Third. Not only thus, but, 1. God hath begotten believers again to Himself, to be His adopted and accepted children, in and through the Lord Jesus (1 Peter 1:3). 2. God hath prepared a kingdom for them before the foundation of the world, through Jesus Christ (Matt 25:34). 3. He hath given them an earnest of their happiness while they live here in this world. "After that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory," and that through this Jesus (Eph 1:13,14). [These things are more fully laid down in that part of the book which containeth the discourse of the privileges of the new covenant]. 4. If His children sin through weakness, or by sudden temptation, they confessing of it, He willingly forgives, and heals all their wounds, reneweth His love towards them, waits to do them good, casteth their sins into the depths of the sea, and all this freely, without any work done by men as men—Not for your own sakes do I do this, O house of Israel, be it known unto you, saith the Lord, but wholly and alone by the blood of Jesus (Eze 36:23,23). 5. In a word, if you would see it altogether, God's love was the cause why Jesus Christ was sent to bleed for sinners. Jesus Christ's bleeding stops the cries of Divine justice; God looks upon them as complete in Him, gives them to Him as His by right of purchase. Jesus ever lives to pray for them that are thus given unto Him. God sends His Holy Spirit into them to reveal this to them, sends His angels to minister for them; and all this by virtue of an Everlasting Covenant between the Father and the Son. Thrice happy are the people that are in such a case!
Nay, further, He hath made them brethren with Jesus Christ, members of His flesh and of His bones, the spouse of this Lord Jesus; and all to show you how dearly, how really, how constantly He loveth us, who, by faith of His operation, have laid hold upon Him. [These things I might have treated upon more largely].
[Further Arguments and Objections answered].
I shall now lay down a few arguments for the superabundant clearing of it, and afterwards answer two or three objections that may be made against it, and so I shall fall upon the next thing.
First. God loves the saints as He loves Jesus Christ; and God loves Jesus Christ with an eternal love; therefore the saints also with the same. "Thou hast loved them as Thou has loved Me" (John 17:23).
Second. That love which is God Himself, must needs be everlasting love; and that is the love wherewith God hath loved His saints in Christ Jesus; therefore His love towards His children in Christ must needs be an everlasting love. There is none dare say that the love of God is mixed with a created mixture; if not, then it must needs be Himself (1 John 4:16). [You must not understand that love in God is a passion as it is in us; but the love of God is the very essence or nature of God].
Third. That love which is always pitched upon us, in an object as holy as God, must needs be an everlasting love. Now the love of God was and is pitched upon us, through an object as holy as God Himself, even our Lord Jesus; therefore it must needs be unchangeable.
Fourth. If He with whom the Covenant of Grace was made, did in every thing and condition do even what the Lord could desire or require of Him, that His love might be extended to us, and that for ever, then His love must needs be an everlasting love, seeing everything required of us was completely accomplished for us by Him; and all this hath our Lord Jesus done, and that most gloriously, even on our behalf; therefore it must needs be a love that lasts for ever and ever.
Fifth. If God hath declared Himself to be the God that changeth not, and hath sworn to be immutable in His promise, then surely He will be unchangeable; and He hath done so; therefore it is impossible for God to lie, and so for His eternal love to be changeable (Heb 6:13-18). Here is an argument of the Spirit's own making! Who can contradict it? If any object, and say, But still it is upon the condition of believing—I answer, The condition also is His own free gift, and not a qualification arising from the stock of nature (Eph 2:8; Phil 1:28,29). So that here is the love unchangeable; here is also the condition given by Him whose love is unchangeable, which may serve yet further for a strong argument that God will have His love unchangeable. Sinner, this is better felt and enjoyed than talked of.
Objection First. But if this love of God be unchangeable in itself, yet it is not unchangeably set upon the saints unless they behave themselves the better. [The first objection].
Answ. As God's love at the first was bestowed upon the saints without anything foreseen by the Lord in them, as done by them, Deuteronomy 9:4-6, so He goeth on with the same, Saying, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Heb 13:5).
Objection Second. But how cometh it to pass then, that many fall off again from the grace of the Gospel, after a profession of it for some time; some to delusions, and some to their own sins again? [The second objection].
Answ. They are all fallen away, not from the everlasting love of God to them, but from the profession of the love of God to them. Men may profess that God loves them when there is no such matter, and that they are the children of God, when the devil is their father; as it is in John 8:40-44. Therefore they that do finally fall away from a profession of the grace of the Gospel, it is, first, because they are bastards and not sons. Secondly, because as they are not sons, so God suffereth them to fall, to make it appear that they are not sons, not of the household of God—"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt," mark that, "no doubt," saith he, "they would have continued with us: but they went out," from us, "that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 John 2:19). And though Hymeneus and Philetus do throw themselves headlong to Hell, "nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His" (2 Tim 2:17-19).
Objection Third. But the Scripture saith that there are some that had faith, yet lost it, and have made shipwreck of it. [The third objection]. Now God loves no longer than they believe, as is evident; for "he that believeth not shall be damned." So then, if some may have faith, and yet lose it, and so lose the love of God because they have lost their faith, it is evident that God's love is not so immutable as you say it is to every one that believeth.
Answ. There are more sorts of faith than one that are spoken of in Scripture—
1. There is a faith that man may have, and yet be nothing, none of the saints of God, and yet may do great things therewith (1 Cor 13:1-4).
2. There is a faith that was wrought merely by the operation of the miracles that were done in those days by Christ and his followers—"And many of the people believed in Him." How came they by their faith? Why, by the operation of the miracles that He did among them; for said they, "When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" (John 7:31).
The great thing that wrought their faith in them, was only by seeing the miracles that He did, John 2:23, which is not that saving faith which is called the faith of God's elect, as is evident; for there must not be only miracles wrought upon outward objects to beget that—that being too weak a thing—but it must be by the same power that was stretched out in raising Christ from the dead; yea, the exceeding greatness of that power (Eph 1:18,19). So there is a believing, being taken with some marvelous work, visibly appearing to the outward sense of seeing; and there is a believing that is wrought in the heart by an invisible operation of the Spirit, revealing the certainty of the satisfaction of the merits of Christ to the soul in a more glorious way, both for certainty and for durableness, both as to the promise and the constancy of it (Matt 16:17, 18).
3. There is a faith of a man's own, of a man's self also; but the faith of the operation of God, in Scripture, is set in opposition to that, for, saith He, you are saved by grace, "through faith, and that not of yourselves," of your own making, but that which is the free gift of God (Eph 2:8).
4. We say there is an historical faith—that is, such as is begotten by the co-operation of the Spirit with the Word.
5. We say there is a traditional faith—that is, to believe things by tradition, because others say they believe them; this is received by tradition, not by revelation, and shall never be able to stand, neither at the day of death, nor at the day of judgment; though possibly men, while they live here, may esteem themselves and states to be very good, because their heads are filled full of it.
6. There is a faith that is called in Scripture a dead faith, the faith of devils, or of the devil; they also that have only this, they are like the devil, and as sure to be damned as he, notwithstanding their faith, if they get no better into their hearts; for it is far off from enabling of them to lay hold of Jesus Christ, and so to put Him on for eternal life and sanctification, which they must do if ever they be saved (James 2:19,26).
But all these are short of the saving faith of God's elect, as is manifest; I say, first, Because these may be wrought, and not by that power so exceedingly stretched forth. Secondly, Because these are wrought, partly, (1.) By the sense of seeing—namely, the miracles—not by hearing; and, (2.) The rest is wrought by a traditional or historical influence of the words in their heads, not by a heavenly, invisible, almighty, and saving operation of the Spirit of God in their hearts.
7. I do suppose also that there is a faith that is wrought upon men through the influence of those gifts and abilities that God gives sometimes to those that are not His own by election, though by creation; my meaning is, some men, finding that God hath given them very great gifts and abilities,—as to the gifts of preaching, praying, working miracles, or the like—I say, therefore do conclude that God is their Father, and they are His children; the ground of which confidence is still begotten, not by the glorious operation of the Spirit, but by a considering of the great gifts that God hath bestowed upon them as to the things before-mentioned. As thus, (1.) the poor soul considers how ignorant it was, and now how knowing it is. (2.) Considering how vain it formerly was, and also now how civil it is, presently makes this conclusion—Surely God loves me, surely He hath made me one of His, and will save me. This is now a wrong faith, as is evident, in that it is placed upon a wrong object; for mark, this faith is not placed assuredly on God's grace alone, through the blood and merits of Christ being discovered effectually to the soul, but upon God through those things that God hath given it, as of gifts, either to preach, or pray, or do great works, or the like, which will assuredly come to nought as sure as God is in Heaven, if no better faith and ground of faith be found out for thy soul savingly to rest upon.
As to the second clause of the objection, which runs to this effect, God loves men upon the account of their believing, I answer, that God loves men before they believe; He loves them, He calls them, and gives them faith to believe—"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us," when? when we believed, or before? "even when we were dead in sins," and so, far off from believers, "hath quickened us together with" Christ, "by grace ye are saved" (Eph 2:4,5).
Now, also, I suppose that thou wilt say in thy heart, I would you would show us then what is saving faith; which thing it may be I may touch upon a while hence, in the next thing that I am to speak unto. O they that have that are safe indeed!
SECOND. WHO AND HOW MEN ARE ACTUALLY BROUGHT INTO THE NEW COVENANT.
The SECOND thing that I am to speak unto is this—WHO they are that are actually brought into this free and unchangeable grace; and also HOW they are brought in.
Answ. Indeed, now we come to the pinch of the whole discourse; and if God do but help me to run rightly through this, as I do verily believe He will, I may do thee, reader, good, and bring glory to my God.
The question containeth these two branches—FIRST. Who are brought in; SECOND. How they are brought in.
[FIRST. Who are brought in?] The first is quickly answered—"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," Jewish sinners, Gentile sinners, old sinners, young sinners, great sinners, the chiefest of sinners. Publicans and harlots—that is, whores, cheaters, and exactors—shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (1 Tim 1:15; Rom 5:7-11; 1 Cor 6:9,11; Matt 21:31). "For I come not," saith Christ, "to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17).
A sinner in the Scripture is described in general to be a transgressor of the law—"Whosoever commiteth sin, transgresseth the law; for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). But particularly; they are described in a more particular way, as, 1. Such as in whom dwelleth the devil (Eph 2:2,3). 2. Such as will do the service of him (John 8:44). 3. Such as are enemies to God (Col 1:21) 4. Such as are drunkards, whoremasters, liars, perjured persons, covetous, revilers, extortionists, fornicators, swearers, possessed with devils, thieves, idolaters, witches, sorcerers, conjurors, murderers, and the like (1 Cor 6:9,10; 2 Chron 33:1-13; Acts 2:36,37; 9:1-6; 19:9; 1 Tim 1:14-16). These are sinners, and such sinners that God hath prepared Heaven, happiness, pardon of sin, and an inheritance of God, with Christ, with saints, with angels, if they do come in and accept of grace, as I might prove at large; for God's grace is so great, that if they do come to Him by Christ, presently all is forgiven them; therefore never object that thy sins are too great to be pardoned; but come, taste and see how good the Lord is to any whosoever come unto Him.
[SECOND.] The second thing is, How are these brought into this Everlasting Covenant of Grace?
Answ. When God doth in deed and in truth bring in a sinner into this most blessed covenant, [Come to the Touchstone, sinner]. for so it is, He usually goeth this way—
First. He slays or kills the party to all things besides Himself, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the comforts of the Spirit. For the clearing of this I shall show you, 1. With what God kills; 2. How God kills; 3. To what God kills those whom He makes alive in Jesus Christ.
1. [What God kills]. When God brings sinners into the Covenant of Grace, He doth first kill them with the Covenant of Works, which is the moral law, or Ten Commandments. This is Paul's doctrine, and also Paul's experience. It is his doctrine where he saith, "The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones—the ministration of condemnation," which is the law, in that place called the letter, "killeth" (2 Cor 3:6-9). The letter, saith he, killeth; or the law, or the ministration of death, which in another place is called "the voice of words" (Heb 12:19), because they have no life in them, but rather death and damnation, through our inability to fulfill them, doth kill (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 6). It is his experience where he saith, "I was alive" that is, to my own things, "without the law once," that is, before God did strike him dead by it, "but when the commandment came," that is, to do and exercise its right office on me, which was to kill me, then "sin revived, and I died," and I was killed. "And the commandment," or the law, "which was ordained to" be unto "life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Rom 7:9-11).
2. But how doth God kill with this law, or covenant?
1. By opening to the soul the spirituality of it—"The law is spiritual," saith he, "but I am carnal, sold under sin" (Rom 7:14). Now the spirituality of the law is discovered this way—
(1.) By showing to the soul that every sinful thought is a sin against it. Ay, sinner, when the law doth come home indeed upon thy soul in the spirituality of it, it will discover such things to thee to be sins that now thou lookest over and regardest not; that is a remarkable saying of Paul when he saith, "Sin revived, and I died." Sin revived, saith he; as if he had said, Those things that before I did not value nor regard, but looked upon them to be trifles, to be dead, and forgotten; but when the law was fastened on my soul, it did so raise them from the dead, call them into mind, so muster them before my face, and put such strength into them, that I was overmastered by them, by the guilt of them. Sin revived by the commandment, or my sins had mighty strength, life, and abundance of force upon me because of that, insomuch that they killed me (Matt 5:28).
(2.) It showeth that every such sin deserveth eternal damnation. Friends, I doubt there be but few of you that have seen the spirituality of the law of works. But this is one thing in which it discovereth its spirituality, and this is the proper work of the Law.
(3.) God, with a discovery of this, doth also discover His own Divine and infinite justice, of which the law is a description, which backs what is discovered by the law, and that by discovering of its purity and holiness to be so Divine, so pure, so upright, and so far of from winking at the least sin, that He doth by that law, without any favour, condemn the sinner for that sin (Gal 3:10). Now, when He hath brought the soul into this praemunire,13 into this puzzle, then,
2. He showeth to the soul the nature and condition of the law as to its dealings with, or forbearing of, the sinner that hath sinned against it; which is to pass an eternal curse upon both soul and body of the party so offending, saying to him, Cursed be the man that continueth not in everything that is written in the Book of the Law to do it; for, saith the law, this is my proper work; first, to show thee thy sins; and when I have done that, then, in the next place, to condemn thee for them, and that without all remedy, as from ME, or anything within my bounds, for I am not to save any, to pardon any—nay, not to favour any in the least thing that have sinned against me; for God did not send me to make alive, but to discover sin, and to condemn for the same. Now, so soon as this is presented to thy conscience, in the next place, the Lord also by this law doth show that now there is no righteous act according to the tenor of that covenant that can replieve him, or take him off from all this horror and curse that lies upon him; because that is not an administration of pardon, as I said before, to forgive the sin, but an administration of damnation, because of transgression. O, the very discovery of this striketh the soul into a deadly swoon, even above half dead! But when God doth do the work indeed, He doth, in the next place, show the soul that he is the man that is eternally under this covenant by nature, and that it is he that hath sinned against this law, and doth by right deserve the curse and displeasure of the same, and that all that ever he can do will not give satisfaction to that glorious justice that did give this law; holy actions, tears of blood, selling all, and giving it to the poor, or whatever else can be done by thee, it comes all short and is all to no purpose (Phil 3). I will warrant him, he that seeth this, it will kill him to that which he was alive unto before, though he had a thousand lives. Ah, sinners, sinners, were you but sensible indeed of the severity and truth of this, it would make you look about you to purpose! O, how would it make you strive to stop at that that now you drink down with delight! How many oaths would it make you bite asunder! Nay, it would make you bite your tongues to think that they should be used as instruments of the devil to bring your souls into such an unspeakable misery; then also we should not have you hang the salvation of your souls upon such slender pins as now you do; no, no; but you would be in another mind then. O, then we should have you cry out, I must have Christ; what shall I do for Christ? how shall I come at Christ? Would I was sure, truly sure of Christ. My soul is gone, damned, cast away, and must for ever burn with the devils, if I do not get precious Jesus Christ!
3. In the next place, when God hath done this, then He further shows the soul that that covenant which it is under by nature is distinct from the Covenant of Grace; and also they that are under it are by nature without any of the graces which they have that are under the Covenant of Grace; as, (1.) That it hath no faith (John 16:9). (2.) No hope (Eph 2:12). Nor none of the Spirit to work these things in it by nature. (4.) Neither will that covenant give to them any peace with God. (5.) No promise of safeguard from His revenging law by that covenant. (6.) But lieth by nature liable to all the curses, and condemnings, and thunderclaps of this most fiery covenant. (7.) That it will accept of no sorrow, no repentance, no satisfaction, as from thee. (8.) That it calls for no less than the shedding of thy blood. (9.) The damnation of thy soul and body. (10.) And if there be anything proffered to it by thee, as to the making of it amends, it throws it back again as dirt in thy face, slighting all that thou canst bring.
Now, when the soul is brought into this condition, then it is indeed dead, killed to that to which it was once alive. And therefore,
3. In the next place, to show you to what it is killed: and that is,
1. To sin. O, it dares not sin! it sees Hell-fire is prepared for them that sin, God's justice will not spare it if it live in sin; the Law will damn it if it live in sin; the devil will have it if it follows its sins. [Here I am speaking of one that is effectually brought in]. O, I say, it trembles at the very thoughts of sin! Ay, if sin do but offer to tempt the soul, to draw away the soul from God, it cries, it sighs, it shunneth the very appearance of sin, it is odious unto it. If God would but serve you thus that love your pleasures, you would not make such a trifle of sin as you do.
2. It is killed to the Law of God as it is the Covenant of Works. O, saith the soul, the law hath killed me to itself, "I through the law am dead to the law" (Gal 2:19). The law is another thing than I did think it was. I thought it would not have been so soul-destroying, so damning a law! I thought it would not have been so severe against me for my little sins, for my playing, for my jesting, for my dissembling, quarreling, and the like. I had some thoughts, indeed, that it would hew great sinners, but let me pass! and though it condemned great sinners, yet it would pass me by! But now, would I were free from this covenant, would I were free from this law! I will tell thee that a soul thus worked upon is more afraid of the Covenant of Works than he is of the devil; for he sees it is the law that doth give him up into his hands for sin; and if he was but clear from that, he should not greatly need to fear the devil. O, now every particular command tears the caul of his heart; now every command is a great gun well charged against his soul; now he sees he had as good run into a fire to keep himself from burning, as to run to the law to keep himself from damning; and this he sees really, ay, and feels it too, to his own sorrow and perplexity. 14
3. The soul also now is killed to his own righteousness, and counts that but dung, but dross, not worth the dirt hanging on his shoes. O! then, says he, thou filthy righteousness! how hast thou deceived me! How hast thou beguiled my poor soul! (Isa 64:6). How did I deceive myself with giving of a little alms; with abstaining from some gross pollutions; with walking in some ordinances, as to the outside of them! How hath my good words, good thinkings, good meanings, as the world calls them, deceived my ignorant soul! I want the righteousness of faith, the righteousness of God; for I see now there is no less will do me any good.
4. It is also killed to its own faith, its notion of the Gospel, its own hope, its own repentings, its own promises and resolutions, to its own strength, its own virtue, or whatsoever it had before. Now, saith the soul, that faith I thought I had, it is but fancy; that hope I thought I had, I see it is by hypocritical, but vain and groundless hope. [These things would be too tedious to enlarge upon]. Now the soul sees it hath by nature no saving faith, no saving hope, no grace at all by nature, by the first covenant. Now it crieth out, How many promises have I broken! and how many times have I resolved in vain, when I was sick at such a time, and in such a strait at such a place! Indeed, I thought myself a wise man once, but I see myself a very fool now. O, how ignorant am I of the Gospel now, and of the blessed experience of the work of God on a Christian heart! In a word, it sees itself beset by nature with all evil, and destitute of all good, which is enough to kill the stoutest, hardest-hearted sinner that ever lived on the earth. O, friends, should you be plainly dealt withal by this discovery of the dealing of God with a sinner when He makes him a saint, and would seriously try your selves thereby, as God will try you one day, how few would there be found of you to be so much as acquainted with the work of God in the notion, much less in the experimental knowledge of the same! And indeed, God is fain to take this way with sinners, thus to kill them with the old covenant to all things below a crucified Christ.
Six reasons of this discourse.
1. Because otherwise there would be none in the world that would look after this sweet Jesus Christ. There are but a few that go to Heaven in all, comparatively; and those few God is fain to deal with them in this manner, or else His Heaven, His Christ, His glory, and everlasting happiness must abide by themselves, for all sinners. Do you think that Manasseh would have regarded the Lord, had He not suffered his enemies to have prevailed against him? (2 Chron 33:1-16). Do you think that Ephraim would have looked after salvation, had not God first confounded him with the guilt of the sins of his youth? (Jer 31:18). What do you think of Paul? (Acts 9:4-6). What do you think of the jailer? (Acts 16:30-32). What do you think of the three thousand? (Acts 2:36,37). Was not this the way that the Lord was fain to take to make them close in with Jesus Christ? Was He not fain to kill them to everything below a Christ, that were driven to their wits' ends, insomuch that they were forced to cry out, "What shall we do to be saved?" I say, God might have kept Heaven and happiness to Himself, if He should not go this way to work with sinners. O stout-hearted rebels! O tender-hearted God!
2. Because then, and not till then, will sinners accept of Jesus Christ on God's terms. So long as sinners can make a life out of anything below Christ, so long they will not close with Christ without indenting; 15
But when the God of Heaven hath killed them to everything below Himself and His Son, then Christ will down on any terms in the world. And, indeed, this is the very reason why sinners, when they hear of Christ, yet will not close in with Him; there is something that they can take content in besides Him. The prodigal, so long as he could content himself with the husks that the swine did eat, so long he did keep him away from his father's house; but when he could get no nourishment anywhere on this side of his father's house, then saith he, and not till then, "I will arise, and go to my father," etc.
I say, this is the reason, therefore, why men come no faster, and close no more readily, with the Son of God, but stand halting and indenting 16 about the terms they must have Christ upon; for, saith the drunkard, I look on Christ to be worth the having; but yet I am not willing to lose ALL for him; all but my pot, saith the drunkard; and all but the world, saith the covetous. I will part with anything but lust and pride, saith the wanton. But if Christ will not be had without I forsake all, cast away all, then it must be with me as it was with the young man in the Gospel, such news will make me sorry at the very heart.
But now, when a man is soundly killed to all his sins, to all his righteousness, to all his comforts whatsoever, and sees that there is no way but the devil must leave him, but he must be damned in Hell if he be not clothed with Jesus Christ; O, then, saith he, give me Christ on any terms, whatsoever He cost; though He cost me friends, though He cost me comforts, though He cost me all that ever I have; yet, like the wise merchant in the Gospel, they will sell all to get that pearl. I tell you, when a soul is brought to see its want of Christ aright, it will not be kept back; father, mother, husband, wife, lands, livings, nay, life and all, shall go rather than the soul will miss of Christ. Ay, and the soul counteth Christ a cheap Saviour if he can get him upon any terms; now the soul indents17 no longer. Now, Lord, give me Christ upon any terms, whatsoever He cost; for I am a dead man, a damned man, a castaway, if I have not Christ. What say you, O you wounded sinners? Is not this true as I have said? Would you not give ten thousand worlds, if you had so many, so be you might be well assured that your sins shall be pardoned, and your souls and bodies justified and glorified at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ?
3. The Lord goeth this way for this reason also, that it might make the soul sensible what it cost Christ to redeem it from death and Hell. When a man cometh to feel the sting and guilt of sin, death and Hell upon his conscience, then, and not till then, can he tell what it cost Christ to redeem sinners. O! saith the soul, if a few sins are so terrible, and lay the soul under such wrath and torment, what did Christ undergo, who bare the sins of thousands and thousands, and all at once?
This also is one means to make souls tender of sin (it is the burned child that feareth the fire), to make them humble in a sense of their own vileness, to make them count everything that God giveth them a mercy, to make much of the least glimpse of the love of God, and to prize it above the whole world. O sinners, were you killed indeed [to sin], then Heaven would be Heaven, and Hell would be Hell indeed; but because you are not wrought upon in this manner, therefore you count the ways of God as bad as a good man counteth the ways of the devil, and the ways of the devil and Hell as good as a saint doth count the ways of God.
4. Again, God is fain to go this way, and all to make sinners make sure of Heaven. So long as souls are senseless of sin, and what a damnable state they are in by nature, so long they will even dally with the Kingdom of Heaven and the salvation of their own poor souls; but when God cometh and showeth them where they are, and what it is like to become of them if they miss of the crucified Saviour, O, then, saith the soul, would I were sure of Jesus; what shall I do to get assurance of Jesus? And thus is God forced, as I may say, to whip souls to Jesus Christ, they being so secure, so senseless, and so much their own enemies, as not to look out after their own eternal advantage.
5. A fifth reason why God doth deal thus with sinners it is, because He would bring Christ and the soul together in a right way. Christ and sinners would never come together in a beloved posture, they would not so suitably suit each other, if they were not brought together this way, the sinner being killed. O, when the sinner is killed, and indeed struck dead to everything below a naked Jesus, how suitably then doth the soul and Christ suit one with another. Then here is a naked sinner for a righteousness Jesus, a poor sinner to a rich Jesus, a weak sinner to a strong Jesus, a blind sinner to a seeing Jesus, an ignorant, careless sinner to a wise and careful Jesus. O, how wise is God in dealing thus with the sinner! He strips him of his own knowledge, that He may fill him with Christ's; He killeth him for taking pleasure in sin, that he may take pleasure in Jesus Christ, etc.
6. God goeth this way with sinners, because He would have the glory of their salvation. Should not men and women be killed to their own things, they would do sacrifice unto them, and instead of saying to the Lamb, "THOU ART WORTHY," they would say their own arm, their own right hand hath saved them; but God will cut off boasting from ever entering within the borders of eternal glory; for He is resolved to have the glory of the beginning, the middle, and the end; of the contriving, and saving, and giving salvation to them that enter in to the joys of everlasting glory (Rom 3:27; Eph 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; Rev 5:9). "That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified" (Isa 61:3). I might have run through many things as to this; but I shall pass them, and proceed.
Second. Now, the soul being this killed to itself, [The soul that hath the right work of God upon its heart, is not only killed to itself, but also made alive to Christ]. its sins, its righteousness, faith, hope, wisdom, promises, resolutions, and the rest of its things which it trusted in by nature; in the next place, it hath also given unto it a most glorious, perfect, and never-fading life, which is—
1. A life imputed to it, yet so really, that the very thought of it in the soul hath so much operation and authority, especially when the mediation of it is mixed with faith, as to make it, though condemned by the law, to triumph, and to look its enemies in the face with comfort, notwithstanding the greatness of the multitude, the fierceness of their anger, and the continuation of their malice, be never so hot against it.
This imputed life—for so it is—is the obedience of the Son of God as His righteousness, in His suffering, rising, ascending, interceding, and so consequently triumphing over all the enemies of the soul, and given to me, as being wrought on purpose for me. So that, is there righteousness in Christ? that is mine. Is there perfection in that righteousness? that is mine. Did He bleed for sin? it was for mine. Hath He overcome the law, the devil, and Hell? the victory is mine, and I am counted the conqueror, nay, more than a conqueror, through Him that hath loved me. And I do count this a most glorious life; for by this means it is that I am, in the first place, proclaimed both in Heaven and earth guiltless, and such an one who, as I am in Christ, am not sinner, and so not under the law, to be condemned, but as holy and righteous as the Son of God Himself, because He Himself is my holiness and righteousness, and so likewise having by this all things taken out of the way that would condemn me.
Sometimes I bless the Lord my soul hath had the life that now I am speaking of, not only imputed to me, but the very glory of it upon my soul; for, upon a time, when I was under many condemnings of heart, and feared, because of my sins, my soul would miss of eternal glory, methought I felt in my soul such a secret motion of this—Thy righteousness is in Heaven, together with the splendour and shining of the Spirit of Grace in my soul, which gave me to see clearly that my righteousness by which I should be justified from all that could condemn, was the Son of God Himself in His own Person, now at the right hand of His Father representing me complete before the Mercy-seat in His Ownself; so that I saw clearly that night and day, wherever I was, or whatever I was a doing, still there was my righteousness just before the eyes of Divine glory; so that the Father could never find fault with me for any insufficiency that was in my righteousness, seeing it was complete; neither could He say, Where is it? because it was continually at His right hand. 18
Also, at another time, having contracted guilt upon my soul, and having some distemper of body upon me, I supposed that death might now so seize upon as to take me away from among men; then, thought I, what shall I do now? is all right with my soul? Have I the right work of God on my soul? Answering myself, "No, surely"; and that because there were so many weaknesses in me; yes, so many weaknesses in my best duties. For, thought I, how can such an one as I find mercy, whose heart is so ready to evil, and so backward to that which is good, so far as it is natural. Thus musing, being filled with fear to die, these words come in upon my soul, "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). As if God had said, Sinner, thou thinkest because that thou hast had so many infirmities and weaknesses in thy soul while thou hast been professing of Me, therefore now there can be no hopes of mercy; but be it known unto thee, that it was not anything done by thee at the first that moved Me to have mercy upon thee: neither is it anything that is done by thee now that shall make me either accept or reject thee. Behold My Son, who standeth by Me, He is righteous, He hath fulfilled My Law, and given me good satisfaction; on Him, therefore, do I look, and on thee only as thou art in Him; and according to what He hath done, so will I deal with thee. This having stayed my heart, and taken off the guilt through the strength of its coming on my soul, anon after came in that word as a second testimony—"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works," of righteousness which we have done, "but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim 1:9). And thus is the sinner made alive from the dead, being justified by grace through the righteousness of Christ, which is unto all and upon all them that believe, according to the Scriptures—"And the life which I now live—it is by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). "I lay down my life for the sheep." "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10,15). "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 5:10,21).
2. This life is not only imputed to him that is wrought on by the Spirit of Grace—that is, not only counted his, but also there is put into the soul an understanding, enlightened on purpose to know the things of God, which is Christ and His imputed righteousness (1 John 5:20) which it never thought of nor understood before (1 Cor 2:9-11). Which understanding being enlightened and made to see such things that the soul cannot be contented without it lay hold of and apply Christ unto itself so effectually; I say, that the soul shall be exceedingly revived in a very heavenly measure with the application of this imputed righteousness; for thereby it knoweth it shall find God speaking peace to itself, with a fatherly affection, saying, "Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee"; the righteousness of My Son I bestow upon thee; "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through thee," thy "flesh," "I have sent forth My only Son, and have condemned" thy sins in His flesh (Rom 8:3). And though thou hast gone astray like a lost sheep, yet on Him I have laid thine iniquities; and though thou thereby didst undo and break thyself for ever, yet by His stripes I have healed thee. Thus, I say, the Lord causeth the soul by faith to apply that which He doth by grace impute unto it, for thus every soul more or less is dealt withal; the soul being thus enlightened, thus quickened, thus made alive from that dead state it was in before, or at least having the beginnings of this life, it hath these several virtuous advantages, which they have not that are dead in their sins and trespasses, and under the law—
[Advantages possessed by the quickened].
First. It seeth what a sad condition all men by nature are in, they being in that state which itself was in but a while since; but now by grace it is a beginning to scrabble 19 out of it; now it seeth "the whole world lieth in wickedness," and so liable to eternal vengeance, because of their wickedness (1 John 5:19). Ah, friends, let me tell you, though you may be ignorant of your state and condition, yet the poor, groaning, hungering saints of God do see what a sad, woeful, miserable state you are in, which sometimes makes them tremble to think of your most lamentable latter end, your dying so, and also to fly the faster to their Lord Jesus, for very fear that they also should be partakers of that most doleful doom. [Like as the children of Israel, who fled for fear when the ground opened its mouth to swallow up Korah and his company]. And this it hath by virtue of its own experience, knowing itself was but awhile ago in the same condition, under the same condemnation. O! there is now a hearth blessing of God that ever He should show to it its sad condition, and that He should incline its heart to seek after a better condition. O blessed be the Lord! saith the soul, that ever He should awaken me, stir up me, and bring me out of that sad condition that I once with them was in (Psa 103:1-3). It makes also the soul to wonder to see how foolishly and vainly the rest of its neighbours do spend their precious time, that they should be so void of understanding, so forgetful of their latter end, so senseless of the damning nature of their sins. O that their eyes were but enlightened to see whereabouts they are! surely they would be of another mind than they are now in. Now, the soul wonders to see what slender pins those poor creatures do hang the stress of the eternal salvation of their souls upon. O! methinks, saith the soul, it makes me mourn to see that some should think that they were born Christians; and others, that their baptism makes them so; 20 others depend barely upon a traditional, historical faith, which will leave their souls in the midst of perplexity. That they should trust to such fables, fancies, and wicked sleights of the devil, as their good doings, their good thinkings, their civil walking and living with the world. O miserable profession, and the end thereof will be a miserable end!
But now, when the souls is thus wrought upon, it must be sure to look for the very gates of Hell to be set open against it with all their force and might to destroy it. Now Hell rageth, the devil roareth, and all the world resolveth to do the best they can to bring the soul again into bondage and ruin. Also, the soul shall not want enemies, even in its own heart's lust, [But this is but for the exercise of his faith.] as covetousness, adultery, blasphemy, unbelief, hardness of heart, coldness, half-heartedness, ignorance, with an innumerable company of attendants, hanging, like so many blocks, at its heels, ready to sink it into the fire of Hell every moment, together with strange apprehensions of God and Christ, as if now they were absolutely turned to be its enemies, which maketh it doubt of the certainty of its salvation; for you must understand, that though a soul may in reality have the righteousness of the Son of God imputed to it, and also some faith in a very strong manner to lay hold upon it, yet at another time, through temptation, they may fear and doubt again, insomuch that the soul may be put into a very great fear lest it should return again into the condition it once was in (Jer 32:40). O, saith the soul, when I think of my former state, how miserable it was, it makes me tremble; and when I think that I may fall into that condition again, how sad are the thoughts of it to me! I would not be in that condition again for all the world. And this fear riseth still higher and higher, as the soul is sensible of Satan's temptations, or of the working of its own corruptions. Ah! these filthy lusts, these filthy corruptions. O that I were rid of them, that they were consumed in a moment, that I could be quite rid of them, they do so disturb my soul, dishonour my God, so defile my conscience, and sometimes so weaken my hands in the way of God, and my comforts in the Lord; O how glad should I be if I might be stripped of them (Rom 7:24). Which fear puts the soul upon flying to the Lord by prayer for the covering of His imputed righteousness, and for strength against the devil's temptations and its own corruptions; that God would give down His Holy Spirit to strengthen it against the things that do so annoy its soul, and so discourage it in its way, with a resolution, through grace, never to be contented while [until] it doth find in itself a triumphing over it, by faith in the blood of a crucified Jesus.
Second. The soul that hath been thus killed by the Law to the things it formerly delighted in, now, O now, it cannot be contented with that slender, groundless faith and hope that once it contented itself withal. No, no; but now it must be brought into the right saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, now it must have Him discovered to the soul by the Spirit, now it cannot be satisfied because such and such do tell it is so. No; but now it will cry out, Lord, show me continually, in the light of Thy Spirit, through Thy Word, that Jesus that was born in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Mary, a daughter of Judah, went with Joseph to be taxed at Bethlehem, that He is the very Christ. Lord, let me see it in the light of Thy Spirit, and in the operation thereof; and let me not be contented without such a faith that is so wrought even by the discovery of His birth, crucifying, death, blood, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and second—which is His personal—coming again, that the very faith of it may fill my soul with comfort and holiness. And O, how afraid the soul is lest it should fall short of this faith, and of the hope that is begotten by such discoveries as these are! For the soul knoweth that if it hath not this, it will not be able to stand either in death or judgment; and therefore, saith the soul, Lord, whatever other poor souls content themselves withal, let me have that which will stand me in stead, and carry me through a dangerous world; that may help me to resist a cunning devil; that may help me to suck true soul-satisfying consolation from Jesus Christ through Thy promises, by the might and power of Thy Spirit. And now, when the poor soul at any time hath any discovery of the love of God through a bleeding, dying, risen, interceding Jesus, because it is not willing to be deceived, O, how wary [But this may be its temptation, taking place through the timorousness of the soul]. is it of closing with it, for fear it should not be right, for fear it should not come from God! Saith the soul, Cannot the devil give one such comfort I trow? Cannot he transform himself thus into an angel of light? So that the soul, because that it would be upon a sure ground, cries out, Lord, show me Thy salvation, and that not once or twice, but, Lord, let me have Thy presence continually upon my heart, today, and tomorrow, and every day. For the soul, when it is rightly brought from under the Covenant of Works, and planted into the Covenant of Grace, then it cannot be, unless it be under some desperate temptation, contented without the presence of God, teaching, comforting, establishing, and helping of the soul to grow in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ; because it knoweth that if God hath but withdrawn His presence in any way from it, as He doth do sometimes for a while, that then the devil will be sure to be near at hand, working with his temptations, trying all ways to get the soul into slavery and sin again; also the corrupt principle, that will be joining and combining with the Wicked One, and will be willing to be a co-partner with him to bring the soul into mischief; which puts a soul upon an earnest, continual panting after more of the strengthening, preserving, comforting, and teaching presence of God, and for strong supplies of faith, that it may effectually lay hold on him.
Third. The soul is quickened so that it is not satisfied now without it do in deed and in truth partake of the peace of God's elect; now it is upon the examination of the reality of its joy and peace. Time was indeed that anything would serve its turn, any false conceits of its state to be good; but now all kind of peace will not serve its turn, all kind of joy will not be accepted with it; now it must joy in God through Jesus Christ; now its peace must come through the virtues of the blood of Christ speaking peace to the conscience by taking away both the guilt and filth of sin by that blood; also by showing the soul its free acceptance with God through Christ, He hath completely fulfilled all the conditions of the first covenant, and freely placed it into the safety of what He hath done, and so presents the soul complete and spotless in the sight of God through His obedience. Now, I say, he hath "peace through the blood of His Cross," and sees himself reconciled to God by the death of His Son, or else his comfort will be questioned by him (Col 1:20,21). It is not every promise as cometh now upon his heart that will serve his turn, no, but he must see whether the babe Jesus be presented to the soul in and through that promise. Now if the babe leap in his womb, as I may so say, it is because the Lord's promise sounds aloud in his heart, coming to him big with the love and pardoning grace of God in Jesus Christ; I say, this is the first and principal joy that the soul hath that is quickened and brought into the Covenant of Grace.
Fourth. Now the man finds heavenly sanctification wrought in his soul through the most precious blood of the Man whose name is Jesus Christ—"Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate." Now the souls finds a change in the understanding, in the will, in the mind, in the affections, in the judgment, and also in the conscience; through the inward man a change, and through the outward man a change, from head to foot, as we use to say, "for he that is in Christ," and so in this Covenant of Grace, "is a new creature," or hath been twice made—made, and made again (2 Cor 5:17). O, now the soul is resolved for Heaven and Glory; now it crieth out, Lord, if there be a right eye that is offensive to Thee, pluck it out; or a right foot, cut it off; or a right hand, take it from me. Now the soul doth begin to study how it may honour God, and bring praise to Him. Now the soul is for a preparation for the second coming of Christ, endeavouring to lay aside everything that may hinder; and for the closing in with those things that may make it in a beloved posture against that day.
Fifth. And all this is from a Gospel spirit, and not from a legal, natural principle, for the soul hath these things as the fruits and effects of its being separated unto the Covenant of Grace, and so now possessed with that Spirit that doth attend, yea, and dwell in them that are brought into the Covenant of Grace from under the old covenant; I say, these things do spring forth in the soul from another root and stock than any of the actings of other men do; for the soul that is thus wrought upon is as well dead to the law and the righteousness thereof—as the first covenant—as well as to its sins.
Sixth. Now the soul begins to have some blessed experience of the things of God, even of the glorious mysteries of the Gospel.
1. Now it knoweth the meaning of those words, "My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink, indeed," and that by experience; for the soul hath received peace of conscience through that blood, by the effectual application of it to the soul (John 6:55). First, by feeling the guilt of sin die off from the conscience by the operation thereof. Secondly, By feeling the power thereof to take away the curse of the law. Thirdly, By finding the very strength of Hell to fail when once the blood of that Man Jesus Christ is received in reality upon the soul.
2. Now the soul also knoweth by experience the meaning of that Scripture that saith, "Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" (Rom 6:6). Now it sees that when the Man Jesus did hang on the tree on Mount Calvary, that then the body of its sins was there hanged up, dead and buried with Him, though it was then unborn, so as never to be laid to its charge, either here or hereafter; and also, so as never to carry it captive into perpetual bondage, being itself overcome by Him, even Christ, the Head of that poor creature. And indeed this is the way for a soul both to live comfortably as touching the guilt of sin, and also as touching the power of the filth of sin; for the soul that doth or hath received this in deed and in truth, finds strength against them both by and through that Man that did for him and the rest of his fellow-sinners so gloriously overcome it, and hath given the victory unto them, so that now they are said to be overcomers, nay, "more than conquerors through Him," the one Man Jesus Christ (Rom 7:33-37).
3. Now the soul hath received a faith indeed, and a lively hope indeed, such an one as now it can fetch strength from the fullness of Christ, and from the merits of Christ.
4. Yea, now the soul can look on itself with one eye, and look upon Christ with another, and say, Indeed, it is true; I am an empty soul, but Christ is a full Christ; I am a poor sinner, but Christ is a rich Christ; I am a foolish sinner, but Christ is a wise Christ; I am an unholy, ungodly, unsanctified creature in myself, but Christ is made of God "unto me, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor 1:30).
5. Now also that fiery law, that it could not once endure, nor could not once delight in, I say, now it can delight in it after the inward man; now this law is its delight, it would always be walking in it, and always be delighting in it, being offended with any sin or any corruption that would be anyways an hinderance to it (Rom 7:24,25). And yet it will not abide, it will not endure that that, even that that law should offer to take the work of its salvation out of Christ's hand; no, if it once comes to do that, then out of doors it shall go, if it were as good again. For that soul that hath the right work of God indeed upon it, cries, Not my prayers, not my tears, not my works, not my things, do they come from the work of the Spirit of Christ itself within me, yet these shall not have the glory of my salvation; no, it is none but the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, of the Man Christ Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter's son, as they called Him, that must have the crown and glory of my salvation. None but Christ, none but Christ. And thus the soul labours to give Christ the preeminence (Col 1:18).
A word of experience.
Now, before I go any further, I must needs speak a word from my own experience of the things of Christ; and the rather, because we have a company of silly ones in this day of ignorance that do either comfort themselves with a notion without the power, or else do both reject the notion and the power of this most glorious Gospel; therefore, for the further conviction of the reader, I shall tell him, with David, something of what the Lord hath done for my soul; and indeed a little of the experience of the things of Christ is far more worth than all the world. It would be too tedious for me to tell thee here all from the first to the last; but something I shall tell thee, that thou mayest not think these things are fables. [This conviction seized on my soul one Sabbath day, when I was at play, being one of the first that I had, which when it came, though it scared me with its terror, yet through the temptation of the devil, immediately striking in therewith, I did rub it off again, and became as vile for some time as I was before, like a wretch that I was]. 21
Reader, when it pleased the Lord to begin to instruct my soul, He found me one of the black sinners of the world; He found me making a sport of oaths, and also of lies; and many a soul-poisoning meal did I make out of divers lusts, as drinking, dancing, playing, pleasure with the wicked ones of the world. The Lord finding of me in this condition, did open the glass of His Law unto me, wherein He showed me so clearly my sins, both the greatness of them, and also how abominable they were in His sight, that I thought the very clouds were charged with the wrath of God, and ready to let fall the very fire of His jealousy upon me; yet for all this I was so wedded to my sin, that, thought I with myself, I will have them though I lose my soul, (O wicked wretch that I was!) but God, the great, the rich, the infinite merciful God, did not take this advantage of my soul to cast me away, and say, Then take him, Devil, seeing he cares for Me no more; no, but He followed me still, and won upon my heart, by giving me some understanding, not only into my miserable state, which I was very sensible of, but also that there might be hopes of mercy; also taking away that love to lust, and placing in the room thereof a love to religion; and thus the Lord won over my heart to some desire after the means, to hear the Word, and to grow a stranger to my old companions, and to accompany the people of God, together with giving of me many sweet encouragements from several promises in the Scriptures. But after this, the Lord did wonderfully set my sins upon my conscience, those sins especially that I had committed since the first convictions; temptations also followed me very hard, and especially such temptations as did tend to the making me question of the very way of salvation—viz., whether Jesus Christ was the Saviour or no; and whether I had best to venture my soul upon His blood for salvation, or take some other course. But being through grace kept close with God, in some measure, in prayer and the rest of the ordinances, but went about a year and upwards without any sound evidence as from God to my soul touching the salvation that comes by Jesus Christ. But, at the last, as I may say, when the set time was come, the Lord, just before the men called Quakers came into the country, did set me down so blessedly in the truth of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that it made me marvel to see, first, how Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, walked in the world awhile with His disciples, afterwards hanged on the Cross, spilt His blood, was buried, rose again, ascended above the clouds and heavens, there lives to make intercession, and that He also will come again at the last day to judge the world, and take His saints unto Himself.
These things, I say, I did see so evidently, even as if I had stood when He was in the world, and also when He was caught up. I having such a change as this upon my soul, it made me wonder; and musing with myself at the great alteration that was in my spirit—for the Lord did also very gloriously give me in His precious Word to back the discovery of the Son of God unto me, so that I can say, through grace, it was according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4). And as I was musing with myself what these things should mean, methought I heard such a word in my heart as this—I have set thee down on purpose, for I have something more than ordinary for thee to do; which made me the more marvel, saying, What, my Lord, such a poor wretch as I? Yet still this continued, I have set thee down on purpose, and so forth, with more fresh incomes of the Lord Jesus, and the power of the blood of His Cross upon my soul, even so evidently that I saw, through grace, that it was the blood shed on Mount Calvary that did save and redeem sinners, as clearly and as really with the eyes of my soul as ever, me thought, I had seen a penny loaf bought with a penny; which things then discovered had such operation upon my soul, that I do hope they did sweetly season every faculty thereof. Reader, I speak in the presence of God, and He knows I lie not; much of this, and such like dealings of His, could I tell thee of; but my business at this time is not so to do, but only to tell what operation the blood of Christ hath had over and upon my conscience, and that at several times, and also when I have been in several frames of spirit.
As, first, sometimes, I have been so loaden with my sins, that I could not tell where to rest, nor what to do; yea, at such times I thought it would have taken away my senses; yet at that time God through grace hath all of a sudden so effectually applied the blood that was spilt at Mount Calvary out of the side of Jesus, unto my poor, wounded, guilty conscience, that presently I have found such a sweet, solid, sober, heart-comforting peace, that it hath made me as if it [my terror] had not been, and withal the same, I may say, and I ought to say, the power of it, hath had such a powerful operation upon my soul, that I have for a time been in a strait and trouble to think that I should love and honour Him no more, the virtue of His blood hath so constrained me.
Again; sometimes methinks my sins have appeared so big to me that I thought one of my sins have been as big as all the sins of all the men in the nation; ay, and of other nations too, reader; these things be not fancies, for I have smarted for this experience, but yet the least stream of the heart blood of this Man 22 Jesus hath vanished all away, and hath made it to fly, to the astonishment of such a poor sinner; and as I said before, hath delivered me up into sweet and heavenly peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Again; sometimes when my heart hath been hard, dead, slothful, blind, and senseless, which indeed are sad frames for a poor Christian to be in, yet at such a time, when I have been is such a case, then hath the blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ, the admirable blood of the God of Heaven, that run out of His body when it did hang on the Cross, so softened, livened, quickened, and enlightened my soul, that truly, reader, I can say, O it makes me wonder!
Again; when I have been loaden with sin, and [I cannot stand here to tell thee of particular temptations]. pestered with several temptations, and in a very sad manner, then have I had the trial of the virtue of Christ's blood with the trial of the virtue of other things; and I have found that when tears would not do, prayers would not do, repentings and all other things could not reach my heart; O then, one touch, one drop, one shining of the virtue of the blood, of that blood that was let out with the spear, it hath in a very blessed manner delivered me, that it hath made me to marvel. O! methinks it hath come with such life, such power, with such irresistible and marvelous glory, that it wipes off all the slurs, silences all the outcries, and quenches all the fiery darts, and all the flames of Hell-fire, that are begotten by the charges of the Law, Satan, and doubtful remembrances of my sinful life.
Friends, as Peter saith to the church, so I say to you, I have not preached to you cunningly devised fables in telling you of the blood of Christ, and what authority it hath had upon my conscience; O no, but as Peter saith touching the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world, so in some measure I can say of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that was shed when He did come into the world. There is not only my single testimony touching this; no, but there are all the Prophets do agree in advancing this in writing, and also all the saints do now declare the same, in speaking forth the amiableness and many powerful virtues thereof. "As for Thee also, by the blood of Thy covenant," saith God to Christ, "I have sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water" (Zech 9:11). "We have redemption through His blood" (Eph 1:7). Again, "We have redemption through His blood" (Col 1:14). Our robes are washed and made "white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:14). The devil is overcome through "the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 12:11). Yea, and conscience is purged, too, and that through the blood of the Lamb (Heb 9:14). We have free recourse to the Throne of Grace through the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:19). I could bring thee a cloud of witnesses out of all the types and shadows, and out of the sundry Prophets, and much more out of the New Testament, but I forebear, because I would not be too tedious to the reader in making too large a digression, though I have committed here in this discourse no transgression, for the blood of Christ is precious blood (1 Peter 1:18,19).
THIRD. THE PRIVILEGES OF THE NEW COVENANT.
In the next place, I shall show you the several privileges and advantages that the man or woman hath that is under this Covenant of Grace, over what they have that are under the Covenant of the Law and Works. As,
First. The Covenant of Grace is not grounded upon our obedience, but upon God's love, even His pardoning love to us through Christ Jesus. The first covenant is stood to be broken or kept by us, and God's love or anger to be lost or enjoyed thereafter as we, as creatures, behaved ourselves; but now, the very ground of the Covenant of Grace is God's love, His mere love through Jesus Christ—"The LORD did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the LORD loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto your fathers" (Deu 7:7,8). Again, "In His love and in His pity He redeemed them," "and the angel of His presence saved them," that is, Jesus Christ (Isa 63:9). And again, "Who hath saved us—not according to our works" of righteousness which we have done, "but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Tim 1:9).
Second. This love is not conveyed to us through what we have done, as is before proved, but through what He hath done with Whom the covenant was made, which was given us in Christ—According as He hath chosen us in Christ. "Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you," that is, through Christ's doings, through Christ's sufferings (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 1:3,4; 4:32). Now if this be but rightly understood, it doth discover abundance of comfort to them, that are within the bounds of the Covenant of Grace. For,
1. Here a believer seeth he shall stand, if Christ's doings and sufferings stand; which is sure foundation, for God dealeth with him through Christ. And so, secondly, he shall not fall, unless the suffering and merits of Christ be thrown over the bar, being found guilty, which will never be, before the eyes of Divine justice; for with Him the covenant was made, and He was the Surety of it; that is, as the covenant was made with Him, so He stood bound to fulfill the same (Zech 9:11; Heb 7:22). For you must understand that the covenant was made between the Father and the Son long before it was accomplished, or manifestly sealed with Christ's blood; it was made before the world began (Titus 1:2; Eph 1:4; 1 Peter 1:18-20). But the conditions thereof were not fulfilled until less than two thousand years ago; and all that while did Jesus stand bound as a surety, as I said before, is used to do, till the time in which the payment should be made. And it was by virtue of His Suretyship, having bound Himself by covenant to do all things agreed on by the Father and Him, that all those of the election that were born before He came, that they might be saved, and did enter into rest. For the forgiveness of sins that were past, though it was through the blood of Christ, yet it was also through the forbearance of God (Rom 3:25). That is, Christ becoming Surety for those that died before His coming, that He should in deed and in truth, at the fullness of time, or at the time appointed, give a complete and full satisfaction for them according to the tenor or condition of the covenant. (Gal 4:4). Again,
2. The second covenant, which believers are under, as the ground and foundation, if it is safe, so the promises thereof are better, surer, freer, and fuller, etc.
(1.) They are better, if you compare the excellency of the one with the excellency of the other. The first hath promised nothing but an early paradise—Do this, and thou shalt live; namely, here in an earthly paradise. But the other doth bring the promise of a heavenly paradise.
(2.) As the Covenant of Works doth promise an earthly paradise, yet it is a paradise or blessing, though once obtained, yet might be lost again; for no longer than thou doest well, no longer art thou blessed by that. O, but the promises in the new covenant do bring unto us the benefit of an eternal inheritance—That "they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." O rare! it is an "eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15).
(3.) The other, as it is not so good as this, so neither is it so sure as this; and therefore he calls the one such an one as might be, and was, shaken, but this is said to be such an one that cannot be shaken. "And this Word," saith he, treating of the two covenants from verse the 8th to the 24th—"And this Word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are," or may be, "shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken," which is the second covenant, "may remain," (Heb 12:27); for, saith he (verse 28) "which cannot be moved." Therefore, ye blessed saints, seeing you have received a kingdom "which cannot be moved," therefore, "let us have grace, whereby we may serve" our "God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
Thus in general, but more particularly.
(4.) They are surer, in that they are founded upon God's love also, and they come to us without calling for those things at our hands that may be a means of putting of a stop to our certain enjoying of them. The promises under, or for the law, they might easily be stopped by our disobedience; but the promises under the Gospel say, "If Heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched," then, and not till then, "I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done" (Jer 31:37). Again, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own" name's "sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isa 43:25). I will make thee a partaker of My promise; and that I may so do, I will take away that which would hinder; "I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea," that My promise may be sure to all the seed; and therefore, saith the Apostle, when he would show us that the new-covenant promises were more sure than the old, he tells us plainly that the law and works are set aside and they are merely made ours through the righteousness of faith, which is the righteousness of Christ—"For the promise, that he [Abraham] should be the heir of the world," saith he, "was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law," or works, "but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law," or of works, "be heirs," then "faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. Therefore it is of faith—to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed" (Rom 4:13-14,16).
(5.) Surer, because that as that is taken away that should hinder, so they are committed to a faithful Friend of ours in keeping. For all the promises of God are in Christ, not yea and nay, but yea and amen; certain and sure; sure, because they are in the hand of our Head, our Friend, our Brother, our Husband, our flesh and bones, even in the heart and hand of our precious Jesus.
(6.) Because all the conditions of them are already fulfilled for us by Jesus Christ, as aforesaid; every promise that is a new-covenant promise, if there be any condition in it, our Undertaker hath accomplished that for us, and also giveth us such grace as to receive the sweetness as doth spring from them through His obedience to every thing required in them.
(7.) Surer, because that as they are grounded upon the love of God, everything is taken out of the way, in the hand of a sure Friend. And has Christ has fulfilled every condition as to justification that is contained therein, so the Lord hath solemnly sworn with an oath for our better confidence in this particular—"For when God made promise to Abraham," and so to all the saints, "because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself, saying, Surely, blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife," that there might be no more doubt or scruple concerning the certain fulfilling of the promise. "Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel," or certain, constant, unchangeable decree of God in making of the promise, for the comfort of his children, "confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things," His promise backed with an oath, "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).
(8.) That they are better it appears also in that they are freer and fuller. That they are freer, it is evident, in that one saith, No works, no life—Do this, and then thou shalt live; if not, thou shalt be damned. But the other saith, We are saved by believing in what Another hath done, without the works of the Law—"Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom 4:4,5). The one saith, Pay me that thou owest; the other say, I do frankly and freely forgive thee all. The one saith, Because thou hast sinned, thou shalt die; the other saith, Because Christ lives, thou shalt live also (John 15).
(9.) And as they are freer, so they are fuller; fuller of encouragement, fuller of comfort; the one, to wit, the law, looks like Pharaoh's seven ill-favoured kine, more ready to eat one up than to afford us any food; the other is like the full grape in the cluster, which for certain hath a glorious blessing in it. The one saith, If thou hast sinned, turn again; the other saith, If thou hast sinned, thou shalt be damned, for all I have a promise in me.
3. They that are of the second are better than they that are of the first; and it also appeareth in this—The promises of the Law, through them we have neither faith, nor hope, nor the Spirit conveyed; but through the promises of the Gospel there are all these—"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). O therefore "let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised" (Heb 10:23). "In hope of eternal life," how so? because "God, that cannot lie, promised it before the world began" (Titus 1:2).
4. They that are in this covenant are in a very happy state; for though there be several conditions in the Gospel to be done, yet Christ Jesus doth not look that they should be done by man, as man, but by His own Spirit in them, as it is written, "Thou hast wrought all our works in us." Is there that condition, they must believe? Why, then, He will be both the "author and finisher of their faith" (Heb 12:2,3). Is there also hope to be in His children? He also doth and hath given them "good hope through His grace" (2 Thess 2:16). Again, are the people of God to behave themselves to the glory of God the Father? then He will work in them "both to will and to do of His own good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).
5. Again, as He works all our works in us and for us, so also by virtue of this covenant we have another nature given unto us, whereby, or by which we are made willing to be glorifying of God, both in our bodies and in our spirits, which are His—"Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power" (1 Cor 6:20; Psa 110:3).
6. In the next place, all those that are under this second covenant are in a wonderful safe condition; for in case they should slip or fall after their conversion into some sin or sins for who lives and sins not? (Prov 24:16), yet through the merits and intercession of Christ Jesus, who is their Undertaker in this covenant, they shall have their sins pardoned, their wounds healed, and they raised up again; which privilege the children of the first covenant have not; for if they sin, they are never afterwards regarded by that covenant—They brake My covenant and I regarded them not, saith the Lord (Heb 8:9). But when He comes to speak of the Covenant of Grace, speaking first of the public person under the name of David, He saith thus, "He shall cry unto Me, Thou art My Father, My God, and the rock of My salvation. Also I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for Him for evermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with Him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and His throne as the days of heaven. If His children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not My commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from Him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and His throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven" (Psa 89:26-37). "My covenant shall stand fast with him"—mark that. As if God had said, I did not make this covenant with man, but with My Son, and with Him I will perform it; and seeing He hath given Me complete satisfaction, though His children do, through infirmity, transgress, yet My covenant is not therefore broken, seeing He with whom it was made standeth firm, according to the desire of my heart; so that My justice that is satisfied, and My Law, hath nothing to say, for there is no want of perfection in the sacrifice of Christ. If you love your souls, and would have them live in the peace of God, to the which you are called in one body, even all believers, then I beseech you seriously to ponder, and labour to settle in your souls this one thing, that the new covenant is not broken by our transgressions, and that because it was not made with us. The reason why the very saints of God have so many ups and downs in this their travel towards Heaven, it is because they are so weak in the faith of this one thing; for they think that if they fail of this or that particular performance, if their hearts be dead and cold, and their lusts mighty and strong, therefore now God is angry, and now He will shut them out of His favour, now the new covenant is broken, and now Christ Jesus will stand their Friend no longer; now also the devil hath power again, and now they must have their part in the resurrection of damnation; when, alas! the covenant is not for all this never the more broken, and so the grace of God no more straitened than it was before. Therefore, I say, when thou findest that thou art weak here, and failing there, backward to this good, and thy heart forward to that evil; then be sure thou keep a steadfast eye on the Mediator of this new covenant, and be persuaded that it is not only made with Him, and His part also fulfilled, but that He doth look upon His fulfilling of it, so as not to lay thy sins to thy charge, though He may as a Father chastise thee for the same—"If His children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless," mark "nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from HIM, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips." And what was that? Why, that "His seed shall endure for ever, and His throne as the sun before Me" (Psa 89:30-34,36).
7. Another privilege that the saints have by virtue of the new covenant is, that they have part of the possession or hold of Heaven and Glory already, and that two manner of ways—(1.) The Divine nature is conveyed from Heaven into them; and, secondly, the human nature, i.e., the nature of man, is received up, and entertained in, and hath got possession of Heaven. We have the first-fruits of the Spirit, saith the man of God; we have the earnest of the Spirit, which is instead of the whole, for it is the earnest of the whole—"Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph 1:13,14; Rom 8:8-11). (2.) The nature of man, our nature is got into glory as the first-fruits of mankind, as a forerunner to take possession till we all come thither (1 Cor 15:20). For the Man born at Bethlehem is ascended, which is part of the lump of mankind, into glory as a public Person, as the first-fruits, representing the whole of the children of God; so that in some sense it may be said that the saints have already taken possession of the kingdom of Heaven by their Jesus, their public Person, He being in their room entered to prepare a place for them (John 14:1-4). I beseech you consider, when Jesus Christ came down from Glory, it was that He might bring us to Glory; and that He might be sure not to fail, He clothed Himself with our nature, as if one should take a piece out of the whole lump instead of the whole, until the other comes, and investeth it in that glory which He was in before He came down from Heaven (Heb 2:14,15). And thus is that saying to be understood, speaking of Christ and His saints, which saith, "And" He "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6).
8. Again, not only thus, but all the power of God, together with the rest of His glorious attributes, are on our side, in that they dwell in our nature, which is the Man Jesus, and doth engage for us poor, simple, empty, nothing creatures as to our eternal happiness (1 Peter 1:5). "For in Him," that is, in the Man Christ, who is our nature, our Head, our root, our flesh, our bone, "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9,10). Mark how they are joined together, "In whom dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead. And ye are complete in Him." God dwelleth completely in Him, and you also are completely implanted in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power; and all this by the consent of the Father—"For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell" (Col 1:19). Now mark, the Godhead doth not dwell in Christ Jesus for Himself only, but that it may be in a way of righteousness conveyed to us, for our comfort and help in all our wants—"All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth," saith He (Matt 28:18). And then followeth, "And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Verse 20). "He hath received gifts for men, yea for the rebellious" (Psa 68:18). "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16). And this the saints cannot be deprived of, because the covenant made with Christ, in every tittle of it, was so completely fulfilled as to righteousness, both active and passive, that justice cannot object anything; holiness now can find fault with nothing; nay, all the power of God cannot shake anything that hath been done for us by the Mediator of the new covenant; so that now there is no Covenant of Works to a believer; none of the commands, accusations, condemnations, or the least tittle of the old covenant to be charged on any of those that are the children of the second covenant; no sin to be charged, because there is no law to be pleaded, but all is made up by our middle man, Jesus Christ. O blessed covenant! O blessed privilege! Be wise, therefore, O ye poor drooping souls that are the sons of this second covenant, and "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not entangled AGAIN," nor terrified in your consciences, "with the yoke of bondage"; neither the commands, accusations, or condemnations of the Law of the old covenant (Gal 5:1).