things indeed that we are to love and blesse God for: but there must be more; it is the very person of God himselfe that our hearts must be taken with, and it must be the person of God in his excellency: and what is that? his holinesse; therefore hath ever the luster of the infinite holinesse of God shined upon thy heart, and drawne thy heart to God, and caused thee to stand and adore him, and admire him; and hath thy heart leaped upon the sight of the brightnesse of his holinesse? and doest thou therefore love him? if so, thou knowest God aright and thy heart hath been aright drawn to him: sayes David, Psalm. 119. 140. thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loves it. Canst thou say so, O Lord, thou art pure, thou art holy, therefore doth thy servant love thee; and thy word is holy, and thy worship is holy, and thy servants are holy, and thy Ordinances are holy, and therefore doth thy servant love all these: for if the beauty of Gods holinesse be that which drawes thy heart forth in love unto God, then proportionably it will be the beauty of holinesse in all holy things that will draw thy heart to love and delight in them: then thou wilt looke upon his Saints as glorious in holinesse, and upon his worship, and word, and Ordinances, as glorious in holinesse, and so thy heart will be drawn unto them. Psalm. 33. 21. you shall see there how the Saints of God did rejoyce in the Lord, and had their hearts drawn to him, because of his holinesse; for our hearts shall rejoyce in him because we have trusted in his holy name: the trusting in Gods holy name, is that which makes our hearts rejoyce in him.
But Secondly, hence the people of God should exceedingly comfort themselves in God; in that they have to deal with him as a holy God: that though they meet with much unholinesse in the spirits of men with whom they doe converse: yet there is in God nothing but holinesse, yea the very beauty and glory of holinesse: Brethren, it is a delightfull thing, yea a rare and a blessed thing, to meet with a friend that hath a cleane and a pure heart, that hath no mixture in him, that is holy in his ends and aymes, and that hath a spirit free from guile: O what rejoycing is there, when one friend that hath a heart pure and cleane, and free from guile, can meet with another such as himselfe, and can close together in every point! but what a delight then is it to meet with a God that is infinite in purity and holinesse, in whom there is no mixture at all! God he takes delight in us, because we have but some drops of his holinesse. O how should we then rejoyce in him who is infinite in holinesse: Indeed when we deal with men, we doe not alwayes finde them as we expect; we many times meet with men of excellent parts and gifts; but when we come to close with them we doe not finde their wayes and spirits sutable to the eminency and excellency of those parts and gifts; and this is a grievous vexation to the Saints, when they look upon men that are eminent and excellent, and hope to finde a proportion of spirit sutable thereunto, but instead thereof finde abundance of filth in their spirits; though this may trouble thee, yet blesse thy God in this that when thou art to deal with God thou shalt finde nothing but holinesse in him, thou shalt finde him working according to his excellency; for that I told you was the nature of Gods holinesse, ’tis the perfection of his will whereby he workes all things sutable to his eminency and excellency. Man hath an excellency in him, but not alwayes grace in his heart to worke sutable to it; but God, I say, alwayes workes sutable to his eminency and excellency. Now when our hearts are raised with the sight of Gods excellency, and then thinke with our selves we shall alwayes finde God working according to it, O what a comfort is this to a gracious soul against all the evill he meets with in the spirits of men, amongst whom he converseth?
Againe, further for the comfort of the Saints, if God be glorious in holinesse (then as in the former point, as there is none like to God, so there is none like to his people; for as a mans god is, so is he,) so are the Saints glorious in holinesse too; for that which can make an infinite God glorious, must needes make a poor worme a glorious creature. It is true, that which will make a poor man glorious, will not make a King glorious, but that which will make a King glorious must needs make a begger glorious: now holinesse puts a luster and glory upon the divine nature it selfe, upon the infinite God: so that if thou have it, it must needs put a glory upon thee: therefore it is observable, that the communication of Gods holinesse to us is exprest in another way then when he communicates any other attribute to us: when God communicates his knowledge to us, we are not said to partake of the divine nature by it; and so his power, and the like: but when he communicates his holinesse to us, we are then said to be made partakers of the divine nature: the holinesse of the Saints is the same with Gods holinesse; as it were a beame of his: so sayes the Scripture, Heb. 12. 10. He chastneth us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holinesse. Marke, his holinesse: and therefore it puts a wonderfull glory and excellency upon us; for it enables us to worke as God, and to live as God: for what is Gods holinesse, as I said before, but that whereby he workes to himselfe as his last end, sutable to his own excellency? so the Saints come to worke to God according to their measure, as their last end, sutable to the infinite excellency of God himselfe: and so they live as God lives and worke as God workes, and so are fitted to have communion with God; as the life of a plant makes it not fit to have communion with beasts: nor the life of beasts with men: nor men with the life of God. Now holinesse is the highest life of all beings, being the life of God: and therefore fits for communion with God: for in communion there must be the same life: therefore no creature can have communion with God, that doth not live the same life that God doth: but if thou partakest of holinesse, thou livest the life that God doth, and so art fit to have communion with God himselfe.
Further, it puts not onely a glory upon thy person, but upon all thou hast and doest: it sanctifies all; as the gold was sanctified by the Altar: so the very naturall actions, and the wayes of Gods common providence, are sanctified to Gods people: there is a luster upon all the good they enjoy, by vertue of that holiness which God puts in them: as Gods holiness puts a luster upon all his attributes, so holinesse in the Saints puts a luster upon their parts, names, estates, converse with others; there is a beauty upon all by holinesse; take a man that hath excellent naturall parts, if he have no holinesse, there is no luster and beauty in him: but take a man that hath able parts, and holinesse too, O the luster that then appeares in him.
Againe, holinesse is the very principle of eternall life, the very beginning of eternall life in the heart, and that which will certainly grow up to eternall life. Againe, holinesse is the proper object of Gods delight; God delights not in the legs of a man, but in his holinesse; let a man be what he will, if God see any impression of holinesse in him, the soul of God closeth with that soul.
Further, holinesse is that which is the separation of the creature for God, and eternall life: there is (you know) a twofold separation of a creature for God: you have the expression, Psalm. 4. 3. The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himselfe: he is set apart passively; and then he hath an active principle to set apart himselfe for God. God in his eternall election sets apart those he intends to save for himselfe; here are those, sayes God, that I have set apart from the common lumpe of mankinde, to magnifie the riches of my grace upon, and to live with me to all eternity. If God should now look from heaven upon a man or woman in the congregation, and say, Be it known to all the word that I from eternity have set apart such a man and woman, to glorifie them with my selfe for ever: every one would look upon such a man and woman as glorious creatures indeed: but now know, that if God hath stampt the image of his holinesse upon thee, thou hast as much honour from God, as if he should thus speak to thee: and in some respects more: for if God should declare, that from all eternity thou art set apart from the creature for God, this were glorious; but when God hath put a principle of his own spirit into thee, to enable thee to set apart thy selfe, and to consecrate thy selfe, and thy all to God, this is more: for in the other thou art but passive, in this thou art active: As on the contrary, there is more dreadfull evill in unholinesse then in reprobation; men are afraid of reprobation, that God should set them apart from eternity to magnifie the glory of his Justice upon them; and ’tis true, this is terrible: but while thou apprehendest this as terrible, thou thy selfe art active in that which is more terrible; that is, by the filthinesse and wickednesse of thy heart and life, thou dost actively set thy selfe apart for eternall wrath and misery: the other is passive, and thou art onely set apart: but in the wickednesse of thy heart thou art active, and setst thy selfe apart: For as holinesse is the dedication of the creature to God, the separation of it from all other things unto God by an active principle; so on the contrary, sinne is the separation of the creature by an active principle from God to all misery. I thought to have enlarged my selfe in comparing the glory and happinesse of the Saints, and the misery of the wicked together, but time will not give leave.
Further, as holinesse makes the name of God to be reverend, so holinesse in the Saints puts a reverend respect upon them in the very consciences of wicked men: take the vilest of wicked men, though they cry out of thee; yet know, if thou walkest strictly, thy close walking with God will gaine respect and reverence from their hearts, in spite of their hearts. And the reason why the people of God gaine not respect and esteeme, is, because they doe not walke strictly; many men mistake themselves: they thinke that strictnesse is slighted and contemned, and therefore they begin to lessen and abate in their exact walking: but this makes them disesteemed; and it is just with God it should be so: doth the abating of holinesse helpe thee to a reverend respect? no, walke more closely with God, and thou wilt have respect from mens consciences: doe what they can, thou wilt anger their lust; but thou wilt convince their consciences: and in their most serious mood they will say, O that my soul were in this mans souls stead: and how often doe they say so on their death bed? and if holinesse put an excellency and glory upon low and meane things, as in the law what a glory did it put upon a piece of Wood, or Leather, or Brasse, when once it was consecrated to a holy use? because that was Gods Ordinance, God did put it in it, and not man: for a man to thinke it is in the power of his will to make God esteem, or that others in reference unto God should esteeme of a creature, more then what God hath put into it, is a great mistake: that common stones by my will should be holy, and consecrated to God, and must not be medled with, that I should put a divine excellency upon that which hath onely a naturall excellency in it; what a boldnesse would this be in me: but now, if Gods Ordinance be so, then there is a glory put upon it, as in the Temple, because it was dedicated to God by divine institution, there the very wood, and brasse, and every thing had an excellency upon it. Now I would argue thus, shall ceremoniall holinesse put such an excellency upon a piece of Leather! what then shall the image of God put upon an immortall soul!
A further use should have been this, If God be glorious in holinesse, then certainly (brethren) God will maintaine holinesse in the world: and this is one reason amongst others, of this Title given to God here, because he did worke for his Church: God will honour his own Ordinances and worship, and will maintaine his Saints that are holy; preserve me O Lord (sayes David) for I am holy: and thou wilt not give thy holy one to see corruption. If thou beest Gods holy one, he will not leave thee to the power of corruption, he will defend thee and maintaine thee: therefore sayes the Psalmist in Psalm. 68. 35. O God thou art terrible out of thy holy places; what are there any that will be injurious to Gods people when they are in the way of his holy worship? God will be terrible out of his holy places unto such; these expressions are against the enemies of God, because it is the holinesse of God, and the people of Gods holinesse that they set themselves against. And let all men take heed what they doe in opposing the Saints, and the wayes of Gods holy worship; for God will maintaine holinesse: therefore it concernes us all to honour holinesse our selves, and to set up the glory of Gods holinesse as much as we can in the world. O let us labour all to be holy, as our heavenly Father is holy: let that be our prayer, Psalm. 90. 17. Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. O grow up more in holinesse, which is the beauty of God: converse much with God, that thou may est be holy: when Moses was forty dayes in the Mount conversing with God, he came downe with his face shining: and certainly, those people that converse much with God will have their faces shine with holinesse: there is much to be had in conversing with God, who is a holy God. And shew forth the beauty of holinesse in thy conversation, that others may say, if one beame of holinesse be so delightful in such a man or woman, O how glorious in holinesse then is God himselfe! I remember what a heathen said of the God of the Christians, when he saw the courage of the Christians, certainely (sayes he) the God of the Christians is a great God: why let us walke so holily before others that they may read holinesse in our conversations, and be forced to say, certainly the God of this people is a holy God: Especially looke to thy heart to cleanse that when thou drawest neere to this holy God, in this holy worship, then labour to sanctifie his name; looke to thy feet, come not in thy filth into the presence of so holy a God; ’tis a notable expression of Joshua, Joshua 24. 19. when the people say, we will serve the Lord, for he is our God: sayes Joshua, you cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God, &c. As if he should say, it is another manner of businesse to serve the Lord then you thinke for, for you have to deal with a holy God, and ’tis not externall worship will serve his turne. It is an argument people doe not know God, when they can turne his service off so slightly: the sight of God would put thee into another frame; didst thou know God in his holinesse, thou wouldst look upon the service of God as a great service; thou servest a holy God, as they say, Sam. 1. 6. 20. who can stand before this holy God? so, didst thou apprehend God to be a holy God, thy heart would be stricken with feare and awe, and thou wouldst say, who can stand before this holy God? God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the Saints, and to be had in reverence of those that are round about him, Psalm. 89. 7. God is to be had in reverence of all men; but if you come neer to him, certainly then you must labour to sanctifie your hearts. How canst thou come before the luster and beauty of Gods holinesse with wilfull uncleannesse in thy heart? that Text in Job is very remarkable Job 13. 11. Shall not his excellency make you afraid? You have heard that Gods holinesse is his excellency: now I say, to thee that hast to deal with him, shall not his excellency make thee afraid? art thou conscious of thy uncleannesse and doest thou come into the presence of a holy God and not feare and tremble before him? O bold daring heart that thou hast, that canst come into the presence of a holy God with an unholy heart, and not tremble: it would be of admirable use in all our dealings with God, to have cleare apprehensions of his holinesse.
Againe, labour to magnifie God this way: as God is glorious in holinesse, so set him out in his glory by keeping his worship pure. It is a speciall thing God lookes at, that we take heed what we doe in defiling of his worship. Gods Ordinances are the beauty of his holinesse, therefore we must labour to come pure and cleane unto them: ’tis that which God commands his Church, to keep the vessels of his sanctuary holy, and those are the ordinances: and we are unfaithfull in our charge, if we doe not keep the ordinances holy: in Exod. 20. 24. 25. God gives them charge there to make him an Altar: but sayes God, If thou wilt make me an Alter of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewen stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. What, might they say, shall we have an Altar of rude stone? shall we not polish and make it fine and sumptuous? will not that make it more specious to look upon? no, sayes God; if you lift up a tool upon it you pollute it. We are apt to thinke, that such and such mixtures of men, and such and such ceremonies would make the worship of God glorious; but this is a great mistake. It is a usuall thing for whores to paint their faces; they will not be content with their naturall beauty, but are more pompous in their apparell then the chast Matrons are. It is so with the whore of Babylon: how glorious are they in all their worship? and what strange things have they to take the outward senses? they are faine to dresse and trick up themselves, having not the purity of Gods worship: but certainely these things defile the worship of God: compare two Texts for this, Isai. 44, 9. They that make a graven Image are all of them vanity, and their delectable things shall not profit: marke, the Images of Idolaters are delectable things in their esteeme: but see what God speakes of them, Ezek. 7. 20. As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in Majesty: but they made the Images of their abominations, and of their detestable things therein. They call them delectable things, but God accounts them detestable: but when God speakes of his own ordinances, he sayes, as for the beauty of his ornament he set it in Majesty. O the worship of God in the plainness and simplicity of the Gospell it is the ornament of God, the beauty of his ornament, and the beauty of his ornament set in Majesty: what phrases are here? this is Gods worship; but if man mix any thing of his own in Gods worship, it is detestable to God: therefore if we would honour and magnifie God in his holinesse, let us keep pure his worship; for holinesse becomes the worship of God for ever.
And then the consideration of this should humble us, and make us ashamed, for the remainder of all that unholinesse that is in our hearts; the sight of Gods holinesse made Isaiah cry out, Isaiab 6. 5. Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of uncleane lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of uncleane lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. And certainely there is nothing in the world hath that power to humble the heart so as Gods holinesse: and then is your heart humbled for sinne aright, when you look upon it as that which is opposite to the pure nature of God. I am not onely troubled for my sinne because I am afraid it will bring hell along with it, but because I have had a sight of the infinite holinesse of God, and the purity of his nature: and O that I should have a nature so filthy, and opposite to that infinite holinesse of his. And hereby examine your hearts whether your humiliation be right or no; and this is one good argument, when the infinite holinesse of God hath made you see your uncleannesse, and upon that hath humbled you.
Lastly, what need have we all of Jesus Christ! if God be glorious in holinesse, we should all of us say, who can stand before so holy a God! were it not for the holinesse of the blessed mediator who stands between the father and us, and presents his infinite satisfaction to the father for our sinnes, and clothes us with his righteousnesse, woe, woe unto us: if you could possibly imagine that all the excellencies of heaven and earth were put into one creature, except holinesse, yet if that creature had but the least drop of uncleannesse and unholinesse in it, God would eternally hate that creature; and were there not a mediator between that creature and God, God would eternally let out his wrath upon it: for God is so glorious in holinesse that he doth infinitely hate filthinesse: we wonder to heare of such great misery threatned to wicked men, but we should not wonder, did we know Gods holinesse: God doth so infinitely hate sinne that he did instantly send all the Angels that fell, downe in chaines of eternall darknesse, and refused to enter into the least parly with them, or to be reconciled to them for ever. Now what is the reason, that though we have so much uncleannesse in us, yet God is pleased to be reconciled to us, and to admit us into his presence, and give us hopes to see his face with joy to all eternity? ’tis this, because we have a mediator, and they have none: were it not for that, could we weep streames of blood from our eyes, yet God would hate and abhor us, and his wrath would eternally seize upon us. And therefore, though you may rejoyce in inherent holinesse, yet let your hearts especially be upon the perfect holinesse of Jesus Christ, and tender up that to God: and though thou hast much uncleannesse in thy selfe and in thy duties (for alas what is it for us to tender duty to the holy God) yet let this comfort thee, thou hast not to deal with God in thy selfe, but through Christ; and in him thou hast liberty to come, and mayest look upon Gods face with boldnesse; this is the great mistery of godlinesse, revealed in the Gospell, that notwithstanding the infinitenesse of Gods holinesse, yet there should be a way for us polluted creatures to looke upon this God with joy. This mystery is onely taught in the Gospel. Though men now thinke they can come and cry to God for mercy; yet hereaafter when God shal let out the brightnesse of his holinesse to thee, and thou comest to see thy uncleannesse, then thy heart will sinke down in eternall despaire; thou wilt not endure to behold God then: And if thou beest not acquainted with God in this way of reconciliation, thou art undone for ever; therefore study the mystery of the Gospell, and make use of Christ, that the glory of Gods holinesse may not be to thy terrour, but to thy comfort.
This Sermon was preacht March 21. 1640.
COLOS. 3. V. 11. latter end of it.
But Christ is all in all.*
IT is not long since (as some of you may remember) that in this place that subject was handled of the Saints enjoyment of God, to be all in all, out of 1 Cor. 15. v. 28. and then I told you we had such an expression in Scripture but onely twice: applyed to God in the happinesse of the Saints enjoyment of him in heaven, and applyed here to Christ, of what Christ is to them for the present. That which was handled about Gods being all in all, is the end: this that is to be delivered concerning Christ being all in all, is that which brings the soul to that blessed end. Wherefore then, as Christ him selfe sayes, John 14. 1. Yee believe in God, believe also in me: So I say, as God shall be all in all eternally to the Saints, doe you believe in that? believe also in this, that I am to deliver to you this day, that Christ, he is all and in all.
The Apostle Saint Paul was a chosen vessell to beare the name of Christ, to carry it up and downe in the world: and indeed his spirit was full of Christ, he desired to know nothing but Christ, to Preach nothing but Christ, to be found in none but Christ; the very name of Christ was delightfull to him: he seekes in all his Epistles to magnifie Christ, and in these words (that I have read unto you) he doth omnifie Christ; he makes him not onely great, but makes him all. There is neither Greeke nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all & in all: that is, there is no priviledge in the one to commend them to God, and no want of any thing in the other to hinder them from God; let men be what they will in their outward respects, what is that to God? let them be never so mean in regard of all outwards, that cannot hinder them from the enjoyment of God: for God lookes not at these things, but Christ is all and in all to them; so farre as God seeth Christ in any, he accepts of them: if Christ be not there, whatever they have, he regards them not. Christ is all in all, even in the esteeme of the Father himselfe: he was the delight of the father from all eternity, Prov. 8. 30. and the father tooke infinite contentment in him upon his willingnesse to undertake this blessed worke of the redemption of mankinde. God the father is infinitely satisfied in Christ, he is all in all to him: Surely if Christ be an object sufficient for the satisfaction of the father, much more then is he an object sufficient for the satisfaction of any soul.
But that which is the maine scope here of the holy Ghost in this high expression of Christs transcendent excellency (that I may come presently to it) I shall deliver it in this doctrinall proposition, That Christ is the onely meanes of conveighance of all good that God the father intends to communicate unto the children of men, in order to eternall life; he is all, and in all. This that I am now to Preach unto you, namely, Gods communicating of himselfe in his mercy to mankinde, through a mediatour, it is the very sum of the Gospell, the great mystery of godlinesse, ’tis the chiefe part of the minde and counsell of God, that he would have made knowne to the children of men in this world. This is the great embassage that the ministers of the Gospell have to bring unto the sons and daughters of men, and ’tis the most absolutely necessary point in all Divinity.
I suppose in the first hearing of it, every one yeilds to the truth of it; ’tis true you will say, we can have no good from God, but in and by Christ. Well, there is a great deal in that you say, when you say all must come from God in Christ: in all your prayers and petitions you usually conclude them through Jesus Christ; but certainely this is many times spoken when we see little of the glory of God that there is in such an expression: and that which I shall this day endeavour, shall be to shew you somewhat of the glory of God shining in this truth that God doth communicate himselfe through a mediatour, through his son. This is the great point of Divinity that is absolutely necessary to be known to eternall life: it is possible to be ignorant of many other truths, and yet be saved; but there must be some knowledge of this, or there can be no salvation: the mistake in this very thing is the miscarriage, and the eternall undoing of thousand thousands of souls; many there are who believe that they have need of, and can never be saved but by Gods mercy, and this the light of nature convinceth us of: but that God is to communicate his mercy through a mediator, this they are ignorant of, and see not into the reallity of this truth; and miscarry and perish eternally with cryes to God for mercy, because they come to God, but not through a mediator. This is the sum of the Gospell, and the most supernaturall truth revealed in all the book of God. It is a truth that was hidden almost from all the world for many ages; the Scripture saith, The Princes of the world knew it not. A truth we are not able to understand any thing of by the light of nature. 1 Cor. 1. 21. The world by wisdome knew not God, that is, by all their arts and sciences, by all their naturall wisedome, they knew not God savingly; they did not know God in Christ. There is no footsteps of this truth in all the works of creation or providence; therefore in Ephes. 3. 8. Saint Paul sayes, he was appointed to Preach the unsearchable riches of Christ; that riches that hath no footsteps: that is the propriety of the word; there is no footsteps of the riches of the Gospell in the creature; therefore you cannot trace it there; whereas many other points of religion have many footsteps in the creature, and by the light of nature much may be discovered about God: as that all our good consists in communion with God, that when we have offended God, we must seek to him for pardon and mercy, and the like: But that God communicates himself through Christ, and that not one drop of mercy in order to eternal life can be communicated from God, but through Christ the mediator, of this there is not one footstep in all the works of God.
This is that which is so supernaturall, that ’tis above perfect nature. Adam knew nothing of this in his perfect estate. Yea this is that which the Angels themselves desire to pry into, looking upon it as a mighty depth. 1 Peter 1. 12. the Angels stoop downe (for so the word signifieth) ’tis as if a thing should lye in a deep pit, and when any would see it, they stoop down with their bodies to pry into the pit: thats the propriety of the word: so the Angels they see a mighty depth in the mystery of the Gospell, and they stoop downe to pry into it, that they may know what it is. Yea this is that which requires a worke of the spirit, beyond the ordinary work of the spirit of God, to reveale it to the soul, 1 Cor. 2. 10. speaking there of the Mystery of the Gospell, sayes the Apostle, The spirit that searcheth the deep things of God, &c. discovers this; that is the spirit of God in an extraordinary worke of his, as he is a spirit searching the deep things of God, so he is a discovering spirit of this truth unto us: and therefore seeing it is thus, it is not so light to be past over. I, you will say, ’tis true, all must come through Jesus Christ: well, you see a little at first, but there is much more in this truth then we are aware of. ‘Tis a truth that is the most profitable of all the truths contained in the book of God: there is no growing up in godlinesse till we come to know God in Christ: the knowledge of God is something to worke upon the heart, and many labour against their sinne because they see it is against the law of God, and set upon duties because God requires them; and this is well; but till they come to understand indeed the mystery of the Gospell, of Gods letting himselfe out unto his people through a mediator, they doe but bungle in the wayes of godlinesse, they doe not thrive and grow up in them; and therefore these Christians that live under such a ministry, where though they have many good truths revealed to them, yet having but little of the mystery of Christ, as the mediator, their way of Christianity is very low, they doe not sanctifie God in their conversation. I remember a speech that Erasmus hath when they would have had him write against Luther, and promised him a great Bishopricke for it; he answers, Luther is greater then that I can write against him; for I am instructed more in one small page of Luther, then out of whole Thomas Aquinas, that was the great Schoolman. So certainly the understanding but some one truth, some one sentence in the mystery of the Gospell, in this way of Gods communication of himselfe unto us through his Christ, doth instruct the soul, and cause it to thrive and grow up in godlinesse abundantly more then thousands of Sermons about meere moralities: and you have a most admirable Text for this, Ephes. 3. 17. and so on, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge: marke what followes, That yee might be filled with all the fulnesse of God, v. 19. By coming to know God in Christ, that is, to know Christ to be the way of Gods communicating himselfe unto us, we come to be filled with all the fulnesse of God: many Christians their hearts are very scant and empty, there is not a fulnesse in their spirits; and all because they know so little of God in Christ, in this mystery of the Gospell.
Lastly, there is no truth revealed in all the Scriptures whereby we can honour God so much as by this: this indeed is the great honour that God would have in the world, to be honoured in his Son, and in the great designe he hath of bringing forth glorious things by his Son: and therefore though we know never so much of God, and would honour him meerely as the Creator of heaven and earth, yet God doth not accept of that honour, that is but to honour him in a naturall way; we never know what it is to honour God aright, so as to be accepted of him, till we come to honour him in an Evangelicall way, to honour him in his Son: and yet the greatest honour he hath from most in the world, yea from multitudes in the very Church of God, that heare the mystery of Christ opened to them, is tendred up to him meerly in a naturall way, and not in this spirituall Evangelicall service of God. You see now the consequence of the point, let us then fall to it.
And First I shall shew you the truth of it in Scripture.
And Secondly how it comes to passe that there can be no good communicated to us from God in order to eternall life but by Christ.
And Thirdly, how Christ comes to be the meanes and way of conveighance of all good unto us from his father.
Fourthly, I shall instance in some speciall things, great things wherein most of the goodnesse of God is communicated to us, and shew you how in them Christ is all in all to us.
And Fifthly the reasons why God will have this way of communication of himselfe unto us through his Son, why he will not communicate himselfe immediatly to us, but through a mediator; these are the five things for the doctrinall part.
For the first, the course of Scripture especially of the new Testament runs this way; you know that of Christ, John 14. 6. I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me; there is no coming to the Father but by Christ, and Christ he is the way: and that in 1 Cor. 3. at the latter end, sayes the Apostle there: All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours. How is that? marke, All are yours, and ye are Christs, and Christ is Gods: God the Father he is the principle of all good; all firstly comes from him, but it comes not from him immediatly: he doth not say, all are yours, for ye are Gods; because you have an interest in God, therefore all comes to be yours: no, but all are yours, and you are Christs, and Christ is Gods; so that you see here how that Christ comes between yours and Gods.
All good is in God, true; but how shall we come to partake of that good? there is such a distance between these two terms, yours and Gods, that were not Christ in the middle, they would never come together. Yea, but Christs coming between, and joyning them together, then all are yours, because yee are Christs, and Christ is Gods; so that we may take the intent of the Holy Ghost here, in this similitude (though it be too low for the great mystery we are about to expresse.) Conceive God the father as the fountaine of all good, and Christ as it were the Cisterne: and then from him, pipes conveiged to every believer; and faith, that sucks at the mouth of every pipe, and drawes from God, but it comes from God through Christ. The Father he fills the Son with all good, and so it comes from the Father through the Son by faith unto the soul of every beliver: we have a notable expression further of this mystery in the Epistle to the Ephes. in the second and third Chapters, in Chapter 2. vers. 12, having told them that they had been without hope, and without God in the world; but saith he vers. 13. Ye who sometimes were farre off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ: It is by the blood of Christ that you have any thing to doe with God; but especially in Ephes. 3. 12. In whom we have boldenesse and accesse with confidence by the faith of him; in whom? in Christ, we come to have boldnesse and accesse: boldnesse, the word signifies liberty of speech that we can come with liberty of speech before God, and we have accesse: Manudction, we are led by the hand of Christ to the father, there is no coming to the father but by Christ, and Christ he takes a believer by the hand and leads him to the father, and so he comes to have boldnesse: as if a Traytor should be banished, the Court, and afterward the Prince should be a meanes of his reconciliation with the King, and comes and takes the Traytor by the hand, and sayes to him, come, I will lead you in my hand to my father, and though you have provoked him, yet being in my hand, you need not be afraid, but may goe to him with boldnesse and confidence. Just the meaning of the Text here, In Christ we have boldnesse and accesse with confidence; and although before there was a dreadfull breach between the father and us, yet being led by the hand of Christ, there is accesse and freedome of speech for us: well the truth is cleare enough in the whole tenour of the Gospell.
If you would know now how it comes to passe, that though God be in himselfe the fountaine of all goodnesse and infinite mercy; that yet there is such a stoppage as it were that there is not one drop of this mercy can be communicated to the children of men but this way? that although we have to deal with God, who in his owne nature is infinitely mercifull; yet such is the case with man, and such are the termes between God and man, that there is not, I say, one drop of this infinite ocean can be expected to come for ever from God, but onely this way, It comes to passe thus:
First, because of the breach of the first covenant that God made with mankinde; for onely men and Angels, the humane and angelical nature, are capable of a covenant with God, to speak of a covenant properly: and because they are capable of this way of Gods proceeding with them, God would goe according to the nature of his creature; and therefore at first makes a covenant with them, and intended to convey and communicate his goodnesse to them by that convenant; now this covenant being broken, and so there being a breach between God and man, there is a stoppage made by vertue of that breach: So that there is no good now to be had by vertue of the first covenant: and unlessse there be a second, there can be no good at all expected; the first being broken, and we being lost by that.
And further, there is such an infinite distance between God and us, that there can be no coming together; and that not so much in regard of Gods excellency in himselfe, and our meanesse, that we are such poor low creatures, as in regard of the infinitenesse of his holinesse, and our uncleanesse and sinfulnesse, this makes the distance.
Besides, there is the strength of the law; the curse of the law is upon every soul naturally, and that stops: there was never vessel stopt closer to be kept from having a drop of liquor poured into it, then the curse of the law is close upon every soul, to keep mercy from it, so farre as God looks upon it meerly in its naturals, and not through his Son.
Then there are the cryes of infinite Justice against men, which must have satisfaction: and till Justice be satisfied mercy stirres not, unlesse it be in a way of providing satisfaction unto Justice: so that put these together, the breach of the first covenant, the distance between God and man in regard of Gods holinesse and mans sinfulnesse, the power of the curse of the law upon man, and the cryes of divine Justice, that will never be quiet till it hath received satisfaction: these things being rightly apprehended, we may come to see that we are farre off from receiving mercy from God, though he be an infinite fountaine of mercy, except there be some strange way of conveying it to us. We know, according to Gods dealing with the fallen Angels, there is no way of conveying mercy to them, but they are left to perish for ever: if the thousands of Angels that fell from God should be thousands of thousands of yeares crying out for mercy, they could not obtain one drop: why? because there is no mediator between God and them; and it would have been our case with them, had there not been a mediator between God and us. Many thinke if they are sensible of their sinnes, and can believe that God is infinitely mercifull, they shall do well enough: but I must tell you, that though there be infinite mercy in God, yet if thou hast no interest in Christ, thou mayest be undone for ever.
But how is Christ all in all to us in Gods communication of good to us?
The first ground of all is the covenant that God the Father made with his Son from all eternity. Therefore in Titus 1. 2. the Apostle speakes of the promise that was before the world began. Now this promise can be meant onely of that covenant that past between the Father and the Son: and therefore sayes the Apostle in 1 Cor. 2. 9. 10. Eye hath not seen, nor eare heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them which love him: but the spirit which searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God, he hath revealed them unto us, that is, the spirit of God in the Gospel discovers what were the eternal thoughts and purposes of God concerning us, and what the transactions were between the Father and the Son in reference to man-kind before the world was. The covenant now being between the Father and the Son, and the Father requiring in this Covenant satisfaction to infinite divine justice, Christ he yeilds to this.
And therefore in the second place, Christ he actually comes to be the way of conveyance, by taking our nature upon him, and so makes us reconcilable to God, by taking humane nature into such a neer union to the divine nature, to the second person in the Trinity; so as that there should be but one 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 but one person in them both, that there should be a personall union, which is the great mystery of the Gospell. There are two great mysteries in the Gospell; the one, that there should be divers persons in one nature; and this is the mystery of the Trinity: the other that there should be divers natures in one person; and this is the mystery of the hypostaticall union of our nature with Christ. So that Christ taking mans nature into such a neer union to himselfe, it was a mighty preparative for God to have thoughts of peace toward humane nature, rather then to the Angels: and it was one part of his humility, and therefore hath a meritorious efficiency in this worke of reconciling God to man. But this was not sufficient.
Therefore in the third place, Christ was content now to come into the world, and be made the head of a second covenant between God and mankinde; to performe what ever God the Father should require, for the satisfaction of divine Justice: so that, look as Adam by being the head of the first covenant, was the meanes of conveying all evill to us: so Christ by being the head of the second covenant, is the meanes of conveying all good to us; by his subjecting to this we come to receive all grace and mercy from God. And it could not have been otherwise; for though God would have thought of a second covenant, yet if he had left it to us to have performed the termes of it, we should assoon have broken that, as we did the first: but Christ undertaking to be the head of the second covenant, and performing whatever the Father required in it, by his perfect obedience to the law, and satisfaction to divine Justice, divine Justice had nothing to lay to the charge of those that Christ undertook to satisfie for: This was a mighty way of Gods letting out his grace and mercy to the souls of believers; for what is it that stops the current of his mercy? ’tis the curse of the law and cryes of divine Justice: but now, Christ undertaking to undergoe that curse, and to satisfie divine Justice, God hath as much honour now by his suffering, as he had dishonour by mans sinning: so that mans sinne is made up in this; and that is it Justice requires. I have had dishonour by sinne sayes Justice, I must have this dishonour made up by suffering, and so much suffering as in which I must have as much honour as I had before dishonour in sinning. These are the conditions upon which God will be reconciled to man; and upon no other. I beseech you consider this, and herein you will see an infinite necessity of Christ: God is with us upon these termes: sayes God, you have sinned against me and dishonoured me; how doe you think to be delivered? why Lord, thou art mercifull: I, sayes God, but I am resolved upon this, I will have as much honour by suffering, as I had dishonour by sinning. And Lord what would have become of us, if we had been left to make up this breach. This is the very reason why the damned in hell are there eternally, because they are there upon these termes; sayes God, I am infinite, and I am dishonoured, and there they must lye, till I have as much honour by their suffering as I had dishonour by their sinning. Now after they have been there thousands of thousands of yeares, still the honour of God calls for more: and therefore they must lye there for ever. But now, Christ who is the great Saviour, he comes, and entering into covenant with God, and fulfilling that covenant, he layes downe God such a price, that God shall have as much honour in his suffering for sinne, as he had dishonour before in the committing of sinne. Now this being done, the current of mercy being unstopt, and the passages of it opened, and God being infinite in grace and mercy in himselfe, what a glorious way is made for the streames of his mercy to issue and flow forth to the children of men.
And (take in this one particular more, and then we shall have done with this head) In this we may see, that God in forgiving of sinne, and shewing mercy to sinfull creatures is just; and goes in a way of Justice, as well as in a way of mercy: therefore that Text Rom. 3. 25. 26. is very observable (a Text that Luther for a while was exceedingly troubled about the meaning of it) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his bloud, to declare his righteousnesse for the remission of sinnes that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousnesse, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. This was that which troubled Luther so much, that God should declare his righteousnesse in the remission of sinnes: that God declares his mercy every one knowes, but that God declares his righteousnesse, and that Christ is set to be a propitiation, that God might declare his righteousnesse, this may seem strange: and then the Holy Ghost repeats it, To declare I say his righteousnesse: as if he should say, consider that God in the pardoning of sinne, doth not onely manifest his grace and mercy, but declares his righteousnesse, That he might be just: and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus; Not mercifull, but just: thus wee see what way Christ takes to be the meanes of conveying Gods goodnesse to us; by performing the covenant, and so satisfying divine Justice.
Lastly, he is the way of conveying good to us, as by his satisfaction, so by his intercession: for he is now, and shall for ever be, at the right hand of the Father in glory, making intercession for his people: that is, continually presenting before his Father the worke of his mediation, his merits, what he hath done and suffered, and as it were pleading with his Father for the conveyance of all needfull mercy and good unto the souls and bodies of his people whom he hath redeemed. As if he should every moment eternally speake thus to the Father: Father, behold here is my bloud, my merits, my death, all my sufferings; the worke of my humiliation, it is for these; yea for this poor soul, and for that poor soul particularly: for know that Christ thinks not only of the lumpe of believers in the generall, but particularly of every believer, and is continually presenting before the Father his infinite merits, to plead with him for supply of all grace and mercy to us: and thus he comes to be an infinite way of conveyance of good to the souls of his people, and so to be all and in all to them, both here and eternally: that is the third particular; how Christ comes to be the way of conveyance.
But now the fourth, and that is, to instance in some speciall things we have from God, and to manifest that Christ is all in all in those things; As now first, in the point of justification and the pardon of our sinnes, the acceptation of us as righteous: that is the great thing we stand in need of from God, Christ is all in all to us here: this is the tenour of the Gospell, Rom. 3. 24. Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Luther hath this expression concerning justification: sayes he, in the point of justification, there Christ and faith must be onely put together; they must be alone, and nothing else with them; but in our conversation, there indeed comes in good workes: just as it is between the bridegroom and the bride, the bridegroom and the bride are alone in the bride chamber; but when they goe abroad, there they have their traine and servants attending them: so he compares justification to the bride chamber; none but Christ and faith must be there; but when they come abroad in their conversation, then all other graces attend them, and good workes come in; but Christ is all in all here.
First, It is not all we have done; no, nor all that we can possibly doe, that can be our justification. You will say, true, we have for the present done but little: I, but suppose any of you should doe your utmost in any particular that God requires: you will say, I hope if I doe what I can, God will accept it of me: no, you mistake exceedingly if you thinke so; people are very apt to look upon God as if the termes between God and them were no other then thus: God he is a pittifull and a mercifull God; and ’tis true, we are weak and can doe but little: but yet doing what we are able, God he will accept the will for the deed: no, God accepts not the will for the deed in point of justification. It is true, in those that are already justified, God in the performance of duty accepts the will for the deed, so as to take delight in them: but in point of justification, as to pardon of sinne and acceptation to righteousnesse, there he must have perfect obedience; and though we endeavour never so much, yet unlesse we can bring God a perfect righteousnesse, we are undone for ever; yea, woe to Abraham, and woe to Isaac, and woe to Jacob, and woe to David and Daniel, and to all the Prophets and Apostles, notwithstanding all their righteousnesse, if they had not had a righteousnesse beyond what was in themselves; If they had not had a perfect righteousnesse to tender to their Father, they had been utterly lost for ever: therefore it is not for thee to rest upon this, that thou doest what thou canst, and hast good wishes and desires, and the like; for were all the righteousnesse of all the righteous men that ever were in the world in one man, it would not be sufficient for his justification. I but it may be you will say, true I can doe but little of my self, but if God enable me, then he will accept of me. Nay further, it is not what God enables thee to doe, that can be the formallity of thy justification: such are the termes between God and thee, that there is nothing thou canst doe of thy self, or canst be enabled to doe, that is accepted of him for thy righteousnesse to eternall life.
But it may be said, it is true, though God should enable me, yet there may be imperfections; but God is mercifull, and will passe them by: therefore I adde another consideration, that it is not onely what thou canst do, or canst be enabled to doe, but ’tis not Gods mercy added (if barely considered, as the mercy of God as a creator to his creature, and not under this consideration through Christ, and accepting a righteousnesse beyond thy own) that can eke out thy justification. This is a great mistake, many think that that which they have in themselves and what they are able to doe, is but little: but when they have done something, if God will come then and adde his mercy to it, that they think will eke it out: no, it is not that and mercy together that is thy justification, I say mercy out of this notion we are speaking of.
And that you may understand it yet more clearly, consider it thus the work of Gods mercy in justification, it is not of this use, that it should be our justification, or should eke out what we are wanting in for our justification; but the work of Gods mercy in justifying a soul is, to take him off from himselfe, to unbottome him, and to make him see and be sensible of his own unrighteousnesse and uncleanesse: this is a great and mighty work of Gods mercy. I remember Luther sayes of himselfe, that while he was a Papist, he was not obedient out of worldly respects for a livelyhood, and the like; but he did what he did out of conscience: and yet sayes he afterward, (after he knew God in Christ) That which I counted gain was losse unto me. He did not think it enough to do what he did out of conscience, and that Gods mercy should make up the rest: no, he was taken off of that way. ‘Tis not the work of mercy to do this, but to discover to the soul a righteousnesse of a higher nature, even of the mediator God and man; and to enable the soul by faith to tender up that righteousnesse to God the father for satisfaction: this is the worke of Gods mercy in point of justification. The mistake of the way of Gods mercy having an influence into our justification is a very dangerous mistake; and we had need be very wary in this great point of justification, for all depends upon it. I remember Luther in this, sayes he, it is an easie matter to say we close with Gods grace, and the righteousnesse of Christ alone in the point of justification, till the soul be brought to a conflict: and then ’tis the hardest thing in the world to doe it, and the people of God have found it so in the time of trouble of conscience: thats the first, that Christ is all in all in point of justification.
Secondly, he is all in all in point of adoption, so sayes the Scripture, Gal. 3. 26. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; and Chapter 4. v. 4. 5. But when the fulnesse of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons: and especially that is very remarkable John 1. 12, But as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. The word translated power, is another word in the greek.—He gave them authority to become the sons of God: ’tis a word that imports more then bare power. Every one will challenge a part in sonship, that they are the children of God; but only those that are in Christ have authority to challenge it as their due. If a stranger should say he was the Kings son, and were heire to the Crown, it would cost him his life, because he is none of the Kings son; but if one be declared by Act of Parliament to be the right heire to the Crown, then he hath authority to challenge it. ‘Tis so here; when once we come to be in Christ, then we have authority to claime this priviledge, to be the sons of God, and heires of heaven. And this great priviledge that is so mightily above us, we have it in Christ, not only by way of the redundancy of his merit, but by our union with him, we are married to Christ; and by union with his person, are made one with him; and so are sons by vertue of his sonship: And are therefore sons of God in a higher way then the Angels are; the Angels are sons by creation, but we are the sons of God in Christ, by vertue of our union in his sonship: as Christ is the son of God the second person in Trinity, and we made one with him, so we come to be the sons of God in a mysticall way of union with him, and Christ is all in all in that.
And then in point of reconciliation and peace with God, Christ is all in all there, Being justified, by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. 5. 1. It is not all the created power in heaven and earth that can bring true peace to a troubled soul: there is no salve for a wounded spirit, but the bloud of Christ applyed unto it: tis he that is the brazen Serpent that is onely able to cure the strings of conscience; as Luther sayes, it is a harder matter of comfort an afflicted conscience, then to raise the dead: few think it so, and wonder what people meane in being so troubled in conscience as they are: I tell you, were there not a mighty redeemer, the conscience of a man or woman could never be pacified that once apprehends the wrath of God against them; so that Christ is all in all there.
And so he is all in all in point of all our sanctification, that is sanctification to life. There is a generall kinde of sanctification the Scripture speaks of, which comes some way from Christ: but now I speak of that sanctification which is our spirituall life. You know what the Scripture sayes, John 3. 36. He that believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life; and John 1. 16. And of his fulnesse have all we received, and grace for grace. There is the fulnesse of Christ conveyed into the soul: so that our sanctification is not only from him meritoriously, but efficiently, yea, and in a kinde materially too, for he doth not only merit it, and work it by his spirit; but through our union with him there is a kinde of flowing of sanctification from him into us, as the principle of our life: as from the Liver there flowes bloud into all the parts of the body; so through our union with Christ, he having the fulnesse of the Godhead in him, from him as from a fountaine, sanctification flowes into the souls of the Saints: there sanctification comes not so much from their strugling, and endeavours, and vowes, and resolutions, as it comes flowing to them from their clossing with Christ and their union with him; there may be a great deal of striving and endeavouring that may be utterly ineffectuall, for want of having recourse unto Christ as the spring and well head of all grace and holinesse. I remember a Germane Devine professeth of himself, that before he understood the grace of Christ in the Gospell, he vowed and vowed, and covenanted and covenanted a thousand times, and could never overcome his corruptions, till he understood Gods letting out of his grace through Christ, and then he got strength against them: and the reason why we faile in point of sanctification is, because we think to get it all by maine strength; but the ready way is to close with Christ by faith, and then there will flow in life and grace to the soul: there may be many morallities by the light of nature, and the remainders of that light left in us; but that is not the sanctification that is to life. And hence it is, that there is so much beauty and glory in the sanctification of the Saints, because Christ is all in all in it; and that there is such power and strength in it, because it is of the strength of Christ; for Christ is all in all in it. And hence it is of an abiding nature, and an immortall seed; And therefore of a higher nature then that of Adams in innocency: that lost, but so cannot this; because Christ is all in all in it; so that Christ is all in our sanctification likewise.
Again, he is all in all in the want of all things, whatsoever we want: doe we want grace, doe we want gifts, doe we want outward comforts in the world? there is enough in Christ: it is Christ that is instead of all, that is better then all, and that will supply all in his due time. Those that know Christ, and have acquaintance with him, though they have this and that comfort taken from them, yet they know how to make supply out of Christ: they have that skill, and art, and mystery of godlinesse, that they can make Christ to be all in all in the want of all: and it is a great skill and mystery of godlinesse, to know how to make up all in Christ in the want of all.
Again, Christ to the Saints is all in all in the enjoyment of all: when they enjoy never so much of creature comforts, Christ is all in all in them; the satisfaction that their soules have, is not so much that they have the creatures, that they have larger estates, more friends, greater comforts then others; but in this, they know how to enjoy Christ in all, and can look upon it as a fruit of the covenant that God hath made with them in Christ; and as coming from the fountaine of Gods eternall love and mercy in his Son Zech. 9. 11. God saies there, As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. That which is spoken there of the deliverance of the prisoners, may be applied to all the mercies that a believer enjoyes: whatever deliverance he hath from evil, whatever good he is possessed of, it is by the blood of the covenant; a believer can look upon every bit of meat he hath, and upon all the good he enjoyes, and see it all come streaming to him in the blood of Christ; and so it comes abundantly the sweeter. As tis with the Sun, when it shines through the aire it is not so warm, as when it shines through a burning-glasse. Take a burning-glasse, and hold it between you and the Sun, and the glasse will contract the beames of the Sunne, so that it shall have an efficacy of heat, even to burn again: So the goodnesse of God that comes to people through the generall bounty and patience of God, hath not such an efficacy to warm and heat their hearts, and to draw them to God; but now, Christ is as it were the burning-glasse, that is held between God and the soule; and the mercy coming through this burning-glasse, O how doth it warm and heat outward comforts! therefore there is no people in the world can enjoy outward comforts with so much fulnesse of contentment as the people of God doe, because they all come to them through Christ. Christ is all in all in the enjoyment of all. And so I might shew you how he will be all in all in Heaven to eternity.
But to give you one particular more: as he is all in all in the good we have from God, so he is all in all in whatever we tender up to God; as in descent from God to us, so in ascent from us to God: Christ must come in there, he must be all in all in our services, let our services be never so good; yea, though spirituall, yet they must finde aceptance with the Father through Christ. That Text is very remarkable for this, 1 Pet. 2. 5. Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spirituall house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spirituall sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ; marke, To offer up spirituall sacrifices. I, but though the sacrifice be spirituall, that is not enough to make it acceptable, but Christ he must come in; therefore he addes, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Many people offer up sacrifice, and they think that is enough; but the people of God they rest not only in the duty, no, nor in the spirituality of the duty, though that be counted a great matter: but they goe one step higher, and so must you in all the duties you tender up to God, and that is, not only to be carefull that your duties be spirituall, but you must tender them to God in the hands of Jesus Christ, and expect acceptance through him. When thou hast to deal with God in all thy approaches to him be sure thou doest not omit the work of Faith, in laying hold upon Christ and carrying him along with thee; or else thy service will not be accepted. We know the sacrifices in the law, though they were never so good, yet they were not accepted unlesse a man brought them to the Priest, and the Priest he must offer up the sacrifice, and then it was accepted. Now what was that to signifie to us, but Christs Priestly office: this is the very work of the Priestly office of Christ, to take all our sacrifices that we tender up to the Father, and to offer them up for us: for we must not presume to offer them our selves; and though they offered a sacrifice that was never so good, yet if they did not offer it upon the right Altar, it was not accepted: so Christ he is the right Altar upon which we must offer up all our sacrifices to the Father; we must look towards the Temple, towards Christ, in all that goes from us unto God, Christ being all in all for acceptation of our duties.
And thus we have done with the fourth particular, shewing wherein Christ is all in all.
But now it may be demanded; how it comes to passe that God will have this way of communicating himself to mankinde, and will not goe in that other way, that we by the light of nature and reason would think he should goe? true indeed, we are sinners: I, but God is mercifull, and we will seek, and cry to him for pardon and mercy, and deliverance from our sins; and what needs there more? why will not God save us this way? I will not stand now to dispute about the possibility of this, but we know this is not the way.
We are therefore now to enquire why God should rather take this strange way, then goe any other way? and indeed it is a wonderfull way, if we rightly consider it: there is nothing in the world that works so much upon a mans heart to adore and admire God in the mystery of the Gospell, as the understanding of this, that God should have a peculiar way of communicating himself to man, different from Angels, and from all other creatures; that it must be through the second person in the Trinity; and he must take mans nature upon him, and suffer, and dye, and all the mercy we have must be through him: this is a wonderfull mystery of godlinesse; and should take up our serious thoughts in the consideration of it.
Now if you would know the reason of it; the first is this, That hereby God might manifest to all the children of men, what a dreadfull breach their sins had made between God and them: we cannot imagine any way how the breach between God and man could have been so clearly set out, as by this meanes; when we understand that such was our condition by nature, and such our apostacy from God, that there was no way of communication of any good from God to us, but by this strange and wonderfull way of a mediator between God and man: that he should obey and suffer, and dye for us, we must needs apprehend now, that certainly there was some mighty difference between God and us: and that mans estate was very low, and his condition very desperate, that must have such a remedy as this is. And this is that which God would have men to know, even what that breach is between him and their souls: and tis such a breach that few think a right of it. If I should open the law to you, with all its curses, and set the torments of hell before you, all this could not set out the dreadfulnesse of the breach between God and you, so as this point doth, when I tell you that it was such as requires so strange and wonderfull a way of Gods being reconciled and pacified towards you.
Secondly, God takes this way, because he sees it the most advantageous way for the manifestation of his glory; first the glory of his mercy: there is no way that could have been devised by men or Angels to set out the glory of Gods mercy in mans salvation, so as by this way: if God should have said to mankinde; You poor creatures have sinned against me, but I am mercifull and will pardon you; God had been glorious in this: but now there is infinitely more mercy shewed when God shall say, You miserable creatures have sinned against me; and such is your condition, that except the Son of my bosome be made a curse for you, there can be no mercy for you: well I am content that he shall not be spared; but shall be given to be a curse to prepare mercy for you: here is glory indeed. Therefore when Christ was borne, the Angels sung, glory to God in the highest, Luke 2. 14. As if they had said, this is the highest pitch of the glory of God, in providing such a way of reconciliation with the children of men; and God was so set upon this work of shewing mercy to mankinde, that though it cost the death of his Son, he would have it, and that shews it to be infinite mercy and love indeed, when it breakes through such mighty difficulties; there is the glory of his mercy.
And then secondly, there is the glory of his Justice: God sets out the glory of his Justice here, more then if all mankind had been eternally damned: Gods Justice would not have been honoured so much in that as in this way of Gods reconciling man unto himself; and that in these two regards: First, because in Christ Gods Justice is glorified actively; whereas if all men had eternally perished, it should have been glorified but passively: and tis more to have it glorified actively, then passively: and as God delights more in active obedience then in passive, so he delights more in the active glory of his Justice then in the passive, (though there is a kinde of activenesse in suffering, and so in Christs suffering: therefore that distinction of active and passive is needlesse; for his active obedience was passive, and his passive obedience had activenesse in it.)
But Secondly, Gods Justice is now glorified perfectly; the debt is fully paid: whereas if all mankinde had been damned, the debt should have been but a paying, and not have been paid to all eternity. As suppose a poor man oweth a thousand pounds, and he payeth two pence a week, he may be paying of it, but cannot pay it in all his life: but now if a rich man shall come, and at once lay down the money for him, the debt then is paid: and this is a great deal more then if it should have been alwayes paying. So I say, if all mankinde had been damned eternally, God should have had his debt but paying; but the debt would never have been paid: but now Christ comes and layes down the payment at once upon the borde, and asketh Justice whether it hath enough or no; so that Justice is more glorified this way.
And Thirdly, the infinite glory of his wisdome appeares in reconciling Justice and Mercy together: that God should be infinitely merciful and just both in one thing; this is that that no Angell in Heaven could ever have imagined: suppose God should have said thus to all the Angels in Heaven, Mankinde is in a lost and undone condition, yet I am willing to save him, but so as that I will have infinite mercy and Justice reconciled: if all of them should have gone and consulted together, they could not possibly have told how this should be. Now the infinite wisdom of God, and nothing but infinite wisdom could finde out such a way; as that God should be infinitely mercifull, and infinitely just too.
And Fourthly, the infinitenesse of Gods holinesse is hereby manifested: if God in a generall way should have thrown his mercy as it were up and down in the world without any more adoe, Gods holinesse, and hatred of sinne, would not have appeared as now it doth, when nothing can expiate sinne but the death of his Son; if God should carry any of you to the brinke of hell, and there let you see all the miseries of the damned, and heare all their yellings under the fruits of divine wrath, O you would say, how doth God hate sinne! but be it known to you, in the sufferings of Christ there is a greater manifestation of Gods hatred of sinne then in all the torments of hell: You that would know how infinitely hatefull sinne is to God, come and behold Christ, God and man sweltering under the wrath of his Father; look upon him in the garden, sweating drops of blood: come and follow him to the Crosse, and heare him cry out in the bitternesse of his soule that dolefull cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? behold Jesus Christ, God man, who was God blessed for ever, made a curse for sinne, and for thy sinne; look upon sinne in this glasse, and here see Gods hatred of sinne. There are two glasses wherein we see the evill of sinne; the bright christall glasse of the law, and the red glasse of the sufferings of Christ: and this latter doth more fully, more sensibly (I am sure) set out the nature of sinne, and Gods hatred of it: and by this you may see the meaning of 2 Cor. 3. 18. where the Apostle speaking of the mystery of the Gospell sayes, But we all with open face (marke) beholding as in a glasse the glory of the Lord, &c. We behold but Gods back parts in his works: as God sayes to Moses; we behold but the footsteps of God in his workes: but when we behold him in Christ, we behold him with open face. Now look what difference there is in knowing a man when we only see the print of his foot upon sand, and when we look him in the face, so much difference there is between the knowing of God and his glory as it shines in the workes of creation, and as it shines in the face of Christ; that God therefore might manifest his glory, he would not pardon sinne so freely as to say, you have sinned, but yet I will pity you, and pardon you, and there is an end; no, though he would pardon sinne, yet he would doe it this way.
A Third reason why God would bring things about this way, is this: because God saw there could be no such way to draw poor sinners to himself as this. When God shall reveal to a sinner that he is not only a mercifull God, but that he hath provided such a strange way to convey his mercy: this hath a mighty efficacy to draw the soul to God: for the poor soule apprehending its own guiltinesse, and Gods hatred of sin; and understanding withall, that the heart of God is set upon such a way of mercy; is by this as by a mighty argument prevailed with to draw neer to God in a way of dependance upon him: for thus will the soul argue, Well, I heare that God, to the end he might let out mercy to poor sinners, hath of his own infinite wisdome provided such a strange way of conveyance as this is; and when God hath made it appeare by revealing to me the mystery of the Gospell how his heart is set upon this way of shewing mercy to sinners, I conclude now, that the Lord is willing to be reconciled to me, and why then should I be unbelieving any more? why should I have hard thoughts of God any more? why should I remaine in my doubting condition any longer? thou canst not be more desirous of the salvation of thy soul, then God is of magnifying his grace and mercy: and God hath done more for thee then thou canst possibly do for the salvation of thy soul. Besides, tis a mighty drawing argument; for by this meanes the infinite distance that conicience apprehended to be between God and the soul, is taken away: for when the soul sees it hath to deal with an infinite deity, that is so farre above it, it stands shaking and trembling, and dares not draw nigh to God. What have I to doe, saith the soul, with such a God as this is, who is so infinitely above me? but now when thou knowest that Christ is between God and thee, then this distance needs not scare thee; yea now all thy guiltinesse and all the filthinesse and pollution of thy soul, and all that the law hath to say against thee, need be no discouragement to thee, when thou seest thou hast to deal with God through Jesus Christ. Therefore no soul can stand off and say, how doe I know it belongs to me? doe but take this one rule, for that there is nothing can interest the soul in Christ but Christ himself: there is no preparation to Christ, but Christ must be all in all in it: therefore stand not off, and say, how shall my heart be wrought to these and these preparations, and work thus and thus, before I have part in Christ? no; puzzle not thy self about thy preparations, but set before thy soul the mystery of the Gospell in this glorious way of Gods communication of himself to thee, and of reconciling man unto himself; and the very efficacy of these truths will have a power upon thy heart to draw thee unto God in this way of reconciliation; and that is the way of true comfort.
The Gospell it self, though there be no preparation before, yet hath an efficacy to draw the heart to Christ; for Christ is all in all in that. And doe not say, I am a poor meane creature, I can doe nothing, I cannot remember a Sermon, I cannot pray, or performe any good duty as I ought: why, remember soul, Christ is all in all: true, if any thing were required of thee in the businesse of salvation, it were somewhat; but know that God hath laid help upon one who is mighty; therefore tis not thy weaknesse, nor the distance between God and thee, that can hinder, if thou rightly apprehendest God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.
Another reason might have been this: God doth it to indeare his mercy to his Saints for ever; for indeed nothing indeares Gods mercy to them so much as this, that they see it come to them in such a way of conveyance; and that which will indear mercy to the Saints in heaven to all eternity, and for which they shall be full of the praises of God, shall not be so much for the good things they enjoy, as for that strange and wonderfull way by which they come to enjoy them. This I say is that which shall take up the hearts, and be a great part of the work of the glorified Saints in Heaven to all eternity, even their admiring, adoring, and praising God in Jesus Christ.
And then God delights to honour his Son, and that he might set him up, he makes him to be the meanes of conveyance of all good to those he intends it to; as if a King were to honour his Son, what way can he take to doe it more effectually then this, that all the favour he meanes to shew to any shall be only through his Son? so when God the Father would honour his Son, he appoints from all eternity, that all the grace and mercy that any shall have from him shall be only through his Son. Therefore as Christ saith, All judgement is committed to the Son, that all men might honour the Son, as they honour the Father: So I may say of the work and dispensation of Gods grace, that all is conveyed to Christ, and by him communicated to those that have interest in him, that the Son might be honoured to all eternity.
I shall conclude in a few words of application, to work upon you this that hath been said.
First, if it be thus, let us stand a while and admire at the depths of the councel of God, and the infinite glory of the riches of his grace to mankinde; that God should ever have such thoughts towards such poor wormes as we are, that he should not rather have let such despicable creatures eternally perish, then goe in such a strange way to shew mercy to them: Truly brethren, God hath done more in bringing a poor soul to himself then in creating Heaven and Earth: the work of creating Heaven and Earth is but a low piece of work in comparison of this wonderfull way of Gods conveying his grace and mercy to the children of men through his Son: this is the masterpiece of the workes of God, which he hath already done, or will ever doe to all eternity: and God therefore is to be admired and adored in this. We are to glorifie God in every creature, but how is God to be glorified then in his Son, wherein so much of his glory doth appeare? If it be a sinne for us not to sanctifie the name of God when we behold his glory in his meanest workes, O what a sinne is it not to sanctifie the name of God in beholding the mystery of the Gospell and his glory shining in the face of Jesus Christ! God, expects (brethren) that those who live under the Gospel, should spend their dayes and thoughts, and talk, about that glory which he hath manifested in his Son. O you that have such chaffy drossy spirits, that can spend your precious thoughts upon such poor things as you doe, know that here is an object to take up your thoughts; and your sinne is abundantly the greater in this, that you spend your thoughts about such vanities, when God sets before you so glorious an object to raise up your hearts unto himself; and you that spend a great deal of your lives in vanity, know, that this day you have heard of a truth that above all things in the world should take up your time and thoughts in the contemplation of it.
And you that have more time and greater estates then others, and are not put upon it to get your bread as others are, and so have greater opportunities for the worship and service of God, and for searching into his truth, yet how doe you spend your time in vanity and light things, as if there were no greater matters to take up your hearts! It is a signe of a vaine and frothy spirit, that when God propounds such glorious things to you, that yet it should be the content of your souls to baffle out your time in vanity; and things that will not profit. Well, if you would have an evidence to your souls, that Christ is all in all to you, and shall be to all eternity, take it in this: if ever God hath opened thine eyes to see his glory in the mystery of the Gospell; and that thy heart is taken with it, and overcome by it, it is an argument that thou art indeed the soul which God hath received to mercy in his Christ; but sayes the Apostle, 2 Cor. 4. 3. If our Gospell be hid, it is hid to them that are lost. There are a great many to whom the Gospell is preached, and yet tis hidden to them; and it is hidden to you if you speak of Christ only in a formall way, and think it enough to say, I hope to be saved by God in Jesus Christ; but doest thou see that in the Gospell which raises thy heart with admiration, and that darkens all the glory of the world? doest thou see more of the glory of God shining in that one sentence, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life, then thou seest in the whole frame of the creation of Heaven and Earth? thou hopest thou sayest to get to Heaven; but what wouldest thou doe there? the work of Saints and Angels in Heaven joyned together, is to magnifie God for this great work of his: doe thou then begin this work here, and give God his glory, for the great things he hath done for the children of men.
The Second use should have been this: If Christ be thus all in all, then let us blesse God that ever we knew Christ; and that the mystery of the Gospell hath been revealed to us: for otherwise we had been without God in the world; and what would have become of us had not this grace of God in the Gospell been revealed to us? could you ever have thought of it your selves? could it ever have entered into your hearts? certainly no; nor into the heart of any creature in Heaven or Earth: therefore blessed are your eares, that heare the things which you heare: and blessed are your eyes, that see the things which you see: and know, that when you come to live under the Ministry of the Gospell, you enjoy the greatest mercy that ever you enjoyed since you were borne: the coming under a powerfull Ministry, that reveals Christ and brings the day of salvation to the soul, it is no other then the fruit of the prayer of Jesus Christ for that soul: compare Isaiah 49. 8. with 2 Cor. 6. 1. 2. and you shall see this. Isaiah 49. 8. Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee, &c. Now it is apparent by the context, that this is to be understood of Christ: that God the Father speakes there to his Son: well, what is this acceptable time and day of Salvation in which Christ is heard? look 2 Cor. 6. 1. 2. in the chapter before he had told them, That they were ambassadors for Christ. We then as workers together with God, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vaine: Now what is this grace of God? tis the Ministry of the Gospell, For he saith I have heard thee in a time accepted: and mark how he applyes it, Behold now is the accepted time: behold now is the day of salvation. As if he should say; the acceptable time and day of salvation in which God the Father hath heard Christ, is now: now that we the ambassadors of Christ come and open the mystery of the Gospell to you; now is the time wherein God the Father hears the Son for you: what a mercy is this? and what an engagement upon you, that when you heare any thing of the mystery of the Gospell opened to you, you are to look upon it as the fruit of the prayer of Jesus Christ: and so when Gods sends a faithfull Minister to any congregation, tis the fruit of the prayer of Christ. Christ prayes, O Father, that there might be an acceptable time for such a people, for such a man and woman; it may be they have gone on a long time in ignorance and prophanesse; I but Christ hath been praying to the Father for them, and when this acceptable time comes, then God disposes of them, that this man shall goe out of such a wicked family, and shall live in a godly family, or shall come to such a Sermon, and there shall heare the wonderfull things of the Gospell opened to him, and shall come to understand this great mystery of Gods letting himself out through Christ unto his people: and there the Lord will renew him by a work of grace, and bring his heart over unto himselfe, this is the acceptable time when God reveales the mystery of the Gospell to any soul: therefore blesse God for this.
Thirdly, this shewes how dear Jesus Christ should be unto us. O how should we delight and take contentment in him that brings the Treasuries of grace from the bosome of the Father, and opens them unto us: and not only opens the minde of God the father to us, but comes and lets out the treasure of Gods goodnesse to us. It was stopt before, I but Christ he opened as it were the flood gates, and lets the current of grace and mercy in upon us. O how deare therefore should Christ be unto us? it was the speech of that Martyr, Master Lambert, None but Christ, none but Christ. Yea when he suffered Martyrdome for Christ, then none but Christ was deare to him; because he saw that Christ was the way of conveyance of all good unto him: as if God now make a man a meanes of conveyance of a great deal of good to a nation, every man will be ready to have his eye upon that man: I, but there was never such a way of conveyance of good to us as Christ is: therefore how should our hearts love him, and prize him, and rejoyce at the very thoughts of him? If you have a friend, and God makes that friend an instrument of mercy to you, O how doth it indeare you to that friend: if the husband be an instrument of good to the wife, or the wife to the husband; if a Minister to his people, or people to their Minister, and so in all relations: when we can look upon others as a meanes of conveyance of Gods mercy to us, it is a mighty argument to knit our hearts unto them, and indeed this is the way to obtain love. It may be the wife complaines, she hath not love from her husband; or the husband complaines he hath not love from his wife: Why now, be as instrumentall as you can to convey the goodnesse of God to them, and this will mightily indeare and knit them to you; and if it doth so between man and man: how should it doe so much more between us and Christ, who is indeed the husband of his Church, and through whom the fulnesse of God is let out unto his people? O how deare and precious therefore ought he to be unto us!
Fourthly, is Christ all in all? then if we have an interest in him, it should satisfie and content us, though we have nothing, or be nothing in our selves: Why, because if we have Christ, we have all; though thou wantest parts, friends, estate, outward comforts; yet know Christ is to be thy all, and is not he enough? as he said, am not I better to thee then ten sons? so sayes Christ to the soul, what doest thou want? thou wantest this comfort, and the other comfort, but am not I all in all to thee, and better then all? yea, be willing to be made nothing, for all is made up in Christ.
Again, it should have put us upon this, to be willing to give up all we have to Christ; alas, our all is but a poor all: yet give it to Christ; our parts, estates, interest, names; let Christ have all because he is our all.
And let him be the rule of our prizing all things: so farre as we see any thing of Christ, prize it sutably: as tis reported of Master Bucer, if he could see any thing of Christ in any man or woman, though they were never so poor and meane, his heart would close with them. And tis said of Austin, that before his conversion he took great delight in reading of Cicero’s workes; but afterward, sayes he, I finde not the name Christ in all Cicero; and that took off his heart from him: so in all thou doest enjoy, look how much thou seest of Christ in it, so farre let thy delight and esteem be carried out towards it, and no farther.
Again, with what mighty intention of spirit should the heart be put forth toward Jesus Christ above all things! what though God give thee an estate and honour in the world: if thou hast not Christ thou hast nothing, thou hast not that that makes way for thee to eternity. Therefore be not satisfied with any thing without Christ. As Abraham sayes, What wilt thou give me Lord, seeing I goe childlesse? So say thou, Lord, thou hast given me a portion in the world, thou hast given me credit and repute amongst men; but Lord, what is all this to me, if I goe Christlesse, and have not him that is the conveyance of grace unto my soul, that is all in all? O Lord, thou hast this day taught me, that such is the distance and breach betweene thee and me, that unlesse it be made up through a mediator, I must eternally perish: therefore give me Christ, whatever thou denyest me. O satisfie not your selves with any thing, without Christ. Many hypocrites they satisfie themselves with gifts: if they have gifts, then they are contented. Consider that parable in the Gospell, Matth. 13. 45, 46. The merchant-man sought after goodly pearles, but when he had found the pearle of price, then be went and sold all that be had, and bought it. Now gifts and parts, and other atchievements are these goodly pearles: I but Christ he is the pearle of price: therefore whatever thou hast, be willing to part with it for him: if God have discovered to thee the pearle of price, let no goodly pearles satisfie thee. Many souls perish eternally because they are satisfied with goodly pearles, and doe not endeavour to obtaine this pearle of price.
Againe, the application should further have been, to have endeavoured to work this upon you, that in your seeking after God, you would be sure to take Christ along with you.
I will give you onely this note, if it were your last time to pray to God, and your everlasting estate did depend upon Gods mercy, should you now seek God never so earnestly, yet if it were onely in a naturall way, as your creator, your condition would be very dreadfull, and you would perish eternally. If God should lay any of you upon your sick beds, or death beds, and you should cry to God, mercy, mercy Lord, be sure you take Christ along with you, and look upon God through Christ, or else all your cryes will be to no purpose. It is a speech of Luther, that God lookt upon out of Christ, is most dreadfull and terrible; and it argues a great deal of ignorance in us, when we think we can goe to God, and shall finde mercy with him, without considering him as a God that will be reconciled to us only through his Son. To conclude all, as Christ sayes, If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me: so this is the work of our Ministry, we have spent time amongst you that we might labour to lift up Christ to you: and O that God would be pleased to draw all your souls to him.
This Sermon was preacht March 28. 1641.
HEBR. II. V. I.
Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.*
IN the latter end of the former chapter the Apostle exhorts to perseverance, and shewes the great evill and danger of drawing back. Now, to the end this evill might be Prevented, he shewes what it is that will deliver us from it. Whatever others doe, or whatever temptations or afflictions we meet withall to draw us back, yet still the just shall live by faith: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
In this Chapter (therefore) he falls upon this argument, to wit, the opening of the doctrine and practice of faith. And the words read are an excellent description of faith (not an exact definition of it) It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The substance; the word in the originall is very full, the〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it hath many significations: the fundamentall, the foundation of things hoped for; the subsistence, the substantiality of things hoped for: those things that in themselves have no reall present subsistence to us, but are things to come, and hoped for; yet faith gives them a present reall substantiall being to us. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. The word translated evidence, is a Logicall terme, and signifieth such a kinde of conviction as is by way of dispute and cleare demonstration, so as it must needs compell one to yield unto it; that is the propriety of the word, that although the objects of faith are things not seen, either by the eye of sense, or by the eye of reason, yet faith brings such a light with it, and makes them so demonstratively cleare, that it even forceth the soul to a beliefe of them: so that it hath the fullest conviction of them that possibly can be.
Two things then (you finde) are here said of faith:
First, that it gives a substantiall reall present being to things hoped for.
And secondly, that it is the evidence of things not seen. In the first of these, we have these two things: First, that there are many glorious things which the Saints hope for, that yet they have not: they are men of hopes. Secondly, that their faith doth give a reall and substantiall being to those things which they hope for.
In the Second of these we have likewise two things: First, that the things of God are things not seen. And Secondly that faith is the evidence of those things that are not seen.
For the first, but briefly, There are great things that the Saints hope for, that yet they have not; they are men of hopes. They hope that they shall ere long be delivered from all sinne and sorrows: that they shall never sinne more, never be tempted more, never suffer more, never feare more; they hope that the time is coming when it shall be said of all their sinnes, as Moses said of the Egyptians, These your enemies that now you see, you shall never see them more. They hope that these vile bodies of theirs, these bodies of clay, bodies of vilenesse, bodies of sinne, shall ere long be made glorious bodies; that these pieces of dirt shall (within a while) shine more gloriously then the Sun in the firmament. They hope that the Image of God shall ere long be perfected in them, so as they shall be fully united to God, and be made one with the Father, as the Father and the Son are one. They hope that they shall meet with their blessed Saviour in the aire; and with these their eyes behold him coming in his glory: They hope that they shall be possessed of those glorious mansions which he is gone before to prepare for them. They hope that their eyes shall be blessed with the glorious vision of a deity that they shall see God, and so see him, as to be like unto him. They hope that they shall enjoy full communion with the Lord; that they shall have the immediate and full lettings out of a deity into their souls and bodies, without any intermission. They hope that they shall joyne with the blessed Angels and Saints in eternall Hallelujahs, and shall be everlastingly admiring and adoring the name of the great God, for those glorious mysteries of redemption by Christ. They hope that they shall keep a perpetuall and eternall Sabbath, and shall no more be combred with naturall things, with the things of the earth, but shall have perfect and everlasting rest in Christ, and shall live in God as in an infinite ocean of all excellency; these things they hope for. I but are not these conceits? are they not notions, pretty fine fancies, with which they please themselves? is there any reallity in these things: indeed if these things were reall and substantiall, if there were as great a reallity and as much substance in the things they hope for, as there is in the things they enjoy in the world for the present, and that they could see them as certainly as they see the things that are before their eyes, it were somewhat like. Well, sayes the Apostle, there is a principle to make all these things substantiall to you; and faith is the substance of things hoped for. These hopes are not conceits and notions, but they are raised up in their hearts by the mighty power of the holy Ghost. Rom. 15. 13. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the holy Ghost. There needs not the power of the holy Ghost to raise fancies and conceits in mens hearts; but the hopes of the Saints are such as are raised in them by the power of the holy Ghost: And God himself is stiled by their hopes: Now the God of hope, &c. Now God is not the God of fancies and conceits, but he is the God of the hopes of his Saints? And these hopes are given to them, to the end they might be kept from drawing back, and might be upheld for the present in whatever they suffer. Therefore the Scripture compares our hope to an Anchor, and to an Helmet: you know that of all dangers, those are the greatest, of shipwrack by Sea, and of enemies by Land: now our Hope is to helpe against both: against our dangers by Sea, of shipwrack, our hope is an Anchor: against our dangers by Land, of enemies, our hope is a helmet.
The hope of the Saints for the present is as the corke to the net that keeps it from sinking to the bottome; though they may be in the water, and the lead of troubles and afflictions may weigh them down, yet their hope keeps them above water; they have great hopes, and they have that which makes their hopes substantiall; for their faith is the substance of things hoped for. And that is the second thing I now come to: Carnall hearts think there is no substantiall reall excellency in any thing, but in the outward excellencies of the world; they think that money, Lands, honours, the pleasures and delights of the flesh, have substance in them; and that there is something of reallity in these: Now I beseech you, observe the difference between the judgement of the holy Ghost, and the judgement of a carnall heart: whereas a carnall heart looks upon outward things as the onely substantiall things, (therefore you call your rich men substantiall men: and so the Scripture, speaking in the language of men, calls a mans estate his substance, because men count their estate here their substance,) now the holy Ghost accounts all those things that the world lookes upon as substances, to be but meer conceits: and those things that the world accounts conceits, to be substances: (and those that judge according to the judgement of the holy Ghost, doe the like.) For the first, you know St. John reckons all things in the world in three ranks; either such as are profits, pleasures, or honours: the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life, and the delights of the eye: now for those things that the world counts their greatest substance, their estates, and riches, marke how the holy Ghost thinks of them, Prov. 23. 4, 5. Labour not to be rich, cease from thine own wisdome: wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? That which you call your substance, the holy Ghost sayes, it is not, it hath not being at all. Well, but honours and preferments have somewhat in them. Nay, they have nothing in them neither. Acts 25. 23. tis said, Agrippa and Bernice came in great pompe to the judgement seat, glittering in their brave apparell; but the word translated great pompe, is, they came with much fancy: what greater honour is there then for Princes to come in their robes upon the judgement-seat, glittering before the eyes of their subjects? thus did they: and yet their great glory in the judgement of the holy Ghost, was all but a great fancy: And for the lusts of the flesh, Amos 6. in verse 5, 6. you have the sensualty of the people set out very fully, They lie upon beds of Ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the Lambes out of the flock, and the Calves out of the midst of the stall; they chant to the sound of the violl, and invent to themselves instruments of musick; they drink wine in bowles, &c. and in verse 13. it comes all to this, Ye rejoyce in a thing of naught, in that which hath nothing in it; there is no reallity, no substantiall excellency in all these things; neither in riches, honours, or pleasures; but marke now how the holy Ghost judges of spirituall things: what substance there is in them, which are only conceits to carnall hearts, Prov. 8. 20, 21. (sayes wisdome there) I lead in the way of righteousnesse &c. that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; to inherit that which is; so Tremelius, as if nothing had a being, but that which wisedome causeth to inherit. And Hebr. 10. 33, 34. You were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions, and took joyfully the spoyling of your goods, &c. (but how came this to passe? marke,) knowing in your selves that ye have in heaven a better, and an enduring substance. So that that which was but a conceit and notion to the world, by their faith they saw it to be substantiall unto them: and Hebrewes 11. 10. It is said of Abraham, that he looked for a City with foundations: there was no City in the world that had foundations in Abrahams eye, but only the City that he looked for; and it was his faith that gave that City foundations. Thus we see the different judgement of the holy Ghost and the world. As now while we live upon the earth, we think the earth to be very great, and the Sun and Moon and Stars to be but little things, and they seem so to us: but were we in heaven, we should then see the Sun and Moon and Stars to be great and vast bodies, and the earth to be but a point in comparison of them: so while men have earthly hearts, they look upon the things of heaven as conceits, and poore small inconsiderable things, not worth looking after: but if by divine principles they were once lifted up to heaven and could converse there, then they would see the things of heaven to be great matters, and the things here below to be but a point; to be but poor low inferiour things, not worth minding or affecting. Those things that are the objects of faith are substantiall things, and faith gives them that substance.
And they are substantiall things, First, because they have in them more then appeares to be in them: we count that substantiall which hath in it more then it appeares for: those things that make a great shew, and have not that in them which they make shew of, we count them vain, and without substance, as a piece of cloth that hath not that in it which it shewes for, we say it hath no substance in it.
Now the things of God have more in them abundantly then they shew for, and therefore they are substantiall: hence it is that when Christ shall come in glory, the Text sayes, He shall be admired in all them that believe, 2. Thes. 1. 10. They see for the present a great deal of excellency in Christ, and they love him, and their hearts are towards him for that they see in him now; but hereafter he shall appeare abundantly more glorious then they thought for: then they shall say, indeed we did see much in Christ, but we see now infinitely more glory and excellency then ever we imagined.
Secondly, the things of heaven that are the objects of faith are substantiall, because there is most of God in them. Now God is the infinite first being of all, and gives being to all: that therefore which hath most of the first being in it, must needs be the most substantiall and reall good: Now though it be true that all creatures are filled with Gods excellencies, yet spirituall and heavenly things are above all other most filled with God: the very divine of nature of God is in them, and there is the very life of God, and the Image and glory of God, and there God doth especially communicate himself. God hath two wayes of his communication: the one is to his Son, and that is in an infinite way that we understand not: and the other is to his creatures: and his speciall communication of himself to his creatures is in spirituall and heavenly things: therefore they must needs be the most substantiall and reall things to the soul.
And then Thirdly, they are substantiall things and not notions and conceits, because they are the very center of the thoughts and intentions of God himself, and that which he aimes at in all his workes towards his creatures, and the very center of the happinesse of the most excellent creatures that ever God made. Now that which is the very issue of the great designe of God in making the world, and of all the workes he doth in the world, and the highest good any creature is capable of, certainly it is no conceit, but hath a great deal of substantiall being in it: but the good we have in spirituall and heavenly things, is the very issue of Gods designe from all eternity, in his full communication of himselfe unto his creature; and it is the highest good any creature is capable of: therefore spirituall things are reall and substantiall.
Againe, reall and substantiall things they are, because we finde they have a reall and substantiall operation upon the souls of those that are acquainted with them. O the mighty work that appeares upon the hearts of the godly from the apprehension of spirituall things, that are the objects of faith! how doe spirituall things tune and raise the hearts of men that were low, and base, and drossy, and vile before, to converse with God in the highest way and kinde that it is possible for a creature to converse with God in; and what great things doe they enable the soul to doe! those things that have such a substantiall operation, must needs be reall and substantiall.
Lastly, they have an eternall subsistency, that shall never vanish or fade away, that when all other things shall wither as the grasse, spirituall and heavenly things shall abide for ever: therefore they are the only substantiall things.
But then, as they are thus in themselves, so how come they to be thus to the soul? why it is by faith; faith gives them the bottome, the foundation, the substantiallity of their being. And I note this the rather, because the great reason why our hearts are not taken with spirituall things, is, because we doe not see into the reallity and substantiallity that is in them, and into the presentnesse of the good they have.
Now faith gives them this their substantiall being:
First, because it is faith that carries the soul to contemplate upon God himselfe, and enables the soul to discerne the excellency and glory that there is in God, to know much of God in his own essence and being; and elevates the sould to converse with God in a higher way abundantly then reason can doe (though it is true, a great deal of God is understood by reason.) And then by faith the soul comes to know what riches there are in these excellent and glorious things of God. It first sees them in God, and then after that it sees this God to be infinitely willing to communicate and let out himself to his creature; And then by faith the soul converseth with the deep and glorious councels of God, between himself and his Son: It sees into the great designe God had in sending his Son into the world for the working and bringing to passe those high and glorious intentions he had in communicating himself to the children of men through a mediator. Again, faith converseth with the great things, of the covenant of grace, and there sees into those unsearchable riches (as the Apostle speaks) that have no footsteps in the creature; so the word signifies; we cannot see them by reason, or the creature. A speciall object faith works upon, is the covenant of grace in the Gospell, and it sees the riches that are revealed there: And faith receives the testimony of the holy Ghost; the holy Ghost is appointed by the Father and the Son to witnesse these great things, to manifest to the soul the deep things of God; those things that are but meer notions otherwise to the heart of a man, the spirit of God discovers these to the soul; and so faith working upon these objects, and closing with them as the proper spheare for it to move in, it makes all those glorious things that are revealed concerning the happinesse of those that God intends eternall good unto, substantiall and reall to the soul; such things as the soul can build upon, and dare venture its self, and its eternall estate upon; and we had need have a good foundation in those things we are content to venture our eternall estate upon: and because it must be the work of faith (when God intends to save the soul) to have such apprehensions of the Gospell as to be willing to venture its eternall condition upon it, therefore it had need have a sure foundation: and hence faith is the substance of things hoped for, and gives a reall being unto these things.
And as it makes them reall and substantiall, so there is another thing included in this word, It makes them present; though they are but things hoped for, yet by faith they have a present subsistence to the soul; they are lookt upon by faith as now subsisting, though in themselves they doe not: faith partakes much of the nature of God, it hath a kinde of omnipotent power in it, out of nothing to create something: there are many excellent works of faith, and amongst the rest this is a speciall one, to give a being to that which in itself hath none, to make it for the present a substantiall reall being to the soul: the work of faith in this kinde is very observable: for evill things that are very high, faith can make them at a mighty distance; and for good things that are never so far off, faith can make them to be as present to it. Observe what the Scripture speakes of it this way: first for evils that are very nigh, and encompasse us round about, when we are in the midst of them, faith can put the evill at a distance, as Psalm. 91. 7. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee; not come nigh thee: If he had said, it shall not be upon thee, it had been somewhat; but to say, it shall not come nigh thee, this is a strange kinde of expression; how could it be said not to come nigh him, when thousands fell on the both hands, and he was in the midst of it? it was by faith: faith put that at a distance which was just upon him. The strength of reason will help one, when the plague is a great way off, then a man thinks, I am safe enough; because farre enough from it: but suppose the plague come into thy house, into thy chamber; now to believe a promise, it shall not come nigh thee, here is a mighty work of faith; faith puts evils present at a farre distance. And then on the other side, for good things that are absent, & a great way off, faith can make them as if they were really subsisting: therefore (Heb. 11. 13.) It is said of the Fathers, that they saw the promises afarre off, and embraced them: the word in the originall is saluted the promises; now friends when they salute, must be nigh one another; their faith made the promises which were a great way off to be with them as if present: therefore it is said of Abraham, that he saw Christs day, and rejoyced; and the Scripture speaks of taking hold of eternall life, and that we doe by faith; and of being in heaven, receiving the end of your faith: Tis not, you shall receive, but now you are receiving. Psalm. 108. 7. 8. God hath spoken in his holinesse, I will rejoyce, I will divide Sechem &c. Gilead is mine, Manasseth is mine: marke, is mine: he presently concludes, as if the thing were already done, for it was so by faith: faith gives a present subsistence to things. Reason it self hath a great deale of power to make things that are future, to be as present, both in evill things and in good. In evill things, a man that is a contemplative man, and hath a wicked heart, he will fetch the sweetnesse of his lust and sinne which is a great way off, and make it as present by mediation, and roling it up and down in his thoughts in a way of discourse; and so acts his sinne contemplatively, though he may be in hell before he act it really; Now as reason and discourse can fetch in a lust, and make it as if it were present: so reason can goe a great way in making a future good thing as if it were present. And this is the difference between a rationall creature, and a sensuall: a sensuall creature is only for the things that are before it; but now reason can fetch things that are absent, and make them as present: and in regard of this, God hath a mighty advantage of mankinde, either for the bringing of his wrath upon them, or for bestowing happinesse upon them: as you can fetch in your lusts that are absent, and make them as present to you in your thoughts, by the work and discourse of reason: so by the worke of this faculty, God can make evils and plagues though future, yet to be as present with you. And in this respect the wofull evill of those that perish eternally may be set out dreadfully: namely thus, they being reasonable creatures, by the work of their reason they may fetch in all the misery that they shall indure to eternity, to fill up every moments misery, that all the misery they shall indure to eternity, they shall possesse it presently and together: and therefore the torment of a brute creature is infinitely short of a reasonable; suppose a brute beast were in hell, yet its misery would come infinitely short of a mans, because a brute creature apprehends no more misery, then that instant: but now, if a reasonable creature be in torment, and knowes it shall be in it eternally, by thought and discourse it can fetch into that very instant, all the paine that it must endure for ever. And so for happinesse, those that are saved, shall be infinitely happy every moment, because they shall fetch in all the happinesse they shall have to eternity to make them every moment happy: this is the work of reason. Now if reason can make future, things to be as present, how much more can faith, that is not only reason elevated, but is a principle higher then reason? as it is in dispaire, a man that dispaires brings hell to himself before he is in hell; and makes hell that is absent, as if it were present. Hence some in their dispairing have cryed out, they were in hell: as Francis Spira, he said he was in hell, and hell fire, was upon him, because by dispaire that which is future hath a reall kinde of subsistance in the heart of a man, as if it were now present. Now as dispaire brings in the reallity of Gods wrath that is future, and makes it as present, so faith brings in the reallity of Gods love and mercy that is to come, and makes it as present: and it is as genuine a work of faith, to make future things present, as any work of faith. Now I should have shewn you in what respects faith makes things present, that are to come, and what is the work of faith in them. But briefly, it makes all things present that are to come:
First, because it sees all things as certain as if they were already; if a man have a bond of one for a hundred pounds, that he is sure off, he sayes here is a hundred pounds, because of the certainty of it.
Secondly, because faith lookes upon the possession of things, that not only they shall be, but that now there is a possession of them, and that two wayes; First, Christ our head is gone before to prepare mansions for us, and in our name to take possession of heaven, therefore we have taken possession in our head; and then Secondly, we have the first fruits of the spirit, the first fruits of the glorious things of heaven; and in that regard, we our selves have taken possession, and therefore they are as present to faith. Thirdly, there is such an infinitenesse in eternity, that the time that is to be before we have ful possession is not considerable: therefore faith lookes upon them as present.
And then Fourthly, faith eyes the things of heaven continually, and they are therefore present, because they are alwayes in the eye of faith.
And Fifthly, the presentnesse of them is seen in this, because the Saints enjoy all in God: for this is the happinesse of heaven, to see all glory and blessednesse in God: Now faith doth something of this here; faith inables us to see great things in God. Now the enjoying communion with God for the present, and beholding of heaven in God, and seeing all things in him, this must needs make a present reall subsistance of them to the soul. Thus I have spoken briefly of faiths, being the substance of things hoped for.
For the use: If faith be the substance of things hoped for, and gives being to things so high and glorious as the things of God are: First, then certainly faith it self must needs be a very substantiall thing; faith is not a conceit and notion, for it gives reality and substantial being to those things the world counts conceits: faith is the most substantialest glorious thing in the world: It is that, in the working of which, the power of God appeares more then in any thing in the world: therefore in Ephes. 1. 19, 20. there are some six or seven gradations of the wonderfull power of God that appeares in the working of faith: Now that must needs be an exceeding substantial thing, that hath such a mighty power of God in working of it: God doth not use to put forth extraordinary power for the doing of ordinary things. Now when he speaks of faith, he sets out his power in a glorious manner, and in an extraordinary way; and thereby tells us, that faith hath some great matter in it. And indeed faith hath much in it; though it be a grace that empties us of our selves, yet it is that whereby the believer is enabled to doe one of the most glorious workes that ever creature was enabled to doe: as now for a poor soul to see its self in its own filth, under sinne and guilt, and to see the wrath of an infinite deity incensed against it; to see the infinite justice of God requiring satisfaction, and the infinite holinesse of God hating of sinne; to have the accusations of conscience, of Satan, of the world, and being sensible of all this, yet to lay hold upon a mediator between God and man, and to trust in a righteousnesse beyond it self, and to tender it up to God the Father for a full attonement and satisfaction, and to venture its self, and eternall estate upon it; and being unholy and filthy in it self, yet to unite it self to God in as neer a union (for the kinde of it) as possibly a creature can have with the Creator, next the hypostaticall union of the humane nature of Christ with the divine: I say; for faith to be able to doe this, it is a high and most glorious work, and there is an abundance of the power of God appeares in it.
By this how may we discover the vanity of the faith of the greatest number of people in the world, who have nothing but meer emptinesse in them, their very faith is only a notion, and no marvell then if all things they believe be but notions, they can doe nothing with their faith. You say you hope and believe and trust in Gods mercy, but what can you doe with your faith? what reall substantiall work of faith is upon your hearts? when faith comes, there comes the mighty power of God and his wonderfull glory into the soul, that creats (as it were) and gives substantiall being to the most high and glorious objects in the world: therefore know, that faith is not a dead slight empty thing in the soul, but it hath a mighty operation upon the hearts of men and women: and certainly that faith that must save a soul must have high and glorious operations in the soul.
Againe if faith gives a substantial being to things hoped for, then we must learne to strengthen and exercise our faith in the things we hope for: which of us doe not hope for great and glorious things (as I gave you a hint of them?) Now let faith be exercised and strengthened in these things; if all those blessed things we spak of were present to the soul, O how would our hearts be above the creature, how should we look upon all things here below as dung, filth, drosse, how would our thoughts be raised in the admiration of spirituall and heavenly things, how would our spirits be taken up in wondering at the glory of God that appeares in these things, how would our hearts be enflamed with love to God! how would our conversations be in heaven for the present! what heavenly thoughts and heavenly affections would be in us in all our wayes! and how would we venture to goe through fire and water for God! to doe any thing, suffer any thing, be any thing for God. And did our faith make such glorious things as these reall and substantial to us? how substantial would our duties and services be. Why is it then that our duties have so much vanity in them, are so empty, having nothing but circumstance in them; certainly (brethren) if our faith gives a subsistance to such blessed & glorious things of eternal life, it will likewise give a subsistance to all our duties and services, that we shall not tender to God empty and dead services. Consider, this you, who though you dare not omit duties, yet what empty duties doe you tender to God; your works should be the works of faith, and faith should give them a subsistance, as well as it gives your hopes; therefore satisfie not your selves with that faith that will not give a subsistance to your duties; and doe not think it will give a subsistance to such glorious things we speak of. Thus much of the first particular, Faith is the substance of things hoped for. I would faine speak a little of the second, It is the evidence of things not seen.
There are two things here.
First, that the things of grace, spiritual and heavenly things, are things not seen.
And secondly, that faith gives an evidence to those things.
First, that grace, spirituall and heavenly things, are things not seen.
The Apostle sayes Gal. 5. 19. 22. the works of the flesh are manifest; but when he comes to the workes of the spirit, he sayes the workes of the spirit are these: he doth not say, they are manifest; for indeed they are things that are not seen: though tis true, the operations of them appear, yet there is no externall work of grace, but an hypocrite may doe it: therefore the workes of the spirit cannot be said to be seen either by the eye of sense or reason. And then for the things of heaven, sayes the Apostle, 2 Cor. 2. 18. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporall, but the things which are not seen are eternall. I might here discover to you how it comes to passe, that spirituall and heavenly things are not seen unto sense and reason. Many arguments I thought to have given to discover this: I must but cull out two or three particulars. The riches of a Christian in spirituall and heavenly things are like the riches of the Sea; it may be outwardly you see nothing but hideous waves, and a great deal of filth, I but the riches are at the bottome, and the riches of the earth are within, and hidden, they doe not appear: so the riches and treasures of a Christian are things not seen, they are things that are in the very bosome of God, in the very heart of God. Now as no man knowes the things of a man, but the spirit of man; so no man knowes the things of God, but the spirit of God, and him to whom God doth reveal them.
And then they are things that are beyond the principles of reason, they are too high. and so too glorious for such a faculty as reason is: if an object be too glorious for sense, it destroyes the sense: so these objects are too high for reason, and and therefore cannot be seen by reason.
And the blindnesse of man naturally is such that he cannot see these things. And chiefly God so orders things in his providence, that he goeth a quite contrary way (as to sense and reason) to that which he hath promised. I say it is the way of God to hide his glorious excellencies by seeming to goe in the wayes of his providence directly crosse to what he hath promised; we might shew how God hath hid from sense and reason his mercy to his own people: that of Abraham is considerable; there were two promises God made to Abraham, the one of going out of his own country, and carrying him to a land flowing with milk and honey; the other, that he would make his seed as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Mark now, if Abraham had not had something to evidence that which was not seen, he could never have seen the faithfulnesse of God in these promises: for when he was gone out of his own country, he comes to Ganaan (the country promised) but as soon as he was there, he was ready to starve, and was faine to flye to Egypt: and if he had not had faith he would have fallen off, and have been ready to turne back againe. And then for the second promise, That in his seed all the Nations of the earth should be blessed: Abraham goeth on seaventy yeares, and his wife had no childe; and it ceased to be with her after the manner of women; she was old, and Abrahams body dead: and after he had a child, he must kill him, and being saved, Isaac must be forty yeares before he is married; and when he is married, he must have no childe in twenty yeares: and in the first hundred and fifty yeares after the promise, there was but seaventy of all his seed: yet this was the promise, that in his seed all the Nations of the earth should be blessed: thus God seemes to goe crosse to what he promised. We might instance also in Jacob; God commands Jacob to returne from Laban: and after that, mark how God followes him. First, his uncle Laban followes him with thoughts to slay him. Secondly, In his Journey his wives nurse dyeth. Thirdly, his wife dyes. Fourthly, Dinay is ravished. Fifthly, his two Sons, Simeon and Levy commit that villany, that makes him stink in the nostrils of the people of the land. Sixtly, Esau comes to destroy him; and all this in that journey that God commanded Jacob to take. Now if Jacob had not had faith to look through these to the things that might encourage him in his way to things not seen, it had been impossible he should have gone on. So when God brings Israel to Canaan, you know what a way they goe about through the wildernesse: when they were come to Canaan, a land flowing with milk and hony, God brought them to the worst part of it: for the south part was the hottest, and dryest, and barrennest part of the countrey: thus God seemes to goe on in crosse wayes, and this hides the excellency of the things of God: and hence it comes to passe they are not seen. If it be so, then that the things of God are not seen to a carnall eye, and require more then reason to apprehend them:
First, it should make us cease wondering, that men of excellent parts and reason, doe not see the things of God, but slight them: be not offended at this, they are things not seen: it is a great deceit in many, who think that because such and such men have larger abilities of reason then others to understand naturall things; that therefore it must needs follow, they have deeper apprehensions of spiritual things: and yet men reason thus, what you poor simple men and women understand these things, when there are great Schollars and learned men, that see them not: this argues a carnal heart; as if the strength of reason could make men apprehend more then faith can doe. You know what Christ sayes, Father I thank thee, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes, Math. 11. 25. Notwithstanding such expressions of Christ, yet we see the temper of the men of the world: alas, they look upon religion as a most foolish and ridiculous thing; and so for strictnesse in the wayes of religion: when a man shall see another very earnest about a thing that he thinkes is of no consequence at all, he cannot but impute folly to him: so, when the men of the world see the people of God servent, and zealous about those things that they can see no excellency in; and see them willing to venture and suffer for them; they count this folly and madnesse: when Christ (being in danger of his life, John 18. 37, 38.) tells Pilate that he came into the world to bear witnesse unto the truth, sayes Pilate, what is truth? speaking in a slighting way, as if he had said, you come here to answer for your life, and you had need look to that; and what doe you talk of truth now your life is in question. So carnall men, when they see others venture their estates, and lives, for poor inconsiderable things, as they esteem them, they count this folly: and why doe they doe so? because the things of God are not seen. Therefore in spirituall and heavenly things we must alwayes endeavour to beat down reason, and to advance faith: sayes Luther, In the things of God we must not continually be asking the reason, for they are the things that are not seen: Nay (sayes he) faith kills the beast reason, in spiritual things. Though it is true, being kept under faith there is good use of it, yet it is as a beast to be slaine, that so we may see the more of spirituall things. I meet with a story in a book of a company of Bishops that were gathered together, and there was a Philosopher with them, who disputed against the Christian faith; and he argued so subtilly that he non-plust the Bishops. Now there was a godly man, a poor weak man there, and he desired he might have liberty, to dispute, for that they were so non-plust in: and though at first they were afraid he would spoyle the cause through his weaknesse, yet at length they gave him leave to speak; and he propounds certaine principles of religion to the Philosopher, and said to him, doe you believe these things? and said no more, but doe you believe these things? and upon this the Philosopher yeilds. I have heard (sayes he) nothing all this while but words; but now I finde a divine vertue come into me, that I can no longer resist the Christian faith, and this meerly upon the propounding of the objects of faith, with urging upon him, Doe you believe? certainly in the things of faith we must believe before we can understand them fully: our faith must sometimes help us to conceive, and not alwayes our conceiving help to us to believe, we finde this in Peter, John 6. 69. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ the Son of the living God: mark, we believe and are sure: He doth not say, we are sure, and believe: but first believe, and then are sure; by believing we come to be sure. There are many they would faine be sure that Christ died for them, that their sins are pardoned, and that they are the children of God; and they endeavour to make this out by arguments, from the effects, and would try themselves by such and such notes: but we should rather, and in the first place goe the way the Apostle doth here, we believe and are sure: we should cast our souls upon the truth of the word, and by believing come to be sure.
So much for the First, the things of God are things not seen.
But now faith, that doth evidence and make them cleare, We know in whom we have believed, 2. Tim. 1. 12. and the mercies of God in Christ are called The sure mercies of David, Acts 13. 34. Faith is not a meer notion, imagination, or conceit, but tis that which makes all sure and certaine to the soul. I should have answered a case here, whether or no there may not be faith without assurance, that is without assurance of a mans own salvation by Christ.
Certainly it must needs be a great mistake to put that upon the being of faith, which is the riches of faith; for so the Scripture calls assurance: a man may be able to carry on his Trade, though he be not rich; and a man may be a believer, though he be not rich in assurance: now assurance is the creame of faith, the riches of faith. I should have shewn also how farre faith can be an evidence, where there is doubting. Onely thus: the assurance we have by faith building upon the word, and drawing conclusions from divine principles, (for that I should have spoken of, how faith draws things up to an evidence, by divine and spirituall principles; and what these principles are: but we cannot stand to open this: but) it is so farre an evidence, that the soul can venture upon it, as I told you before; faith is a foundation that the soule dare venture upon: as that Martyr said, though I cannot dispute for the truth, yet I can dye for the truth. Where faith comes with a convincing light, though there may be doubts and fears, and temptations; yet it can trust, and depend; and the soul resolves if I perish, I will perish here: let all the world say what they will, I finde this is the way, and whatever comes of it I will not goe back: and by this meanes over-powers the soul, and carries it through opposition; and so faith is an evidence.
Many things should have been spoken by way of application.
As First, If faith be an evidence to other things, and makes, them seen, then it is an evidence to it self. I meane thus: It is therefore possible for a soul to know its own good condition and its interest in Christ, meerly by the very work of faith it self; though for the present it be not able to argue, aposteriori, from the effects of faith, yet it may argue apriori; faith may evidence it self. Many Christians goe on in a doubting way, meerly because they think they must have evidences of their faith, by some effects that follow their faith; and till then they can have no comfort; tis true, where true faith is, there wil be fruits and effects of it: but certainly if you could learne this mystery of the Gospel, to finde an evidence in faith it self, you would sooner come to comfort; And it is a safer way a great deal: as thus, if you have doubts about your condition, and feare your sinnes are not pardoned; and that you have no interest in Christ, the way to be freed from these doubts and feares; is by renewing the act of faith it self, by presenting to your souls the riches of the grace of God in the Lord Jesus; and by viewing the glory of that, see if it will not draw out your souls to believe. And if upon this your hearts stirre not for the present, set these things before your souls againe, and turne not from renewing the acts of faith, to pore upon your corruptions, and then say, you can see no interest that you have in Christ: but look upward againe and againe, and by the very viewing of them, a vertue will come in, to draw the heart to believe. As by presenting the law, there is an efficacy to terrifie and afright: so by presenting the glorious things of the Gospel, there is an efficacy to draw out faith: And then you are to renew the very primitive work of faith; that is to close with Christ, and to cast your selves upon the freenesse of the grace of God in Christ; and though you finde in your hearts such and such corruptions, and are ready to say, shall such a one as I am, so polluted and defiled, cast my self upon the grace of God in Christ? yet lay hold upon Christ, and you have as much reason to doe it from thence, as from any thing; and therefore this must be thy course to renew this primitive act of thy faith again and again. I but yet my doubts and feares remaine: but if thou wouldest have an evidence, to it againe & again a thousand times over, and at last there will be an evidence of the act of faith it self. But you will say, this may be presumption to cast ones self upon the free grace of God in Christ. I answer, this is no presumption, because the very act it self gives thee a right to all that is in God and Christ. Now presumption is when a man takes that which he hath no right to: and if a man doe that to which he hath no right before, yet if that he doth give him a right, it is no presumption. But you will say, this is a licentious way, & gives liberty. O do not wrong faith, when thou (though thou canst see no reason for it) in the want of sight and sense canst venture thy selfe upon the riches of the grace of God in Christ, it is the most glorious work that thou canst possibly doe in this world: shouldst thou be able to live to overcome all thy corruptions, and to doe the greatest service imaginable, it could not be so glorious a work as this. And it is the most difficult thing in the world; and therefore no doctrine of liberty; that soul that can goe through all the difficulties of faith, that can overcome its infinite guilt, and the terrours of the law, and notwithstanding all that comes between God and it, can venture upon the free grace of God in Christ, may overcome all the difficulties in the world. Many other things might have been in urging of this, as now, though we are in the dark, and sight and sense, and all is gone; yet exercise faith, and if thou wouldest study to magnifie God as a Christian, this is the onely way. There is a notable instance of credit that Alexander gave to his Physitian, and the example of the trust he put in him did mightily honour him before all his Nobles: Alexander being sick, one sends to him and adviseth him to take heed of Philip his Physitian, for that one had feed him to poyson him; his Physitian brings him the potion, and Alexander gives him the letter, and drinkes the potion presently, intimating that he would not believe what was reported of him: and this was a mighty honour done to his Physitian, and so when thou hast no evidence in thy selfe, yea when thou hast many temptations that speak ill of the free grace of God in Christ, and that tell thee Christ hath left thee and forsaken thee; and that it would never be thus and thus with thee if Christ intended any good to thee; and when temptations are in their greatest heat, and speak the worst of Christ; Now to venture thy soul upon Christ, Christ will take it as the greatest honour thou art capable of doing to him: and it is the readiest way to advance the riches of his grace and mercy. And be afraid of unbeliefe, as well as of presumption; be afraid least thou shouldest not magnifie the riches of the grace of God in Christ, which is his great designe amongst the children of men. I thought to have laid downe something to shew what encouragement we have to believe in case of want of evidence, when we are in the dark, and can see no light; and to have given rules to help our faith:
But I will conclude with this one use.
By what hath been delivered you may all see what an excellent and admirable grace faith is, and of what use it is. O brethren, in these times wherein there is such feare, trouble and distraction; now to have faith to give a subsistance to all, the things that God hath spoken of; a subsistance to all the glorious promises that God hath made to his people: what a wonderfull blessing is this! now exercise faith, and by faith give a subsistance to all these promises; make them a foundation to rest upon; be willing to venture all you have, your Estates, names, liberties, lives, for the furthering and fulfilling the glorious promises which God hath made unto his Church: and if you have faith, that gives foundations to those promises, you will doe so. And though we see nothing but darknesse, and misery upon the world, yet let us exercise faith; if the hour of temptation be yet to come, as who knowes, then we shall have need of faith; and faith onely, in such darknesse can helpe us to light. And for preparation for such times, labour to strengthen faith, and by what you have heard, you may see what stead faith will stand you in, in any danger. It is a great comfort to a Christian that though he be in the dark in many things (as there are many truths now disputed about Churches, and the like) yet to know he hath that in him that will make the things of eternall life evident to him: It is a wonderful blessing of God to have a principle that gives subsistance and evidence to such things as these are. How exceedingly would many poor souls rejoyce, if they might have an evidence but of some one truth of religion; as the truth of a deity, which reason gives light in; they are so pestred with Atheisme, that they would give a thousand worlds to be rid of it. Now if this be so great a mercy, to have that which doth evidence onely one principle of religion; what a glorious mercy then is it, to have faith to evidence all the glorious things of God; and to make them cleare and plaine to you! you can remember there was a time when you thought them fancies and conceits, but now you see them as cleare as the light of the Sun, and you would not now for a thousand worlds but you saw them as you doe. Hereafter (brethren) when we shall see them not by faith, but by sense, O how shall we blesse God then, that we had before an evidence of these things made to our souls. What would have become of us if we had not had an evidence to cleare those things to us that lead to this glory, to evidence the righteousnesse of God in Christ for eternal life. I saw these things subsisting and evident before, and now God reveales them fully to me; whereas on the other side, those that want a principle of faith to make them substantiall and evident to them, when they shall come to be substantiall and evident to their sense, O what a horrid terrour will it be unto them: then you will say, O Lord, that I had seen these things before, my heart then would never have been taken so with the things of the world: I ran madly upon the vanities of the world, to get riches, and honours; and I thought I was the onely happy man, and that those things were the onely substantial and reall things, and those things that I heard the Preacher speak of, I thought them to be but notions and conceits: but now I see they are reall and substantiall. O miserable man that now I am!
O the work of faith that can make those that are of weak parts, to see the great things of God, James 2. 5. Hearken my brethren (sayes the Apostle) God hath chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. To understand the great things of faith; that poor men should understand the great, the deep, the glorious things of God, that were hid from the foundations of the world, it is a wonderful work; therefore when John sent to Christ, to know if he were the Messias, Christ gives this as one argument, The poor receive the Gospel, Mathew 11. 5. Why, was that an argument that Christ was the Messias, was it not rather an argument against him? that the poor did it: if the great ones had done it, it had been an argument. No, The poor receive the Gospell. And that those that are poor and weak in other things, should have this mighty work wrought in their souls, to be able to receive Christ and the Gospel: this is an argument of the mighty power of God. Brethren, to have the use of the eye of the body by which we can see the great works of God, the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and can take notice of the glory of God in these, this is a great blessing: what man would be willing to loose the sight of his eyes, to gaine a world? because it discovers so much of the glory of God. Now if the eye that receives onely these naturall things, be so preecious O then what is it to have a principle within us, an eye of faith clearly to evidence the great things and glorious councels of God unto us? if a christall that can receive colours into it from without, be precious; O what is the christall of faith? it may well be called precious faith, for it receives into the soul the glory of God, and the excellencies of Christ; and the great things of eternall life. And these are brought into the soul by faith, in the reallity and power of them to raise the heart, and to fill it with all joy and peace in believing, and to carry the soul through all the troubles of this world. O the eye of faith is a precious eye! the eye of sense is precious, because we can see visible objects by that; but the eye of reason is more precious, because that can make things seen which are not seen by the eye of sense; reason can discourse up to God himself: and it is the wonderfull excellency of a reasonable creature that God hath given him that ability, that he can discourse so from the effect to the cause, and from one cause to another, till at last he gets up to God, the first being of all. This is an admirable indowment we should blesse God for: but now, if the use of reason have such an excellency in it; because by that we have an evidence of reasonable things to us, then still goe higher and labour to have a right esteem of this precious faith, that gives unto us such evidence of the glorious things of God, even that faith that God puts into our hearts on purpose that by it we might be able to receive into our souls those glorious and hidden mysteries of godlinesse that doe infinitely concerne our eternall peace.
This Sermon was preacht April 25. 1641.
JOHN. 8. V. 36.
If the Sonne therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
IN this Chapter we have Christ continuing of his contest with the wrangling peevish Jewes, in answering all that they said, notwithstanding they snarled at every word almost that past. But however it was with the multitude, yet there were some that were taken with what he said: for in vers. 30. it is said, As he spake these words many believed on him, at least there were some beginnings of faith, or some preparations to it. And Christ tells them vers. 31. That if they continued in his word, then they were his disciples indeed: as if he should say, it is not enough that you are stirred for the present and professe you believe in me; I will not take you for my disciples, unlesse you continue in my word: how often doe the flashes that are upon the hearts and consciences of men vanish and come to nothing? they continue not in the word of Christ, and therefore are not his disciples. Christ tells them further, that they must understand more concerning their condition then yet they apprehended. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. v. 32. as if he should say, though you have some confused apprehensions of things for the present, yet it is but very little you know of your condition: but if you will goe on in the way that God is beginning with you, in stirring your consciences; if you will continue, you shall come to know more then yet you know, Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free; and then in vers. 33. say they, we are Abrahams seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, ye shall be made free. See here, they begin to snarle againe. Master Calvin, I remember, thinks that these are the words rather of some other of the Jewes that were present, then of those that are said before to believe: but others think it may be understood even of those that are said to believe; for though they did begin to assent to the doctrine of Christ, and were very much convinced, yet there was still abundance of frowardnesse, perversnesse and crookednesse in their spirits: so that they begin againe to wrangle with Christ, especially when he doth but intimate to them any thing of their bondage. It is a usual thing for many people, that have some stirrings of conscience, and some beginnings of the working of Gods spirit in them, and it may be saving ones too, yet to continue a long time in much frowardnesse, and perversnesse of spirit, if they be opposed in their way. Therefore, say they, doe you speak to us of bondage, and tells us of freedome? why, We were never in bondage to any. vers. 33. What never in bondage to any? were not the Jewes in bondage to the Babylonians, when in captivity to them? and were they not at this very time in bondage to the Romans? and yet we were never in bondage: thus carnall hearts, till grace fully subdue them, are very loth to know their wretched condition; they love not to heare of any thing that discovers to them the misery that they are in: they were never in bondage, they say, but yet Christ pittyeth them: he did not take advantage to fling away presently, because he saw them continue still in their perversnesse, and snarling at what he spake, but tells them, what bondage he meant. As if he should say, the truth is, though you think your selves free, yet there is a bondage that you are in, and such a bondage that none can deliver you, but the Son of God alone. If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed. Thus we come to the words of the Text.
These words, you see then, hold forth unto us the blessed liberty of the Gospel; that freedome that believers have by Christ.
I come then presently to the maine doctrinal conclusion, which is this:
There is a blessed liberty, that Christians enjoy by Christ, and only by him. This doctrine of Christian liberty that is enjoyed by Christ, is a Treasury of abundance of admirable consolation, and much of the mystery of the Gospell is contained in this doctrine. I should enlarge my discourse too farre, and seek to gripe too much, should I think to give you but a view of this doctrine in all the points of it. If we should intend to handle it at large, I should shew to you. 1. What that is that Christ doth set believers free from. 2. The priviledges of this freedome they have by Christ. 3. The Subject of it: who it is that hath this freedome. 4. By whom it comes: how it is by the Son, and onely by him. 5. The price and purchase of this freedome. 6. The interest that believers have in this freedome: how they come to be enfranchised and to have interest in it. And 7. the application of it. But should I goe this way to work, it is but little I should be able to doe: therefore I will not graspe so much. I intend therefore to handle but one speciall thing in this our freedome by Christ.
If I should shew to you, first of all what we are freed from; then there is the freedome from the law, the freedome from the power of sinne, the freedome from the bondage of feare, the freedome from an accusing conscience, the freedome from slavishnesse in the performance of holy duties; we are set at liberty in holy duties; the freedome from death, and the evill of that; the freedome from the slavery of the devill, and the freedome from the ceremonial law; but neither must we seek to gripe all these particulars: to shew you our freedome in these, I shall onely pitch upon one, and that is our freedome from the law. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
The doctrine of freedome from the law, is the subject that we are to handle at this time: and when I speak of freedome from the law, I meane, not freedome from obedience to the law: tis an erronious conceit, to think we are freed from obedience to the law: and it is a conceit too meane and absurd for us to spend time about it now, that have so little, and having to deal in a matter of so great consequence as we have; for what is the law, but the image of God, the very beame of the wisdome and holinesse of God himself, if you look at it, as requiring obedience; and for any to say, we should be freed from obedience to the law, is as much as to say, we should be freed from the image of God, from the beame of the wisdome and holinesse of God himself, therefore we will spend no time about that, but when I speak of freedome from the law, I mean freedome from the rigour of the law, from the condemning sentence of the law, in which all the rigour of it appeares.
Wherefore then it is necessary, first to give you a view of the bondage that we are all in, under the law, unlesse delivered by Christ.
And then Secondly, I shall endeavour to open to you, wherein the liberty of the Gospell doth consist, that Christ hath purchased for us, These two things (brethren) have in them the chiefe doctrine of divinity, and except you be well instructed and setled in these two, you cannot know aright any point of religion.
For the first: I will be but briefe in that, though there be many particulars in it, for it is the second I chiefly intend. And for a preparation to this first, this I shall tell you before hand, that I shall name many things unto you that will seem exceeding hard; but yet take this consideration along, that although the things I name to you appeare never so hard, yet they are but in order to that which I shall afterward deliver to you, that shall have much comfort and peace in it. If I tell you any thing of your bondage, it is onely to this end, that you may know the blessednesse of your freedome and liberty.
Wherefore then, for the rigour of the law (that you may know what you are freed from) you must know what this is, and what you are all under by nature as considered out of Christ, for so the holy Ghost expresseth our subjection to the law, he saith, we are under it. Rom. 6. 14. Now ye are not under the law: there was a time when they were under the law; first, then the rigour of the law is in this, it requires hard things of those that are under it. I shall shew you afterward, how the things are not so to those that are set free by Christ: but to those that are under the law it is a hard yoke, it requires hard things, things that are crosse and contrary to the hearts and dispositions of all that are under it; things between which and their hearts there is an enmity and antipathy. Now to require such things as one hath 〈◊〉•inde to, but are quite contrary to ones nature, and that ones nature hath an antipathy against; this is very tedious; and yet such are all the duties of the law, to those that are in bondage to it.
Secondly, the law requires not onely hard, but impossible things, impossible to be performed by those that are under it, the law it is a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to bear Acts 15. 10. but that you wil say is meant of the ceremoniall law: I, but there is more in it then so, for do but consider the occasion of that speech, it was upon this ground, there were some that came from the Church of Jerusalem to the Church of Antioch, and they troubled the disciples there with two doctrines, the doctrine of the necessity of the ceremoniall law, and the doctrine of being justified by the law; now this Church of Antioch sends to the Church of Jerusalem, to be satisfied about both these questions, and that which is spoken is spoken concerning them both, not onely the ceremonial law was that whereby they lookt for justification, but the morrall law too, and both were a yoke that neither they nor their fathers were able to bear; and the rather it must be meant of both, because in the very next words we finde it opposed to the grace of Christ, in vers. 11. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved even as they. As if he should say, you must not think to be saved by the law, but by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is opposed to our justification, by obedience to the morrall law, as well as to the ceremonial: so that the morral law is a yoke that neither we nor our fathers were able to beare. It requires of us such things as are impossible to be done by those that are under it. We must not dispute now how this can be, or the justice of it; that will fall in afterward.
And then thirdly, the law exacts all of us under the condition of perfection: the law accepts of nothing but that which is compleat and absolutely perfect every way, both in regard of the principle from whence, and the manner how, and the rule by which, and end to which, it requires absolute perfection.
Fourthly, the law accepts of 〈…〉, it must have it done in our own persons: like a severe creditor that will be paid to the utmost farthing, and by our selves. I say the law, in it self considered, lookes for a perfect righteousnesse of our own persons, or else it condemnes us, this is the righteousnesse of the law, That he that doth the things therein contained, shall live by them. Rom. 10. 5. He that doth: there must be doing, and that by himself personally, or not at at all.
But it may be, though there be much required, yet upon some endeavours there may be some remission.
In the fift place therefore, such is the rigour and severity of the law, that let us endeavour never so much to obey it, yet all our endeavours are rejected, if they come not up to perfect obedience: Tis a vaine plea of many people to say, they doe what they can, and desire well, and endeavour well; It is true, this is somewhat to those that are children, and have freedome by Christ (as you shall heare by and by) but to those that are under the law, endeavours to obey, though never so strong, if the work be not done, are not accepted by God.
Sixthly, the law requires constancy in all these: suppose we could obey the law, or goe on very farre in many things, yet such are the termes between God and us, as we are under the law, that if we were able to obey the law in every thing as long as we live, till the very last moment, and should offend but in any one particular at the last moment, were it not for this freedome we have by this Son, we were utterly undone for ever; you may see by the way still as you goe of what infinite concernment our freedome by Christ is. You must look to your selves how you get deliverance by Christ, for certainly this is your condition as long as you are under the law.
Seaventhly, the law exacts the obedience it requires exceeding rigorously, in a way of violence upon all that are under it, it comes roughly upon them as Pharoahs task-masters; it requires the work, and lookes not at strength, strength or no strength, the work is required, and required with exceeding rigour, with dreadful threatning if it be not performed: therefore it is, the law was delivered in so dreadfull a manner with thundering, and lightning, and earthquakes, and fire, so that it made even Moses himself to shake and tremble at the manner of delivering it, and in Deut. 33. 2. it is called a fiery law, it came with mighty rigour: that is the seaventh.
Eighthly, there is this rigour in the law too, that upon any breach of it in the least thing, it doth by the severity of it break the soule, so that it doth utterly disinable it for ever performing any obedience to it again: there is such hardness in the covenant of the Law, the Law is like an Iron or Brazen wall, that upon any breach of it, the soule is but as an earthen vessell, that dashes against it, and is broken in pieces; so that there must be a creating power to make it whole again: consider I beseech you, I say, this is the condition of the Covenant of workes, which was made with us in Adam, which is now the covenant of the Law, that upon any one breach, by the severity of it, it breaks the soule, so that it doth utterly difinable it, for keeping it again: it roots out all the principles whereby the soule should be enabled to obey again: sinnes against the Gospel do not do so, as you shall heare hereafter. And this is the very ground, why upon the first sinne of Adam, we were all gone, and so were the Angels upon their sinne, because they had to deale with God onely in a covenant of works. But if upon the breach of the Law, we come to have all principles rooted out by which we should keep it, afterward, it will (we hope) pitty us, and not exact obedience from us.
Therefore in the ninth place, notwithstanding this, the Law goes on in its curse, and requires as perfect obedience, and that upon pain of eternall death, to every thing of it, as if we had all principles that might enable us to keep it still: this is the severity of the Law, it doth not remit at all of the threatning, or punishment, or exactnesse of obedien•• notwithstanding we have lost all power to obey it.
Yea further in the tenth place, it requires this of us, and gives us no strength at all to doe what it requires; it findes us divested of those principles that once we had to yield obedience, and it affords us no new principles: therefore some have compared the severity of it to Pharaohs Task-masters; it requires the tale of Brick, but gives no strength at all.
Yet further in the eleventh place. In all it doth, it strikes at our life; the Law is satisfied with no affliction; let it be transgrest in the least degree, all the afflictions that can possibly be in this world, will not satisfie it: such is the severity of it (I say) that it strikes at life, and at eternall life, it follows to pursue us to our blood, to temporall and eternall death: and here I might open the condemning sentence of the Law, but that would require a subject by it selfe, therefore I only name what is in this head, that it strikes at our lives, upon every transgression of it.
Again twelfthly, the severity of it, is in this, that upon any breach it doth presently binde over the soule (though it doe not execute it presently) by the strongest bonds that possible can be, to everlasting death; it suspends execution, but the bond is immediately sealed upon the breach of it: so that all men, upon every breach of it, have chains clapt upon their soules, which is the guilt of sinne, whereby they stand bound to eternall death, by such bonds as all created power in heaven and earth is not able to loose.
Thirteenthly, In the next place, such is the severity of the law, that when it is once offended, it will never be made amends again by any thing we are able to doe. Suppose we have offended the Law in some one thing, and that but once; if after this, we should endeavour what we can for our lives, and swelter our heart bloods to obey the Law, and think to make up the breach we have made, yet we can never make it amends again. It is true, some, though they be offended, yet by double diligence may be pleased again: but we must never think to doe so with God; being under the law, when we have once broken it, we cannot with all our care and diligence be able to make it am•••s; and that is a great part of the severity of the Law.
I, but what have we to doe, but to mourn and cry, and rent our hearts because of this distressed condition we are in.
Fourteenthly, Nay the Law accepts of no repentance; it will not discharge the guilt of any one sinne, for all the sorrow in the world. And here lieth a great mistake of people, when they have offended, they think they will be carefull to make amends; and they will mourn and repent, &c. It is true, if you be under the covenant of grace, this is something; but if you be in your naturall condition, should you weep your hearts out, and send streames of blood from your eyes, in mourning but for any one sinne; suppose that which thou countest a little matter, a sinne in thought, shouldest thou resolve to cry out and mourne for that one sinne all thy life, it will not be accepted, unlesse thou commest under the blessed liberty purchased by Christ: therefore know the difference of being under the Law and under the Gospel.
Fifteenthly, Yet further, such is the rigour of the Law, that when it hath opened our wounds and miseries, it goes no further; it shews us no means of deliverance: like a Surgeon, that opens the wound, but applies no remedy. Certainly were it not for a Mediator, we should finde the Law onely to open our wound, and there leave us.
Sixteenthly, but yet again, such is our bondage to the Law, that instead of mortifying any of our sinnes, it rather stirres them up, and makes them more: it threatneth indeed grievous things against the transgressors of it, but it doth not mortifie any sinne; it doth stir up lust, (though accidentally) and makes our sin out of measure sinfull.
Sevententhly, Yea there is one thing more, after all this: If we should keepe the Law, yet the promises of it are but mean and low in comparison of the promises of the Gospel. I doe not say they are but temporall, though before the Gospell was revealed, there was but little of Spirituall promises, yet we know what the Apostle sayes, 2 Timoth. 1. 10. That life and immortality is brought to light through the Gospel. And though I do not say, there are none, yet there are very few Scriptures of the old Testament that speak of eternall life.
Thus you see your bondage under the Law, and surely you will now think it a blessed condition, •o be freed from the Law. And ’tis one Argument that a soule is delivered from the bondage of the Law, when it can heare all this, and yield to Gods justice in it, and can have the heart raised to God in the hearing of it. But if the soule at the hearing of these things, think them so hard and unreasonable, that it is ready to rise at them, it is a signe that the spirit is not acquainted with them; and although these things may seem hard unto us, yet if we consider but three or foure particulars, they will not appeare so hard.
First, doe but consider, you have to deale with a God of infinite justice and worth; indeed did we look upon God, as we look upon a creature like our selves, we should think it mighty hard: but now, when we have to deale with a God of infinite worth, we should not think it hard.
Secondly, we shall not think it hard, if we consider that state of perfection wherein God made man at first: however it is with us now, yet God did at first give us a stock to trade in the way of obedience, and to enable us to doe what the law required.
And then Thirdly, if you did but understand aright what sin is, then you would not think it hard, that upon that sin, we should be given up to such a woful condition we speak of: if you look upon sin as that which strikes at an infinite deity, at the very being of God himself, as much as in us lyeth, then you will not wonder that one sin should bring us into such a hard condition.
Fourthly, if we consider those things that we all take for granted that yet are as hard as these, and doe but lay them with them, and they will not seem so hard. As that God for one thought, should cast the Angels into eternal torments; and not so much as parly with them about any termes of peace: and that God for one sin in Adam, should condemne all mankinde, you all grant this in the general; yea further that God the Father should deal so with his own Son, the Son of his love, as to make him a curse for man; and should lay the weight of his wrath upon him, so as to make him sweat drops of bloud, and to cry out, My God, my God, why hast thou for saken me? if you had never heard of such a thing, this would seem as hard as any thing we have spoken of.
Now before we come to speak of the other, let that which hath been said teach us, that surely then, all men in their natural condition are in a hard case: as the Israelites when the bondage they were in under Pharoah encreased upon them, the Text sayes, they saw themselves in an evil case. O that upon the hearing of these things, you would learne to see what you are out of Christ: that you would see your selves in an evil case, in a sad and dangerous condition.
Secondly, if this be the case that every soul naturally is under such a bondage to the law: then the saving of a soul is a great and a mighty work; yea such a work, that God must make heaven and earth to move to save a soul; and to deliver it from the bondage of sin: the reason why people doe so slight this great work of salvation and mediation by Christ is, because they know not their bondage. Vnderstand but this bondage aright, what it is to be under the law (I have not told you all this while of the condemnation of the law or the curse of the law: I have onely set out to you the bondage of the rigour of the law) and by this you will see it is a great work to save a soul.
Thirdly, you may see by this, how that vaine plea of carnal hearts comes to nothing; what will you trust now to your good meanings, good desires, and good intentions? and you will mourne and grieve, because you are no better; and you will doe what you can for God: tis true, these are good things but are these the things you rest in for standing before God? if they be, certainly you know not the termes you stand in to God, nor what your bondage is.
Fourthly, if God reveales himself to a man only by the law, it is impossible but the soul of that man must flye off from him and look upon God and his law as enemies to him, unlesse it were revealed together with the Gospel. Which is that I am now to tell you of, even that liberty we have by the Gospel.
Therefore then for the liberty of the Gospel, it is a precious liberty, wherein the treasury of the mystery of grace is laid up: it is the onely ground of support to our souls; and Saint Paul that was the great instrument of God in opening the doctrine of the liberty of the Gospel, sets it down in all his Epistles; and in many places elegantly: and in one Text wherein is some difficulty, In Gal. 4. from verse 21, and so forward, Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, doe ye not heare the law? for it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond-maid, the other by a free woman: but he who was of the bond-woman, was borne after the flesh, but be of the free-woman, was by promise: which things are an allegory; for these are the two covenants, the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage which is Agar; for this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children: but Jerusalem which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all: for it is written, rejoyce thou barren that bearest not, breake forth and cry thou that travellest not: for the desolate hath many more children, then she which hath an husband. The Text seemes at the reading of it, to be somewhat obscure; and yet doth most excellently set out this doctrine I am now upon, of bondage under the law, and liberty under the Gospel: the allegory, you see, is from the two sons; Abraham had one Son by a bond-maid, another by a free woman; It is an allegory, sayes the Apostle, and it signifies the two covenants; the covenant of workes, and the covenant of grace: the covenant of workes, that was from mount Sinai; there was the law revealed, which is Agar, for this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia. I remember Luther sayes; that Agar in the Arabian tongue is as much as mount Sinai, they call it so in the Arabian tongue: and so the Apostle alludes to it; therefore the law that is of Agar, that tends onely to bondage. Agars posterity were Gentiles, and in bondage, and were not to have the priviledge of the Sons of the free woman: therefore all those that have to deal with God in the covenant of workes, are bond-men; and are not to have the priviledge of the children of the free woman, of the children of God. Well, This Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem, which now is, and is in bondage with her childron, he sets out the estate of the Church of the Jewes, the Jerusalem that now is, to be an estate of bondage, in comparison of the Church of the Gospel; because they had so little knowledge of the Gospel, but were in bondage unto the law, and knew little else but the law. But Jerusalem which is above, that is the state of the Church under the new Testament, is above, in regard of the Gospel, which is free, and is the mother of us all: the Church of God under the Gospel is the Jerusalem which is above; but now it is written, rejoyce thou barren that bearest not, break forth and cry thou that travellest not; for the desolate hath many more children then she which hath an husband. That is, those that acknowledge the doctrine of the liberty of the Gospel, at first are but as desolate, as the barren woman, before it be revealed; as Sarah was barren for a while, but afterward she had a childe: so the doctrine of the liberty of the Gospel, is but as a barren thing for a while, till people are acquainted with it; and we that are Ministers of the Gospel, it is our worke to beget children to Christ, If we should be legall and preach onely the law, we should beget children to bondage, to Agar, but this is our chiefe work, to beget children to the free woman; to beget children to the free grace of God in Christ. And O that I could beget one childe to this free woman! I cannot think, but that there may be many here that are children of Agar, that it may be have had terrours, and feares in their consciences; and yet are but children of the bond-woman still: Now it is the Gospell that proclaimes the Trumpet of Jubile to those that are under bondage; therefore it is observable what time the Trumpet of the Jubile was to be blown, Levit. 29. 9. Then shalt thou cause the Trumpet of the Jubile to sound, on the tenth day of the seventh moneth, in the your land. What was this day of atonement? it was the day of the publike humiliation of all the people for their sins: the day of fasting and prayer appointed by God to afflict their souls, is called a day of atonement, and the Trumpet to proclaime the Jubile must be blown upon that very day, wherein the people had been afflicting their souls for their sins: therefore now, if there be any soul that hath been humbled before the Lord and hath been afflicted for sin; behold this is the work that is now to be done, to blow the Trumpet of Jubile to such a soul, and to proclaime liberty in the name of Christ unto you, and as the Psalmist sayes, Psalm. 89. 15. Blessed is the people that know the joyfull sound. It is translated by some, they are blessed that know the joyful sound of the Jubile. Now this Jubile having reference to our Jubile by Christ, blessed are they that heare this joyful sound that we have here in the Gospel.
Now the first thing of this joyful sound of the Jubile, and liberty we have proclaimed by Christ from the law, is this, thou shalt not be cast for thy eternal estate by the law; the law may terrifie thee, but it shall not cast thee; indeed it must cast the children that are in bondage to it, for their eternal estate; but if thou beest a believer in Christ, if thou art a childe of the free woman, this is thy liberty, I say, thou shalt not be cast for thy eternal estate by the law, we doe not love to have any businesse of great concernment to be cast by those that are rigid and severe, be of good comfort O believer, thou hast heard of much severity in the law: but the great businesse concerning thy soul and eternal estate, is above the law; It hath nothing to doe with thee; thou hearest many times dreadful threats of the law, and these threats it may be doe often terrifie thee, and thou art ready to say, who can stand before this holy God? but peace be to thee thou believing soul, for thou art set at liberty from the law by Christ; and this is the first joyful sound.
The second joyful sound of liberty thou hast by the Gospel, is this, thy law-giver is no other then he that is thine husband, thou hast to deal with no other now, in the matters of thy soul but with him that is thy husband and thy advocate by whom all is ruled, John 1. 2. 1. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father: and advocate, that is, thou hast to deal now with Christ thy law-giver, who upon every transgression, presently is thy advocate with the Father, who stands up to plead for thee, and to answer all accusations against thee; I say, he that undertakes for thee, and engageth all the interest he hath in his Father, for thee, thou hast to deal with him, for thy law-giver, about thy soul and eternal estate; and this is the second joyful sound thou hast of the Trumpet of the Jubile of the Gospel, of the liberty thou hast by Christ.
Thirdly, being delivered from the bondage of the law, this is now thy liberty, that thou art made a law to thy self. I meane thus: there is nothing now required of thee but it is written in thy own heart: God writes his law in the tables of stone: and all that is required of thee in obedience to it, is written in thy heart: so that thou doest not now so much yeild obedience to the law; because of the condemning power of it, and punishment due unto it, as from a principle of love to it: For we must know, that we are not set free by Christ from obedience to the law, we are bound to obey the law still; but here is the difference, we are not servile to the law, we keep it freely: thou keepest the law now, by being a law to thy self, and having all that God requires of thee in his law written in thy heart, by the law of sanctity that he hath given thee; that is the third joyful sound.
The fourth joyful sound, is this; by the liberty thou hast now by Christ, this is thy condition, that whatever thou doest, though there be never so many imperfections in it, yet if God can spy out but the least good thing in thee, he will take notice of that, and cast away all the evil: if God sees but any thing of his own spirit in thee, he will be sure to take notice of that. If there be but one dust of Gold, though it be mixt with abundance of drosse, God will not loose it, but will finde it out: God he is not strict to mark what is done amisse by his children, but he is strict to marke what is done well by them. Indeed the law tells us, nay a moral man will tell us, that to make an action good, all circumstances must concurre: but the liberty of the Gospel tells us, that where there is any good, any grace in an action, God observes and takes notice of it. To give but one instance for this, and it is an excellent one for this purpose, Peter 1. 3. 6. the Apostle propounds Sarah as a patterne for good women, Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. Shee never calls him Lord; but then when shee did it unbelievingly, and yet God takes notice of that word, and never mentions her unbeliefe. Now Sarah was a free woman; and this is the gracious dealing of God with the free woman; and if thou beest a child of the free woman, this is thy priviledge, that God wil take notice of every good action thou doest. Isai. 42. 3. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoaking flax shall he not quench, The word signifies as soon as ever the flax begins to be black, God will not reject it: so that if there be but the least degree of good, it is accepted. And that is the fourth joyful sound by the Gospel.
The fifth joyful sound, is this, suppose thou canst not doe any thing, yet if there be but a will, a desire in thee, God accepts that will for the deed. Many carnal hearts please themselves with this, but this is the case of those that are set at liberty by Christ: perhaps thou canst not pray; I but present thy self before God, as the Apostle speakes, and that shall be accepted of God; and know if ther be any excuse to be made for thee, Christ will finde it out, and make it before God for thee; that is the fifth joyful sound.
The sixt thing wherein the liberty we have by Christ consists, is, that though the Gospel call for obedience, yet it doth it in such a sweet and loving way that it would make any heart in the world in love with it, it drawes by the cords of love. 2. Cor. 5. 20. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ stead, be ye reconciled to God; and Philip. 2. 1. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, &c. The Gospel comes not as the law upon mount Sinai, with thunder and lightning, and darknesse, but it comes in a milde and gentle way, and by that allures and draws the soul unto it self; and that is the sixt joyful sound.
The seventh joyful sound of the Gospel is, that the Gospel and liberty of it comes, as gently, so with abundance of life and strength, together with it: it comes as the spirit is, and where the spirit is, there is power, as the Apostle speakes, I remember Luther hath this note upon Rom. 8. sayes he, the law is a spiritual law, because it is the law of God; but it is not the law of the spirit of life: tis the law of the Gospel that brings the spirit of power and life along with it; there goes a vertue together with the commands of the Gospel to strengthen the sould to obedience: And the Gospel gives grace and strength beyond what Adam had, two wayes: the grace that Adam had was onely a power to doe, but there was not the will and the deed given: but the grace of the Gospel, it gives both the power, and the will, and the deed.
The eight joyful sound of the Gospel, is that tender pity and compassion that is in God to those that are made free by it. This is the difference between the sins of those that are under the law, and those under the Gospel: the sins of those under the law makes them hated by God: but the sins of those that are under the Gospel, makes them pityed by God.
The ninth joyful sound is this: the Gospel hath a mighty efficacy to melt the heart, and to resolve it into sorrow and mourning, & such mourning, that is one of the most acceptable things to God in the world; the law, I told you, accepts not of repentance: I, but the Gospel doth; the teares of repentance that come from believers, next to the blood of Jesus Christ, are the most precious things in the world. I say, next to the drops of the blood of Christ, the drops of thy teares, coming from Evangelical repentance, are most acceptable unto God: That is the ninth joyful sound.
Tenthly, another is this; the Gospel it comes with healing: as it hath a melting power, so it hath a healing power. Christ is described to come with healing in his wings: water makes the lime burne the more, but oyle which provokes other things to burne quenches that: so it is with the oyle of the Gospel, Christ was annointed for this purpose, to heal thee, and to quench thy lust and corruptions, In Isai. 57. 18. we have an excellent promise, vers. 17. He went on frowardly in the way of his heart, marke what followes, I have seen his wayes, and I will heal him.
The eleventh joyful sound is, that now being set at liberty by Christ, though thou doest sin not onely against the law, but against the Gospel, thy sins against the Gospel shall not have power to root out any habits of grace; but still the grace of the Gospel will uphold the habits of grace in thy soul. It is otherwise with the law, for one offence against the law doth not onely root out the habit that is contrary to that offence, but all other habits also: but the grace of the Gospel is such that the habits of grace within us are not touched.
The twelfth joyful sound is this: the Gospel is so full of grace that it takes advantage of our misery; this is a good argument of the tenour of the Gospel, Pardon my sin O Lord, for it is great; strange argument of a childe of the bond-woman; but a good argument of a childe of the free-woman; and tis Gods argument, Gen. 8. 21. I will not destroy the world againe, for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth.
Thirteenthly, Another joyful sound of the Gospel is this the Gospel proclaimes this liberty to us, that all that is required of us may be done, and accepted, by and from another, namely Christ.
Fourteenthly, Further the grace of the Gospel shewes a way wherein God shall have all the wrong made him up, that ever thy sins did him: for suppose the Gospel had proclaimed that God were willing to pardon, this were not enough, as long as God stood wronged: but now the Gospel doth not onely proclaime to thee, that God is content to forgive thee all thy sins, but it tells thee of a way how God shall have all the wrong made up that ever thou hast done him: and this Son that sets thee at liberty hath undertaken it, and hath done it.
Fifteenthly, And then another joyful sound of the Gospel is this, That there is a most absolute perfect righteousnesse made over to us; the righteousnesse of the Son of God is thine, made over to thee, to be presented before the Father for thee.
Sixteenthly, yet further: there is this joyful sound of the Gospel: It proclaimes admirable promises, glorious and high things; even the infinite Treasures of Gods grace: the Son is come from the bosome of the Father, and hath opened the treasures of the grace of God, and hath discovered those things that were kept secret from the foundations of the world.
Seventeenthly, And yet there is one thing more, that is necessary for the full consolation of the liberty of the Gospel, and this blessed Jubile, that it may make a Jubile indeed in thy heart; and that is this: that such is the covenant of the Gospel, and Christ hath so undertaken for thee, that it shall never be forfeited: this is the full, rich, and glorious grace of the Gospel, that now Christ hath undertaken, and engaged himself to the Father; and the Father hath promised, and hath engaged his own truth, and mercy, and faithfulnesse, that this covenant shall never be forfeited: yea the very condition of the covenant that is required of thee, is that which Christ hath undertaken to the Father to performe in thee. If perseverance be a spiritual blessing, it is part of the purchase of Christ, and must stand: and therefore peace be to thee, thou art in such a condition as thou canst not forfeit and breake the covenant: the marriage covenant between thee and thy Saviour can never be dissolved.
I should now have shewn you a little more the blessednesse of this liberty, that all this grace comes in and by the Son; not from the bounty of God in general, but in a higher way, by the Son of God we come to be set at liberty, by being made one with him who is God and man, the heire of all things, and so are made co-heires with him. But I must here breake off.
This Sermon was preacht April 21. 1641.
HEBR. •. v. 27. the latter end of the Verse.
But after this the judgement.*
THe scope of the Holy Ghost in this Epistle, is to prove the excellency of Christ: that he is the Messiah that was to come into the world; and that all the types and shadowes of the law pointed at him: And a special part of the Epistle is to shew the excellency of the Priesthood of Christ, by preferring it above the Priesthood of Aaron: and amongst other regards, in this, that those Priests did offer up sacrifices often, but Christ offered himself but once; and this once offering of himself was available for ever, and needed no further offering. And this the Holy Ghost doth illustrate, by comparing the efficacy of Christs sufferings, with the efficacy of what a man doth here in this world: that as the actions of men here in this world, whatever they are, whether good or evil, are available for ever; what a man doth in this life, accordingly, when he dyes he comes to be stated eternally: so the death of Christ it is available for ever. It is appointed for men once to dye, and then comes judgement.
By judgement here I doe not think the Holy Ghost intends especially the judgement of the great day, (though it be true, that after death the judgement of the great day will follow, and all men must come to judgement; but I shall not speak one word of the judgement of that day.) But there is another judgement that I conceive is the intent of the Holy Ghost here, and that is the particular judgement that passeth upon every soul immediately after death; which is the stateing of the soul in the eternal condition of it, either of happinesse or misery.
While men live here, their condition is not stated by any act of God (though in regard of his eternal purpose it is the same for ever) even the Saints themselves would be here in much hazzard and danger about their everlasting estate (in regard of themselves, and what they have actually bestowed upon them) were it not that the grace of God is above them; the people of God in this life, are not without many feares and doubts about their everlasting condition; and what would many poor children of God give to be delivered from their feares, and doubts which are a grievous burthen to them, that they might never have feare or doubt more about their eternal estates? Well, if thou beest godly, in a little time it will be so with thee: this is the good that death will bring unto thee, that after death judgement will come to thee; that is, thou shalt be so actually stated in thy everlasting condition, as to be beyond all hazard about it; thou shalt be beyond all feares, and doubts and temptations; thou shalt never feare more, never doubt more, never be tempted more, never more lose any of the good that thou art possessed of: this is the judgement that comes to the Saints after death.
And on the other side, wicked men here in this world are not without their hopes and confidences that all shall be well with them: but after death comes judgement to them: that is (as we have it Proverbs 11, 7.) when a wicked man dieth, his hope perisheth, he is stated in such a condition as he is never like to have hope of good more; he is past all hope and possibility of ever receiving further mercy from God: and this is the meaning of the Text on both hands, that after death comes Judgement. Whatsoever mens conditions are here in this world, though the Saints have many fears & doubts about their estates, yet I say immediately after death, they shall be so stated and actually possessed of happinesse, that they shall never doubt more. And howsoever wicked men in this world have many hopes and confidences, and blesse themselves in their way, yet immediately after death all shall vanish, for then judgement shall come. Job hath this expression Job. 8. 14. The hope of the hypocrite is as the spiders web; he spins out of his own spirit a cunning web, but the besome of death at once dasheth it all away, for immediately after death he comes to judgement.
This then is the doctrinal conclusion we are to handle out of these words thus opened unto you,
That the onely time that men have to provide for their eternall condition, is the time of this life: if it be not done here, there is no help afterward; for after death comes judgement.
I shall desire to handle this point so farre as it may be a ground to work upon your hearts, and to stirre you up in the time of your lives to make all sure between God and your souls; for after death comes judgement.
This point that I am now to treat about, it is one of the most serious points that concerns the children of men: and usually one of the first things that the Lord settles upon the hearts and consciences of those whom he converts to himself. For a man going on in wayes of sin and death, to bethink himself, Lord where am I? what am I doing? what is like to become of me? wherefore was I borne? wherefore came I into the world? what have I to doe here? Then God answers, that which thou hast to doe here, and art sent into the world for, is to make provision for eternity: tis about this great businesse, to make up all between God and thy soul, and look thou beest careful in it: for though thy life be short and uncertaine, yet this great businesse doth depend upon this short and uncertaine time of thy life; and if it be neglected in this little space of time I give unto thee, thou art lost and undone for ever: for presently after death comes judgement; and you shall be then stated so as there can be no alteration. It is the observation of the School-men, that what did befal to the Angels that sinned, that in death befalls unto wicked men; that is, as the Angels upon the first act of sin, were presently stated in an irrecoverable condition; so wicked men when they dye are stated in an irrecoverable condition. It is true while we live in this world, though we are sinful, yet our condition is to be lookt upon as better then the condition of the fallen Angels; there is not here such an actuall stating of us: but when once death comes, a wicked man is then in the same condition with the devils themselves: that is, his condition is then so stated and made as certaine and sure, and as irrecoverable as any of the Angels that sinned. While we preach to men, though never so wicked, and ungodly, because an actual judgement (such as the Text speakes of) is not past upon them, we are to offer grace and mercy to them in Christ; but if this offer be neglected for a while; if the twine thread, the single thread of thy life be once cut, then thou art gone for ever, For after death comes judgement.
In the meditation of this point, me thinks I cannot but look upon God, as beholding all the children of men in their fallen lost sinful and miserable estate with pity and compassion, saying, poor creatures they have sinned against me, and have made themselves liable to eternal wrath, which they understand not, which they are not able to beare; well, a little time I will grant unto them, to sue out their pardon, and to come in and make up their peace with me: and I will give them meanes for that end: but let them look to themselves; for according to the improvement of the time that I now give them, so shall it be with them to all eternity: if they neglect it, they are gone for ever; mercy then shall doe them no good: so that the tenour upon which we all hold our lives, it is no other then as a malefactor condemned to dye, who hath granted to him through the favour of the Prince, a little time of reprieval, and some intimation withal given of a possibility in that time to sue out his pardon; and according as he spends that time, so it shall be with him for life or death. Thus I say we all hold our lives, we are all condemned before the Lord: onely God hath out of his infinite grace provided a way and meanes of salvation for the children of men, and gives us a little time (we know not how long whether two or three dayes, but as long as we live) to look about us, to provide for the making of our peace with him; and if that be neglected, all is gone, and we are undone for ever: great things then doe depend upon this uncertaine small time of our lives. It is reported of Alexander, that when he went against any City, he did use to set up a lampe burning, and would make proclamation, that whosoever came in while this lampe was burning, should finde favour and have his life; but whosoever staid till this lampe was out, he was but a dead man, and must expect no mercy; brethren know that God hath set up a lampe, and our life is this lampe; and God proclames, Whosoever comes in while this lampe is burning, shall finde mercy; but if you stay till the lampe be out, there is nothing but eternal misery to be expected. Now this lampe of your lives may not onely goe out upon the consumption of the oyle, but it may be put out by accidental meanes; and if this lampe be once out, and your work not done, you are lost for ever. We read 1 Kings 6. 7. that when Solomon was preparing the Temple, he made all things so ready before hand, that there was no noise of axe or hammer heard there: Whosoever God intendeth for a living stone in the glorious Temple of Heaven, he squares and fits them here; there is no noyse of repentance and sorrow for sin after this life; what is to be done, must be done here; nothing will doe it hereafter. Whatsoever thou hast to doe, doe it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nos knowledge, nor wisdome in the grave whòther thou goest. Eccles. 9. 10. and Chapter 11. vers. 3. In the place where the tree falleth there it lyeth. Which way thou fallest when thou dyest, that way thou shalt lie eternally: if Godward, then God is thine for ever: if sinward, then misery and destruction is thine for ever. Eccles. 12, 7. Then shall the dust returne to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall returne unto God who gave it. The souls of wicked men doe returne to God that gave them, as well as the souls of the godly; that is, they doe presently returne to God to receive the sentence of their eternal doome from him, and to be stated in their everlasting condition; there is a mighty change in the soul, immediately after it is departed from the body, and is brought to stand before the glorious God, to be stated in its eternal condition. There are twelve houres in the day (sayes Christ) wherein a man may worke, but the night comes when no man can work: John 9. 4. The time of this life is thy working time: I, but the night is coming, and then no man can work. Revel. 6. 8. And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed him. Hell immediately followes death, where death surprizeth any in their natural condition, that have not finished the work of making their peace with God. 2 Cor. 5. 10. We must all appeare before the judgement seat of Christ, to receive according to what we have done in the flesh, whether it be good or bad. It is not according to what we doe afterwards, but according to what we have done here in the flesh, so it must be with us for ever. There can be no repenting, no believing after this life; body and soul being parted, the whole man is not capable of a work of God upon it.
And besides, immediately after death, God takes all meanes away: you shall never heare Sermon more, never have admonition more, never have good connsel more, never have any working of Gods spirit more, to draw you soules to Christ.
And not onely so, but God then withdrawes himself so fully, in regard of all the common workes of his spirit, that there is a kinde of stating the soul in sin (which yet cannot so properly in regard of God be said to be sin as evil,) so that it shall be impossible for thee to doe any thing but sin; as the Saints though while they live here, they have many lusts and corruptions in them, yet immediately after death their souls are so fully possessed of the spirit, that then they cannot sin: so on the contrary, though wicked men while they live here have divers common gifts of Gods spirit, and many restraints upon them; yet immediately after death, they are so fully separated from God, and God so fully withdraws himself from them, that it is impossible for them to doe any thing else but sin and rebell against God, and blaspheme him to his face. There was in Adam in innocency a possibility not to have sinned; there is in us, while we live in this world, an impossibility but that we should sin; but in the world to come there is in the Saints an impossibility that ever they should sin: and look how the impossibility is on the one hand with the Saints, so is the impossibility directly contrary on the other hand with the wicked: therefore the wicked must needs be stated in an everlasting evil condition. There is no more possibility for the damned souls in hell ever to doe any thing but to blaspheme God, then there is a possibility for the Saints in heaven ever to sin against God.
And yet further, at the great day Christ gives up the kingdome to the Father, and then there will be another manner of administration then before; Christ will not then be exercised in the work of his mediatorship, to mediate any further for those for whom he did not mediate in this life. And presently after the separation of the soul from the body, the spirit of God wholly departes from the soul, and the wrath of God is let out so fully into it, that it breaks the soul, and fills up every faculty of it: so that it is impossible in regard of the strong current of divine wrath that carries the soul along with it, that ever it should be exercised to all eternity any one moment in any thing but onely in bearing of torment, and divine wrath. As the Saints shall be filled up with the presence of God, and carried on with such a strong current of divine mercy, that it shall be impossible that their souls should ever to all eternity be exercised in any other thing but in the enjoyment of God, and living to his praise: so on the quite contrary is it with the wicked: therefore after death there is a stating of both. I will enlarge my self no further in the opening of this point, but come presently to apply it, for this point is applicatory rather then doctrinal, and I shall content my self with three or foure branches of application and so conclude.
In the first place, hence we may see what cause we have to blesse God for the continuance of our lives, especially any that are here this day, that have not throughly made their peace with God, that are not upon certaine and infallible termes in this great businesse of providing for their eternal estates. If there remaines but any doubt in thy heart concerning thy eternal condition, and if the feares of eternity have been upon thy spirit, thou Wilt from this point, that hath been thus briefly spoken to, see cause to blesse God with thy face up on the ground, adoring the riches of his grace that thou art alive this day? why, because thy life it is the time of making up thy peace with God; it is the time of providing for thy eternal condition: if thy life be at an end, and this work not done, then all is gone, then judgement comes, and thou wilt be infallibly and unalterably stated in a lost and undone condition. O therefore its well that thou art alive this day; if a man have a great businesse to doe that concernes his whole estate, or life, and it must be done in a very little time, O what a favour would he count it, to have his time lengthned out, though but a little, because his businesse is of great weight, and he thinkes with himself, if I miscarry in it, I am lost and undone for ever: so all those that have ever had serious apprehensions of the infinite consequence of what depends upon their lives here, they cannot but sit downe and blesse God for lengthening out their lives; for the time of this life is a happy time, it is a day of grace, a day of salvation. O how happy would those poor creatures, upon whom this judgement is past, that are stated in their eternal condition, think themselves if they might have but one day wherein it might be said, there is a possibility for them to make provision for themselves concerning their eternal estate! As they were not long since, so art thou now: and therefore know how to prize thy life. O the lives of men and women (especially such as have not yet done that great work) are worth a thousand thousand worlds. I remember I have heard of a speech of a great Gentleman, who being very sick, and Physitians telling him that there was no way for him but death: O, sayes he, that I might live, though it were but as a Toad! and indeed what man or woman is there that hath not got a thorough and Scripture-assurance of this great work that their peace is made up with God, but may upon very good ground (if sicknesse be upon them) desire to live though but as a Toad, because such great things depend upon their lives here in this world? Brethren, doe but say this to your own hearts upon serious meditation of this that I am now speaking of. What if God should come now to this Congregation, and say to every one of you, Well, now the time that I have given you to provide for your eternal estate, is at an end; if you have done your work, well and good, you shall be saved and possesse eternal glory; but you must be cast according to that which is now done. I feare if such a message should come from heaven to many of us, it would make our hearts to ake within us, and we should cry out, O Lord, give me a little space before I goe hence and be no more seen: O that I might yet have a little more time. Suppose God had taken you away when he took away such a kinsman or kinswoman of yours, such a neighbour or friend, and death had come then, and judgement had then been past upon you; which way doe you thinke you must have been cast? cannot some of you remember, that if God had taken you away at such a time, or when such a one dyed, you were then in such a case, that you have cause to think you had been certainly stated in a condition of eternal misery? therefore blesse God that you are alive at this day, to heare of such a doctrine as this is; that so long as you live, God gives you time to provide for your eternal estate. Psalm. 78. 38. the Text sayes, God did not stirre up all his anger, but called back his wrath; when sicknesse comes upon men and women, some part of Gods anger is let out; I, but if God had let out his anger but a little more, what would have become of you? you had been gone: one stroake more had cast you for ever. I, but God was pleased to call back his anger, and did not stirre up all his wrath. O blesse God for sparing you at such a time; for certainly had you died then, your condition had been as irrecoverable as the Devells themselves; now tis a day of grace, now you have the voyce of the Gospel, and the glad tidings of salvation sounding in your eares: but then you had been past the time of grace, past praying, and past repenting: now that you are not past this day, you are to prize your lives. And brethren know wherein consists the worth of your lives, and the continuance of them; there is a horrible impudence in some men, they would faine have their lives lengthened, to have their lusts more satisfied; did God give thee thy life for this end? no, the end why thou shouldst desire to live is, that thou mayest have further time to make provision for that which is of such infinite consequence, which if it be not done, it had been better for thee to have been a Toad or Serpent, or the vilest creature that ever lived. O that we had hearts to give God the glory of our lives, and to prize our lives aright; excellent effects would proceed from it, were our hearts wrought to these things.
But Secondly, If the onely time that we have to provide for eternity be the time of this life, how then are those to be reproved that mispend and squander away this precious time of their lives about vanities, and neglect the great businesse that they were sent into the world for? If such great things depend upon our lives, then the losse of the time of our lives is a most dreadful losse; we all say time is precious, and it is so, and the through-understanding and applying of this point would make us see time precious indeed: If there could be an extract of the quintessence of all the pearles in the world put into one, it would not be such a precious pearle as this time of our lives, because there is that depends upon it that is infinitely more worth then ten thousand worlds; however men and women make little of their time, and play and sport it away, yet there is no moment of thy time that thou doest mispend, but for ought thou knowest it might be the very moment upon which thy eternal condition doth depend: thou goest abroad, and art merry, and jocund, and mispendest thy time, and abusest thy self; I say for ought thou knowest that instant of thy sinning might be the very moment upon which the very hinge of all thy eternall condition depends; and did we understand this doctrine aright, we should see it to be an exceeding great evil and folly, to mispend our precious time: men ordinarily live in the world as if they had nothing to doe here, but onely to make provision for the flesh. If a man should come to the City about a businesse that concernes his life, and the time he hath to doe it in were very short, how industriously (doe you think) would he spend that time! every time the clock strikes, would strike to his heart; or suppose God should send a damned soul that is now in hell into the world againe, and should say thus to him, Soul, you shall goe and live againe in the world; and I will give you a little space, you shall live a quarter or half a yeare; (or if it were but a moneth or week) and I will put you in such an estate that there shall be a possibility for you to make your peace with me, and to deliver your self from this misery that you are under: I appeal to you, how doe you think such a one would spend his time? now as you are perswaded and convinced in your consciences, how such a one would spend his time, so doe you labour to spend your time; many would have rules to guide them in their way; why take this rule, if such a thing could be, that a damned soul could be sent into the world again, and be in a possibility of another estate, I say, What you think such a one would doe, that doe you: If one should come and say to him, what shall I give for your time that is granted to you? how would he contemne him? if you offer him Crownes and Kingdomes, yea all the world for his time, (be it but a week, or a day) he would scorne such an offer, and prize one day more then a thousand worlds. Now you have had dayes and weekes, one after another, and yet for ought you know you are liable to eternal ruine; and you know not whether you have a week or a day more before your eternal condition be stated upon you; O what need then have you to improve your time!
How few think of the passing away of their time, or that any great matter depends upon the time of their lives here in this world! you would count it a great folly and madnesse if a man had a precious oyle that were worth a thousand pound a pinte, and he should set up a light with this oyle to talke or play, or doe trifling things by; what! a lampe that is sed by such oyle, that is worth thousands! surely this lampe should be for some weighty businesse, and not for trifles: Know brethren, that the time of your lives is this lampe, lighted up, and fed with such precious oyle: O do not squander it away then about trifles and vanities; for there are things of infinite concernment that you have to doe in this time of your lives; tis the great charge of Christ against Jezebel, Revel. 2. 21. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, but she repented not. I remember an expression of a woman that was in great distresse of conscience; some came to her, and endeavouring what they could to perswade her that there was hopes of mercy for her, she lookt with a gastly countenance upon them, and said, Call time again, call time again: as if she had said, if you can call time again, there may be hope for me. Certainly we doe not consider what depends upon time; it is a good signe of an enlightned conscience, to make conscience of time: there is nothing puts a more serious frame into a mans spirit, then to know the worth of his time; sayes one (in discovering the losse of the opportunity of time) suppose there were a company of men sailing to sea, and they come at last to a little Island that lies in the middest of the sea many thousand miles from any other Land, and they goe and refresh themselves upon the Island, but sayes the Marriner, look to your selves, be not farre off, be within call, for I will not stay for any of you: the old men it may be are afraid to be too farre; but the young men trust to their legs, and think they can make haste; but the Mariner is gone, and they are left behinde and perish: tis true, while we are here in this world, we are refreshing our selves; but be sure, sayes God, you be ready when I call; and Gods call is the time of death: now God he calls, and poor creatures are not ready, and so they perish eternally. O the losse of the time of your lives will be a dreadful losse one day, and it will pierce your souls to think that once you had a day of grace, but now you have no time; judgement is now past upon you, and there is no remedy. It is reported of a woman who had her house on fire, that she was very busie and spent her time about saying of trifles, and in the meane time had a childe in the cradle, and forgot that; and when she lookt upon what she had saved, she saw a few trifling things, but then it came into her minde, O what is become of my childe! and imagining that her childe had been burnt (though it was saved) she ran mad, to consider that she should be so foolish, as to minde things of no concernment, and to forget her childe. Take heed it be not your case; you heare that time is precious, and that there are great things that concerne your souls and eternal condition, which you have to doe; and you spend your time to get estates, to get a little pleasure, or honour in the world; but now, when the conclusion of all shall come, and you shall look back to see what you have done, and God shall come and call you to an account, and say, Well, now there is an end of your time, what have you done in this world? It may be you can say, Lord, I have got an estate, and I have led a merry and jovial life; but all this while, what hast thou done for thy soul? what hast thou done for eternity? what hast thou done for the making up of thy peace? what hast thou done about those things that are of such infinite weight and consequence? thy heart now will be overwhelmed with this thought, O Lord, I did forget my soul, I had no thoughts about my eternal estate, I have spent a great deal more time in playing, then in praying; at least more time in playing then I have done in praying to God in private, to make my peace with him: however it may be you can passe away your time merrily here, yet it will be a dreadful thing to you hereafter, when you shall know what was the businesse of your time, and what you were borne for. I remember Bernard hath a notable expression, speaking of some calling one to another, Come let us be merry till an houre be past; sayes he (speaking with indignation against such folly) What wilt thou doe thus and thus till an houre be past, till time be past! what passe away that which the mercy of thy Creator hath so farre indulged to thee as to give it thee for repentance, and to get grace and to obtaine pardon. What to passe away time in which thou oughtest to be breathing after that life and blessednesse which thou hast lost! It becomes men that have not made up their peace with God, to spend their dayes in bewailing of their sinful and miserable condition, and not in merrinesse and jollity, in chambering and wantonnesse; how wilt thou wish one day that thy time had been spent rather in mourning and lamenting? sayes Abraham to Dives, Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy pleasures; this life is not the life of thy sensual pleasures, but to make all even between God and thy soul; when God is so gracious as to give us space for such great ends as he doth in this world, he expects that all the children of men should spend their dayes in seeking his face, and in making up their peace with him; in prizing his mercy, in admiring and adoring the riches of his grace and goodnesse in his Son: but where doe we finde this? what a different course of life is there in most men from what God expects? they are guilty of desperate folly that squander away their precious time, seeing all depends upon it.
Thirdly, If after death comes judgement, certainly then when death findes any man unprepared in an estate of unregeneracy, that hath not made his peace with God, it must needes be exceeding dreadful because it brings judgement, and states such a one in his eternal condition. Job. 18. 14. Death is called there the King of terrors; and well may it be so; for indeed it is the most dreadful thing in the world, to those that understand the meaning of their own sinful state and condition: there is enough in this to daunt the heart of the proudest stubbornest wretch that lives upon the earth, to consider that now I am launching into the ocean of eternity; but God knows I have made little provision for it; it may be it is the ocean of the wrath of this infinite God that I am now launching into, and must be in for ever; certainly (except thou hast good assurance of the work done between God and thy soul) the sight of the infinite ocean thou art launching into immediately after death, cannot but make thee give a dreadful shrieke when thou seest thou art now like to miscarry eternally; death taking an ungodly man, it is no other but the cutting asunder of the thred upon which he hung over the pit of eternal misery. It is the pulling up of the flood gates of Gods eternall wrath. Here when afflictions are upon men and women, Gods wrath is but onely like the little droppings of water through the flood-gates; as you see in flood-gates, there will be some leakings forth of some drops of water onely; but there is a vast difference between those drops, and when the flood-gates are pulled up, then the streames gush out abundantly: just so is it with Gods dealings here in the world with ungodly men; it may be Gods hand is upon them in many afflictions, but these are but as some few drops of his wrath; but when death comes and findes them unprepared, then God pulls up the flood-gates, and then the streames of the wrath of the almighty overflow them; death to them will be no other then the Sergeant of the Lord of hosts to hale them to prison: It will be a taking up of the draw-bridge, It will be to them a dismal and dreadful Sun-set, that brings with it a night of eternal darknesse, and that will be a most dreadful Sun-set that shall never have day more; why, know that at death the day of grace and salvation sets to thee, and an eternal night of dismal blacknesse and darknesse will be upon thee; so that when thou art going out of this world, and thy peace not made with God, thou must then bid farewel to all comforts and to whatever thou didst enjoy. Now farewel those excellent truths of God, that I have had revealed to me: I shall never heare such gracious truths out of the mouthes of Gods ministers more. Now farewel all my loving friends, that I rejoyced so much in, and all the mercy meetings that ever I have had; I shall never have them more. Farewel now wife, husband, children, I shall never see your faces more. Yea farewel house and lands, and all delights; farewel Sun and Moon and Stars, and all the world; I shall never see you againe till I see you all of a light fire, at the great and dreadful day of Christ. And now I am leaving the world and all the comforts here, and all the meanes of grace here; and O Lord, whither am I going? It was a speech of Pope Adrian, when he was to dye, sayes he, O my soul, my soul, whither art thou going? thou shalt never be merry more, as thou was wont to he. It is a doleful thing for a poor creature, whose time is at an end, not to know whither he is going; to think of former pleasures and delights, and never to have them more. Me thinkes when I consider the death of any ungodly man, that place in Isaiah 10. 3. comes to my minde, And what will you doe in the day of visitation? It is true, thou doest now ruffle it out in the world, and takest thy fill of pleasure, and bearest all before thee, and wilt have thy minde, and art stout, and stubborn in thy way, and scornest the truthes of God by his Ministers: but what wilt thou doe in the day of visitation, when the time shall come that puts an end unto thy dayes here? O the change that wil then be in thy spirit! God will then look upon thee with indignation, and say, O wretched creature, that hast spent thy dayes in vanity, thou shalt continue no longer in this world; and now the wrath of the Almighty is let out upon thee; Thou art upon thy sick bed in distresse, and conscience now is awakened, and tortures that soul of thine, and tells thee, that such and such wickednesse at such a time, in such a company, in such a chamber, thou didst commit; and thou beginst now to curse thy selfe for thy folly, and for neglecting the day of grace and salvation; and now thy time is almost gone; well, thy sicknesse encreaseth, thy paines continue, thy friends are all sent for, and they come about thee bewailing of thee, and thou beginnest to look gastly, and drawest thy breath short, and the devil waits for his prey; thy mouth falls, thy soul departs, and there is an end of thee; an end of all thy pride, and an end of all thy stoutnesse, and an end of all thy vanity, and wickednesse: and this is the man that hath not made God his portion: mercy hath had her time, but thou hast neglected it, and now thou art gone for ever, We speak much of the mercy of God, and is it not rich mercy for God to give to thee, a wretched sinful creature, such a blessed time of repentance as thou hast in this world? for God to call, and cry to thee, and to tender thee grace and pardon, and peace; he did not doe so to the Angels that sinned; when they committed but one sin against God, he cast them away, and would not so much as treat with them about any termes of peace: and therefore seeing thou hast had thy time already, let all the Angels in Heaven, and Saints and creatures, yea and devils themselves, acknowledge that God was merciful to this man, to this wretched man and woman, that had such a faire time, though now judgement be upon them. O my brethren, the thoughts of death under this notion, hath a great deal in it to work upon your hearts. I remember I have heard of one that used to pray six times a day, and being asked why he spent so much time in praying, he gave no other answer but this, I must dye, I must dye; that which was to come after, would put a period to the time of his life, upon which so much did depend. O that we had hearts to consider it; and that we knew, even now in this our day, the things that belong to our everlasting peace, before it be too late. Brethren, these things are of infinite concernment to your immortal souls; the Lord grant they may be prevalent upon every one of us.
We may apply this dreadfulnesse of death (that followes upon the meditation of this point I have been upon) unto divers sorts of people: as first, me thinkes it should be of great force and efficacy to work upon the hearts of old people; your time is neer, you had need be sure that your work is done; for certainly you have no long time for the accomplishing of that great work, of making your peace with God; it is three or foure a clock (as it were) in your day of grace, the Sun is setting with you. Now if a man be to goe a journey upon his life, and hath neglected the fore-noon, and much of the after-noon also, and sees the Sun draw low, he thinkes with himself, I had need make haste now, for if the Sun be once set, and I not at my journeyes end, I am a lost man, my life is gone. They that goe over where the Sea is dry at one time, and flowes at another, but so that if they misse but half an houre, they are dead men, if by their watch they finde the time is almost come for the waters to returne, then their hearts are daunted, and they say one to another, we had need make haste, for the time is almost at an end. O consider this you old men, that have neglected the time of your youth, and now your time is almost at an end, know in this your day the things of your peace, double now your diligence. It is a most dreadful thing to see an old wicked man, an old sinner, an old scorner, an old carnal wretch, that never understood the great businesse that he came into the world for.
Secondly, this concernes all prophane wretches, who instead of doing the work of their time, and preparing for their everlasting estate, goe directly backwards, and make the breach between God and their souls wider. If a man have a journey to goe for his life, and he must goe it before the Sun be set, and he goes a quite contrary way; when he begins to reflect upon himself, he then sayes, where am I? If the Sun goe downe before I am at my journeyes end, I am a dead man: so is it with you that goe on in wayes of prophanesse, God hath sent you here to live; to the praise of his name, and to work out your salvation with feare and trembling, and you have gone directly backward, and the time of your lives hath been spent in nothing else, but in making your selves seaven-fold more the children of wrath then before: you had need now look to your selves; for if you dye in your course of prophanesse you are undone for ever.
Thirdly, for those that have been heretofore in a good forwardnesse in the way of life and salvation, that have had some stirrings of conscience in them, but yet through the violence of their lusts have been turned back againe, and have fallen off from their former state; certainly this point might strike thee to the heart. As a man that is to goe over the Sea for his life by such a time, and he hath a good gale for the present, but when he is come neer the haven, a great gust drives him back againe; O what a sad condition is this man in? so is it with thee; the time was when thou hadst a good gale; God came graciously to thee, by the work of his spirit, and thou seemedst to be in a good forwardnesse in the work thou wast borne for; but the gust of fin, and the violence of lust, hath carried thee quite back againe, and now thou art further off then before: how should this awaken thee to improve all thy time and opportunities to the uttermost for the good of thy soul.
Againe, this concernes those that upon every discontent wish themselves dead; as some froward people, if any thing crosses them; they presently wish themselves in the grave. O vaine man and woman, dost thou know what thou doest, to wish the time of thy life at an end? thou mayest meet with another manner of discontent then ever thou metst withall here; for after death comes judgement. Amos 5. 18. Wee unto you that desire the day of the Lord, to what end is it for you? the day of the Lord is darknesse and not light. So I say, woe to them that in a froward mood desire the day of the Lord, which is not a day of light, but like to be a day of darknesse unto them, for ought they can tell. Instead of giving God the praise of thy life, upon every sullen mood doest thou wish thy self dead? this is a great dishonour to the grace and mercy of God extended towards thee.
Again, this concernes those that upon every drunken occasion, for a word or two, will venture their lives: tis true, fooles will venture their lives for trifles, because they know not the worth of them; but those who know the worth of their lives will not doe so. I remember a story of a Philosopher, being at Sea and in danger of his life, he was mightily afraid, and the Marriners were not at all afraid: what (say they) are you a Philosopher afraid, when we rude Marriners doe not feare? I (says he) there is reason for it; for if I dye, a Philosopher is gone; but for you, your lives are not worth much: so they that are ready to venture their lives in a drunken quarrel, and will venture nothing for God, and a good cause, know not what their lives are worth, and that is the reason they are so willing to throw them away.
Again, it concernes those that in trouble and anguish of conscience are ready to lay violent hands upon themselves to take away their lives; one would think this point thus opened and applyed might for ever keep back such a temptation for time to come. What an infinite desperate folly is this, that I that am made sensible of Gods wrath, and am afraid of it, shall yet doe that which may put me irrecoverably into it, and state me eternally in it, as they doe who lay violent hands upon themselves. If any people in the world should desire the continuance of their lives, and prize them at a high rate, those that are troubled in conscience should doe it; they should pray Davids prayer, Psalm. 39. 13. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I goe hence and be no more. And use Gods own argument Psalm. 103. 13, 14. where it is said, God is merciful to his people, because he remembers they are but dust. So doe thou plead with God, and say, O Lord, spare me, I am but dust, and as a winde that passeth away and shall never returne againe; now is the time wherein thou hast said thou wilt be intreated: O let my life be continued, for if this time be out, I am gone for ever.
Lastly, this concernes those that have been (as they thought) upon their death beds, that have apprehended themselves as dying, and have had this truth somewhat setled upon them, that have seen eternity before them, and have been in danger (as they conceived) of everlasting ruine, and in their own hearts have received judgement, but God hath magnified his mercy towards them, and restored them againe: perhaps in this condition when thou sawest and hadst the judgement in thine own heart, that thy time was gone, thou then madest promises, and saydest, O if God would spare my life, what a new man would I be! I would be sure to make use of my time in another manner then ever heretofore: Well, God hath raised thee up againe, and what then? why now thou wilt venture upon Gods patience, and his wrath too; O woe to thee, when thy dayes are ended, and this judgement comes, it will fall dreadfully upon thee.
Wherefore my brethren, let me speak to you all (for I am not come this day onely to spend an houre with you, but to doe your souls some good) be it known to you, this is your day, the day of grace and salvation: And yet once againe, in the name of God, I declare unto you, this truth (supposing you have heard it many times before) that there is not the worst, the vilest in the congregation, that is come through the providence of God before God this day, but for ought we know it is possible for thy sinnes to be pardoned; it is possible yet for thy soul to be saved, for God to be reconciled to thee, and this day it is once more declared to thee, that thou art not yet stated in eternal misery, which might have been thy condition before now: O that when you are gone home, you would get into your closets, and fall down before God, and blesse him for this message, once more preached to you. Beloved, if I, or any of the servants of the Lord, should be sent by God to the gates of hell, with this message, O you damned spirits, know from the Lord, that there is a possibility for you to be saved, certainly they would with joyfulnesse hearken to such tidings. Now this cannot be preached to them, but this may be, this is preached to the vilest and wickedest wretch, and enemy to God and goodnesse that is in the congregation; and God declares this now to you, but how long it will be before judgement comes to state thee in another condition, thou canst not tell, therefore know in this thy day the things of thy eternal peace: and who knows what may depend upon one day? yet prayers and teares may doe thee good; but stay a while, and though streames of bloud should flow from thee, and thou shouldest cry and howle to God to all eternity, it would never doe it; therefore know your time; it is a happy thing for a man to doe a businesse in such a time wherein he may have the benefit of it; amongst men, though a thing be done, yet if not in the season of it, it loses of its worth and efficacy: so now prayers, and teares, and mourning, and crying to God for mercy, the efficacy of these things are gone, except they be done in time; and for ought thou knowest unlesse they be done this day, or to morrow, or very shortly, they may doe thee no good at all: therefore now take your time; God proclaimes and sayes to every one of you this day, Poor creatures, as ever you expect to receive mercy in the day of Christ, look to it now; for now the golden scepter is stretched forth, now is the acceptable time, and the day of grace and salvation, come in and accept of the offers and tenders of grace and mercy now, or else you are gone for ever.
Wherefore then let this take off all slightnesse of heart, and those roving dispositions of your spirits, that run so after vanities. If a man that were wilde in his thoughts, and that had his eyes roving up and down, should have one say to him, Sir, consider what you doe, for it concernes your life, if you miscarry you are a dead man, it would make him call in his thoughts, and compose his spirit: so, if thou hast a slight and wandring heart, this is said to thee this day, friend, poor soul, know what thou art doing; even this dayes work concernes thy life, thy eternal estate, and take your selves off from all creatures, til you have done so great a work; so saies the Apostle 1 Cor. 7. 29, 30, 31, 32. Brethren, the time is short, it remaineth that both they that have Wives be as if they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; the time is short. The word is, the time is wrapt up, it is folded up; it is a Metaphor taken from cloth that is folded even to the very fag end: the time is all folded up (sayes the Apostle) therefore let your hearts be taken off from the creature. Truly brethren, whatever you think of this point, yet those that understand themselves aright, would not venture to be in an unconverted estate one half houre for ten thousand worlds; for they know that when death comes, then judgement also comes.
And you that are poor people, who live hardly, and in great extremity in this world, yet so long as you live here, your condition is comfortable; for you have time to doe that worke that is of such mighty consequence for the good of your souls: And indeed upon the consideration of this point, peoples hearts should be taken off from the creature; for a man had better live here in order to that great work, though as a stock or log in the fire, then to be taken away before he hath done that work he was sent into the world for. When men are in paine, they would faine dye; I, but did they know what will be the state and condition of a wicked man immediately after his death, they would rather live, though as the miseablest creature in the world.
And consider all you young ones, now while God gives you time, of this great work of making your peace with him. If a man were to goe over Sea about a businesse of great weight, after he comes upon the shore, what should his first thought be? let him first make sure of his great work, and then be merry afterwards. If thou hast made sure of this great work, that thy peace is made up with God, and that thy everlasting estate is secure, then thou mayest be merry amongst thy friends, and mayest live joyfully, and comfortably all thy dayes. It was the complaint of one, that Art is long, and life short; but surely the art of providing for eternity is a long and difficult art, and thy life is short and uncertaine: O therefore doe not put off this great work, as Seneca speakes of some, they are alwayes about to doe, they will, and they will, and are about to live, but never live. O that you that are young ones would begin betimes; and this point setled upon the hearts of young ones, would cause them to apply themselves with all their might to the great work of their souls, And that which you do, be sure you do it with all your might; which is the Argument of the Holy Ghost, Eccles. 9. 10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to doe, doe it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor wisdome in the grave whither thou goest. If ever thou hadst a work to put forth thy strength about, O doe it here, doe not onely have some faint wishes and desires, and some sudden good moods, as perhaps at the hearing of such a truth as this is, you have some sudden wishes and inclinations; no, but work out your salvation with feare and trembling, and be sure to take hold of all opportunities, seeing so much depends upon the short time of your lives. If a man were to goe over Sea for his life, and had a faire day and winde, it were desperate madnesse for him to say, Well, I have two or three dayes more to goe over in, and therefore I will not go now, and so neglects his gale; and when those days are past, and the last day comes, he thinks to go over, but cannot have a wind, for a world: so, many think they will repent when they come to dye. O but take heed when thou hast a gale that thou doest not neglect it, for feare it never come again; and know that if the Lord stirres any of your hearts this day, or any other day, by his word, and you neglect it, and goe to your businesse, and shops, and to your sensual pleasures and delights, you may hereafter desire to have such a time of the working of Gods spirit againe, and if you would give a thousand worlds for it (were it in your power) you cannot have it, therefore take heed you doe not neglect this great work. And upon this ground labour to make sure work; for if a man had a work to doe, and having done it amisse, he might mend it afterwards, he need not be so exact about it: but if a man be set about a work, and he knowes when it is gone out of his hands, he can never mend it, he will not be carelesse in it, but will lay his work to the rule, and labour to make all sure. Know, it is so with you about your eternal condition: that which you doe in this world, must be available for ever, you cannot mend it afterwards. If after you see your selves cast, you should say, O Lord give me farther time, and let me come into the world againe, and then I will mend this and the other fault that I was rebuked for; God will say, no; you cannot returne into the world again; therefore it neerly concernes you to make all sure while you have time. And doe not rest upon blinde hopes, and desperate adventures, I hope it will be thus and thus with me; but entertaine this thought, What if it should prove otherwise? what if I should miscarry? this will mightily daunt the heart of a man, especially if he knows that upon his miscarriage, he is undone for ever.
Yet further, (which is another branch of the exhortation) my brethren never baulk any way of God for feare of suffering; be willing to suffer any hardship for Gods way. How doth that follow? thus: If the time of thy life be that upon which the stating of thy eternal condition depends, then it concerns thee to goe through stitch whatever comes in thy way; as for instance, suppose a man were going to such a place, and he must be there at such a time for his life, and riding apace through the streets the dogs bark at him (as usually the dogs bark most at those who ride fastest) how little doth he regard the barking of the dogs: but did a man ride onely for his recreation, then it would be a little troublesome to him: And when a man rides for his life, though the clouds gather, and the raine falls, yet he will not returne; and if he meet with foule and dirty way, he will through it, or with a slough he will over it, because it is for his life: but if a man rides for recreation onely, and meets with windes, and clouds, and stormes, he turnes back again. And truly brethren, the wayes of most Christians in religion are (me thinks) such as if they took them up for recreation, and nothing else; therefore if there be but a cloud arise, a little trouble and affliction appear, they repent their way, and presently return back again. O but did God reveal to thee what eternity is, and what depends upon the course of thy life here? then though there be clouds, and stormes, and tempests, and rugged wayes, yet thou wilt be ready to goe through all. The conclusion therefore is this, whenever thou art tempted to sin, labour by what thou hast heard this day to repell temptations; and say, God hath shewed me this day the great errand and businesse I came into the world for; of what infinite concernment those things are, that depend upon the time of my life: shall I then satisfie the lusts and corruptions of my own heart, and gratifie the devil, and the world, and in the meane time neglect that which is of so great importance for the good of my soul? Then once again, O that you all knew in this your day the things that concerne your eternal peace! Consider what hath been said, and the Lord give you understanding hearts to make use of it.
This Sermon was preacht April 29. 1641.
The CONTENTS of the foregoing SERMONS.
- THe words are a part of Moses his Song which Song is, page 2
- 1. The most ancient Song in the world ibid.
- 2. A spirituall and most excellent Song ibid.
- 3. A very delightfull Son ibid.
- 4. A Typicall Song ibid.
- 5. In the opinion of Austin a miraculous Song 3
- There is none like to God 4
- 1. Because whatever is in God is God himselfe 5
- 2. There is an universall goodnesse in God ibid.
- 3. All beings are but one excellency in God ibid.
- 4. All that is in God is primitively in him ibid.
- 5. God can communicate himselfe so as none can.
- God can communicate as much of his goodnesse as he will.
- And can make the creature as sensible of it as he will ibid.
- And God can bring all evil at once upon the creature.
- And can make the creature as sensible of that evill as he will 6
- It should be our care in beholding any good or excellency in the creature, to keep in our thoughts and hearts, an apprehension of the infinite distance that there is between God and that creature ibid.
- The want of which hath been the cause both of ontward Idolatry, and of Spirituall Idolatry 7
- There is none like to God; therefore none like to the people of God 8
- None should doe for their. Idol-gods so as Gods people should doe for their God 9
- What Idolaters will doe in reference to their Idol-gods ibid.
- Idolaters are,
- 1. Earnest after their Idol-gods 10
- 2. They are mad upon their Idols ibid.
- 3. The strength of the affections of Idolaters after their Idol-gods appears from Jer. 8. 1, 2. ibid.
- 4. Idolaters will be at any cost upon their Idols 11
- 5. Idolaters willing to, suffer any thing for their Idol-gods ibid.
- 6. Idolaters constant to their Idols ibid.
- We should take heed lest any should have their hearts more set upon their lusts, then ours are upon God ibid.
- Gods title of being glorious in holinesse considered 13
- Holinesse in God what it is.
- 1. Negatively: It is that whereby his nature is free from all kind of mixture, and from the least soils and filth of sinne ibid.
- 2. Positively: It is the infinite rectitude and perfection of the will of God especially, whereby he doth will and work all things sutable to the infinite excellency of his own being 14
- The holinesse of God considered by looking into the holinesse of the creature ibid.
- How God is glorious in holinesse.
- The Saints doe especially glory in God as a holy God 15
- The Angels in Heaven look upon God in his holinesse, and doe especially exalt him from thence ibid.
- The Church of God adore God in his holinesse ibid.
- God himselfe seems to glory in his holinesse above any other attribute ibid.
- God glories in Heaven as the habitation of his holinesse 16
- God rejoyceth in his people as they are a holy people ibid.
- Holinesse is more especially ascribed to the third person in the Trinity ibid.
- All the three persons in the Trinity challenge an equall share in the working of holinesse in the creature ibid.
- Yet further, holinesse must needs be the glory of God, because it is the highest perfection and rectitude of an intelligent free agent 17
- Holinesse in Scripture is called the beauty of God ibid.
- Holinesse, some seeds of it, the very image of it onely in the creature, is called the glory of God ibid.
- Holinesse puts a lustre upon all the other attributes of God, and makes them glorious ibid.
- Gods name is glorious by holinesse, because the speciall end God aimes at in all his works of creation and providence, is to advance holinesse 18
- Why God hath this title, glorious in holinesse given him here in this Song of Moses
- 1. To shew that the infinite excellency of Gods power is such, that it is without any mixture of evil in the exercise of it ibid.
- 2. God manifesteth here the greatnesse of his wrath upon his enemies, and yet the glory of his holinesse also ibid.
- 3. This Title is given to God here, because in this great work of his he did manifest his faithfulness in fulfilling of his promises to his people 19
- 1. Hence Christians may observe whether ever they understood God aright or no, viz. by considering what is that excellency of God that their soule closeth with 20
- 2. Gods people should exceedingly comfort themselves in God, in that they have to doe with God as a holy God 21
- 3. If God be glorious in holiness, so are the Saints glorious in holiness also 22
- Holiness puts a glory upon their persons ibid.
- Holiness puts a glory upon all they doe and enjoy 23
- Holiness is the very principle of eternall life ibid.
- Holiness is the proper object of Gods delight ibid.
- Holiness is a separation of the creature for God and eternall life ibid.
- Holiness in the Saints puts a reverend respect upon them in the very consciences of wicked men 24
- 4. If God be glorious in holiness, then certainly God will maintain holiness in the world 25
- It concerns all men to honour holiness, and to set up the glory of Gods holiness as much as they can in the world 26
- Christians are especially to look to their hearts, to cleanse them, when they draw nigh to God ibid.
- 5. As God is glorious in holiness, so we are to set him out in his glory, by keeping his worship pure 27
- 6. The consideration of Gods holiness should humble us, and make us ashamed for the remainder of that unholiness that is in our hearts 28
- 7. If God be glorious in holiness, then we have all need of Jesus Christ 29
- THe words are briefly opened 31
- That Christ is the onely means of conveyance of all good that God the Father intends to communicate unto the children of men, in order to eternall life; he is all, and in all. 32
- This truth is the great point of Divinity that is absolutely necessary to eternall life 33
- Tis the sum of the Gospel, and the most supernaturall truth revealed in all the book of God ibid.
- A truth the Angels themselves desire to pry into ibid.
- Tis that which requires the work of the Spirit beyond the ordinary works of the Spirit of God to reveale it 34
- Tis a truth that is the most profitable of all the truths contained in all the book of God ibid.
- There is no truth in Scripture whereby we honour God so much as by this 35
- The Doctrine proved 36
- How it comes to passe that there can be no good communicated unto us from God, in order to eternall life, but by Christ.
- 1. Because of the breach of the first Covenant that God made with mankind 37
- 2. There is such an infinite distance between God and man, that there can be no comming together but by Christ 38
- 3. There is the strength and curse of the law upon every soule naturally, that keeps the soul from mercy ibid.
- 4. There are the cries of infinite justice against men, which must have satisfaction ibid.
- How Christ is all in all to us in Gods communication of good to us.
- 1. From the covenant that God the father made with his son from all eternity 39
- 2. Christ actually comes to be the way of conveyance of all good to us, by taking our nature upon him, and so making us reconcileable to God ibid.
- 3. Christ was content to come into the world, to be made the head of a second covenant between God and mankinde, to perform whatever God the Father should require for the satisfaction of divine justice 40
- 4. By this means God in forgiving of sin, goes in a way of justice as well as in a way of meccy 41
- 5. And he is the way of conveying good to us, as by his satisfaction, so by his intercession 42
- Some speciall great things we have from God, instanced in; and that Christ is all in all in those things.
- 1. Christ is all in all in the point of Justification and pardon of sin, and the acceptation of us as righteous 42
- It is not all that we have done, nor all that we can possibly doe, that can be our justification 43
- It is not what God enables us to doe, that can be the formality of our justification ibid.
- It is not onely what we can doe, or can be enabled to doe, but tis not Gods mercy added, if barely considered, that can eeke out our justification 44
- 2. Christ is all in all in point of Adoption 45
- 3. Christ is all in all in point of our reconciliation and peace with God 46
- 4. Christ is all in all in point of all our Sanctification, that is, Sanctification to life ibid.
- 5. Christ is all in all in the want of all things 47
- 6. Christ is all in all in the enjoyment of all ibid.
- And as Christ is all in all in the good we have from God, so he is all in all in what ever we tender up to God 48
- Reasons why God will have this way of communication of himselfe unto us through his Son.
- 1. That hereby God might manifest to all the children of men what a dreadfull breach their sins had made between God and them 50
- 2. God takes this way, because he sees it is the most advantageous for the manifestation of his glory 51
- The glory of his mercy ibid.
- The glory of his justice ibid.
- The glory of his wisdom 52
- The glory of his holiness ibid.
- 3. God saw there could be no such way to draw poor sinners to himselfe, as this 53
- 4. God doth it to endeare his mercy to his Saints for ever. 55
- 5. God delights to honour his Son, and therefore makes him to be the means of conveyance of all good to those he intends it to ibid.
- 1. To admire the depths of the councell of God, and the infinite glory of the riches of his grace unto mankind. ibid.
- The work of Redemption greater then the work of Creation 56
- 2. We should blesse God that ever we knew Christ, and that the mysterie of the Gospel hath been revealed to us 57
- 3. It shews how deare Jesus Christ should be unto us 59
- 4. If we have an interest in Christ, it should satisfie and content us though we have nothing, or be nothing in our selves 60
- 5. We should be willing to give up all to Christ ibid.
- 6. Christ should be the rule of our prizing all things ibid.
- 7. The heart should with mighty intention be carried forth toward Jesus Christ ibid.
- 8. In seeking after God, we should be sure to take Christ along with us 61
- THe words of the Text opened 63
- There are great things that the Saints hope for; they are men of hopes 64
- Nine particulars instanced in, that the Saints hope for ibid.
- The hopes of the Saints are raised up in their hearts by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost 65
- The different judgement of the Holy ghost and carnall hearts 1. About earthly things 66
- 2. About spirituall things 67
- Spirituall and heavenly things that are the objects of faith, are reall and substantiall things, and faith gives them that substance 68
- They are substantiall; for,
- 1. They have more in them then appears to be in them ibid.
- 2. They have much of God in them ibid.
- 3. They are the very centre of the thoughts and intentions of God himselfe, and that which he aimes at in all his works towards his creatures 69
- 4. They have a reall and substantiall operation upon the soules of those that are acquainted with them ibid.
- 5. They have an eternall subsistency ibid.
- And faith gives them aubstantiall being; for,
- 1. It is faith that carries the son ocontemplate upon God himselfe 70
- 2. By faith the soul comes to know what riches there are in the glorious things of God ibid.
- 3. Faith converseth with the glorious counsels of God ibid.
- 4. Faith converseth with the great things of the covenant of grace ibid.
- 5. Faith receives the testimony of the Holy Ghost ibid.
- Faith makes the things of God that are absent, and but hoped for, yet to be present to the soul 71
- Evils that are very nigh, faith can make them at a mighty distance ibid.
- Good things that are absent, and a great way off, faith can make them as if they were really subsisting ibid.
- Faith makes the things of God that are absent, to be as present.
- 1. Because it sees them as certainly as if they were already 73
- 2. Faith looks upon the present possession of things ibid.
- 1. In Christ our head ibid.
- 2. We have the first-fruits of the Spirit ibid.
- 3. This time is nothing to eternity ibid.
- 4. Faith eyes the things of Heaven continually 74
- 5. The Saints enjoy all in God ibid.
- Faith it selfe is a very substantiall thing ibid.
- The vanity of the faith of most people discovered 75
- We must learn to strengthen and exercise our faith in the things we hope for ibid.
- Spirituall and heavenly things are things not seen 76
- 1. They are hidden 77
- 2. They are beyond the principles of reason ibid.
- 3. The blindness of man naturally is such that he can not see these things ibid.
- 4. God orders things so in his providence, that he goeth a contrary way (as to sense and reason) to what he hath promised ibid.
- We should cease wondering that men of excellent parts and reason doe not see the things of God 79
- Faith doth evidence and make spirituall things clear 80
- If faith be an evidence to other things, then it is an evidence to it selfe 81
- One way to be freed from doubts and feares, is, by renewing the act of faith it selfe 82
- It is no presumption to cast ones selfe upon the free grace of God in Christ ibid.
- Christians should be afraid of unbeliefe, as well as of presumption 83
- The admirable use of faith 84
- Tis a wonderfull mercy to have faith to evidence all the glorious things of God ibid.
- Faith can make those that are of weak parts to see the great things of God 85
- THere is a blessed liberty that Christians enjoy by Christ, and onely by him 88
- In what sense Christians are freed from the Law 89
- The rigour of the Law opened in seventeen particulars.
- 1. It requires hard things of those that are under it 90
- 2. It requires things which are impossible to be performed by those that are under it 91
- 3. The Law exacts all of us under the condition of perfection ibid.
- 4. The Law accepts of no surety 92
- 5. The rigour of the Law is such, that it acceps of no endeavours short of perfection ibid.
- 6. The Law requires constancy in all we doe ibid.
- 7. The Law exacts the obedience it requires exceeding rigorously 93
- 8. There is this rigour in the Law, that upon any the least breach of it, it doth utterly disenable the soul for ever performing any obedience to it again ibid.
- 9. The Law requires as perfect obedience as if we had all principles that might enable us to keep it ibid.
- 10. It requires it of us, and yet gives us no strength to doe what it requires 94
- 11. In all the Law doth, it strikes at our life ibid.
- 12. Vpon any breach, it doth presently binde over the soul to everlasting death ibid.
- 13. When the Law is once offended, it will never be made amends again by any thing we are able to doe ibid.
- 14. The Law accepts of no repentance 95
- 15. The Law when it hath opened our wounds and miseries, it shews us no means of deliverance ibid.
- 16. The Law accidentally stirs up lust ibid.
- 17. The promises of the Law are but mean and low, in comparison of the promises of the Gospel ibid.
- This rigour of the Law will not seem hard, if we consider,
- 1. That we have to deale with a God of infinite justice and worth 96
- 2. If we consider that state of perfection wherein God made man at first ibid.
- 3. If we understand aright what sin is ibid.
- 4. If we consider those things that we all take for granted, that yet are as hard as these ibid.
- 1. All men in their naturall condition are in a very evill case 97
- 2. The saving of a soule is a great and mighty work ibid.
- 3. Tis a vaine thing for carnal hearts to trust to their good meanings. ibid.
- 4. If God reveal himself to a man onely by the law, it is impossible but the soul must flye from him ibid.
- The liberty of the Gospel is a precious liberty 98
- Our bondage under the law, and liberty under the Gospel, opened from Gal. 4. 21 &c. ibid.
- The liberty of the Gospel opened in seventeen particulars
- 1. If thou beest a believer in Christ, thou shalt not be cast for thy eternal estate by the law 100.
- 2. Thy Law-giver is no other then he that is thy husband and thy advocate ibid.
- 3. Thou art made a law to thy self by having the law of God written in thy heart 101.
- 4. Though there be many imperfections in what thou doest, yet if God can spye out but the least good thing in thee, he will take notice of that, and cast away all the evil ibid.
- 5. If there be a desire in thee to doe good, God accepts the will for the deed 102
- 6. Though the Gospel call for obedience, yet it doth it in a sweet and loving way ibid.
- 7. The Gospel and liberty of it comes with abundance of life and strength 103
- 8. God doth compassionate those that are made free by the Gospel ibid.
- 9. The Gospel hath a mighty efficacy to melt the heart ibid.
- 10. The Gospel as it hath a melting power, so it hath a healing power ibid.
- 11. Sins against the Gospel shall not have power to root out any habits of grace 104
- 12. The Gospel takes advantage at our misery to pardon us ibid.
- 13. All that is required of us, may be accepted from another ibid.
- 14. The grace of the Gospel shewes a way wherein God shall have all the wrong made him up that ever thy sins did him ibid.
- 15. There is a perfect righteousnesse made over unto us in the Gospel 105.
- 16. The Gospel proclames admirable promises ibid.
- 17. The covenant of the Gospel shall never be forfeited ibid.
- THe Text opened 107. 108.
- That the onely time that men have to provide for their eternal condition, is the time of this life; if it be not done here, there is no help afterward, for after death comes judgement 109
- This point is one of the most serious points that concernes the children of men ibid.
- Wicked men when they die, are stated in an irrecoverable evill condition ibid.
- The tenor upon which we all hold our lives 110
- There can be no repenting, nor believing after this life 112
- After death God takes away all means of grace ibid.
- The souls of wicked men are then stated in such a condition that they can doe nothing but sin ibid.
- At the great day Christ gives up the Kingdom to the Father 113
- Presently after death the wrath of God is let out fully into the soules of the wicked ibid.
- Use 1.
- We have cause to blesse God for the continuance of our lives, especially those that have not throughly made their peace with God, and are not upon certain and infallible terms in this great businesse of providing for their eternall estates ibid. 114, 115
- Use 2.
- Those are to be reproved that mispend and squander away the precious time of their lives about vanities, and neglect the great businesse that they were sent into the world for 116
- Time an exceeding precious thing ibid.
- Few think of the passing away of their time, or that any great matter depends upon the time of their lives here in this world 117
- Use 3.
- When death findes any man unprepared in an estate of unregeneracy, that hath not made his peace with God, it must needs be exceeding dreadfull, because it brings judgement, and states such a one in his eternall condition 120
- Gods wrath let out fully upon the wicked immediately after death 121
- Then they must bid an everlasting farewell to all comforts that ever they did enjoy ibid.
- The dreadfulnesse of death is applicable,
- 1. To old people, whose time is neer at an end, therefore had need be sure that that great work be done, of making their peace with God 123
- 2. To prophane wretches, who instead of doing the work of their time, and preparing for their everlasting estate, goe directly backwards, and make the breach between God and their soules wider 124
- 3. To those that have heretofore been in a good forwardnesse in the way of life and salvation, but yet through the violence of their lusts have been turnd back againe ibid.
- 4. To those that upon every discontent wish themselves dead 125
- 5. To those that upon every drunken occasion for a word or two will venture their lives ibid.
- 6. To those that in trouble and anguish of conscience are ready to lay violent hands upon themselves ibid.
- 7. To those that have been upon their death beds as they thought, and in danger of everlasting ruine, and did then promise if they lived what new people they would be, but afterwards forgot all 126
- The efficacy and worth of a thing is when it is done in the season of it 127
- The consideration of time, and the worth of it, should take off all sleightnesse of heart, and roving dispositions 128
- The consideration of this point should take off peoples hearts from the creature ibid.
- All young ones should now while God gives them time, labour to make their peace with him 129
- The danger of putting off the worke of repentance till we die 130
- We should labour to make sure work in the great business of our eternall estate, because that which is done in this world is available for ever ibid.
- Wee should not baulk any way of God for feare of suffering ibid.
- Temptations to sinne are to be repelled by the consideration of the great business we came into the world for 131
IN some of the books, p. 8. l. 33. for reference read inference, p. 9. l. 11. for notion, r. Nation, l. 19. for Numb. 27. r. Numb. 23. p. 17. l. 27. for so take all, r. take all, p. 23. l. 19. for them, r. him, p. 25. l. 3. observe no stop at consciences, p. 26. l. 26. for in this holy worship, r. in his holy worship, p. 31. read the text thus, but Christ is all, and in all. p. 37. l. 33. for the humane, r. humane, p. 54. l. 24. read doe but take this one rule for that; p. 76. last line, for 2 Cor. 2. r. 2 Cor. 4. p. 99. l. 30. for Levit. 29. r. Levit. 25.