Second, Now it remains that we speak of the place into which these shall be cast, which, in the general, you have heard already, to wit, the first prepared for the devil and his angels. But, in particular, it is thus described:—
1. It is called Tophet: "For Tophet is ordained of old, yea, for the king," the Lucifer, "it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it" (Isa 30:32).
2. It is called hell. "It is better for thee to enter halt" or lame "into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell" (Mark 9:45).
3. It is called the wine-press of the wrath of God. "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth," that is, them that did not come to Christ, "and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God" (Rev 14:19).
4. It is called a lake of fire. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev 20:15).
5. It is called a pit. "Thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isa 14:13-15).
6. It is called a bottomless pit, out of which the smoke and the locust came, and into which the great dragon was cast; and it is called bottomless, to show the endlessness of the fall that they will have into it, that come not, in the acceptable time, to Jesus Christ (Rev 9:1,2; 20:3). . 7. It is called outer darkness. "Bind him hand and foot—and cast him into outer darkness," "and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness," "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 22:13; 25:30).
8. It is called a furnace of fire. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." And again, "So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:40-51).
9. Lastly, It may not be amiss, if, in the conclusion of this, I show in few words to what the things that torment them in this state are compared. Indeed, some of them have been occasionally mentioned already; as that they are compared,
(1.) To wood that burneth.
(2.) To fire.
(3.) To fire and brimstone: But,
(4.) It is compared to a worm, a gnawing worm, a never-dying gnawing worm; They are cast into hell, "where their worm dieth not" (Mark 9:44).
(5.) It is called unquenchable fire; "He will gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt 3:12; Luke 3:17).
(6.) It is called everlasting destruction; "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess 1:7-9).
(7.) It is called wrath without mixture, and is given them in the cup of his indignation. "If any man worship the beast, and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (Rev 14:9,10).
(8.) It is called the second death. "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power" (Rev 20:6,14).
(9.) It is called eternal damnation. "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." Oh! these three words! Everlasting punishment! Eternal damnation! And For ever and ever! How will they gnaw and eat up all the expectation of the end of the misery of the cast-away sinners. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night," &c., (Rev 14:11).
Their behaviour in hell is set forth by four things as I know of;—(a.) By calling for help and relief in vain; (b.) By weeping; (c.) By wailing; (d.) By gnashing of teeth.
[THE POWER OF CHRIST TO SAVE, OR TO CAST OUT.]
SECOND. And now we come to the second thing that is to be inquired into, namely, How it appears that Christ hath power to save, or to cast out. For by these words, "I will in no wise cast out," he declareth that he hath power to do both. Now this inquiry admits us to search into the things: First, How it appears that he hath power to save; Second, How it appears that he hath power to cast out.
First, That he hath power to save, appears by that which follows:—
1. To speak only of him as he is mediator: he was authorized to this blessed work by his Father, before the world began. Hence the apostle saith, "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4). With all those things that effectually will produce our salvation. Read the same chapter, with 2 Timothy 1:9.
2. He was promised to our first parents, that he should, in the fullness of time, bruise the serpent's head; and, as Paul expounds it, redeem them that were under the law. Hence, since that time, he hath been reckoned as slain for our sins. By which means all the fathers under the first testament were secured from the wrath to come; hence he is called, "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8; Gen 3:15; Gal 4:4,5).
3. Moses gave testimony of him by the types and shadows, and bloody sacrifices, that he commanded from the mouth of God to be in use for the support of his people's faith, until the time of reformation; which was the time of this Jesus his death (Heb 9, 10).
4. At the time of his birth it was testified of him by the angel, "That he should save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21).
5. It is testified of him in the days of his flesh, that he had power on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12).
6. It is testified also of him by the apostle Peter, that "God hath exalted him with his own right hand, to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).
7. In a word, this is everywhere testified of him, both in the Old Testament and the New. And good reason that he should be acknowledged and trusted in, as a Saviour.
(1.) He came down from heaven to be a Saviour (John 6:38-40).
(2.) He was anointed when on earth to be a Saviour (Luke 3:22).
(3.) He did the works of a Saviour. As, (a.) He fulfilled the law, and became the end of it for righteousness, for them that believe in him (Rom 10:3,4). (b.) He laid down his life as a Saviour; he gave his life as "a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:6). (c.) He hath abolished death, destroyed the devil, put away sin, got the keys of hell and death, is ascended into heaven; is there accepted of God, and bid sit at the right hand as a Saviour; and that because his sacrifice for sins pleased God (2 Tim 1:10; Heb 2:14,15; 10:12,13; Eph 4:7,8; John 16:10,11; Acts 5:30,31).
(4.) God hath sent out and proclaimed him as a Saviour, and tells the world that we have redemption through his blood, that he will justify us, if we believe in his blood, and that he can faithfully and justly do it. Yea, God doth beseech us to be reconciled to him by his Son; which could not be, if he were not anointed by him to this very end, and also if his works and undertakings were not accepted of him considered as a Saviour (Rom 3:24,25; 2 Cor 5:18-21).
(5.) God hath received already millions of souls into his paradise, because they have received this Jesus for a Saviour; and is resolved to cut them off, and to cast them out of his presence, that will not take him for a Saviour (Heb 12:22-26).
I intend brevity here; therefore a word to the second, and so conclude.
Second, How it appears that he hath power to cast out. This appears also by what follows:—
1. The Father, for the service that he hath done him as Saviour, hath made him Lord of all, even Lord of quick and dead. "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living" (Rom 14:9).
2. The Father hath left it with him to quicken whom he will, to wit, with saving grace, and to cast out whom he will, for their rebellion against him (John 5:21).
3. The Father hath made him judge of quick and dead, hath committed all judgment unto the Son, and appointed that all should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father (John 5:22,23).
4. God will judge the world by this man: the day is appointed for judgment, and he is appointed for judge. "He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man" (Acts 17:31). Therefore we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive for the things done in the body, according to what they have done. If they have closed with him, heaven and salvation; if they have not, hell and damnation! And for these reasons he must be judge:—
(1.) Because of his humiliation, because of his Father's word he humbled himself, and he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This hath respect to his being judge, and his sitting in judgment upon angels and men (Phil 2:7-11; Rom 14:10,11).
(2.) That all men might honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" (John 5:22,23).
(3.) Because of his righteous judgment, this work is fit for no creature; it is only fit for the Son of God. For he will reward every man according to his ways (Rev 22:12).
(4.) Because he is the Son of man. He "hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:27).
[SECOND, THE TEXT TREATED BY WAY OF OBSERVATION.]
Thus have I in brief passed through this text by way of explications. My next work is to speak to it by way of observation. But I shall be also as brief in that as the nature of the thing will admit. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
And now I come to some observations, and a little briefly to speak to them, and then conclude the whole. The words thus explained afford us many, some of which are these. 1. That God the Father, and Christ his Son, are two distinct persons in the Godhead. 2. That by them, not excluding the Holy Ghost, is contrived and determined the salvation of fallen mankind. 3. That this contrivance resolved itself into a covenant between these persons in the Godhead, which standeth in giving on the Father's part, and receiving on the Son's. "All that the Father giveth me," &c. 4. That every one that the Father hath given to Christ, according to the mind of God in the text, shall certainly come to him. 5. That coming to Jesus Christ is therefore not by the will, wisdom, or power of man; but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father. "All that the Father giveth me shall come." 6. That Jesus Christ will be careful to receive, and will not in any wise reject those that come, or are coming to him. "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." There are, besides these, some other truths implied in the words. As, 7. They that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. 8. Jesus Christ would not have them that in truth are coming to him once think that he will cast them out.
These observations lie all of them in the words, and are plentifully confirmed by the Scriptures of truth; but I shall not at this time speak to them all, but shall pass by the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth, partly because I design brevity, and partly because they are touched upon in the explicatory part of the text. I shall therefore begin with the fifth observation, and so make that the first in order, in the following discourse.
[COMING TO CHRIST NOT BY THE POWER OF MAN, BUT BY THE DRAWING OF THE FATHER.]
OBSERVATION FIRST. First, then, coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father. This observation standeth of two parts. First, The coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man; Second, But by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father.
That the text carrieth this truth in its bosom, you will find if you look into the explication of the first part thereof before. I shall, therefore, here follow the method propounded, viz: show,
First, That coming to Christ is not by the will, wisdom, or power of man. This is true, because the Word doth positively say it is not.
1. It denieth it wholly to be by the will of man. "Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man" (John 1:13). And again, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth" (Rom 9:16).
2. It denieth it to be of the wisdom of man, as is manifest from these considerations:
(1.) In the wisdom of God it pleased him, that the world by wisdom should not know him. Now, if by their wisdom they cannot know him, it follows, by that wisdom, they cannot come unto him; for coming to him is not before, but after some knowledge of him (1 Cor 1:21; Acts 13:27; Psa 9:10).
(2.) The wisdom of man, in God's account, as to the knowledge of Christ, is reckoned foolishness. "Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Cor 1:20). And again, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (2:14). If God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world; and again, if the wisdom of this world is foolishness with him, then verily it is not likely, that by that a sinner should become so prudent as to come to Jesus Christ, especially if you consider,
(3.) That the doctrine of a crucified Christ, and so of salvation by him, is the very thing that is counted foolishness to the wisdom of the world. Now, if the very doctrine of a crucified Christ be counted foolishness by the wisdom of this world, it cannot be that, by that wisdom, a man should be drawn out in his soul to come to him (1 Cor 3:19; 1:18,23).
(4.) God counted the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies; therefore, by that wisdom no man can come to Jesus Christ. For it is not likely that one of God's greatest enemies should draw a man to that which best of all pleaseth God, as coming to Christ doth. Now, that God counteth the wisdom of this world one of his greatest enemies, is evident, (a.) For that it casteth the greatest contempt upon his Son's undertakings, as afore is proved, in that it counts his crucifixion foolishness; though that be one of the highest demonstrations of Divine wisdom (Eph 1:7,8). (b.) Because God hath threatened to destroy it, and bring it to nought, and cause it to perish; which surely he would not do, was it not an enemy, would it direct men to, and cause them to close with Jesus Christ (Isa 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19). (c.) He hath rejected it from helping in the ministry of his Word, as a fruitless business, and a thing that comes to nought (1 Cor 2:4,6,12,13). (d.) Because it causeth to perish, those that seek it, and pursue it (1 Cor 1:18,19). (e.) And God has proclaimed, that if any man will be wise in this world, he must be a fool in the wisdom of this world, and that is the way to be wise in the wisdom of God. "If any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor 3:18-20).
3. Coming to Christ is not by the power of man. This is evident partly,
(1.) From that which goeth before. For man's power in the putting forth of it, in this matter, is either stirred up by love, or sense of necessity; but the wisdom of this world neither gives man love to, or sense of a need of, Jesus Christ; therefore, his power lieth still, as from that.
(2.) What power has he that is dead, as every natural man spiritually is, even dead in trespasses and sins? Dead, even as dead to God's New Testament things as he that is in his grave is dead to the things of this world. What power hath he, then, whereby to come to Jesus Christ? (John 5:25; Eph 2:1; Col 2:13).
(3.) God forbids the mighty man's glorying in his strength; and says positively, "By strength shall no man prevail;" and again, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" (Jer 9:23,24; 1 Sam 2:9; Zech 4:6; 1 Cor 1:27-31).
(4.) Paul acknowledgeth that man, nay, converted man, of himself, hath not a sufficiency of power in himself to think a good thought; if not to do that which is least, for to think is less than to come; then no man, by his own power, can come to Jesus Christ (2 Cor 2:5).
(5.) Hence we are said to be made willing to come, by the power of God; to be raised from a state of sin to a state of grace, by the power of God; and to believe, that is to come, through the exceeding working of his mighty power (Psa 110:3; Col 2:12; Eph 1:18,20; Job 23:14). But this needed not, if either man had power or will to come; or so much as graciously to think of being willing to come, of themselves, to Jesus Christ.
Second, I should now come to the proof of the second part of the observation [namely, the coming to Christ is by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father], but that is occasionally done already, in the explicatory part of the text, to which I refer the reader; for I shall here only give thee a text or two more to the same purpose, and so come to the use and application.
1. It is expressly said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). By this text, there is not only insinuated that in man is want of power, but also of will, to come to Jesus Christ: they must be drawn; they come not if they be not drawn. And observe, it is not man, no, nor all the angels in heaven, that can draw one sinner to Jesus Christ. No man cometh to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.
2. Again, "No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (John 6:65). It is an heavenly gift that maketh man come to Jesus Christ.
3. Again, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45).
I shall not enlarge, but shall make some use and application, and so come to the next observation.
[Use and Application of Observation First.]
Use First. Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ not by the will, wisdom, or power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then they are to blame that cry up the will, wisdom, and power of man, as things sufficient to bring men to Christ.
There are some men who think they may not be contradicted, when they plead for the will, wisdom, and power of man in reference to the things that are of the kingdom of Christ; but I will say to such a man, he never yet came to understand, that himself is what the Scripture teacheth concerning him; neither did he ever know what coming to Christ is, by the teaching, gift, and drawing of the Father. He is such a one that hath set up God's enemy in opposition to him, and that continueth in such acts of defiance; and what his end, without a new birth, will be, the Scripture teacheth also; but we will pass this.
Use Second. Is it so? Is coming to Jesus Christ by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then let saints here learn to ascribe their coming to Christ to the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father. Christian man, bless God, who hath given thee to Jesus Christ by promise; and again, bless God for that he hath drawn thee to him. And why is it thee? Why not another? O that the glory of electing love should rest upon thy head, and that the glory of the exceeding grace of God should take hold of thy heart, and bring thee to Jesus Christ!
Use Third. Is it so, that coming to Jesus Christ is by the Father, as aforesaid? Then this should teach us to set a high esteem upon them that indeed are coming to Jesus Christ; I say, an high esteem on them, for the sake of him by virtue of whose grace they are made to come to Jesus Christ.
We see that when men, by the help of human abilities, do arrive at the knowledge of, and bring to pass that which, when done, is a wonder to the world, how he that did it, is esteemed and commended; yea, how are his wits, parts, industry, and unweariedness in all admired, and yet the man, as to this, is but of the world, and his work the effect of natural ability; the things also attained by him end in vanity and vexation of spirit. Further, perhaps in the pursuit of these his achievements, he sins against God, wastes his time vainly, and at long-run loses his soul by neglecting of better things; yet he is admired! But I say, if this man's parts, labour, diligence, and the like, will bring him to such applause and esteem in the world, what esteem should we have of such an one that is by the gift, promise, and power of God, coming to Jesus Christ?
1. This is a man with whom God is, in whom God works and walks; a man whose motion is governed and steered by the mighty hand of God, and the effectual working of his power. Here is a man!
2. This man, by the power of God's might, which worketh in him, is able to cast a whole world behind him, with all the lusts and pleasures of it, and to charge through all the difficulties that men and devils can set against him. Here is a man.
3. This man is travelling to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, and to an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus. Here is a man!
4. This man can look upon death with comfort, can laugh at destruction when it cometh, and longs to hear the sound of the last trump, and to see his Judge coming in the clouds of heaven. Here is a man indeed!
Let Christians, then, esteem each other as such. I know you do it; but do it more and more. And that you may, consider these two or three things. (1.) These are the objects of Christ's esteem (Matt 12:48,49; 15:22-28; Luke 7:9). (2.) These are the objects of the esteem of angels (Dan 9:12; 10:21,22; 13:3,4; Heb 2:14). (3.) These have been the objects of the esteem of heathens, when but convinced about them (Dan 5:10,11; Acts 5:15; 1 Cor 14:24,25). "Let each [of you, then,] esteem [each] other better than themselves" (Phil 2:2).
Use Fourth. Again, Is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this shows us how horribly ignorant of this such are, who make the man that is coming to Christ the object of their contempt and rage. These are also unreasonable and wicked men; men in whom is no faith (2 Thess 3:2). Sinners, did you but know what a blessed thing it is to come to Jesus Christ, and that by the help and drawing of the Father, they do indeed come to him; you would hang and burn in hell a thousand years, before you would turn your spirits as you do, against him that God is drawing to Jesus Christ, and also against the God that draws him.
But, faithless sinner, let us a little expostulate the matter. What hath this man done against thee, that is coming to Jesus Christ? Why dost thou make him the object of thy scorn? doth his coming to Jesus Christ offend thee? doth his pursuing of his own salvation offend thee? doth his forsaking of his sins and pleasures offend thee?
Poor coming man! "Shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?" (Exo 8:26).
But, I say, why offended at this? Is he ever the worse for coming to Jesus Christ, or for his loving and serving of Jesus Christ? Or is he ever the more a fool, for flying from that which will drown thee in hell-fire, and for seeking eternal life? Besides, pray, Sirs, consider it; this he doth, not of himself, but by the drawing of the Father. Come, let me tell thee in thine ear, thou that wilt not come to him thyself, and him that would, thou hinderest—
1. Thou shalt be judged for one that hath hated, maligned, and reproached Jesus Christ, to whom this poor sinner is coming.
2. Thou shalt be judged, too, for one that hath hated the Father, by whose powerful drawing this sinner doth come.
3. Thou shalt be taken and judged for one that has done despite to the Spirit of grace in him that is, by its help, coming to Jesus Christ. What sayest thou now? Wilt thou stand by thy doings? Wilt thou continue to contemn and reproach the living God? Thinkest thou that thou shalt weather it out well enough at the day of judgment? "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee," saith the Lord? (Eze 22:14, John 15:18-25; Jude 15; 1 Thess 4:8).
Use Fifth. Is it so, that no man comes to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then this showeth us how it comes to pass, that weak means are so powerful as to bring men out of their sins to a hearty pursuit after Jesus Christ. When God bid Moses speak to the people, he said, "I will give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee" (Exo 18:19). When God speaks, when God works, who can let it? None, none; then the work goes on! Elias threw his mantle upon the shoulders of Elisha; and what a wonderful work followed! When Jesus fell in with the crowing of a cock, what work was there! O when God is in the means, then shall that means—be it never so weak and contemptible in itself—work wonders (1 Kings 19:19; Matt 26:74,75; Mark 14:71,72; Luke 22:60-62). The world understood not, nor believed, that the walls of Jericho should fall at the sound of rams' horns; but when God will work, the means must be effectual. A word weakly spoken, spoken with difficulty, in temptation, and in the midst of great contempt and scorn, works wonders, if the Lord thy God will say so too.
Use Sixth. Is it so? Doth no man come to Jesus Christ by the will, wisdom, and power of man, but by the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father? Then here is room for Christians to stand and wonder at the effectual working of God's providences, that he hath made use of, as means to bring them to Jesus Christ.
For although men are drawn to Christ by the power of the Father, yet that power putteth forth itself in the use of means: and these means are divers, sometimes this, sometimes that; for God is at liberty to work by which, and when, and how he will; but let the means be what they will, and as contemptible as may be, yet God that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and that out of weakness can make strong, can, nay, doth oftentimes make use of very unlikely means to bring about the conversion and salvation of his people. Therefore, you that are come to Christ—and that by unlikely means—stay yourselves, and wonder, and, wondering, magnify almighty power, by the work of which the means hath been made effectual to bring you to Jesus Christ.
What was the providence that God made use of as a means, either more remote or more near, to bring thee to Jesus Christ? Was it the removing of thy habitation, the change of thy condition, the loss of relations, estate, or the like? Was it thy casting of thine eye upon some good book, thy hearing of thy neighbours talk of heavenly things, the beholding of God's judgments as executed upon others, or thine own deliverance from them, or thy being strangely cast under the ministry of some godly man? O take notice of such providence or providences! They were sent and managed by mighty power to do thee good. God himself, I say, hath joined himself unto this chariot: yea, and so blessed it, that it failed not to accomplish the thing for which he sent it.
God blesseth not to every one his providences in this manner. How many thousands are there in this world, that pass every day under the same providences! but God is not in them, to do that work by them as he hath done for thy poor soul, by his effectually working with them. O that Jesus Christ should meet thee in this providence, that dispensation, or the other ordinance! This is grace indeed! At this, therefore, it will be thy wisdom to admire, and for this to bless God.
Give me leave to give you a taste of some of those providences that have been effectual, through the management of God, to bring salvation to the souls of his people.
(1.) The first shall be that of the woman of Samaria. It must happen, that she must needs go out of the city to draw water, not before nor after, but just when Jesus Christ her Saviour was come from far, and set to rest him, being weary, upon the well. What a blessed providence was this! Even a providence managed by the almighty wisdom, and almighty power, to the conversion and salvation of this poor creature. For by this providence was this poor creature and her Saviour brought together, that that blessed work might be fulfilled upon the woman, according to the purpose before determined by the Father (John 4).
(2.) What providence was it that there should be a tree in the way for Zaccheus to climb, thereby to give Jesus opportunity to call that chief of the publicans home to himself, even before he came down therefrom (Luke 19).
(3.) Was it not also wonderful that the thief, which you read of in the gospel, should, by the providence of God, be cast into prison, to be condemned even at that session that Christ himself was to die; nay, and that it should happen, too, that they must be hanged together, that the thief might be in hearing and observing of Jesus in his last words, that he might be converted by him before his death! (Luke 23).
(4.) What a strange providence was it, and as strangely managed by God, that Onesimus, when he was run away from his master, should be taken, and, as I think, cast into that very prison where Paul lay bound for the Word of the gospel; that he might there be by him converted, and then sent home again to his master Philemon! Behold "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28).
Nay, I have myself known some that have been made to go to hear the Word preached against their wills; others have gone not to hear, but to see and to be seen; nay, to jeer and flout others, as also to catch and carp at things. Some also to feed their adulterous eyes with the sight of beautiful objects; and yet God hath made use even of these things, and even of the wicked and sinful proposals of sinners, to bring them under the grace that might save their souls.
Use Seventh. Doth no man come to Jesus Christ but by the drawing, &c., of the Father? Then let me here caution those poor sinners, that are spectators of the change that God hath wrought in them that are coming to Jesus Christ, not to attribute this work and change to other things and causes.
There are some poor sinners in the world that plainly see a change, a mighty change, in their neighbours and relations that are coming to Jesus Christ. But, as I said, they being ignorant, and not knowing whence it comes and whither it goes, for "so is every one that is born of the Spirit," (John 3:8), therefore they attribute this change to others causes: as melancholy; to sitting alone; to overmuch reading; to their going to too many sermons; to too much studying and musing on what they hear.
Also they conclude, on the other side, that it is for want of merry company; for want of physic; and therefore they advise them to leave off reading, going to sermons, the company of sober people; and to be merry, to go a gossiping, to busy themselves in the things of this world, not to sit musing alone, &c. But come, poor ignorant sinner, let me deal with thee. It seems thou art turned counsellor for Satan: I tell thee thou knowest not what thou dost. Take heed of spending thy judgment after this manner; thou judgest foolishly, and sayest in this, to every one that passeth by, thou art a fool. What! count convictions for sin, mournings for sin, and repentance for sin, melancholy? This is like those that on the other side said, "These men are [drunk with] full of new wine," &c. Or as he that said Paul was mad (Acts 2:13, 26:24). Poor ignorant sinner! canst thou judge no better? What! is sitting alone, pensive under God's hand, reading the Scriptures, and hearing of sermons, &c., the way to be undone? The Lord open thine eyes, and make thee to see thine error! Thou hast set thyself against God, thou hast despised the operation of his hands, thou attemptest to murder souls. What! canst thou give no better counsel touching those whom God hath wounded, than to send them to the ordinances of hell for help? Thou biddest them be merry and lightsome; but dost thou not know that "the heart of fools is in the house of mirth?" (Eccl 7:4).
Thou biddest them shun the hearing of thundering preachers; but is it not "better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools?" (Eccl 7:5). Thou biddest them busy themselves in the things of this world; but dost thou not know that the Lord bids, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness?" (Matt 6:33). Poor ignorant sinner! hear the counsel of God to such, and learn thyself to be wiser. "Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (James 5:13). "Blessed is the man that heareth me" (Prov 8:32). And hear for time to come, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). "Search the Scriptures" (John 5:39). "Give attendance to reading" (1 Tim 4:13). "It is better to go to the house of mourning" (Eccl 7:2,3).
And wilt thou judge him that doth thus? Art thou almost like Elymas the sorcerer, that sought to turn the deputy from the faith? Thou seekest to pervert the right ways of the Lord. Take heed lest some heavy judgment overtake thee (Acts 13:8-13). What! teach men to quench convictions; take men off from a serious consideration of the evil of sin, of the terrors of the world to come, and how they shall escape the same? What! teach men to put God and his Word out of their minds, by running to merry company, by running to the world, by gossiping? &c. This is as much as to bid them to say to God, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" or, "What is the Almighty that we should serve him? or what profit have we if we keep his ways?" Here is a devil in grain! What! bid man walk "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph 2:2).
[Two objections answered.]
Object. 1. But we do not know that such are coming to Jesus Christ; truly we wonder at them, and think they are fools.
Answ. Do you not know that they are coming to Jesus Christ? then they may be coming to him, for aught you know; and why will ye be worse than the brute, to speak evil of the things you know not? What! are ye made to be taken and destroyed? must ye utterly perish in your own corruptions? (2 Peter 2:12). Do you not know them? Let them alone then. If you cannot speak good of them, speak not bad. "Refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38,39). But why do you wonder at a work of conviction and conversion? Know you not that this is the judgment of God upon you, "ye despisers, to behold, and wonder, and perish?" (Acts 13:40,41). But why wonder, and think they are fools? Is the way of the just an abomination to you? See that passage, and be ashamed, "He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked" (Prov 29:27). Your wondering at them argues that you are strangers to yourselves, to conviction for sin, and to hearty desires to be saved; as also to coming to Jesus Christ.
Object. 2. But how shall we know that such men are coming to Jesus Christ?
Answ. Who can make them see that Christ has made blind? (John 2:8,9). Nevertheless, because I endeavour thy conviction, conversion, and salvation, consider: Do they cry out of sin, being burthened with it, as of an exceeding bitter thing? Do they fly from it, as from the face of a deadly serpent? Do they cry out of the insufficiency of their own righteousness, as to justification in the sight of God? Do they cry out after the Lord Jesus, to save them? Do they see more worth and merit in one drop of Christ's blood to save them, than in all the sins of the world to damn them? Are they tender of sinning against Jesus Christ? Is his name, person, and undertakings, more precious to them, than is the glory of the world? Is this word more dear unto them? Is faith in Christ (of which they are convinced by God's Spirit of the want of, and that without it they can never close with Christ) precious to them? Do they savour Christ in his Word, and do they leave all the world for his sake? And are they willing, God helping them, to run hazards for his name, for the love they bear to him? Are his saints precious to them? If these things be so, whether thou seest them or no, these men are coming to Jesus Christ (Rom 7:914; Psa 38:3-8; Heb 6:18-20; Isa 64:6; Phil 3:7,8; Psa 54:1; 109:26; Acts 16:30; Psa 51:7,8; 1 Peter 1:18,19; Rom 7:24; 2 Cor 5:2; Acts 5:41; James 2:7; Song 5:10-16; Psa 119; John 13:35; 1 John 4:7; 3:14; John 16:9; Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6; Psa 19:10,11; Jer 15:16; Heb 11:24-27; Acts 20:22-24; 21:13; Titus 3:15; 2 John 1; Eph 4:16; Phile 7; 1 Cor 16:24).
[COMERS OFTTIMES AFRAID THAT CHRIST WILL NOT RECEIVE THEM.]
OBSERVATION SECOND.—I come now to the second observation propounded to be spoken to, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them.
I told you that this observation is implied in the text; and I gather it,
First, From the largeness and openness of the promise: "I will in no wise cast out." For had there not been a proneness in us to "fear casting out," Christ needed not to have, as it were, waylaid our fear, as he doth by this great and strange expression, "In no wise;" "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the discouraging of their own souls. For this word, "in no wise," cutteth the throat of all objections; and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to help the faith that is mixed with unbelief. And it is, as it were, the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon the unworthiness that thou findest in thee, that this promise will not assoil.
But I am a great sinner, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I am an old sinner, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I am a backsliding sinner, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I have sinned against light, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. But I have no good thing to bring with me, sayest thou. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ.
Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that still this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them. But I say, what need it be, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, "that Jesus Christ will cast them out?"
Second, I will give you now two instances that seem to imply the truth of this observation.
In the ninth of Matthew, at the second verse, you read of a man that was sick of the palsy; and he was coming to Jesus Christ, being borne upon a bed by his friends: he also was coming himself, and that upon another account than any of his friends were aware of; even for the pardon of sins, and the salvation of his soul. Now, so soon as ever he was come into the presence of Christ, Christ bids him "be of good cheer." It seems then, his heart was fainting; but what was the cause of his fainting? Not his bodily infirmity, for the cure of which his friends did bring him to Christ; but the guilt and burden of his sins, for the pardon of which himself did come to him; therefore he proceeds, "Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." I say, Christ saw him sinking in his mind, about how it would go with his most noble part; and therefore, first, he applies himself to him upon that account. For though his friends had faith enough as to the cure of the body, yet he himself had little enough as to the cure of his soul: therefore Christ takes him up as a man falling down, saying, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee."
That about the Prodigal seems pertinent also to this matter: "When he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father." Heartily spoken; but how did he perform his promise? I think not so well as he promised to do; and my ground for my thoughts is, because his father, so soon as he was come to him, fell upon his neck and kissed him; implying, methinks, as if the prodigal by this time was dejected in his mind; and therefore his father gives him the most sudden and familiar token of reconciliation. And kisses were of old time often used to remove doubts and fears. Thus Laban and Esau kiss Jacob. Thus Joseph kissed his brethren; and thus also David kissed Absalom (Gen 31:55; 33:1-4; 48:9,10; 2 Sam 14:33). It is true, as I said, at first setting out, he spake heartily, as sometimes sinners also do in their beginning to come to Jesus Christ; but might not he, yea, in all probability he had, between the first step he took, and the last, by which he accomplished that journey, many a thought, both this way and that; as whether his father would receive him or no? As thus: I said, "I would go to my Father." But how, if when I come at him he should ask me, Where I have all this while been? What must I say then? Also, if he ask me, What is become of the portion of goods that he gave me? What shall I say then? If he asks me, Who have been my companions? What shall I say then? If he also shall ask me, What hath been my preferment in all the time of my absence from him? What shall I say then? Yea, and if he ask me, Why I came home no sooner? What shall I say then? Thus, I say, might he reason with himself, and being conscious to himself, that he could give but a bad answer to any of these interrogatories, no marvel if he stood in need first of all of a kiss from his father's lips. For had he answered the first in truth, he must say, I have been a haunter of taverns and ale-houses; and as for my portion, I spent it in riotous living; my companions were whores and drabs; as for my preferment, the highest was, that I became a hog-herd; and as for my not coming home till now, could I have made shift to have staid abroad any longer, I had not lain at thy feet for mercy now.
I say, these things considered, and considering, again, how prone poor man is to give way, when truly awakened, to despondings and heart misgivings, no marvel if he did sink in his mind, between the time of his first setting out, and that of his coming to his Father.
Third, But, thirdly, methinks I have for the confirmation of this truth the consent of all the saints that are under heaven, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them.
Quest. But what should be the reason? I will answer to this question thus:
1. It is not for want of the revealed will of God, that manifesteth grounds for the contrary, for of that there is a sufficiency; yea, the text itself hath laid a sufficient foundation for encouragement, for them that are coming to Jesus Christ. "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
2. It is not for want of any invitation to come, for that is full and plain. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28).
3. Neither is it for want of a manifestation of Christ's willingness to receive, as those texts above named, with that which follows, declareth, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink" (John 7:37).
4. It is not for want of exceeding great and precious promises to receive them that come. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor 6:17,18).
5. It is not for want of solemn oath and engagement to save them that come. "For—because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself—that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb 6:13-18).
6. Neither is it for want of great examples of God's mercy, that have come to Jesus Christ, of which we read most plentifully in the Word. Therefore, it must be concluded, it is for want of that which follows.
[What it is that prevents the coming to Christ.]
First, It is for want of the knowledge of Christ. Thou knowest but little of the grace and kindness that is in the heart of Christ; thou knowest but little of the virtue and merit of his blood; thou knowest but little of the willingness that is in his heart to save thee; and this is the reason of the fear that ariseth in thy heart, and that causeth thee to doubt that Christ will not receive thee. Unbelief is the daughter of Ignorance. Therefore Christ saith, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe" (Luke 24:25).
Slowness of heart to believe, flows from thy foolishness in the things of Christ; this is evident to all that are acquainted with themselves, and are seeking after Jesus Christ. The more ignorance, the more unbelief. The more knowledge of Christ, the more faith. "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee" (Psa 9:10). He, therefore, that began to come to Christ but the other day, and hath yet but little knowledge of him, he fears that Christ will not receive him. But he that hath been longer acquainted with him, he "is strong, and hath overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:13). When Joseph's brethren came into Egypt to buy corn, it is said, "Joseph knew his brethren, but his brethren knew not him." What follows? Why, great mistrust of heart about their speeding well; especially, if Joseph did but answer them roughly, calling them spies, and questioning their truth and the like. And observe it, so long as their ignorance about their brother remained with them, whatsoever Joseph did, still they put the worse sense upon it. For instance, Joseph upon a time bids the steward of his house bring them home, to dine with him, to dine even in Joseph's house. And how is this resented by them? Why, they are afraid. "And the men were afraid, because they were brought unto" their brother "Joseph's house." And they said, He seeketh occasion against us, and will fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses (Gen 42, 43). What! afraid to go to Joseph's house? He was their brother; he intended to feast them; to feast them, and to feast with them. Ah! but they were ignorant that he was their brother. And so long as their ignorance lasted, so long their fear terrified them. Just thus it is with the sinner that but of late is coming to Jesus Christ. He is ignorant of the love and pity that is in Christ to coming sinners. Therefore he doubts, therefore he fears, therefore his heart misgives him.
Coming sinner, Christ inviteth thee to dine and sup with him. He inviteth thee to a banquet of wine, yea, to come into his wine-cellar, and his banner over thee shall be love (Rev 3:20; Song 2:5). But I doubt it, says the sinner: but, it is answered, he calls thee, invites thee to his banquet, flagons, apples; to his wine, and to the juice of his pomegranate. "O, I fear, I doubt, I mistrust, I tremble in expectation of the contrary!" Come out of the man, thou dastardly ignorance! Be not afraid, sinner, only believe; "He that cometh to Christ he will in no wise cast out."
Let the coming sinner, therefore, seek after more of the good knowledge of Jesus Christ. Press after it, seek it as silver, and dig for it as for hid treasure. This will embolden thee; this will make thee wax stronger and stronger. "I know whom I have believed," I know him, said Paul; and what follows? Why, "and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day" (2 Tim 1:12). What had Paul committed to Jesus Christ? The answer is, He had committed to him his soul. But why did he commit his soul to him? Why, because he knew him. He knew him to be faithful, to be kind. He knew he would not fail him, nor forsake him; and therefore he laid his soul down at his feet, and committed it to him, to keep against that day. But,
Second, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may be also a consequent of thy earnest and strong desires after thy salvation by him. For this I observe, that strong desires to have, are attended with strong fears of missing. What man most sets his heart upon, and what his desires are most after, he ofttimes most fears he shall not obtain. So the man, the ruler of the synagogue, had a great desire that his daughter should live; and that desire was attended with fear, that she should not. Wherefore, Christ saith unto him, "Be not afraid" (Mark 5:36).
Suppose a young man should have his heart much set upon a virgin to have her to wife, if ever he fears he shall not obtain her, it is when he begins to love; now, thinks he, somebody will step in betwixt my love and the object of it; either they will find fault with my person, my estate, my conditions, or something! Now thoughts begin to work; she doth not like me, or something. And thus it is with the soul at first coming to Jesus Christ, thou lovest him, and thy love produceth jealousy, and that jealousy ofttimes begets fears.
Now thou fearest the sins of thy youth, the sins of thine old age, the sins of thy calling, the sins of thy Christian duties, the sins of thine heart, or something; thou thinkest something or other will alienate the heart and affections of Jesus Christ from thee; thou thinkest he sees something in thee, for the sake of which he will refuse thy soul. But be content, a little more knowledge of him will make thee take better heart; thy earnest desires shall not be attended with such burning fears; thou shalt hereafter say, "This is my infirmity" (Psa 77:10).
Thou art sick of love, a very sweet disease, and yet every disease has some weakness attending of it: yet I wish this distemper, if it be lawful to call it so, was more epidemical. Die of this disease I would gladly do; it is better than life itself, though it be attended with fears. But thou criest, I cannot obtain: well, be not too hasty in making conclusions. If Jesus Christ had not put his finger in at the hole of the lock, thy bowels would not have been troubled for him (Song 5:4). Mark how the prophet hath it, "They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west, they shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria" (Hosea 11:10,11). When God roars (as ofttimes the coming soul hears him roar), what man that is coming can do otherwise than tremble? (Amos 3:8). But trembling he comes: "He sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:29).
Should you ask him that we mentioned but now, How long is it since you began to fear you should miss of this damsel you love so? The answer will be, Ever since I began to love her. But did you not fear it before? No, nor should I fear it now, but that I vehemently love her. Come, sinner, let us apply it: How long is it since thou began to fear that Jesus Christ will not receive thee? Thy answer is, Ever since I began to desire that he would save my soul. I began to fear, when I began to come; and the more my heart burns in desires after him, the more I feel my heart fear I shall not be saved by him. See now, did not I tell thee that thy fears were but the consequence of strong desires? Well, fear not, coming sinner, thousands of coming souls are in thy condition, and yet they will get safe into Christ's bosom: "Say," says Christ, "to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you" (Isa 35:4; 63:1).
Third, Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee may arise from a sense of thine own unworthiness. Thou seest what a poor, sorry, wretched, worthless creature thou art; and seeing this, thou fearest Christ will not receive thee. Alas, sayest thou, I am the vilest of all men; a town-sinner, a ringleading sinner! I am not only a sinner myself, but have made others twofold worse the children of hell also. Besides, now I am under some awakenings and stirrings of mind after salvation, even now I find my heart rebellious, carnal, hard, treacherous, desperate, prone to unbelief, to despair: it forgetteth the Word; it wandereth; it runneth to the ends of the earth. There is not, I am persuaded, one in all the world that hath such a desperate wicked heart as mine is; my soul is careless to do good, but none more earnest to do that which is evil.
Can such a one as I am, live in glory? Can a holy, a just, and a righteous God, once think (with honour to his name) of saving such a vile creature as I am? I fear it. Will he show wonders to such a dead dog as I am? I doubt it. I am cast out to the loathing of my person, yea, I loath myself; I stink in mine own nostrils. How can I then be accepted by a holy and sin-abhorring God? (Psa 38:5-7; Eze 11; 20:42,44). Saved I would be; and who is there that would not, were they in my condition? Indeed, I wonder at the madness and folly of others, when I see them leap and skip so carelessly about the mouth of hell! Bold sinner, how darest thou tempt God, by laughing at the breach of his holy law? But alas! they are not so bad one way, but I am worse another: I wish myself were anybody but myself; and yet here again, I know not what to wish. When I see such as I believe are coming to Jesus Christ, O I bless them! But I am confounded in myself, to see how unlike, as I think, I am to every good man in the world. They can read, hear, pray, remember, repent, be humble, do everything better than so vile a wretch as I. I, vile wretch, am good for nothing but to burn in hell-fire, and when I think of that, I am confounded too!
Thus the sense of unworthiness creates and heightens fears in the hearts of them that are coming to Jesus Christ; but indeed it should not; for who needs the physician but the sick? or who did Christ come into the world to save, but the chief of sinners? (Mark 2:17; 1 Tim 1:15). Wherefore, the more thou seest thy sins, the faster fly thou to Jesus Christ. And let the sense of thine own unworthiness prevail with thee yet to go faster. As it is with the man that carrieth his broken arm in a sling to the bone-setter, still as he thinks of his broken arm, and as he feels the pain and anguish, he hastens his pace to the man. And if Satan meets thee, and asketh, Whither goest thou? tell him thou art maimed, and art going to the Lord Jesus. If he objects thine own unworthiness, tell him, That even as the sick seeketh the physician; as he that hath broken bones seeks him that can set them; so thou art going to Jesus Christ for cure and healing for thy sin sick soul. But it ofttimes happeneth to him that flies for his life, he despairs of escaping, and therefore delivers himself up into the hand of the pursuer. But up, up, sinner; be of good cheer, Christ came to save the unworthy ones: be not faithless, but believe. Come away, man, the Lord Jesus calls thee, saying, "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Fourth. Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee, may arise from a sense of the exceeding mercy of being saved; sometimes salvation is in the eyes of him that desires so great, so huge, so wonderful a thing, that the very thoughts of the excellency of it, engenders unbelief about obtaining it, in the heart of those that unfeignedly desire it. "Seemeth it to you," saith David, "a light thing to be a king's son-in-law?" (1 Sam 18:23). So the thoughts of the greatness and glory of the thing propounded, as heaven, eternal life, eternal glory, to be with God, and Christ, and angels; these are great things, things too good, saith the soul that is little in his own eyes; things too rich, saith the soul that is truly poor in spirit, for me.
Besides, the Holy Ghost hath a way to greaten heavenly things to the understanding of the coming sinner; yea, and at the same time to greaten, too, the sin and unworthiness of that sinner. Now the soul staggeringly wonders, saying, What! to be made like angels, like Christ, to live in eternal bliss, joy, and felicity! This is for angels, and for them that can walk like angels! If a prince, a duke, an earl, should send (by the hand of his servant) for some poor, sorry, beggarly scrub, to take her for his master to wife, and the servant should come and say, My lord and master, such an one hath sent me to thee, to take thee to him to wife; he is rich, beautiful, and of excellent qualities; he is loving, meek, humble, well-spoken, &c. What now would this poor, sorry, beggarly creature think? What would she say? or how would she frame an answer? When king David sent to Abigail upon this account, and though she was a rich woman, yet she said, "Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord" (1 Sam 25:40,41). She was confounded, she could not well tell what to say, the offer was so great, beyond what could in reason be expected.
But suppose this great person should second his suit, and send to this sorry creature again, what would she say now? Would she not say, You mock me? But what if he affirms that he is in good earnest, and that his lord must have her to wife; yea, suppose he should prevail upon her to credit his message, and to address herself for her journey; yet, behold every thought of her pedigree confounds her; also her sense of want of beauty makes her ashamed; and if she doth but think of being embraced, the unbelief that is mixed with that thought whirls her into tremblings; and now she calls herself fool, for believing the messenger, and thinks not to go; if she thinks of being bold, she blushes; and the least thought that she shall be rejected, when she comes at him, makes her look as if she would give up the ghost.
And is it a wonder, then, to see a soul that is drowned in the sense of glory and a sense of its own nothingness, to be confounded in itself, and to fear that the glory apprehended is too great, too good, and too rich, for such an one? That thing, heaven and eternal glory, is so great, and I that would have it, so small, so sorry a creature, that the thoughts of obtaining it confounds me.
Thus, I say, doth the greatness of the things desired, quite dash and overthrow the mind of the desirer. O, it is too big! it is too big! it is too great a mercy! But, coming sinner, let me reason with thee. Thou sayest, it is too big, too great. Well, will things that are less satisfy thy soul? Will a less thing than heaven, than glory and eternal life, answer thy desires? No, nothing less; and yet I fear they are too big, and too good for me, ever to obtain. Well, as big and as good as they are, God giveth them to such as thou; they are not too big for God to give; no, not too big to give freely. Be content; let God give like himself; he is that eternal God, and giveth like himself. When kings give, they do not use to give as poor men do. Hence it is said, that Nabal made a feast in his house like the feast of a king; and again, "All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto David" (1 Sam 25:36; 2 Sam 24:23). Now, God is a great king, let him give like a king; nay, let him give like himself, and do thou receive like thyself. He hath all, and thou hast nothing. God told his people of old, that he would save them in truth and in righteousness, and that they should return to, and enjoy the land, which before, for their sins, had spewed them out; and then adds, under a supposition of their counting the mercy too good, or too big, "If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech 8:6).
As who should say, they are now in captivity, and little in their own eyes; therefore they think the mercy of returning to Canaan is a mercy too marvellously big for them to enjoy; but if it be so in their eyes, it is not so in mine; I will do for them like God, if they will but receive my bounty like sinners. Coming sinner, God can give his heavenly Canaan, and the glory of it, unto thee; yea, none ever had them but as a gift, a free gift. He hath given us his Son, "How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32).
It was not the worthiness of Abraham, or Moses, or David or Peter, or Paul, but the mercy of God, that made them inheritors of heaven. If God thinks thee worthy, judge not thyself unworthy; but take it, and be thankful. And it is a good sign he intends to give thee, if he hath drawn out thy heart to ask. "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart; thou wilt cause thine ear to hear" (Psa 10:17).
When God is said to incline his ear, it implies an intention to bestow the mercy desired. Take it therefore; thy wisdom will be to receive, not sticking at thy own unworthiness. It is said, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory." Again, "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people" (1 Sam 2:8; Psa 113:7,8). You see also when God made a wedding for his Son, he called not the great, nor the rich, nor the mighty; but the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind (Matt 12; Luke 14).
Fifth. Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from the hideous roaring of the devil, who pursues thee. He that hears him roar, must be a mighty Christian, if he can at that time deliver himself from fear. He is called a roaring lion; and then to allude to that in Isaiah, "If one look" into them, they have "darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof" (1 Peter 5:8; Isa 5:3).
[Two of the devil's objections.]—There are two things among many that Satan useth to roar out after them that are coming to Jesus Christ. 1. That they are not elected. Or, 2. That they have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost. To both these I answer briefly—
1. [Election.]—Touching election, out of which thou fearest thou art excluded. Why, coming sinner, even the text itself affordeth thee help against this doubt, and that by a double argument.
(1.) That coming to Christ is by virtue of the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father; but thou art a-coming; therefore God hath given thee, promised thee, and is drawing thee to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, hold to this; and when Satan beginneth to roar again, answer, But I feel my heart moving after Jesus Christ; but that would not be, if it were not given by promise, and drawing to Christ by the power of the Father.
(2.) Jesus Christ hath promised, "That him that cometh to him he will in no wise cast out." And if he hath said it, will he not make it good, I mean even thy salvation? For, as I have said already, not to cast out, is to receive and admit to the benefit of salvation. If then the Father hath given thee, as is manifest by thy coming; and if Christ will receive thee, thou coming soul, as it is plain he will, because he hath said, "He will in no wise cast out;" then be confident, and let those conclusions, that as naturally flow from the text as light from the sun, or water from the fountain, stay thee.
If Satan therefore objecteth, But thou art not elected; answer, But I am coming, Satan, I am coming; and that I could not be, but that the Father draws me; and I am coming to such a Lord Jesus, as will in no wise cast me out. Further, Satan, were I not elect, the Father would not draw me, nor would the Son so graciously open his bosom to me. I am persuaded, that not one of the nonelect shall ever be able to say, no, not in the day of judgment, I did sincerely come to Jesus Christ. Come they may, feignedly, as Judas and Simon Magus did; but that is not our question. Therefore, O thou honest-hearted coming sinner, be not afraid, but come.
2. [Of the sin against the Holy Ghost.]—As to the second part of the objection, about sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost, the same argument overthrows that also. But I will argue thus:
(1.) Coming to Christ is by virtue of a special gift of the Father; but the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin; therefore thou that art coming hast not committed that sin. That the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin is evident—(a.) Because such have sinned themselves out of God's favour; "They shall never have forgiveness" (Matt 12:32). But it is a special favour of God to give unto a man, to come to Jesus Christ; because thereby he obtaineth forgiveness. Therefore he that cometh hath not sinned that sin. (b.) They that have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, have sinned themselves out of an interest in the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood; "There remaineth [for such] no more sacrifice for sins" (Heb 10:26). But God giveth not grace to any of them to come to Christ, that have no share in the sacrifice of his body and blood. Therefore, thou that art coming to him, hast not sinned that sin.
(2.) Coming to Christ is by the special drawing of the Father; "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). But the Father draweth not him to Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness by his blood; therefore they that are coming to Jesus Christ have not committed that sin, because he hath allotted them forgiveness by his blood. That the Father cannot draw them to Jesus Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness of sins, is manifest to sense: for that would be a plain mockery, a flam, 17 neither becoming his wisdom, justice, holiness, nor goodness.
(3.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under the promise of forgiveness and salvation. But it is impossible that he that hath sinned that sin should ever be put under a promise of these. Therefore, he that hath sinned that sin can never have heart to come to Jesus Christ.
(4.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under his intercession. "For he ever liveth to make intercession for them that come" (Heb 7:25). Therefore, he that is coming to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned that sin. Christ has forbidden his people to pray for them that have sinned that sin; and, therefore, will not pray for them himself, but he prays for them that come.
(5.) He that hath sinned that sin, Christ is to him of no more worth than is a man that is dead; "For he hath crucified to himself the Son of God;" yea, and hath also counted his precious blood as the blood of an unholy thing. (Heb 6, 10) Now, he that hath this low esteem of Christ will never come to him for life; but the coming man has an high esteem of his person, blood, and merits. Therefore, he that is coming has not committed that sin.
(6.) If he that has sinned this sin might yet come to Jesus Christ, then must the truth of God be overthrown; which saith in one place, "He hath never forgiveness;" and in another, "I will in no wise cast him out." Therefore, that he may never have forgiveness, he shall never have heart to come to Jesus Christ. It is impossible that such an one should be renewed, either to or by repentance (Heb 6). Wherefore, never trouble thy head nor heart about this matter; he that cometh to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned against the Holy Ghost.
Sixth, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from thine own folly, in inventing, yea, in thy chalking out to God, a way to bring thee home to Jesus Christ. Some souls that are coming to Jesus Christ are great tormentors of themselves upon this account; they conclude, that if their coming to Jesus Christ is right, they must needs be brought home thus and thus.
As to instance: 1. Says one, If God be bringing of me to Jesus Christ, then will he load me with the guilt of sin till he makes me roar again. 2. If God be indeed a-bringing me home to Jesus Christ, then must I be assaulted with dreadful temptations of the devil. 3. If God be indeed a-bringing me to Jesus Christ, then, even when I come at him, I shall have wonderful revelations of him.
This is the way that some sinners appoint for God; but, perhaps, he will not walk therein; yet will he bring them to Jesus Christ. But now, because they come not the way of their own chalking out, therefore they are at a loss. They look for heavy load and burden; but, perhaps, God gives them a sight of their lost condition, and addeth not that heavy weight and burden. They look for fearful temptations of Satan; but God sees that yet they are not fit for them, nor is the time come that he should be honoured by them in such a condition. They look for great and glorious revelations of Christ, grace, and mercy; but, perhaps, God only takes the yoke from off their jaws, and lays meat before them. And now again they are at a loss, yet a-coming to Jesus Christ; "I drew them," saith God, "with cords of a man, with bands of love—I took the yoke from off their jaws, and laid meat unto them" (Hosea 11:4).
Now, I say, If God brings thee to Christ, and not by the way that thou hast appointed, then thou art at a loss; and for thy being at a loss, thou mayest thank thyself. God hath more ways than thou knowest of to bring a sinner to Jesus Christ; but he will not give thee beforehand an account by which of them he will bring thee to Christ (Isa 40:13; Job 33:13). Sometimes he hath his ways in the whirlwind; but sometimes the Lord is not there (Nahum 1:3; 1 Kings 19:11). If God will deal more gently with thee than with others of his children, grudge not at it; refuse not the waters that go softly, lest he bring upon thee the waters of the rivers, strong and many, even these two smoking firebrand, the devil and guilt of sin (Isa 8:6,7). He saith to Peter, "Follow me." And what thunder did Zaccheus hear or see? Zaccheus, "Come down," said Christ; "and he came down," says Luke, "and received him joyfully."
But had Peter or Zaccheus made the objection that thou hast made, and directed the Spirit of the Lord as thou hast done, they might have looked long enough before they had found themselves coming to Jesus Christ. Besides, I will tell thee, that the greatness of sense of sin, the hideous roaring of the devil, yea, and abundance of revelations, will not prove that God is bringing thy soul to Jesus Christ; as Balaam, Cain, Judas, and others, can witness.
Further, consider that what thou hast not of these things here, thou mayest have another time, and that to thy distraction. Wherefore, instead of being discontent, because thou art not in the fire, because thou hearest not the sound of the trumpet and alarm of war, "Pray that thou enter not into temptation;" yea, come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in that time of need (Psa 88:15; Matt 26:41; Heb 4:16).
Poor creature! thou criest, if I were tempted, I could come faster and with more confidence to Christ. Thou sayest thou knowest not what. What says Job? "Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me" (Job 13:21,22). It is not the overheavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy; not the roaring of the devil, but the drawing of the Father, that makes a man come to Jesus Christ; I myself know all these things.
True, sometimes, yea, most an end, 18 they that come to Jesus Christ come the way that thou desirest; the loading, tempted way; but the Lord also leads some by the waters of comfort. If I was to choose when to go a long journey, to wit, whether I would go it in the dead of winter or in the pleasant spring, though, if it was a very profitable journey, as that of coming to Christ is, I would choose to go it through fire and water before I would choose lose the benefit. But, I say, if I might choose the time, I would choose to go it in the pleasant spring, because the way would be more delightsome, the days longer and warmer, the nights shorter and not so cold. And it is observable, that that very argument that thou usest to weaken thy strength in the way, that very argument Christ Jesus useth to encourage his beloved to come to him: "Rise up," saith he, "my love, my fair one, and come away." Why? "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away" (Song 2:10-13).
Trouble not thyself, coming sinner. If thou seest thy lost condition by original and actual sin; if thou seest thy need of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ; if thou art willing to be found in him, and to take up thy cross and follow him; then pray for a fair wind and good weather, and come away. Stick no longer in a muse and doubt about things, but come away to Jesus Christ. Do it, I say, lest thou tempt God to lay the sorrows of a travailing woman upon thee. Thy folly in this thing may make him do it. Mind what follows: "The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him." Why? "He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children" (Hosea 13:13).
Seventh, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from those decays that thou findest in thy soul, even while thou art coming to him. Some, even as they are coming to Jesus Christ, do find themselves grow worse and worse; and this is indeed a sore trial to the poor coming sinner.
[Fears that we do not run fast enough.]
To explain myself. There is such an one a coming to Jesus Christ who, when at first he began to look out after him, was sensible, affectionate, and broken in spirit; but now is grown dark, senseless, hard-hearted, and inclining to neglect spiritual duties, &c. Besides, he now finds in himself inclinations to unbelief, atheism, blasphemy, and the like; now he finds he cannot tremble at God's Word, his judgment, nor at the apprehension of hell fire; neither can he, as he thinketh, be sorry for these things. Now, this is a sad dispensation. The man under the sixth head complaineth for want of temptations, but thou hast enough of them; art thou glad of them, tempted, coming sinner? They that never were exercised with them may think it a fine thing to be within the range, but he that is there is ready to sweat blood for sorrow of heart, and to howl for vexation of spirit! This man is in the wilderness among wild beasts. Here he sees a bear, there a lion, yonder a leopard, a wolf, a dragon; devils of all sorts, doubts of all sorts, fears of all sorts, haunt and molest his soul. Here he sees smoke, yea, feels fire and brimstone, scattered upon his secret places. He hears the sound of an horrible tempest. O! my friends, even the Lord Jesus, that knew all things, even he saw no pleasure in temptations, nor did he desire to be with them; wherefore, one text saith, "he was led," and another, "he was driven," of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil (Matt 4:1; Mark 1:12).
But to return. Thus it happeneth sometimes to them that are coming to Jesus Christ. A sad hap indeed! One would think that he that is flying from wrath to come has little need of such clogs as these. And yet so it is, and woeful experience proves it. The church of old complained that her enemies overtook her between the straits; just between hope and fear, heaven and hell (Lam 1).
This man feeleth the infirmity of his flesh, he findeth a proneness in himself to be desperate. Now, he chides with God, flings and tumbles like a wild bull in a net, and still the guilt of all returns upon himself, to the crushing of him to pieces. Yet he feeleth his heart so hard, that he can find, as he thinks, no kind falling under any of his miscarriages. Now, he is a lump of confusion in his own eyes, whose spirit and actions are without order.
Temptations serve the Christian as the shepherd's dog serveth the silly sheep; that is, coming behind the flock, he runs upon it, pulls it down, worries it, wounds it, and grievously bedabbleth it with dirt and wet, in the lowest places of the furrows of the field, and not leaving it until it is half dead, nor then neither, except God rebuke.
Here is now room for fears of being cast away. Now I see I am lost, says the sinner. This is not coming to Jesus Christ, says the sinner; such a desperate, hard, and wretched heart as mine is, cannot be a gracious one, saith the sinner. And bid such an one be better, he says, I cannot; no, I cannot.
[Why temptations assail God's people.]
Quest. But what will you say to a soul in this condition?
Answ. I will say, That temptations have attended the best of God's people. I will say, That temptations come to do us good; and I will say also, That there is a difference betwixt growing worse and worse, and thy seeing more clearly how bad thou art.
There is a man of an ill-favoured countenance, who hath too high a conceit of his beauty; and, wanting the benefit of a glass, he still stands in his own conceit; at last a limner is sent unto him, who draweth his ill-favoured face to the life; now looking thereon, he begins to be convinced that he is not half so handsome as he thought he was. Coming sinner, thy temptations are these painters; they have drawn out thy ill-favoured heart to the life, and have set it before thine eyes, and now thou seest how ill-favoured thou art. Hezekiah was a good man, yet when he lay sick, for aught I know, he had somewhat too good an opinion of his heart; and for aught I know also, the Lord might, upon his recovery, leave him to a temptation, that he might better know all that was in his heart. Compare Isaiah 38:1-3, with 2 Chronicles 32:31.
Alas! we are sinful out of measure, but see it not to be the full, until an hour of temptation comes. But when it comes, it doth as the painter doth, draweth out our heart to the life: yet the sight of what we are should not keep us from coming to Jesus Christ. There are two ways by which God lets a man into a sight of the naughtiness of his heart; one is, by the light of the Word and Spirit of God; and the other is, by the temptations of the devil. But, by the first, we see our naughtiness one way; and, by the second, another. By the light of the Word and Spirit of God, thou hast a sight of thy naughtiness; and by the light of the sun, thou hast a sight of the spots and defilements that are in thy house or raiment. Which light gives thee to see a necessity of cleansing, but maketh not the blemishes to spread more abominably. But when Satan comes, when he tempts, he puts life and rage into our sins, and turns them, as it were, into so many devils within us. Now, like prisoners, they attempt to break through the prison of our body; they will attempt to get out at our eyes, mouth, ears, any ways, to the scandal of the gospel, and reproach of religion, to the darkening of our evidences, and damning of our souls.
But I shall say, as I said before, this hath ofttimes been the lot of God's people. And, "There hath no temptation overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able" (1 Cor 10:13). See the Book of Job, the Book of Psalms, and that of the Lamentations. And remember further, that Christ himself was tempted to blaspheme, to worship the devil, and to murder himself, (Matt 4; Luke 4); temptations worse than which thou canst hardly be overtaken with. But he was sinless, that is true. And he is thy Saviour, and that is as true! Yea, it is as true also, that by his being tempted, he became the conqueror of the tempter, and a succourer of those that are tempted (Col 2:14,15; Heb 2:15; 4:15,16).
Quest. But what should be the reason that some that are coming to Christ should be so lamentably cast down and buffeted with temptations?
Answ. It may be for several causes.
1. Some that are coming to Christ cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the Scripture saith they are. True, they see so much of their wretchedness as to drive them to Christ. But there is an over and above of wickedness which they see not. Peter little thought that he had had cursing, and swearing, and lying, and an inclination in his heart to deny his Master, before the temptation came; but when that indeed came upon him, then he found it there to his sorrow (John 13:36-38; Mark 14:36-40; 68-72).
2. Some that are coming to Jesus Christ are too much affected with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ's person; wherefore God, to take them off from doting upon their own jewels, and that they might look more to the person, undertaking, and merits of his Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations. And this I take to be the meaning of Job, "If I wash myself," said he, "with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me" (Job 9:30). Job had been a little too much tampering with his own graces, and setting his excellencies a little too high; as these texts make manifest: Job 33:8-13, 34:5-10, 35:2,3, 38:1,2, 40:105, 42:3-6. But by that the temptations were ended, you find him better taught.
Yea, God doth ofttimes, even for this thing, as it were, take our graces from us, and so leave us almost quite to ourselves and to the tempter, that we may learn not to love the picture more than the person of his Son. See how he dealt with them in the 16th of Ezekiel, and the second of Hosea.
3. Perhaps thou hast been given too much to judge thy brother, to condemn thy brother, because a poor tempted man. And God, to bring down the pride of thy heart, letteth the tempter loose upon thee, that thou also mayst feel thyself weak. For "pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov 16:18).
4. It may be thou hast dealt a little too roughly with those that God hath this way wounded, not considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. And therefore God hath suffered it to come unto thee (Gal 6:1).
5. It may be thou wast given to slumber and sleep, and therefore these temptations were sent to awake thee. You know that Peter's temptation came upon him after his sleeping; then, instead of watching and praying, then he denied, and denied, and denied his Master (Matt 26).
6. It may be thou hast presumed too far, and stood too much in thine own strength, and therefore is a time of temptation come upon thee. This was also one cause why it came upon Peter—Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I. Ah! that is the way to be tempted indeed (John 13:36-38).
7. It may be God intends to make thee wise, to speak a word in season to others that are afflicted; and therefore he suffereth thee to be tempted. Christ was tempted that he might be able to succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:18).
8. It may be Satan hath dared God to suffer him to tempt thee; promising himself, that if he will but let him do it, thou wilt curse him to his face. Thus he obtained leave against Job; wherefore take heed, tempted soul, lest thou provest the devil's sayings true (Job 1:11).
9. It may be thy graces must be tried in the fire, that that rust that cleaveth to them may be taken away, and themselves proved, both before angels and devils, to be far better than of gold that perisheth; it may be also, that thy graces are to receive special praises, and honour, and glory, at the coming of the Lord Jesus to judgment, for all the exploits that thou hast acted by them against hell, and its infernal crew, in the day of thy temptation (1 Peter 1:6,7).
10. It may be God would have others learn by thy sighs, groans, and complaints, under temptation, to beware of those sins for the sake of which thou art at present delivered to the tormentors.
But to conclude this, put the worst to the worst—and then things will be bad enough—suppose that thou art to this day without the grace of God, yet thou art but a miserable creature, a sinner, that hath need of a blessed Saviour; and the text presents thee with one as good and kind as heart can wish; who also for thy encouragement saith, "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
[Application of Observation Second.]
To come, therefore, to a word of application. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this teacheth us these things—
1. That faith and doubting may at the same time have their residence in the same soul. "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" (Matt 14:31). He saith not, O thou of no faith! but, O thou of little faith! because he had a little faith in the midst of his many doubts. The same is true even of many that are coming to Jesus Christ. They come, and fear they come not, and doubt they come not. When they look upon the promise, or a word of encouragement by faith, then they come; but when they look upon themselves, or the difficulties that lie before them, then they doubt. "Bid me come," said Peter; "Come," said Christ. So he went down out of the ship to go to Jesus, but his hap was to go to him upon the water; there was the trial. So it is with the poor desiring soul. Bid me come, says the sinner; Come, says Christ, and I will in no wise cast thee out. So he comes, but his hap is to come upon the water, upon drowning difficulties; if, therefore, the wind of temptations blow, the waves of doubts and fears will presently arise, and this coming sinner will begin to sink, if he has but little faith. But you shall find here in Peter's little faith, a twofold act; to wit, coming and crying. Little faith cannot come all the way without crying. So long as its holy boldness lasts, so long it can come with peace; but when it is so, it can come no further, it will go the rest of the way with crying. Peter went as far as his little faith would carry him: he also cried as far as his little faith would help, "Lord, save me, I perish!" And so with coming and crying he was kept from sinking, though he had but a little faith. "Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
2. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this shows us a reason of that dejection, and those castings down, that very often we perceive to be in them that are coming to Jesus Christ. Why, it is because they are afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. The poor world they mock us, because we are a dejected people; I mean, because we are sometimes so: but they do not know the cause of our dejection. Could we be persuaded, even then, when we are dejected, that Jesus Christ would indeed receive us, it would make us fly over their heads, and would put more gladness into our hearts than in the time in which their corn, wine, and oil increases (Psa 4:6,7). But,
3. It is so, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. Then this shows that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are an awakened, sensible, considering people. For fear cometh from sense, and consideration of things. They are sensible of sin, sensible of the curse due thereto; they are also sensible of the glorious majesty of God, and of what a blessed, blessed thing it is to be received of Jesus Christ. The glory of heaven, and the evil of sin, these things they consider, and are sensible of. "When I remember, I am afraid." "When I consider, I am afraid" (Job 21:6; 23:15).
These things dash their spirits, being awake and sensible. Were they dead, like other men, they would not be afflicted with fear as they are. For dead men fear not, feel not, care not, but the living and sensible man, he it is that is ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive him. I say, the dead and senseless are not distressed. They presume; they are groundlessly confident. Who so bold as blind Bayard? These indeed should fear and be afraid, because they are not coming to Jesus Christ. O! the hell, the fire, the pit, the wrath of God, and torment of hell, that are prepared for poor neglecting sinners! "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" (Heb 3:3). But they want sense of things, and so cannot fear.
4. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them? Then this should teach old Christians to pity and pray for young comers. You know the heart of a stranger; for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. You know the fears, and doubts, and terrors, that take hold of them; for that they sometimes took hold of you. Wherefore pity them, pray for them, encourage them; they need all this: guilt hath overtaken them, fears of the wrath of God hath overtaken them. Perhaps they are within the sight of hell-fire; and the fear of going thither is burning hot within their hearts. You may know, how strangely Satan is suggesting his devilish doubts unto them, if possible he may sink and drown them with the multitude and weight of them. Old Christians, mend up the path for them, take the stumblingblocks out of the way; lest that which is feeble and weak be turned aside, but let it rather be healed (Heb 12).
[CHRIST WOULD HAVE COMERS NOT ONCE THINK THAT HE WILL CAST THEM OUT.]
OBSERVATION THIRD.—I come now to the next observation, and shall speak a little to that; to wit, That Jesus Christ would not have them, that in truth are coming to him, once think that he will cast them out.
The text is full of this: for he saith, "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Now, if he saith, I will not, he would not have us think he will. This is yet further manifest by these considerations.
First, Christ Jesus did forbid even them that as yet were not coming to him, once to think him such an one. "Do not think," said he, "that I will accuse you to the Father" (John 5:45).
These, as I said, were such, that as yet were not coming to him. For he saith of them a little before, "And ye will not come to me;" for the respect they had to the honour of men kept them back. Yet, I say, Jesus Christ gives them to understand, that though he might justly reject them, yet he would not, but bids them not once to think that he would accuse them to the Father. Now, not to accuse, with Christ, is to plead for: for Christ in these things stands not neuter between the Father and sinners. So then, if Jesus Christ would not have them think, that yet will not come to him, that he will accuse them; then he would not that they should think so, that in truth are coming to him. "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Second, When the woman taken in adultery, even in the very act, was brought before Jesus Christ, he so carried it both by words and actions, that he evidently enough made it manifest, that condemning and casting out were such things, for the doing of which he came not into the world. Wherefore, when they had set her before him, and had laid to her charge her heinous fact, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote upon the ground, as though he heard them not. Now what did he do by this his carriage, but testify plainly that he was not for receiving accusations against poor sinners, whoever accused by? And observe, though they continue asking, thinking at last to force him to condemn her; yet then he so answered, so that he drove all condemning persons from her. And then he adds, for her encouragement to come to him; "Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more" (John 8:1-11).
Not but that he indeed abhorred the fact, but he would not condemn the woman for the sin, because that was not his office. He was not sent "into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17). Now if Christ, though urged to it, would not condemn the guilty woman, though she was far at present from coming to him, he would not that they should once think that he will cast them out, that in truth are coming to him. "And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
Third, Christ plainly bids the turning sinner come; and forbids him to entertain any such thought as that he will cast him out. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa 4:7). The Lord, by bidding the unrighteous forsake his thoughts, doth in special forbid, as I have said, viz., those thoughts that hinder the coming man in his progress to Jesus Christ, his unbelieving thoughts.
Therefore he bids him not only forsake his ways, but his thoughts. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts." It is not enough to forsake one if thou wilt come to Jesus Christ; because the other will keep thee from him. Suppose a man forsakes his wicked ways, his debauched and filthy life; yet if these thoughts, that Jesus Christ will not receive him, be entertained and nourished in his heart; these thoughts will keep him from coming to Jesus Christ.