Object. But surely, if the day of grace was not past with me, I should not be so long without an answer of God's love to my soul; that therefore doth make me mistrust my state the more is, that I wait and wait, and yet am not delivered.
Answ. 1. Hast thou waited on the Lord so long as the Lord hath waited on thee? It may be the Lord hath waited on thee these twenty, or thirty, yes, forty years or more, and thou hath not waited on Him seven years. Cast this into thy mind, therefore, when Satan tells thee that God doth not love thee, because thou hast waited so long without an assurance, for it is his temptation, for God did wait longer upon thee, and was fain to send to thee by His ambassadors time after time; and, therefore, say thou, I will wait to see what the Lord will say unto me; and the rather, because He will speak peace, for He is the Lord thereof. But, 2. Know that it is not thy being under trouble a long time that will be an argument sufficiently to prove that thou art past hopes; nay, contrariwise, for Jesus Christ did take our nature upon Him, and also did undertake deliverance for those, and bring it in for them who "were all their LIFETIME subject to bondage" (Heb 2:14,15).
Object. But alas! I am not able to wait, all my strength is gone; I have waited so long, I can wait no longer.
Answ. It may be thou hast concluded on this long ago, thinking thou shouldst not be able to hold out any longer; no, not a year, a month, or a week; nay, it may be, not so long. It may be in the morning thou hast thought thou shouldst not hold out till night; and at night, till morning again; yet the Lord hath supported thee, and kept thee in waiting upon Him many weeks and years; therefore that is but the temptation of the devil to make thee think so, that he might drive thee to despair of God's mercy, and so to leave off following the ways of God, and to close in with thy sins again. O therefore do not give way unto it, but believe that thou shalt "see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord" (Psa 28:13,14). And that thou mayest so do, consider these things—(1.) If thou, after thou hast waited thus long, shouldst now give over, and wait no longer, thou wouldst lose all thy time and pains that thou hast taken in the way of God hitherto, and wilt be like to a man that, because he sought long for gold, and did not find it, therefore turned back from seeking after it, though he was hard by it, and had almost found it, and all because he was loath to look and seek a little further. (2.) Thou wilt not only lose thy time, but also lose thy own soul, for salvation is nowhere else but in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). (3.) Thou wilt sin the highest sin that ever thou didst sin before, in drawing finally back, insomuch that God may say, My soul shall have no pleasure in him (Heb 10:38). But, 2. Consider, thou sayest, all my strength is gone, and therefore how should I wait? Why, at that time when thou feelest and findest thy strength quite gone, even that is the time when the Lord will renew and give thee fresh strength. "The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa 40:30,31).
Object. But though I do wait, yet if I be not elected to eternal life, what good will all my waiting do me? "For it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." Therefore, I say, if I should not be elected, all is in vain.
Answ. 1. Why in the first place, to be sure thy backsliding from God will not prove thy election, neither thy growing weary of waiting upon God. But, 2. Thou art, it may be, troubled to know whether thou art elected; and, sayest thou, If I did but know that, that would encourage me in my waiting on God. Answ. I believe thee; but mark, thou shalt not know thy election in the first place, but in the second—that is to say, thou must first get acquaintance with God in Christ, which doth come by thy giving credit to His promises, and records which He hath given of Jesus Christ's blood and righteousness, together with the rest of His merits—that is, before thou canst know whether thou are elected, thou must believe in Jesus Christ so really, that thy faith laying hold of, and drinking and eating the flesh and blood of Christ, even so that there shall be life begotten in thy soul by the same; life from the condemnings of the Law; life from the guilt of sin; life over the filth of the same; life also to walk with God in His Son and ways; the life of love to God the Father, and Jesus Christ His Son, saints and ways and that because they are holy, harmless, and such that are altogether contrary to iniquity.
For these things must be in thy soul as a forerunner of thy being made acquainted with the other; God hath these two ways to show His children their election—(1.) By testimony of the Spirit—that is, the soul being under trouble of conscience and grieved for sin, the Spirit doth seal up the soul by its comfortable testimony; persuading of the soul that God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven all those sins that lie so heavy on the conscience, and that do so much perplex the soul, by showing it that that Law, which doth utter such horrible curses against it, is by Christ's blood satisfied and fulfilled (Eph 1:13,14). (2.) By consequence—that is, the soul finding that God hath been good unto it, in that He hath showed it its lost state and miserable condition, and also that He hath given it some comfortable hope that He will save it from the same; I say, the soul, from a right sight thereof, doth, or may, draw this conclusion, that if God had not been minded to have saved it, He would not have done for it such things as these. But for the more sure dealing with thy soul, it is not good to take any of these apart—that is, it is not good to take the testimony of the Spirit, as thou supposest thou hast, apart from the fruits thereof, so as to conclude the testimony thou hast received to be a sufficient ground without the other; not that it is not, if it be the testimony of the Spirit, but because the devil doth also deceive souls by the workings of his spirit in them, pretending that it is the Spirit of God. And again; thou shouldst not satisfy thyself, though thou do find some seekings in thee after that which is good, without the testimony of the other—that is to say, of the Spirit—for it is the testimony of two that is to be taken for the truth; therefore, say I, as thou shouldst be much in praying for the Spirit to testify assurance to thee, so also thou shouldst look to the end of it when thou thinkest thou hast it; which is this, to show thee that it is alone for Christ's sake that thy sins are forgiven thee, and also thereby a constraining of thee to advance Him, both by words and works, in holiness and righteousness all the days of thy life. From hence thou mayst boldly conclude thy election—"Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father. Knowing, brethren," saith the Apostle, "beloved, your election of God." But how? why by this, "For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: so that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. And to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which" hath "delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 3:4-6, 10).
Object. But alas, for my part, instead of finding in me anything that is good, I find in me all manners of wickedness, hard-heartedness, hypocricy, coldness of affection to Christ, very great unbelief, together with everything that is base and of an ill savour. What hope therefore can I have?
Answ. If thou wast not such an one, thou hadst no need of mercy. If thou wast whole, thou hadst no need of the physician. Dost thou therefore see thyself in such a sad condition as this? Thou hast the more need to come to Christ, that thou mayst be not only cleansed from these evils, but also that thou mayst be delivered from that wrath they will bring upon thee, if thou dost not get rid of them, to all eternity.
Quest. But how should I do? and what course should I take to be delivered from this sad and troublesome condition?
Answ. Dost thou see in thee all manner of wickedness? The best way that I can direct a soul in such a case is, to pitch a steadfast eye on Him that is full, and to look so steadfastly upon Him by faith, that thereby thou mayst even draw down of His fullness into thy heart; for that is the right way, and the way that was typed out, before Christ came in the flesh, in the time of Moses, when the Lord said unto him, "Make thee a fiery serpent" of brass, which was a type of Christ "and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass" that when a serpent hath bitten any man, "when he looketh upon it, shall live" (Num 21:8). Even so now in Gospel times, when any soul is bitten with the fiery serpents—their sins—that then the next way to be healed is, for the soul to look upon the Son of Man, who, as the serpent was, was hanged on a pole, or tree, that whosoever shall indeed look on Him by faith may be healed of all their distempers whatever (John 3:14,15).
As now to instance in some things. 1. Is thy heart hard? Why, then, behold how full of bowels and compassion is the heart of Christ towards thee, which may be seen in His coming down from Heaven to spill His heart-blood for thee. 2. Is thy heart slothful and idle? Then see how active the Lord Jesus is for thee in that He did not only die for thee, but also in that He hath been ever since His ascension into Heaven making intercession for thee (Heb 7:25). 3. Dost thou see and find in thee iniquity and unrighteousness? Then look up to Heaven, and see there a righteous Person, even thy righteous Jesus Christ, now presenting thee in His own perfection before the throne of His Father's glory (1 Cor 1:30). 4. Dost thou see that thou art very much void of sanctification? Then look up, and thou shalt see that thy sanctification is in the presence of God a complete sanctification, representing all the saints as righteous, as sanctified ones in the presence of the great God of Heaven. And so whatsoever thou wantest, be sure to strive to pitch thy faith upon the Son of God, and behold Him steadfastly, and thou shalt, by so doing, find a mighty change in thy soul. For when we behold Him as in a glass, even the glory of the Lord, we are changed, namely, by beholding, "from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18). This is the true way to get both comfort to thy soul, and also sanctification and right holiness into thy soul.
Poor souls that are under the distemper of a guilty conscience, and under the workings of much corruption, do not go the nearest way to Heaven if they do not in the first place look upon themselves as cursed sinners by Law; and yet at that time they are blessed, for ever blessed saints by the merits of Jesus Christ. "O wretched man that I am," saith Paul; and yet, O blessed man that I am, through my Lord Jesus Christ; for that is the scope of the Scripture (Rom 7:24,25).
Object. But, alas, I am blind, and cannot see; what shall I do now?
Answ. Why, truly, thou must go to Him that can make the eyes that are blind to see, even to our Lord Jesus, by prayer, saying, as the poor blind man did, "Lord, that I might receive my sight"; and so continue begging Him, till thou do receive sight, even a sight of Jesus Christ, His death, blood, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and that for thee, even for thee. And the rather, because, 1. He hath invited thee to come and buy such eye-salve of Him that may make thee see (Rev 3:18). 2. Because thou shalt never have any true comfort till thou dost thus come to see and behold the Lamb of God that hath taken away thy sins (John 1:29). 3. Because that thereby thou wilt be able through grace, to step over and turn aside from the several stumbling-blocks that Satan, together with his instruments, hath laid in our way, which otherwise thou wilt not be able to shun, but will certainly fall when others stand, and grope and stumble when others go upright, to the great prejudice of thy poor soul.
Object. But, alas, I have nothing to carry with me; how then should I go?
Answ. Hast thou no sins? If thou hast, carry them, and exchange them for His righteousness; because He hath said, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee" (Psa 54:22); and again, because He hath said, though thou be heavy laden, yet if thou do but come to Him, He will give thee rest (Matt 11:28).
Object. But, you will say, Satan telleth me that I am so cold in prayers, so weak in believing, so great a sinner, that I do go so slothfully on in the way of God, that I am so apt to slip at every temptation, and to be entangled therewith, together with other things, so that I shall never be able to attain those blessed things that are held forth to sinners by Jesus Christ; and therefore my trouble is much upon this account also, and many times I fear that will come upon me which Satan suggesteth to me—that is, I shall miss of eternal life.
Answ. 1. As to the latter part of the objection, that thou shalt never attain to everlasting life, that is obtained for thee already, without thy doing, either thy praying, striving, or wrestling against sin. If we speak properly, it is Christ that hath in His own body abolished death on the Cross, and brought light, life, and glory to us through this His thus doing. But this is the thing that thou aimest at, that thou shalt never have a share in this life already obtained for so many as do come by faith to Jesus Christ; and all because thou art so slothful, so cold, so weak, so great a sinner, so subject to slip and commit infirmities. 2. I answer, Didst thou never learn for to outshoot the devil in his own bow, and to cut off his head with his own sword, as David served Goliath, who was a type of him.
Quest. O how should a poor soul do this? This is rare, indeed.
Answ. Why, truly thus—Doth Satan tell thee thou prayest but faintly, and with very cold devotion? Answer him thus, and say, I am glad you told me, for this will make me trust the more to Christ's prayers, and the less to my own; also I will endeavour henceforth to groan, to sigh, and to be so fervent in my crying at the Throne of Grace, that I will, if I can, make the heavens rattle again with the mighty groans thereof. And whereas thou sayest that I am so weak in believing, I am glad you mind me of it; I hope it will henceforward stir me up to cry the more heartily to God for strong faith, and make me the more restless till I have it. And seeing thou tellest me that I run so softly, and that I shall go near to miss of glory, this also shall be, through grace, to my advantage, and cause me to press the more earnestly towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And seeing thou dost tell me that my sins are wondrous great, hereby thou bringest the remembrance of the unsupportable vengeance of God into my mind, if I die out of Jesus Christ, and also the necessity of the blood, death, and merits of Christ to help me; I hope it will make me fly the faster, and press the harder after an interest in Him; and the rather, because, as thou tellest me, my state will be unspeakably miserable without Him. And so all along, if he tell thee of thy deadness, dullness, coldness, or unbelief, or the greatness of thy sins, answer him, and say, I am glad you told me, I hope it will be a means to make me run faster, seek earnestlier, and to be the more restless after Jesus Christ. If thou didst but get this art as to outrun him in his own shoes, as I may say, and to make his own darts to pierce himself, then thou mightst also say, how doth Satan's temptations, as well as all other things, work together for my good, for my advantage (Rom 8:28).
Object. But I do find many weaknesses in every duty that I do perform, as when I pray, when I read, when I hear, or any other duty, that it maketh me out of conceit with myself, it maketh me think that my duties are nothing worth.
Answ. I answer, it may be it is thy mercy that thou art sensible of infirmities in thy best things thou doest; ay, a greater mercy than thou art aware of.
Quest. Can it me a mercy for me to be troubled with my corruptions? Can it be a privilege for me to be annoyed with my infirmities, and to have my best duties infected with it? How can it possibly be?
Answ. Verily, thy sins appearing in thy best duties, do work for thy advantage these ways—1. In that thou findest ground enough thereby to make thee humble; and when thou hast done all, yet to count thyself but an unprofitable servant. And, 2. Thou by this means art taken off from leaning on anything below a naked Jesus for eternal life. It is like, if thou wast not sensible of many by-thoughts and wickednesses in thy best performances, thou wouldst go near to be some proud, abominable hypocrite, or a silly, proud dissembling wretch at the best, such an one as would send thy soul to the devil in a bundle of thy own righteousness. But now, thou, through grace, seest that in all and everything thou doest there is sin enough in it to condemn thee. This, in the first place, makes thee have a care of trusting in thy own doings; and, secondly, showeth thee that there is nothing in thyself which will do thee any good by working in thee, as to the meritorious cause of thy salvation. No; but thou must have a share in the birth of Jesus, in the death of Jesus, in the blood, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of a crucified Jesus. And how sayest thou? Doth not thy finding of this in thee cause thee to fly from a depending on thy own doings? And doth it not also make thee more earnestly to groan after the Lord Jesus? Yea, and let me tell thee also, it will be a cause to make thee admire the freeness and tender heartedness of Christ to thee, when He shall lift up the light of His countenance upon thee, because He hath regarded such an one as thou, sinful thou; and therefore, in this sense, it will be mercy to the saints that they do find the relics of sin still struggling in their hearts. But this is not simply the nature of sin, but the mercy and wisdom of God, who causeth all things to work together for the good of those that love and fear God (Rom 8). And, therefore, whatever thou findest in thy soul, though it be sin of never so black a soul-scarring nature, let it move thee to run the faster to the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt not be ashamed—that is, of thy running to Him.
But when thou dost apprehend that thou art defiled, and also thy best duties annoyed with many weaknesses, let that Scripture come into thy thoughts which saith, "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption"; and if thou shalt understand that, what thou canst not find in thyself thou shalt find in Christ. Art thou a fool in thyself? then Christ is made of God thy wisdom. Art thou unrighteous in thyself? Christ is made of God thy righteousness. Dost thou find that there is but very little sanctifying grace in thy soul? still here is Christ made thy sanctification; and all this in His own Person without thee, without thy wisdom, without thy righteousness, without thy sanctification, without in His own Person in thy Father's presence, appearing there perfect wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification in His own Person; I say, as a public Person for thee; so that thou mayest believe, and say to thy soul, My soul, though dost find innumerable infirmities in thyself, and in thy actions, yet look upon thy Jesus, the Man Jesus; He is wisdom, and that for thee, to govern thee, to take care for thee, and to order all things for the best for thee. He is also thy righteousness now at God's right hand, always shining before the eyes of His glory; so that there it is unmoveable, though thou art in never such a sad condition, yet thy righteousness, which is the Son of God, God-man, shines as bright as ever, and is as much accepted of God as ever. O this sometimes hath been life to me; and so, whatever thou, O my soul, findest wanting in thyself, through faith thou shalt see all laid up for thee in Jesus Christ, whether it be wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, or redemption. Nay, not only so, but, as I said before, He is all these in His own Person without thee in the presence of His Father for thee.
Object. But now, if any should say in their hearts, O, but I am one of the old-covenant men, I doubt—that is, I doubt I am not within this glorious Covenant of Grace. And how if I should not?
Answ. Well, thou fearest that thou are one of the old covenant, a son of the bond-woman. [1.] In the first place, know that thou wast one of them by nature, for all by nature are under that covenant; but set the case that thou art to this day under that, yet let me tell thee, in the first place, there are hopes for thee; for there is a gap open, a way made for souls to come from under the Covenant of Works, by Christ, "for He hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" and you (Eph 2:14). And therefore, if thou wouldst be saved, thou mayest come to Christ; if thou wantest a righteousness, as I said before, there is one in Christ; if thou wouldst be washed, thou mayest come to Christ; and if thou wouldst be justified, there is justification enough in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the first. [2.] And thou canst not be so willing to come to Christ as He is willing thou shouldst come to Him. Witness His coming down from Heaven, His humiliation, His spilling of His blood from both His cheeks, by sweat under the burden of sin (Luke 22:44) and His shedding of it by the spear when He hanged on the Cross. It appears also by His promises, by His invitations, by His sending forth His messengers to preach the same to poor sinners, and threateneth damnation upon this very account, namely, the neglect of Him; and declares that all the thousands and ten thousands of sins in the world should not be able to damn those that believed in Him; that He would pardon all, forgive and pass by all, if they would but come unto Him; moreover, promiseth to cast out none, no, not the poorest, vilest, contemptiblest creature in the whole world. "Come unto Me all," every one, though you be never so many, so vile, though your load be never so heavy and intolerable, though you deserve no help, not the least help, no mercy, not the least compassion, yet "cast your burden upon Me, and you shall find rest for your souls." Come unto Me and I will heal you, love you, teach you, and tell you the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. Come unto Me, and I will succour you, help you, and keep you from all devils and their temptations, from the Law and its curses, and from being for ever overcome with any evil whatever. Come unto Me for what you need, and tell Me what you would have, or what you would have Me do for you, and all My strength, love, wisdom, and interest that I have with My Father shall be laid out for you. Come unto Me, your sweet Jesus, your loving and tender-hearted Jesus, your everlasting and sin-pardoning Jesus. Come unto Me, and I will wash you, and put My righteousness upon you, pray to the Father for you, and send My Spirit into you, that you might be saved. Therefore,
Consider, besides this, what a privilege thou shalt have at the Day of Judgment above thousands, if thou do in deed and in truth close in with this Jesus and accept of Him; for thou shalt not only have a privilege in this life, but in the life everlasting, even at the time of Christ's second coming from Heaven; for then, when there shall be the whole world gathered together, and all the good angels, bad angels, saints, and reprobates, when all thy friends and kindred, with thy neighbours on the right hand and on the left shall be with thee, beholding of the wonderful glory and majesty of the Son of God; then shall the Son of Glory, even Jesus, in the very view and sight of them all, smile and look kindly upon thee; when a smile or a kind look from Christ shall be worth more than ten thousand worlds, then thou shalt have it. You know it is counted an honour for a poor man to be favourably looked upon by a judge, or a king, in the sight of lords, earls, dukes, and princes; why, thus it will be with thee in the sight of all the princely saints, angels, and devils, in the sight of all the great nobles in the world; then, even thou that closest in with Christ, be thou rich or poor, be thou bond or free, wise or foolish, if thou close in with Him, He will say unto thee, "Well done, good and faithful servant," even in the midst of the whole world; they that love thee shall see it, and they that hate thee shall all to their shame behold it; for if thou fear Him here in secret, He will make it manifest even at that day upon the house-tops.
Secondly, Not only thus, but thou shalt also be lovingly received and tenderly embraced of Him at that day, when Christ hath thousands of gallant saints, as old Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, together with all the Prophets, and Apostles, and martyrs, attending on Him; together with many thousands of glittering angels ministering before Him; besides, when the ungodly shall appear there with their pale faces, with their guilty consciences, and trembling souls, that would then give thousands and ten thousands of worlds, if they had so many, if they could enjoy but one loving look from Christ. I say, then, then shalt thou have the hand of Christ, reached to thee kindly to receive thee, saying, Come, thou blessed, step up hither; thou was willing to leave all for Me, and now will I give all to thee; here is a throne, a crown, a kingdom, take them; thou wast not ashamed of Me when thou wast in the world among my enemies, and now will not I be ashamed of thee before thine enemies, but will, in the view of all these devils and damned reprobates promote thee to honour and dignity. "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Thou shalt see that those who have served Me in truth shall lose nothing by the means. No; but ye shall be as pillars in My temple, and inheritors of My glory, and shall have place to walk in among My saints and angels (Zech 3:7). O! who would not be in this condition? who would not be in this glory? It will be such a soul-ravishing glory, that I am ready to think the whole reprobate world will be ready to run mad, to think that they should miss of it (Deu 28:34). Then will the vilest drunkard, swearer, liar, and unclean person willingly cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us," yet be denied of entrance; and thou in the meantime embraced, entertained, made welcome, have a fair mitre set upon thy head, and clothed with immortal glory (Zech 3:5). O, therefore, let all this move thee, and be of weight upon thy soul to close in with Jesus, this tender-hearted Jesus. And if yet, for all what I have said, thy sins do still stick with thee, and thou findest thy hellish heart loath to let them go, think with thyself in this manner—Shall I have my sins and lose my soul? Will they do me any good when Christ comes? Would not Heaven be better to me than my sins? and the company of God, Christ, saints, and angels, be better than the company of Cain, Judas, Balaam, with the devils in the furnace of fire? Canst thou now that readest or hearest these lines turn thy back, and go on in your sins? Canst thou set so light of Heaven, of God, of Christ, and the salvation of thy poor, yet precious soul? Canst thou hear of Christ, His bloody sweat and death, and not be taken with it, and not be grieved for it, and also converted by it? If so, I might lay thee down several considerations to stir thee up to mend thy pace towards Heaven; but I shall not; there is enough written already to leave thy soul without excuse and to bring thee down with a vengeance into Hell-fire, devouring fire, the Lake of Fire, eternal everlasting fire; O to make thee swim and roll up and down in the flames of the furnace of fire!
1 These words are quoted from the Genevan or Breeches Bible (Mark 2:17).—Ed.
2 This quotation is from the Genevan translation (Eph 2:3).—Ed.
3 It is observable that the reason given for the punishment of the murderer with death (Gen 9:6) is taken from the affront he offers to God, not from the injury he does to man.—Scott.
4 The reader need scarcely be reminded, that by "public person" is meant the Saviour, in whom all His people have an equal right. "For He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us" (2 Cor 5:21).—ED.
5 Bunyan's first sight of the spiritual, inward, and extensive requirements of the law filled his heart with despair; see "Grace Abounding," No. 28. It was like the alarming sound of the drum Diabolus mentioned in the "Holy War," which caused Mansoul to shake with terror and dismay. Thus the soul is stripped of self-righteousness, and flies to Christ, whose blood alone cleanseth from all sin.—ED.
6 "Crank," brisk, jolly, lusty, spiritful, buxom.—ED.
7 From the Puritan or Genevan version.—ED.
8 These nine particulars are very methodically arranged, and are all deeply interesting. Very few of those who read the scriptural law of sacrifices see how clearly they pointed as types to Christ the great Antitype.—ED.
9 It is a mark of prying and dangerous, if not wicked curiosity to inquire whether God could have found any other way of salvation than by the atoning death of our blessed Lord. Instead of such vain researches, how much more consistent would it be to call upon our souls, and all that is within us, to bless His name, who hath thus provided abundant pardon, full remission, even to the chief of sinners.—ED.
10 The duty of the priests, under the law, led them to be familiar with the most loathsome and catching diseases; and doubtless they took every precaution to avoid contagion. Poor sin-sick soul, do you consider your state more loathsome and dangerous than the leprosy? Fly to Christ, our High Priest and Physician; He will visit you in the lowest abyss of misery, without fear of contagion, and with full powers to heal and save.—ED.
11 The word "hell" in the two verses means the unseen place of the dead, the invisible world, or the grave.—ED.
12 How awful and vast must have been the sufferings of the Saviour, when He paid the redemption price for the countless myriads of His saints; redeemed "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." How magnificent His glory when "ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands, shall sing with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing, for ever and ever." Such were the ecstatic vision which Bunyan enjoyed, drawn from the unerring pages of eternal truth.—ED.
13 This singular use of the law term "premunire," meaning that the soul has trusted in a foreign jurisdiction, incurred God's anger, and forfeited its liberty and all its goods.—ED.
14 These are solemn truths, in homely, forcible language. Let the soul be convinced that by the obedience of Christ it is released from the law, it has no fear of Satan or of future punishment; Christ is all and in all.—ED.
15 "Indenture"; a written agreement, binding one party to reward the other for specified services. As man is by nature bound to love God with all his soul, he cannot be entitled to any reward for anything beyond his duty. When he feels that he has failed in his obedience, he must fly to Christ for that mercy which he can never obtain by indenture of service or merit and reward.—ED.
16 Same as 15—Ed.
17 Same as 15—Ed.
18 For a deeply affecting account of the author's experience about this period read Grace Abounding, No. 259-261.—ED.
19 "Scrabble"; to go on the hands and feet or knees. See a remarkable illustration of the word "scrabble" in Grace Abounding, No. 335.—ED.
20 As Bunyan was a Baptist, this is full proof that his friends did not ascribe regeneration to water baptism. It is an awful delusion to suppose that immersion in or sprinkling with water can effect or promote the new birth or spiritual regeneration of the soul.—ED.
21 This is one of the very thrilling circumstances described by Bunyan in his Grace Abounding, No. 24:—Sunday sports were then allowed by the State, and after hearing a sermon on the evil of Sabbath-breaking, he went as usual to his sport. On that day it was a game at cat, and as he was about to strike, "a voice did suddenly dart from Heaven into my soul, which said, Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven, or have thy sins and go to Hell?"—ED.
22 The word Man was essential in Bunyan's days, as an antidote to the jargon of the Ranters, who affirmed that Jesus only existed in the heart of the believer.—ED.
23 Same As 20—Ed.
24 Same as 22—Ed.
ISRAEL'S HOPE ENCOURAGED;
WHAT HOPE IS, AND HOW DISTINGUISHED FROM FAITH:
WITH ENCOURAGEMENTS FOR A HOPING PEOPLE.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
'Auspicious hope! in thy sweet garden grow Wreaths for each toil, a charm for every woe.'
Christian hope is a firm expectation of all promised good, but especially of eternal salvation and happiness in heaven, where we shall be like the Son of God. This hope is founded on the grace, blood, righteousness, and intercession of Christ—the earnest of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and the unchangeable truths and enlightening power of God. 'Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as God is pure' (1 John 3:3). Blessed hope! (Titus 2:13). Well might the apostle pray for the believing Romans, 'That ye may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost' (15:13). 'Which is Christ in you the hope of glory' (Col 1:27). This is the sacred, the solemn, the all-important subject which Bunyan in his ripe age makes the theme of his meditations and of his deeply impressive exhortations.
When drawing near the end of his pilgrimage—while in the fullest fruition of his mental powers—he gives the result of his long and hallowed experience to comfort and cherish his fellow pilgrims in their dangerous heaven-ward journey. One of his last labours was to prepare this treatise for the press, from which it issued three years after his decease, under the care of his pious friend Charles Doe.
Here, as drawn from the holy oracles of God, we contemplate Hope, the helmet of salvation, without which our mental powers are exposed to be led captive into despair at the will of Satan. Our venerable author pictures most vividly the Christian's weakness and the power of his enemies; 'Should you see a man that could not go from door to door but he must be clad in a coat of mail, a helmet of brass upon his head, and for his lifeguard a thousand men, would you not say, surely this man has store of enemies at hand?' This is the case, enemies lie in wait for Israel in every hole, he can neither eat, drink, wake, sleep, work, sit still, talk, be silent—worship his God in public or private, but he is in danger. Poor, lame, infirm, helpless man, cannot live without tender—great—rich—manifold—abounding mercies. 'No faith, no hope,' 'to hope without faith is to see without eyes, or expect without reason.' Faith is the anchor which enters within the vail; Christ in us the hope of glory is the mighty cable which keeps us fast to that anchor. 'Faith lays hold of that end of the promise that is nearest to us, to wit, in the Bible—Hope lays hold of that end that is fastened to the mercy-seat.' Thus the soul is kept by the mighty power of God. They who have no hope, enter Doubting Castle of their own free will—they place themselves under the tyranny of Giant Despair—that he may put out their eyes, and send them to stumble among the tombs, and leave their bones in his castle-yard, a trophy to his victories, and a terror to any poor pilgrim caught by him trespassing on Bye-path Meadow. Hope is as a guardian angel—it enables us to come boldly to a throne of grace 'in a goodly sort.' The subject is full of consolation. Are we profanely apt to judge of God harshly, as of one that would gather where he had not strawn? Hope leads us to form a holy and just conception of the God of love. 'Kind brings forth its kind, know the tree by his fruit, and God BY HIS MERCY IN CHRIST. What has God been doing for and to his church from the beginning of the world, but extending to and exercising loving-kindness and mercy for them? Therefore he laid a foundation for this in mercy from everlasting.' 'There is no single flowers in God's gospel garden, they are all double and treble; there is a wheel within a wheel, a blessing within a blessing in all the mercies of God; they are manifold, a man cannot receive one but he receives many, many folded up one within another.' Bless the Lord, O my soul!!
Reader, my deep anxiety is that you should receive from this treatise the benefits which its glorified author intended it to produce. It is accurately printed from the first edition. My notes are intended to explain obsolete words or customs or to commend the author's sentiments. May the Divine blessing abundantly replenish our earthen vessels with this heavenly hope.
2. Pilgrim's Progress.
Israel's Hope Encouraged;
'Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.'—Psalms 130:7
This Psalm is said to be one of 'the Psalms of Degrees,' which some say, if I be not mistaken, the priests and Levites used to sing when they went up the steps into the temple. But to let that pass, it is a psalm that gives us a relation of the penman's praying frame, and of an exhortation to Israel to hope in God.
Verse 1. 'Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord'; that is, out of deep or great afflictions, and said, 'Lord, hear my voice, let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.' The latter words explain the former; as who should say, By voice I mean the meaning and spirit of my prayer. There are words in prayer, and spirit in prayer, and by the spirit that is in prayer, is discerned whether the words be dead, lifeless, feigned, or warm, fervent, earnest; and God who searcheth the heart, knoweth the meaning of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Rom 8:27). Verse 3. 'If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?' Here he confesseth, that all men by the law must fall before God for ever; for that they have broken it, but cannot make amends for the transgression thereof. But, he quickly bethinking himself of the mercy of God in Christ, he saith, verse 4, 'But there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared.' Then he returns, saying, verse 5, 'I wait for the Lord,' that is, in all his appointments; yea, he doubleth it, saying, 'My soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.' By which repetition he insinuates, that many are content to give their bodily presence to God in his appointments, while their hearts were roving to the ends of the earth; but for his part he did not so. Verse 6. 'My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning, I say, more than they that watch for the morning.' As who should say, even as it is with those that are tired with the night, either by reason of dark or wearisome journies, or because of tedious sickness, to whom the night is most doleful and uncomfortable, waiting for spring of day; so wait I for the Lord, that his presence might be with my soul. So and more too I say, 'More than they that wait for the morning.' Then he comes to the words which I have chosen for my text, saying, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.'
In which words we have, FIRST, AN EXHORTATION; SECOND, A REASON OF THAT EXHORTATION; and THIRD, AN AMPLIFICATION OF THAT REASON. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord'; there is the exhortation; 'For with the Lord there is mercy'; there is the reason of it; 'And with him is plenteous redemption'; there is the amplification of that reason.
[FIRST. AN EXHORTATION.]
In the exhortation there are three things to be inquired into. FIRST, The matter contained in it; SECOND, The manner by which it is expressed; THIRD, The inferences that do naturally flow therefrom.
[FIRST. The matter contained in the exhortation.]
We will speak first to the matter contained in the text, and that presenteth itself unto us under three heads. First, A duty. Second, A direction for the well management of that duty. Third, The persons that are so to manage it.
First, Then, to speak to the duty, and that is HOPE; 'Let Israel HOPE.' By which word there is something pre-admitted, and something of great concern insinuated.
That which is pre-admitted is faith; for when we speak properly of hope, and put others distinctly to the duty of hoping, we conclude that such have faith already; for no faith, no hope. To hope without faith, is to see without eyes, or to expect without a ground: for 'Faith is the substance of things hoped for,' as well with respect to the grace, as to the doctrine of faith (Heb 11:1). Doth such a one believe? No. Doth he hope? Yes. If the first is true, the second is a lie; he that never believed, did never hope in the Lord. Wherefore, when he saith, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord,' he pre-supposeth faith, and signifieth that he speaketh to believers.
That which is of great concern insinuated, is, that hope has in it an excellent quality to support Israel in all its troubles. Faith has its excellency in this, hope in that, and love in another thing. Faith will do that which hope cannot do. Hope can do that which faith doth not do, and love can do things distinct from both their doings. Faith goes in the van, hope in the body, and love brings up the rear: and thus 'now abideth faith, hope,' and 'charity' (1 Cor 13:13). Faith is the mother-grace, for hope is born of her, but charity floweth from them both.
But a little, now we are upon faith and hope distinctly, to let you see a little. 1. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17), hope by experience (Rom 5:3,4). 2. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, hope by the credit that faith hath given to it (Rom 4:18). 3. Faith believeth the truth of the Word, hope waits for the fulfilling of it. 4. Faith lays hold of that end of the promise that is next to us, to wit, as it is in the Bible; hope lays hold of that end of the promise that is fastened to the mercy-seat; for the promise is like a mighty cable, that is fastened by one end to a ship, and by the other to the anchor: the soul is the ship where faith is, and to which the hither end of this cable is fastened; but hope is the anchor that is at the other end of this cable, and which entereth into that within the vail. Thus faith and hope getting hold of both ends of the promise, they carry it safely all away. 5. Faith looketh to Christ, as dead, buried, and ascended; and hope to his second coming (1 Cor 15:1-4). Faith looks to him for justification, hope for glory (Rom 4:1-8). 6. Faith fights for doctrine, hope for a reward (Acts 26:6,7). Faith for what is in the bible, hope for what is in heaven (Col 1:3-5). 7. Faith purifies the heart from bad principles (1 John 5:4,5). Hope from bad manners (2 Peter 3:11,14; Eph 5:8; 1 John 3:3). 8. Faith sets hope on work, hope sets patience on work (Acts 28:20, 9:9). Faith says to hope, look for what is promised; hope says to faith, So I do, and will wait for it too. 9. Faith looks through the word to God in Christ; hope looks through faith beyond the world to glory (Gal 5:5).
Thus faith saves, and thus hope saves. Faith saves by laying hold of God by Christ (1 Peter 1:5). Hope saves by prevailing with the soul to suffer all troubles, afflictions, and adversities that it meets with betwixt this and the world to come, for the sake thereof (Rom 8:24). Take the matter in this plain similitude. There was a king that adopted such a one to be his child, and clothed him with the attire of the children of the king, and promised him, that if he would fight his father's battles, and walk in his father's ways, he should at last share in his father's kingdoms. He has received the adoption, and the king's robe, but not yet his part in the kingdom; but now, hope of a share in that will make him fight the king's battles, and also tread the king's paths. Yea, and though he should meet with many things that have a tendency to deter him from so doing, yet thoughts of the interest promised in the kingdom, and hopes to enjoy it, will make him out his way through those difficulties, and so save him from the ruin that those destructions would bring upon him, and will, in conclusion, usher him into a personal possession and enjoyment of that inheritance. Hope has a thick skin, and will endure many a blow; it will put on patience as a vestment, it will wade through a sea of blood, it will endure all things, if it be of the right kind, for the joy that is set before it. Hence patience is called, 'Patience of hope,' because it is hope that makes the soul exercise patience and long-suffering under the cross, until the time comes to enjoy the crown (1 Thess 1:3). The Psalmist, therefore, by this exhortation, persuadeth them that have believed the truth, to wait for the accomplishment of it, as by his own example he did himself—'I wait for the Lord,' 'my soul waiteth,' 'and in his word do I hope.' It is for want of hope that so many brisk professors that have so boasted and made brags of their faith, have not been able to endure the drum in the day of alarm and affliction. Their hope in Christ has been such as has extended itself no further than to this life, and therefore they are of all men the most miserable.
The Psalmist therefore, by exhorting us unto this duty, doth put us in mind of four things. I. That the best things are yet behind, and in reversion for the saints. II. That those that have believed, will yet meet with difficulties before they come at them. III. The grace of hope well exercised, is the only way to overcome these difficulties. IV. They therefore that have hope, and do exercise it as they should, shall assuredly at last enjoy that hope that is laid up for them in heaven.
I. For the first of these, that the best things are yet behind, and in reversion for believers; this is manifest by the natural exercise of this grace. For 'hope that is seen, is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it' (Rom 8:24,25). Hope lives not by sight, as faith doth; but hope trusteth faith, as faith trusts the Word, and so bears up the soul in a patient expectation at last to enjoy what God has promised. But I say, the very natural work of this grace proveth, that the believer's best things are behind in reversion.
You may ask me, what those things are? and I may tell you, first, in general, they are heavenly things, they are eternal things, they are the things that are where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (John 3:12; 2 Cor 4:18; Col 3:1). Do you know them now? They are things that 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor that have entered into the heart of man to conceive of' (Isa 64:4; 1 Cor 2:9). Do you know them now? They are things that are referred to the next world, for the saints when they come into the next world; talked of they may be now, the real being of them may be believed now, and by hope we may, and it will be our wisdom to wait for them now; but to know what they are in the nature of them, or in the enjoyment of them, otherwise than by faith, he is deceived that saith it. They are things too big as yet to enter into our hearts, and things too big, if they were there to come out, or to be expressed by our mouths.
There is heaven itself, the imperial heaven; does any body know what that is? There is the mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the innumerable company of angels; doth any body know what all they are? There is immortality and eternal life: and who knows what they are? There are rewards for services, and labour of love showed to God's name here; and who knows what they will be? There are mansion-houses, beds of glory, and places to walk in among the angels; and who knows what they are? There will be badges of honour, harps to make merry with, and heavenly songs of triumph; doth any here know what they are? There will be then a knowing, an enjoying and a solacing of ourselves with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and all saints; but in what glorious manner we all are ignorant of. There we shall see and know, and be with for ever, all our relations, as wife, husband, child, father, mother, brother, or sister that have died in the faith; but how gloriously they will look when we shall see them, and how gloriously we shall love when we are with them, it is not for us in this world to know (1 Thess 4:16,17). There are thoughts, and words, and ways for us, which we never dreamed on in this world. The law was but the shadow, the gospel the image; but what will be the substance that comes to us next, or that rather we shall go unto, who can understand? (Heb 10:1). If we never saw God nor Christ as glorified, nor the Spirit of the Lord, nor the bottom of the Bible, nor yet so much as one of the days of eternity,, and yet all these things we shall see and have them, how can it be that the things laid up for us, that should be the object of our hope, should by us be understood in this world? Yet there are intimations given us of the goodness and greatness of them.
1. Of their goodness, and that, (1.) In that the Holy Ghost scorns that things that are here should once be compared with them; hence all things here are called vanities, nothings, less than nothings (Isa 40:15-17). Now, if the things, all the things that are here, are so contemptuously considered, when compared with the things that are to be hereafter, and yet these things so great in the carnal man's esteem, as that he is willing to venture life and soul, and all to have them, what are the things that God has prepared for them that wait, that is, that hope for him? (2.) Their goodness also appears in this, that whoever has had that understanding of them, as is revealed in the Word, whether king or beggar, wise mean or fool, he has willingly cast this world behind him in contempt and scorn, for the hope of that (Psa 73:25; Heb 11:24-26, 37-40). (3.) The goodness of them has even testimony in the very consciences of them that hate them. Take the vilest man in the country, the man who is so wedded to his lusts, that he will rather run the hazard of a thousand hells than leave them; and ask this man his judgment of the things of the next world, and he will shake his head, and say, They are good, they are best of all. (4.) But the saints have the best apprehension of their goodness, for that the Lord doth sometimes drop some of the juice of them out of the Word, into their hungry souls.
2. But as they are good, so they are great: 'O how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust,' that hope, 'in thee before the sons of men!' (Psa 31:19). (1.) Their greatness appears, in that they go beyond the Word; yea, beyond the word of the Holy Ghost; it doth not yet appear to us by the Word of God to the full, the greatness of what is prepared for God's people. 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be' (1 John 3:2). It doth not appear in the Word; there is a greatness in the things that we are to hope for, that could never be expressed: they are beyond word, beyond thought, beyond conceiving of! Paul, when he was come down again from out of paradise, into which he was caught up, could not speak a word about the words he heard, and the things that there he saw. They were things and words which he saw and heard, 'which it is not possible for a man to utter.' (2.) Their greatness is intimated by the word Eternal; he that knows the bottom of that word, shall know what things they are. 'The things which are not seen are eternal' (2 Cor 4:18). They are 'incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away,' reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:4). (3.) Their greatness is showed in that one right thought of them will fill the heart so full, that both it and the eyes will run over together; yea, so full, that the creature shall not be able to stand up under the weight of glory that by it is laid upon the soul. Alas! all the things in this world will not fill one heart; and yet one thought that is right, of the things that God has prepared, and laid up in heaven for us, will, yea, and over fill it too. (4.) The greatness of the things of the next world appears, in that when one of the least of them are showed to us, we are not able, without support from thence, to abide the sight thereof. I count that the angels are of those things that are least in that world; and yet the sight of one of them, when the sight of them was in use, what work would it make in the hearts and minds of mortal men, the scripture plainly enough declares (John 13:22). (5.) Their greatness is intimated, in that we must be as it were new made again, before we can be capable of enjoying them, as we must enjoy them with comfort (Luke 20:36). And herein will be a great part of our happiness, that we shall not only see them, but be made like unto them, like unto their King. For 'when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2). We shall see him, and therefore must be like him, for else the sight of him would overcome us and destroy us; but because we are to see him with comfort and everlasting joy, therefore we must be like him in body and mind (Rev 1:17; Phil 3:20,21).
II. But to come to the second thing, namely, That those that have believed, there are such things as these, will meet with difficulties before they come at them. This is so grand a truth, that nothing can be said against it. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; and we must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). The cause from whence these afflictions arise is known to be,
1. From ourselves; for sin having got such hold in our flesh, makes that opposition against our soul and the welfare of that, that puts us continually to trouble. Fleshly lusts work against the soul, and so do worldly lusts too (1 Peter 2:11); yea, they quench our graces, and make them that would live, 'ready to die' (Rev 3:2). Yea, by reason of these, such darkness, such guilt, such fear, such mistrust, ariseth in us, that it is common for us, if we live any while, to make a thousand conclusions, twice told, that we shall never arrive with comfort at the gates of the kingdom of heaven. The natural tendency of every struggle of the least lust against grace is, if we judge according to carnal reason, to make us question the truth of a work of grace in us, and our right to the world to come. This it was that made Paul cry out, 'O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me!' (Rom 7:24). Only he had more wisdom than to follow the natural conclusions that carnal reason was apt to make thereupon, and so hoisted up his soul to hope.
2. Sin, by its working in us, doth not only bring darkness, guilt, fear, mistrust, and the like; but it doth oft-times as it were hamstring us, and disable us from going to God by faith and prayer for pardon. It makes the heart hard, senseless, careless, lifeless, spiritless as to feeling, in all Christian duty; and this is a grievous thing to a gracious soul. The other things will create a doubt, and drive it up to the head into the soul; but these will go on the other side and clench it. Now all these things make hoping difficult.
3. For by these things the judgment is not only clouded, and the understanding greatly darkened, but all the powers of the soul made to fight against itself, conceiving, imagining, apprehending, and concluding things that have a direct tendency to extirpate and extinguish, if possible, the graces of God that are planted in the soul; yea, to the making of it cry out, 'I am cut off from before thine eyes!' (Psa 31:22).
4. Add to these, the hidings of the face of God from the soul; a thing to it more bitter than death; yet nothing more common among them that hope in the Lord. He 'hideth his face from the house of Jacob!' (Isa 8:17). Nor is this done only in fatherly displeasure, but by this means some graces are kept alive; faith is kept alive by the word, patience by hope, and hope by faith; but oft-times a spirit of prayer, by the rod, chastisement, and the hiding of God's face (Hosea 5:14,15; Isa 26:16; Cant 5:6). But I say, this hiding of this sweet face is bitter to the soul, and oft-times puts both faith and hope to a sad and most fearful plunge. For at such a day, it is with the soul as with the ship at sea, that is benighted and without light; to wit, like a man bewildered upon the land; only the text saith, for the help and succour of such, 'Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God' (Isa 50:10). Yet as it is with children, so it is with saints; we are a great deal more subject to fears in the night than in the day. That, therefore, that tendeth to the help of some graces, if there be not great care taken, will prove an hindrance to others.
5. Nor is the ruler of the darkness of this world wanting to apply himself and his engines, so as, if possible, to make use of all these things for the overthrowing of faith, and for the removing of our hope from the Lord, as a tree is removed from rooting in the ground (Job 19:10). Behold! he can expound all things, so as that they shall fall directly in the way of our believing. As thus, we have sin, therefore we have no grace; sin struggleth in us, therefore we fear not God; something in us sideth with sin, therefore we are wholly unregenerate; sin is in our best performances, therefore wherefore should I hope? Thus I say, he can afflict us in our pilgrimage, and make hope difficult to us. Besides the hiding of God's face, he can make not only a cause of sorrow, for that indeed it should, but a ground of despair, and as desperately concluding he will never come again. How many good souls has he driven to these conclusions, who afterwards have been made to unsay all again?
6. And though spiritual desertions, darkness of soul, and guilt of sin, are the burdens most intolerable, yet they are not all; for there is to be added to all these, that common evil of persecution, another device invented to make void our hope. In this, I say, we are sure to be concerned; that is, if we be godly. For though the apostle doth not say, 'All that will live in Christ,' that is, in the common profession of him, shall suffer persecution; yet he saith, 'All that will live godly in him shall' (2 Tim 3:12). Now this in itself is a terror to flesh and blood, and hath a direct tendency in it to make hope difficult (1 Peter 3:6,14). Hence men of a persecuting spirit, because of their greatness, and of their teeth (the laws), are said to be a terror, and to carry amazement in their doings; and God's people are apt to be afraid of them though they should die, and to forget God their Maker; and this makes hoping hard work (Isa 51:12,13).
7. For besides that grimness that appears in the face of persecutors, Satan can tell how to lessen, and make to dwindle in our apprehensions, those truths unto which our hearts have joined themselves afore, and to which Christ our Lord has commanded us to stand. So that they shall now appear but little, small, inconsiderable things; things not worth engaging for; things not worth running those hazards for, that in the hour of trial may lie staring us in the face. Moreover, we shall not want false friends in every hole, such as will continually be boring our ears with that saying, Master, do good to thyself. At such times also, 'stars' do use to 'fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken'; and so every thing tends to weaken, or at least to lay stumbling-blocks in their way, who are commanded to hope in the Lord (Matt 24).
8. Again, as Satan can make use of his subtilty, thus to afflict and weaken the hands and hearts of those that hope in God, so he can add to these the dismalness of a suffering state. He can make the loss of goods, in our imagination, ten times bigger than it is in itself; he can make an informer a frightful creature, and a jail look like hell itself; he can make banishment and death utterly intolerable, and things that must be shunned with the hazard of our salvation. Thus he can greaten and lessen, lessen and greaten, for the troubling of our hearts, for the hindering of our hope.
9. Add to all these, that the things that we suffer for were never seen by us, but are quite beyond our sight: things that indeed are said to be great and good; but we have only the word and the Bible for it. And be sure if he that laboureth night and day to devour us, can help it, our faith shall be molested and perplexed at such a time, that it may, if possible, be hard to do the commandment that here the text enjoins us to the practice of; that is, to hope in the Lord. And this brings me to the third particular.
III. That the grace of hope well exercised, is the only way to overcome those difficulties.—Abraham had never laughed for joy, had he not hoped when the angel brought him tidings of a son; yea, had he not hoped against all things that could have been said to discourage (Gen 17:17). Hence it is said, that 'against hope' he 'believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be' (Rom 4:18). There is hope against hope; hope grounded on faith, against hope grounded on reason. Hope grounded on reason, would have made Abraham expect that the promise should surely have been ineffectual, because of the deadness of Abraham's body, and of the barrenness of Sarah's womb. But he hoped against the difficulty, by hope that sprang from faith, which confided in the promise and power of God, and so overcame the difficulty, and indeed obtained the promise. Hope, therefore, well exercised, is the only way to overcome. Hence Peter bids those that are in a suffering condition, 'Be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:13). And therefore it is, as you heard before, that we are said to be 'saved by hope' (Rom 8:24).
Hope is excellent, 1. Against those discouragements that arise up out of our bowels. 2. It is excellent to embolden a man in the cause of God. 3. It is excellent at helping one over the difficulties that men, by frights and terrors may lay in our way.
1. It is excellent to help us against those discouragements that arise out of our own bowels (Rom 4). This is clear in the instance last mentioned about Abraham, who had nothing but discouragements arising from himself; but he had hope, and as well he exercised it; wherefore, after a little patient enduring, he overcame the difficulty, and obtained the promise (Heb 6:13-18). The reason is, for that it is the nature of true hope to turn away its ear from opposing difficulties, to the word and mouth of faith; and perceiving that faith has got hold of the promise, hope, notwithstanding difficulties that do or may attempt to intercept, will expect, and so wait for the accomplishment thereof.
2. Hope is excellent at emboldening a man in the cause of God. Hence the apostle saith, 'Hope maketh not ashamed'; for not to be ashamed there, is to be emboldened (Rom 5:5). So again, when Paul speaks of the troubles he met with for the profession of the gospel, he saith, that they should turn to his salvation. 'According,' saith he, 'to my earnest expectation, and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death' (Phil 1:19,20). See here, a man at the foot of the ladder, now ready in will and mind, to die for his profession; but how will he carry it now? Why, with all brave and innocent boldness! But how will he do that? O! By the hope of the gospel that is in him; for by that he is fully persuaded that the cause he suffereth for will bear him up in the day of God, and that he shall then be well rewarded for it.
3. It is also excellent at helping one over those difficulties that men, by frights and terrors, may lay in our way. Hence when David was almost killed with the reproach and oppression of his enemies, and his soul full sorely bowed down to the ground therewith; that he might revive and get up again, he calls to his soul to put in exercise the grace of hope, saying, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God' (Psa 42:11). So again saith he in the next Psalm after, as afore he had complained of the oppression of the enemy, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God' (Psa 43:5). Hope, therefore, is a soul-encouraging grace, a soul-emboldening grace, and a soul-preserving grace. Hence it is called our helmet or head-piece, the helmet of salvation (Eph 6:17; 1 Thess 5:8). This is one piece of the armour with which the Son of God was clothed, when he came into the world; and it is that against which nothing can prevail (Isa 49:17). For as long as I can hope for salvation, what can hurt me! This word spoken in the blessed exercise of grace, I HOPE FOR SALVATION, drives down all before it. The truth of God is that man's 'shield and buckler' that hath made the Lord his hope (Psa 91:4).
[Encouragements to exercise this grace.]—And now to encourage thee, good man, to the exercise of this blessed grace of hope as the text bids, let me present thee with that which followeth. 1. God, to show how well he takes hoping in him at our hands, has called himself 'the God of hope' (Rom 15:13), that is, not only the author of hope, but the God that takes pleasure in them that exercise it, 'The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy' (Psa 147:11). 2. He will be a shield, a defence to them that hope in him. 'Thou art my hiding-place and my shield,' saith David, 'I hope in thy word'; that is, he knew he would be so; for he hoped in his word (Psa 119:114). 3. He has promised us the life we hope for, to encourage us still to hope, and to endure all things to enjoy it (Titus 1:2). 'That he that ploweth should plow in hope, and that he that thresheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope' (1 Cor 9:10).
Quest. But you may say, What is it to exercise this grace aright?
Answ. 1. You must look well to your faith, that that may prosper, for as your faith is, such your hope will be. Hope is never ill when faith is well; nor strong if faith be weak. Wherefore Paul prays that the Romans might be filled 'with all joy and peace in believing,' that they might 'abound in hope' (Rom 15:13). When a man by faith believes to joy and peace, then hope grows strong, and with an assurance looketh for a share in the world to come. Wherefore look to your faith, and pray heartily that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing. 2. Learn of Abraham not to faint, stumble, or doubt, at the sight of your own weakness; for if you do, hope will stay below, and creak in the wheels as it goes, because it will want the oil of faith. But say to thy soul, when thou beginnest to faint and sink at the sight of these, as David did to his, in the places made mention of before. 3. Be much in calling to mind what God has done for thee in former times. Keep thy experience as a choice thing (Rom 5:4). 'Remember all the way the Lord led thee these forty years in the wilderness' (Deut 8:2). 'O my God,' saith David, 'my soul is cast down within me, therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites from the hill Mizar' (Psa 42:6). 4. Be much in looking at the end of things, or rather to the end of this, and to the beginning of the next world. What we enjoy of God in this world, may be an earnest of hope, or a token that the thing hoped for is to be ours at last; but the object of hope is in general the next world (Heb 11:1). We must therefore put a difference betwixt the mother of hope, Faith; the means of hope, the Word; the earnest of hope, Christ in us; and the proper object of hope, to wit, the world to come, and the goodness thereof (Psa 119:49; Col 1:27).
If Christians have not much here, their hope, as I may so say, lies idle, and as a grace out of its exercise. For as faith cannot feed upon patience, but upon Christ, and as the grace of hungering and thirsting cannot live upon self-fulness, but upon the riches of the promise; so hope cannot make what is enjoyed its object: 'for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?' (Rom 8:24). But the proper object of hope is, that we see not. Let faith then be exercised upon Christ crucified for my justification, and hope upon the next world for my glorification; and let love show the truth of faith in Christ, by acts of kindness to Christ and his people; and patience, the truth of hope, by a quiet bearing and enduring that which may now be laid upon me for my sincere profession's sake, until the hope that is laid up for us in heaven shall come to us, or we be gathered to that, and then hope is in some measure in good order, and exercised well. But,
IV. We now come to the last thing propounded to be spoken to, which is, they that have hope and exercise it well, shall assuredly at last enjoy that hope that is laid up for them in heaven; that is, they that do regularly exercise the grace of hope shall at last enjoy the object of it, or the thing hoped for. This must of necessity be concluded, else we overthrow the whole truth of God at once, and the expectation of the best of men; yea, if this be not concluded, what follows, but that Atheism, unbelief, and irreligion, are the most right, and profane and debauched persons are in the rights way?
1. But to proceed, this must be, as is evident; for that the things hoped for are put under the very name of the grace that lives in the expectation of them. They are called HOPE; 'looking for that blessed hope'; 'for the hope that is laid up for them in heaven' (Titus 2:13; Col 1:5). God has set that character upon them, to signify that they belong to hope, and shall be the reward of hope. God doth in this, as your great traders do with the goods that their chapmen have either bought or spoke for; to wit, he sets their name or mark upon them, and then saith, This belongs to this grace, and this belongs to that; but the kingdom of heaven belongs to HOPE, for his name is set upon it. This therefore is one thing, to prove that the thing hoped for shall be thine; God has marked it for thee: nor can it be given to those that do not hope. That is, to the same purpose that you read of, 'That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer' (2 Thess 1:5). Suffering flows from hope; he that hopes not for an house in heaven, will not for it choose to suffer the loss of the pleasures and friendships of this world. But they that suffer for it, and that all do, one way or other, in whom is placed this grace of hope, they God counteth worthy of it, and therefore, hath marked it with their mark, HOPE; for that it belongs to hope, and shall be given to those that hope. That is the first.
2. They that do, as afore is said, exercise this grace of hope, shall assuredly enjoy the hope that is laid up for them in heaven, as is evident also from this; because, as God has marked and set it apart for them, so what he has done to and with our Lord and Head, since his death, he hath done it to this very end; that is, to beget and maintain our hope in him as touching this thing. He 'hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead' (1 Peter 1:3). The meaning is, Christ is our undertaker, and suffered death for us, that we might enjoy happiness and glory: and God, to show how wiling he was that we should have this glory, raised up Christ again, and delivered him from their sorrows of death. Wherefore, considering this, Paul said, 'He rejoiced in hope of the glory of God'; to wit, of that glory, that sin, had he not had Jesus for his undertaker, would have caused that he should certainly have come short of (Rom 3:23, 5:2). But, again, God 'raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory,' too, and that to this very end, 'that your faith and hope might be in God' (1 Peter 1:21). I say, he did it to this very end, that he might beget in you this good opinion of him, as to hope in him, that he would give you that good thing hoped for—to wit, eternal life. He 'gave him glory,' and put it into his hand for you who is your head and Saviour, that you might see how willing God is to give you the hope you look for, 'that your faith and hope might be in God.'
3. That we that have hope and rightly exercise it, might assuredly enjoy that hope that is laid up for us in heaven: God has promised it, and that to our Saviour for us. Had he promised it to us, we might yet have feared, for that with our faults we give a cause of continual provocation to him. But since he hath promised it to Christ, it must assuredly come to us by him, because Christ, to whom it is promised, never gave occasion of provocation to him to take it back. And that it was promised to Christ, it is evident, because it was promised before the world began: 'In hope of eternal life,' saith Paul, 'which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began' (Titus 1:2). And this is, that we might hope. Men that use to hope to enjoy that money or estate, that by those that are faithful is promised to them, and put into the hands of trusty persons for them; why this is the case, God that cannot lie, has promised it to the hopers, and has put it into the hand of the trusty Jesus for us, therefore let us hope that in his times we shall both see and enjoy the same we hope for.
4. Yea, that all ground of doubt and scruple as to this might be removed out of the way, when Christ, who as to what was last said, is our hope (1 Tim 1:1), shall come, he shall bring that grace and mercy with him that shall even from before his judgment-seat remove all those things that might have any tendency in them to deprive us of our hope, or of the thing hoped for by us. Hence Peter bids us, 'Be sober and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:13). Also as to this, Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, joins with him, saying, 'Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life' (Jude 21). Here then you see that there is grace and mercy still for us in reversion; grace and mercy to be brought unto us at the revelation, or second coming of Jesus Christ. How then can we be hindered of our hope? For transporting mercy will then be busy for them that indeed have here the hope of eternal life. 'And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him' (Mal 3:17). None knows the mystery of God's will in all things revealed in his Word. Therefore many texts are looked over, or laid by, as those whose key doth go too hard; nor will I boast of any singular knowledge in any particular thing. Yet methinks since grace and mercy was not only brought by Christ when he came into the world, but shall be brought again with him when he comes in his Father's glory, it signifies, that as the first brought the beginning of eternal life to us while we were enemies, this second will bring the full enjoyment of it to us while we are saints, attended with many imperfections. And that as by the first grace of all unworthiness was pardoned and passed by; so by this second grace, the grace that is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, all shortness in duties, and failings in performances, shall be spared also; and we made possessors by virtue of this grace and mercy of the blessings hoped for, to wit, the blessings of eternal life. But thus much for the duty contained in the exhortation, to wit, of hoping.
[Second. A direction to the well managing of the duty of hope.]
I shall therefore come, in the next place, to treat of the well managing of this duty with reference to this primary object, which is the Lord himself. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' There is a general object of hope, and there is a particular object; there is a common object, and there is a special one. Of the general and common object, to wit, of heaven and happiness, I have said something already; wherefore it remains that now we come and treat of this particular and special object of our hope: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' The Lord, therefore, is to be the particular and special object of our hope: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' Now in that there is not only a duty here exhorted to, but a direction for the better management of that duty, to the particular and special object upon which this duty should be exercised, it suggesteth, how apt good men are, especially in times of trouble, the case of Israel now, to fix their hopes in other things than on the Lord. We have seen a great deal of this in our days; our days indeed have been days of trouble, especially since the discovery of the Popish plot, for then we began to fear cutting of throats, of being burned in our beds, and of seeing our children dashed in pieces before our faces. But looking about us, we found we had a gracious king, brave parliaments, a stout city, good lord-mayors, honest sheriffs, substantial laws against them, and these we made the object of our hope, quite forgetting the direction in this exhortation, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' For indeed the Lord ought to be our hope in temporals, as well as in spirituals and eternals. Wherefore Israel of old were checked, under a supposition of placing their hope for temporals in men; 'It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in princes' (Psa 118:8,9). And again, 'Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help' (Psa 146:3). This implieth that there is in us an incidency to forget God our hope, and to put confidence in something else. And to be sure we shall find it the more difficult to make the Lord our hope only, when things that are here, though deceitfully, proffer us their help. But my design is not to treat of the object of hope but with reference to the next world. And as to that we must take heed that we set our hope in God, in God in the first place, and in nothing below or besides himself. To this end it is that he has given us his word, and appointed a law to Israel.
I. Because of his own grace he is become the special object of hope, designating himself in the most special sense to be the portion of his people (Psa 78:5-7)—'The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will I hope in him' (Lam 2:24). Wherefore this we must look well to, and take heed that we miss not of this object (Psa 146:5). This is the special object, the ultimate object, the object that we cannot be without; and that, short of which, we cannot be happy as, God willing, shall be showed more anon (Jer 50:7). God is not only happiness in himself, but the life of the soul, and he that puts goodness into every thing in the next world, in which goodness shall be found (Jer 17:13). And this our Lord Jesus Christ himself affirmeth, when he saith, 'I am the way,' to wit, the way to life and happiness. And yet he saith, 'I am the way to the Father,' for that it is HE that is the fountain and ocean of happiness and bliss.
So then, that we might in the next world be heirs of the highest good, God has made us heirs of his own good self; 'Heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ'; heirs of God through Christ (Rom 18:17; Gal 4:7). This God, this eternal God, therefore, is of necessity to be the object of our hope, because he is, of grace, become our hope. The church in heaven, called the body and temple of God, is to be an habitation for himself, when it is finished, to dwell in for ever and ever. This then we hope for, to wit, to be possessed at that day with eternal life; eternal glory (1 Tim 6:12,19). Now this eternal life and eternal glory is through God the hope of his people (1 Peter 5:10; 1 John 5:20). And for this end, and to this bliss, are we called and regenerate in this world, 'That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life' (Titus 3:7). Nor can it be, that heaven and happiness should ever be the portion of them that make not God their hope, any more than such a lady should hope to enjoy the estate of such a lord, who first makes not the lord himself her husband. Heaven, heaven is the talk of the ignorant, while the God of heaven they cannot abide. But shall such ever come to glory? But,
II. God must be the special object of our hope, and him in special that must be enjoyed by us in the next world, or nothing can make us happy. We will suppose now, for the illustrating of this matter, that which is not to be supposed. As,
1. Suppose a man, when he dieth, should go to heaven, that golden place, what good would this do him, if he was not possessed of the God of it? It would be, as to sweetness, but a thing unsavoury; as to durableness, but a thing uncertain; as to society, as a thing forlorn; and as to life, but a place of death. All this is made to appear by the angels that fell; for when fallen, what was heaven to them? Suppose they staid but one quarter of an hour there after their fall, before they were cast out, what sweetness found they there, but guilt? What stay, but a continual fall of heart and mind? What society, but to be abandoned of all? And what life, but death in its perfection? Yea, if it be true that some think, that for the promoting of grace, they are admitted yet to enter that place to accuse the saints on earth, yet what do they find there but what is grievous to them? It is the presence of God that makes heaven Heaven in all its beauteousness. Hence David, when he speaks of heaven, says, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee?' (Psa 73:25). As who should say, What would heaven yield to me for delights, if I was there without my God? It is the presence of God that will make heaven sweet to those who are his. And as it is that that makes the place, so it is interest in him that makes the company, and the deeds that are done there, pleasant to the soul. What solace can he that is without God, though he were in heaven, have with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the prophets and angels? How could he join in their thanks, and praises, and blessings of him for ever and ever, in whose favour, mercy, and grace, they are not concerned?
2. Suppose a man, when he dieth, should be made to live for ever, but without the enjoyment of God, what good would his life do him? Why, it would be filled full of horror, darkness, desolation, sorrow, and all things that would tend to make it bitter to the soul. Witness they that live in hell; if it be proper to say they live in hell? It is no more possible for a man to live happily, were he possessed of all that heaven and life could afford him, suppose him to be without interest in God, than it is for a man that hath all the enjoyments of this world, if the sun was taken from him out of the firmament. As all things, whether it be heaven, angels, heavenly pleasures and delights, have had their being of him, so their being is continued by him, and made sweet of him.
Now, for the well managing of our hope, with reference to this special object of it, there are these things to be considered. And now I speak to all. We must know him right, we must come to him right. (1.) We must know him right. It is essential to happiness, and so to the making of the God of heaven our hope, to know him rightly (John 17:1-3). It is not every fancy, or every imagination of God, that thou mayst have, that will prove that therefore thou knowest God aright. In him there 'is no variableness, neither shadow of turning' (James 1:17). He only is what he is, what imaginations soever we have of him. We may set up idols and images of him, as much in our minds as some do in their houses and in their temples, and be as great, though not so gross idolaters as they. Now if thou wouldst know him, thou must diligently feel for him in his works, in his Word, and in his ways, if perhaps thou mayst find the knowledge of him (Prov 2:1-5; Acts 17:27). (2.) Beware, when thou hast found him, that thou go to him by his Son, whom he has sanctified and sent into the world, to be the way for sinners to go to God; and see that thou keepest in this path always, for out of him he is found intolerable, and a consuming-fire. (3.) Busy thyself with all thy might to make an interest in his Son, and he will willingly be thy Saviour, for he must become thine before his Father can be the object of thy hope (John 3:36). He that hath the Son, hath the Father, but contrariwise, he that hath not him has neither (2 John 9). (4.) Stay not in some transient comforts, but abide restless till thou seest an union betwixt thee and this Blessed One; to wit, that he is a root, and thou a branch; that he is head, and thou a member. And then shalt thou know that the case is so between thee and him, when grace and his Spirit has made thee to lay the whole stress of thy justification upon him and has subdued thy heart and mind to be 'one spirit' with him (Rom 4:4,5; 1 Cor 6:17). (5.) This done, hope thou in God, for he is become thy hope, that is, the object of it. And for thy encouragement so to do, consider that he is able to bear up thy heart, and has said he will do it, as to this very thing, to all those that thus hope in him. 'Be of good courage and he shall strengthen thine heart,' all ye that hope in the Lord (Psa 31:24). It is manifest, as was said before, that many difficulties lie in the way of hoping; but God will make those difficulties easy, by strengthening the heart of him that hopeth, to hope. He has a way to do that, which no creature can hinder, by the blessed work of his Holy Spirit. He can show us he loves us, that he may encourage our hope. And as he can work in us for our encouragement, so he can and will, as was said before, himself, in his time, answer our hope, by becoming our hope himself. 'The Lord shall be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel' (Joel 3:16).
His faithfulness also is a great encouragement to his, to hope for the accomplishment of all that he hath promised unto his people. 'Hath he said it, and shall he not make it good?' When he promised to bring Israel into the land of Canaan, he accomplished it to a tittle. 'There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass' (Josh 21:45, 23:14). Also what he with his mouth had promised to David, with his hand he fulfilled to Solomon in the view of all the thousands of Israel (1 Kings 8:22-24; 2 Chron 6:7-10).
[Third. The persons who are concerned in the management of this duty of hope.]
I will omit making mention again of the encouragements spoken of before, and shall now come to the third thing specified in this part of the text, to wit, to show more distinctly, who, and what particular persons they are, who are concerned in this exhortation to hope.
They are put, as you see, under this general term Israel; 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' And, 'He shall save Israel from all his troubles.' Israel is to be taken three ways, in the Scripture. 1. For such that are Israel after the flesh. 2. For such as are such neither after the flesh nor the Spirit; but in their own fancies and carnal imaginations only. 3. For such as are Israel after God, or the Spirit.
1. Israel is to be taken for those that are such after the flesh; that is, for those that sprang from the loins of Jacob, and are called, 'Israel after the flesh, the children of the flesh.' Now these, as such, are not the persons interested in this exhortation, for by the flesh comes no true spiritual and eternal grace (Rom 9:6-8; 2 Cor 1:10-18). Men are not within the bounds of the promise of eternal life, as they are the children of the flesh, either in the more gross or more refined sense (Phil 3:4-6). Jacob was as spiritual a father as any HE, I suppose that now professeth the gospel; but his spiritualness could not convey down to this children, that were such only after the flesh, that spirit and grace that causeth sound conversion, and salvation by Jesus Christ. Hence Paul counts it a carnal thing to glory in this; and tells us plainly, If he had heretofore known Christ thus, that is, to have been his brother or kinsman, according to the flesh, or after that, he would henceforth know him, that is, so, 'no more' (2 Cor 5:16-18). For though the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet not that multitude, but the remnant that the Lord hath chosen and shall call, shall be saved (Rom 9:27; Joel 2:32). This, therefore, is as an arrow against the face of that false doctrine that the Jews leaned upon, to wit, that they were in the state of grace, and everlasting favour of God, because the children and offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But,
2. Israel may be taken for such as are neither so after the flesh, nor the Spirit, but in their own fancy and imagination only. And such I take to be all those that you read of in Revelation 2:9 which said 'they were Jews, and were not,' 'but did lie' (3:9).
These I take to be those carnal gospellers, that from among the Gentiles pretended themselves to be Jews inwardly, whose circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit, when they were such only in their own fancies and conceits, and made their profession out as a lie (Rom 2:28,29). Abundance of these there are at this day in the world; men who know neither the Father, nor the Son, nor anything of the way of the Spirit, in the work of regeneration; and yet presume to say, 'They are Jews'; that is, truly and spiritually the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 'For' now, 'he is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart in the spirit,—whose praise is not of men, but of God.' And although it may please some now to say, as they of old said to them of the captivity, 'We seek your God as ye do' (Ezra 4:2); yet at last it will be found, that as they, such have 'no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem' (Neh 2:20). And I would from hence caution all to take heed of presuming to count themselves Jews, unless they have a substantial ground so to do. For to do this without a good bottom, makes all our profession a lie; and not only so, but it hindereth us of a sight of a want of an interest in Jesus Christ, without which we cannot be saved; yea, such an one is the great self-deceiver, and so the worst deceiver of all: for he that deceives his own self, his own heart, is a deceiver in the worst sense; nor can any disappointment be like unto that which casts away soul and body at once (James 1:22,26). O slender thread! that a man should think, that because he fancieth himself 'an Israelite indeed,' that therefore he shall go for such an one in the day of judgment; or that he shall be able to cheat God with a pitiful say-so!