THE SINNER WARNED.
Thy bed, when thou liest down in it, preacheth to thee thy grave; thy sleep, thy death; and thy rising in the morning, thy resurrection to judgment.
Wouldst thou know, sinner, what thou art? look up to the cross, and behold a weeping, bleeding, dying Jesus; nothing could do but that, nothing could save thee but his blood: angels could not, saints could not, God could not, because he could not lie, because he could not deny himself.
What a thing is sin, that it should sink all that bear its burden; yea, it sunk the Son of God himself into death and the grave, and had also sunk him into hell-fire for ever, had he not teen the Son of God, had he not been able to take it on his hack and bear it away.
O this Lamh of God! Sinners were going to hell; Christ was the delight of his Father, and had a whole heaven to himself; hut that did not content him, heaven could not hold him, he must come into the world to save sinners.
Aye, and had he not come thy sins had sunk thee, thy sins had provoked the wrath of God against thee to thy destruction for ever. There is no man hut is a sinner; there is no sin hut would damn an angel, should God lay it to his charge.
Sinner, the doctrine of Christ crucified cries therefore aloud unto thee, that sin has made thy condition dreadful. See yourselves, your sins, and consequently the condition that your souls are in by the death and blood of Christ Christ's death gives us the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins.
I say again, if sin he so dreadful a thing as to break the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor, wretched, impenitent, damned sinner wrestle with the wrath of God?
Awake, sinners; you are lost, you are undone, you perish, you are damned; hell-fire is your portion for ever, if you abide in your sins, and be found without a Saviour in the dreadful day of judgment.
Sinner, doth not all this discourse make thy heart twitter after the mercy that is with God, and after the way that is made by this plenteous redemption thereto? Methinks it should; yea, thou couldest not do otherwise, didst thou but see thy condition. Look behind thee, take a view of the path thou hast trodden these many years. Dost thou think that the way that thou art in will lead thee to the strait gate, sinner? Ponder the path of thy feet with the greatest seriousness; thy life lies upon it; what thinkest thou? But make no answer till in the night, till thou art in the night-watches; commune with thine own heart upon thy hed, and there say what thou thinkest of whither thou art going.
Oh that thou wert serious! Is not it a thing to be lamented, that madness and folly should be in thy heart while thou livest, and after that to go to the dead; when so much life stands before thee, and light to see the way to it? Surely men void of grace and possessed of carnal minds must either think that sin is nothing, that hell is easy, and that eternity is short; or else that whatever God has said about the punishing of sinners, he will never do as he has said; or that there is no sin, no God, no heaven, no hell, and so no good or bad hereafter; or else they could not live as they do. But perhaps thou presumest upon it, and sayest, I shall have peace, though I live so sinful a life. Sinner, if this wicked thought be in thy heart, tell me again, dost thou thus think in earnest? Canst thou imagine thou shalt at the day of account outface God, or make him believe thou wast what thou wast not; or that when the gate is shut up in wrath, he will at thy pleasure and to the reversing of his own counsel, open it again to thee? Why shall thy deceived heart turn thee aside, that thou canst not deliver thy soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Friend, because it is a dangerous thing to be walking towards the place of darkness and anguish, and because notwithstanding, it is the journey that most of the poor souls in the world are taking, I have thought it my duty for preventing thee, to tell thee what sad success those souls have had that have persevered therein. Why, friend, it may be—nay, twenty to one, thou hast had thy back to heaven and thy face towards hell ever since thou didst come into the world. Why, I beseech thee, put a little stop to thy earnest race, and take a view of what entertainment thou art like to have, if thou do in deed and in truth persist in thy course. "Thy ways lead down to death, and thy steps to hell." It may he, indeed, the path is pleasant to the flesh, but the end thereof will he bitter to thy soul. Hark! dost thou not hear the bitter cries of them that are newly gone before thee, saying, "Let him dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame!" Dost thou not hear them say, "Send one from the dead, to prevent my father, my brother, my father's house, from coming to this place of torment!" Shall not these mournful groans pierce thy flinty heart? Wilt thou stop thine ears and shut thine eyes? And wilt thou NOT regard? Take warning, and stop thy journey before it be too late. Wilt thou he like the silly fly, that is not quiet unless she be either entangled in the spider's web or burnt in the candle? O sinner, sinner, there are better things than HELL to be had! There is heaven, there is God, there is Christ, there is communion with an innumerable assembly of saints and angels!
The poor, carnal, ignorant world miss of heaven, even because they love their sins and cannot part with them John 3:9, 20.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they stop their ears against convictions, and refuse to come when God calls. Prov. 1: 24-29.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because the god of this world hath blinded their eyes, that they can neither see the evil and damnable state they are in at present, nor the way to get out of it; neither do they see the beauty of Jesus Christ, nor how willing he is to save poor sinners. 2 Cor. 4: 2, 3.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they defer coming to Christ until the time of God's patience and grace is over. Some indeed are resolved never to come; but some again say, "We will come hereafter;" and so it comes to pass, that because God called and they did not hear, so "they shall cry and I will not hear," saith the Lord. Zech. 7: 11-13.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they have false apprehensions of God's mercy. They say in their hearts, "We shall have peace, though we walk in the imagination of our heart." Deut. 29: 19-21.
The poor ignorant world miss of heaven, because they make light of the gospel that offers mercy to them freely, and because they lean upon their own good meanings and thinkings and doings. Matt. 22: 1-5; Rom. 9: 30, 31.
The poor carnal world miss of heaven, because by unbelief, which reigns in them, they are kept for ever from being clothed with Christ's righteousness, and from washing in his blood, without which there is no remission of sin nor justification.
Blush, sinner, blush! Ah, that thou hadst grace to blush.
My first word shall be to the openly profane. Poor sinner, thou readest that many that expect heaven will go without heaven. What sayest thou to this, poor sinner? If judgment begins at the house of God, what will be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? This is Peter's question: canst thou answer it, sinner? Yea, I say again, if judgment must begin at them, will it not make thee think, What shall become of me? And I add, when thou shalt see the stars of heaven tumble down to hell, canst thou think that such a muck-heap of sin as thou art shall be lifted up to heaven? Peter asks thee another question: "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" Canst thou answer this question, sinner? Stand among the righteous thou mayst not: "The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment." Stand among the wicked thou then wilt not dare to do: where wilt thou appear, sinner? To stand among the hypocrites will avail thee nothing: "The hypocrite shall not come before him," that is, with acceptance, "but shall perish."
Because it concerns thee much, let me over with it again. When thou shalt see less sinners than thou art bound up by angels in bundles to burn them, where wilt thou appear, sinner? Thou mayst wish thyself another man, but that will not help thee, sinner. Thou mayst wish, "Would I had been converted in time;" but that will not help thee neither. And if, like the wife of Jeroboam, thou shouldst feign thyself to be another, the prophet, the Lord Jesus, would soon find thee out. What wilt thou do, poor sinner? Heavy tidings, heavy tidings will attend thee, except thou repent, poor sinner!
Sluggard, art thou asleep still? art thou resolved to sleep the sleep of death? Will neither tidings from heaven nor hell awake thee? Wilt thou say still, "Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to sleep?"
O that I was one that was skilful in lamentation, and had but a yearning heart towards thee, how would I pity thee; how would I bemoan thee! Poor soul, lost soul, dying soul, what a hard heart have I that I cannot mourn for thee! If thou shouldst lose but a limb, a child, or a friend, it would not be so much; but, poor man, it is thy soul: if it was to lie in hell but for a day, but for a year, nay, ten thousand years, it would in comparison be nothing; but O it is for ever! O this cutting EVER!
Sinner, awake; yea, I say unto thee, awake! Sin lieth at thy door, and God's axe lieth at thy root, and hell-fire is right underneath thee. I say again, awake. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire.
Poor sinner, awake: Eternity is coming, and his Son; they are both coming to judge the world: awake; art yet asleep, poor sinner? let me set the trumpet to thine ear once again. The heavens will he shortly on a burning flame; the earth and the works thereof shall be burned up, and then wicked men shall go into perdition: dost thou hear this, sinner?
Hark again: the sweet morsels of sin will then be fled and gone, and the bitter, burning fruits of them only left. What sayst thou now, sinner? canst thou drink hell-fire? will the wrath of God be a pleasant dish to thy taste? This must be thine every day's meat and drink in hell, sinner.
I will yet propound to thee God's ponderous question, and then for this time leave thee: "Can thine heart endure, or can thy hands be strong in the day that I shall deal with thee, saith the Lord?" What sayst thou? Wilt thou answer this question now; or wilt thou take time to do it; or wilt thou be desperate and venture all? And let me put this text in thine ear to keep it open, and so the Lord have mercy upon thee: "Upon the wicked shall the Lord rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup." Repent, sinners.
Conscience hath its place in the soul, where it is as a judge to discern of things good or bad, and judge them accordingly. Romans 2: 14. This conscience is that in which is the law of nature, I Cor. 11: 14, which is able to teach the Gentiles that sin against the law is sin against God.
Now this conscience, this nature itself, because it can control and chide them for sin who give ear unto it—must it therefore be idolized and made a god of? O wonderful! that men should make a God and a Christ of their consciences because they can convince of sin.
Thou gayest, He that convinces of sins against the law, leads up to the fulfilling of the law.. Friend, thy conscience convinces of sins against the law: follow thy conscience, and it may lead thee under the curse of the law, through its weakness; but it can never deliver thee from the curse of the law by its power. For if righteousness come by obedience to the law, or by thy conscience either, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal. 2: 21.
A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
This must needs be a blessed help in distress, for a man to have a good conscience when affliction hath taken hold on him; for a man then, in his looking behind and before, to return with peace to his own soul, that man must needs find honey in this lion.
This is the way to maintain always the answer, the echoing answer of a good conscience in thy own soul. Godliness is of great use this way; for the man that hath a good conscience to God-ward, hath a continual feast in his own soul: while others say there is casting down, he shall say there is lifting up; for God shall save the humble person. Some indeed, in the midst of their profession, are reproached, smitten, and condemned of their own heart, their conscience still biting and stinging them because of the uncleanness of their hands; and they cannot lift up their face unto God, they have not the answer of a good conscience towards him, but must walk as persons false to their God and as traitors to their own eternal welfare. But the godly upright man shall have the light shine upon his ways, and he shall take his steps in butter and honey. The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance for ever. "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God."
A TENDER CONSCIENCE.
A tender conscience is to some people like Solomon's brawling woman, a burthen to those that have it; but let it be to thee like those that invited David to go up to the house of the Lord.
A GUILTY CONSCIENCE.
"And Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God." These latter words are spoken, not to persuade us that men can hide themselves from God, but that Adam and those that are his by nature will seek to do it, because they do not know him aright. These words therefore further show us what a bitter thing sin is to the soul; it is only for hiding-work, sometimes under its fig-leaves, sometimes among the trees of the garden. O what a shaking, starting, timorous evil conscience is a sinful, guilty conscience: especially when it is but a little awakened, it could run its head into every hole, first by one fancy, then by another; for the power and goodness of a man's own righteousness cannot withstand or answer the demands of the justice of God and his holy law.
There is yet another witness for the condemning transgressors of these laws, and that is conscience: "Their consciences also bearing witness," says the apostle. Conscience is a thousand witnesses. Conscience! it will cry amen to every word that the great God doth speak against thee. Conscience is a terrible accuser; it will hold pace with the witness of God, as to the truth of evidence, to a hair's breadth. The witness of conscience, it is of great authority; it commands guilt and fastens it on every soul which it accuses. Conscience will thunder and lighten at the day of judgment; even the consciences of the most pagan sinners in the world will have sufficient wherewith to accuse, to condemn, and to make paleness appear in their faces and breaking in their loins, by reason of the force of its conviction. O the mire and dirt that a guilty conscience, when it is forced to speak, will cast up and throw out before the judgment-seat. It must out; none can speak peace nor health to that man upon whom God has let loose his own conscience. Cain will now cry, "My punishment is greater than I can bear;" Judas will hang himself; and both Belshazzar and Felix will feel the joints of their loins to be loosened, and their knees to smite one against another, when conscience stirreth.
When conscience is once thoroughly awakened, as it shall be before the judgment-seat, God will need say no more to the sinner than Solomon said to filthy Shimei, "Thou knowest all the wickedness that thy heart is privy to." As who should say, "Thy conscience knows, and can well inform thee of all the evil and sin that thou art guilty of." To all which it answers even as face answers a face in a glass; or as an echo answers the man that speaks: as fast, I say, as God chargeth, conscience will cry out, "Guilty, guilty, Lord; guilty of all, of every whit; I remember clearly all the crimes thou layest before me." Thus will conscience be a witness against the soul in the day of God.
V. THE LAW.
ITS NATURE AND EFFECTS.
THE law is the chief and most pure resemblance of the justice and holiness of the heavenly Majesty, and doth hold forth to all men the sharpness and keenness of his wrath.
This is the rule and line and plummet whereby every act of every man shall be measured; and he whose righteousness is not found every way answerable to this law, which all will fall short of but they that have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ, he must perish.
The law is spiritual, I am carnal. Therefore every requirement is rejected and rebelled against. Strike a steel against a flint, and the fire flies about you. Strike the law against a carnal heart, and sin appears, sin multiplies, sin rageth, sin is strengthened.
Sin seen in the glass of the law is a terrible thing; no man can behold it and live. "When the commandment came, sin revived and I died;" when it came from God to my conscience, as managed by an almighty arm, then it slew me. And now is the time to confess sin, because now a soul knows what it is, and sees what it is, both in the nature and consequence of it.
He that is under the law is under the edge of the axe.
The proper work of the law is to slay the soul, and leave it dead, in a helpless state.
The law has laid all men for dead as they come into the world; but all men do not see themselves dead, until they see the law that struck them dead striking in their souls and having struck them that fatal blow. As a man that is fast asleep in a house, and that on fire about his ears, and he not knowing it because he is asleep; even so because poor souls are asleep in sin, though the wrath of God, the curse of his law, and the flames of hell have beset them round about, yet they do not believe it because they are asleep in sin. Now, as he that is awakened and sees this, sees that through this he is a dead man, even so they that see their state by nature, being such a sad condition, do also see themselves by that law to be dead men naturally.
Take heed of fleshly wisdom. Reasoning suiteth much with the law: "I thought verily that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus," and so to have sought for life by the law. For thus reason will say, Here is a righteous law, the rule of life and death; besides, what can be better than to love God, and my neighbor as myself? Again, God has thus commanded, and his commands are just and good; therefore, doubtless, life must come by the law. Further, to love God and keep the law, are better than to sin and break it; and seeing men lost heaven by sin, how should they get it again but by working righteousness? Besides, God is righteous, and will therefore bless the righteous. O the holiness of the law! It mightily swayeth with reason when a man addicts himself to religion. The light of nature teaches that sin is not the way to heaven; and seeing no word doth more condemn sin, than the words of the ten commandments, it must needs be therefore the most perfect rule for holiness. Wherefore, says reason, the safest way to life and glory is to keep myself close to the law. But though the law indeed be holy, yet the mistake as to the matter in hand is as wide as the east from the west; for therefore the law can do thee no good, because it is holy and just; for what can he that has sinned expect from a law that is holy and just? Naught but condemnation. "There is one that accuseth you, even. Moses in whom ye trust."
Here is the poison; to set this law in the. room of a Mediator, as those do who seek to stand just before God thereby. And then nothing is so dishonorable to Christ, nor of so soul-destroying a nature as the law; for that, thus placed, has not only power when souls are deluded, but power to delude by its real holiness, the understanding, conscience, and reason of a man; and by giving the soul a semblance of heaven, to cause it to throw away Christ, grace, and faith.
Alas, he who boasteth himself in the works of the law, he doth not hear the law. When that speaks, it shakes mount Sinai, and writeth death upon all faces, and makes the church itself cry out, A Mediator! else we die.
The law out of Christ is terrible as a lion; the law in him is meek as a lamb.
FAITHFUL. "So I went on my way up the hill. Now when I had got about half-way up, I looked behind me and saw one coming after me swift as the wind; so he overtook me just about the place where the settle stands.
"So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow; for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, 'Because of thy secret inclination to Adam the first;' and with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backwards; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. When I came to myself again, I cried to him for mercy; but he said, 'I know not how to show mercy;' and with that knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that one came by and bid him forbear."
CHRISTIAN. "Who was it that bid him forbear?"
FAITHFUL. "I did not know him at first, but as he went by I perceived the holes in his hands and his side; then I concluded that he was our Lord. So I went up the hill."
CHRISTIAN. "The man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to show mercy to those that transgress his law."
FAITHFUL. "I know it very well; it was not the first time that he has met with me. It was he that came to me when I dwelt securely at home, and that told me he would burn my house over my head if I staid there."
This ungodly fear of God, is that which will put men upon adding to the revealed will of God their own inventions and their own performances of them, as a means to pacify the anger of God. For the truth is, where this ungodly fear reigneth, there is no end of law and duty. When those that you read of in the hook of Kings, 2 Kings, 17: 26, were destroyed by the lions because they had set up idolatry in the land of Israel, they sent for a priest from Babylon that might teach them the manner of the God of the land; but behold, when they knew it, being taught it by the priest, yet their fear would not suffer them to be content with that worship only. "They feared the Lord," saith the text, "and served their own gods." And again, "So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images." It was this fear also that put the Pharisees upon inventing so many traditions; as the washing of cups, and beds, and tables, and basins, with abundance of such other gear. Mark 7: 4. None knows the many dangers that an ungodly fear of God will drive a man into.
How has it racked and tortured the papists for hundreds of years together! for what else is the cause but this ungodly fear, at least in the most simple and harmless of them, of their penances—as creeping to the cross, going barefoot on pilgrimage, whipping themselves, wearing of sackcloth, saying so many pater-nosters, so many Ave-Marias, making so many confessions to the priest, giving so much money for pardons, and abundance of other the like—-but this ungodly fear of God? For could they be brought to believe this doctrine, that Christ was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification, and to apply it by faith with godly boldness to their own souls, this fear Would vanish, and so consequently all those things with which they so needlessly and unprofitably afflict themselves, offend God, and grieve his people.
THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL.
Thou must have salvation either at the door of the law or at the door of grace. "But," sayest thou, "I am for having it at the hands of both. I will trust solely to neither. I love to have two strings to my bow. If one of them, as you think, can help me by itself, my reason tells me that both can help me better; therefore will I be righteous and good, and will seek by my goodness to be commended to the mercy of God; for surely he that hath something of his own to ingratiate himself into the favor of his prince withal, shall sooner obtain his mercy and favor than one that comes to him stripped of all good."
I answer, "But there are not two ways to heaven: there is but one 'new and living way which Christ hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;' and besides that one, there is no more. Heb. 10: 19-24. Why then dost thou talk of two strings to thy bow?"
Mercy then is to be found alone in Jesus Christ. Again, the righteousness of the law is to be obtained only by faith of Jesus Christ; that is, in the Son of God is the righteousness of the law to be found; for he, by his obedience to his Father, is become the end of the law for righteousness. And for the sake of his legal righteousness—-which is also called the righteousness of God, because it was God in the flesh of the Lord Jesus that did accomplish it—-are mercy and grace from God extended to whomsoever dependeth by faith upon God, by this righteousness of Jesus, for them.
He that is dark as touching the scope, intents, and nature of the law, is also dark as to the scope, nature, and glory of the gospel.
I must confess it is a wonderful mysterious thing, and he had need have a wiser spirit than his own that can rightly set these two covenants in their right places, that when he speaks of the one he doth not jostle the other out of its place. O, to be so well enlightened as to speak of the one, that is the law, for to magnify the gospel—-and also to speak of the gospel so as to establish and yet not to idolize the law, nor any particulars thereof—-it is rare; and to be heard and found but in very few men's breasts.
A man may appeal from the law to the throne, from Moses to Christ—-from him that spoke on earth to him that speaks from heaven; but from heaven to earth, from Christ to Moses, none can appeal. Acts 3: 22, 23.
Tell me, you that desire to mingle the law and the gospel together, and to make of both one and the same gospel of Christ, did you ever see yourselves undone and lost, unless the righteousness, blood, death, resurrection, and intercession of that man Christ Jesus in his own person, were imputed to you; and until you could by faith own it as done for you, and counted yours by imputation? Yea, or no? Nay, rather, have you not set up your consciences and the law, and counted your obedience to them better and of more value than the obedience of the Son of Mary without you to be imputed to you? And if so, it is because you have not been savingly convinced by the Spirit of Christ of the sin of unbelief.
I would riot be mistaken; I do not say that the Spirit of Christ gives the least liberty to sin; God forbid; but its convictions are of a more saving and refreshing nature than the convictions of the law, and do more constrain the soul to holiness than that: the law saying, Work for life; the Spirit saying, Now to him that worketh not (for life,) but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. As thus: if I should owe to two creditors ten thousand talents, the one should say unto me, "Thou owest me five thousand talents, pay that thou owest;" the other should say, "Thou owest me five thousand talents, and I frankly and freely forgive thee all."
Now, these expressions are contrary one to another; even so is the end of the convictions of the law not according to the end of the convictions of the Spirit of Christ: the one saying, "Pay me that thou owest;" the other saying, "Thou art frankly and freely forgiven all."
Then the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a very large parlor that was full of dust, because never swept; the which, after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, "Bring hither water and sprinkle the room;" the which, when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.
Then said Christian, "What means this?"
The Interpreter answered, "This parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the gospel; the dust is his, original sin and inward corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first is the law; but she that brought water and did sprinkle it, is the gospel. Now whereas thou sawest that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith: this is to show thee that the law, instead of cleansing the heart by its working, from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it; for it doth not give power to subdue it. Rom. 5: 20; 7:11; 1 Cor. 15:56."
Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with, water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure this is to show thee that when the gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust fry sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit. John 14: 21-23; 15:3; Acts 15:9; Rom. 16: 25, 26; Eph. 5:26.
When Christ dwells in my heart by faith and the moral law dwells in my members, the one to keep up peace with God, the other to keep my conversation in a good decorum, then am I right, and not till then.
But this will not be done without much experience, diligence, and delight in Christ. For there is nothing that Satan more desires, than that the law may abide in the conscience of an awakened Christian, and there take up the place of Christ and faith; for he knows if this may be obtained, the veil is presently drawn over the face of the soul, and the heart darkened as to the knowledge of Christ; and being darkened, the man is driven into despair of mercy, or is put upon it to work for life. There is therefore much diligence required of him that will keep these two in their places assigned them of God; much diligent study of the word, diligent prayer, with diligence to walk with God in the world.
When this law with its thundering threatenings doth attempt to lay hold on thy conscience, shut it out with a promise of grace: cry, The inn is taken up already; the Lord Jesus is here entertained, and here is no room for the law. Indeed, if it will be content with being my informer, and so lovingly leave off to judge me, I will be content; it shall be in iny sight, I will also delight therein: but otherwise, I being now made upright without it, and that too with that righteousness which this law speaks well of and approveth, I may not, will not, cannot, dare not make it my saviour and judge, nor suffer it to set up its government in my conscience; for by so doing I fall from grace, and Christ Jesus doth profit me nothing.
The sum then of what hath been said is this: the Christian hath now nothing to do with the law as it thundereth and burneth on Sinai, or as it bindeth the conscience to wrath and the displeasure of God for sin; for from its thus appearing he is freed by faith in Christ. Yet he is to have regard thereto, and is to count it holy, just, and good; which that he may do, he is always, whenever he seeth or regards it, to remember that he who giveth it to us is MERCIFUL, GRACIOUS, LONG-SUFFERING, and ABUNDANT IN GOODNESS AND TRUTH.
Here thou mayst say, O law, thou mayst roar against sin, but thou canst not reach me; thou mayst curse and condemn, but not MY SOUL; for I have a righteous Jesus, a holy Jesus, a soul-saving Jesus, and he hath delivered me from thy threats, thy curses, thy condemnations; I am out of thy reach and out of thy bounds; I am brought into another covenant, under better promises of life and salvation, free promises to comfort me without my merit, even through the blood of Jesus, the satisfaction given to God for me by him.
The law is that which standeth at the entrance of the paradise of God, as a flaming sword, turning every way to keep out those that are not righteous with the righteousness of God—that have not skill to come to the throne of grace by that new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. For though this law, I say, be taken away by Christ Jesus for all that truly and savingly believe, yet it remains in full force and power in every tittle of it against every soul of man that now shall be found in his tabernacle, that is in himself and out of the Lord Jesus; it lie'th, I say, like a lion rampant at the gates of heaven, and will roar upon every unconverted soul, fiercely accusing every one that new would gladly enter in through the gates into this city. So then, he that can answer all its most perfect and legal commands, and that can live in the midst of devouring fire and there enjoy God and solace himself, he shall dwell on high and shall not be hurt by this law. His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him, and his waters shall he sure; thine eyes shall behold the King in his beauty, they shall see the land that is very far off.
THE LAW A RULE OF LIFE.
The law is cast behind the back of many, when it should be carried in the hand and heart that we might do it, to the end the gospel which we profess might he glorified in the world. Let then the law be with thee to love it, and do it in the spirit of the gospel, that thou be not unfruitful in thy life. Let the law, I say, be with thee, not as it comes from Moses, but from Christ; for though thou art set free from the law as a covenant for life, yet thou still art under the law to Christ; and it is to be received by thee, as out of his hand, to be a rule for thy conversation in the world.
VI. DIVINE GRACE.
GRACE, LOYE, AND MERCY.
I FIND that the goodness of God to his people is diversely expressed in his word, sometimes by the word grace, sometimes by the word love, and sometimes by the word mercy. When it is expressed by that word grace, then it is to show that what he doeth is of his princely will, his royal bounty, and sovereign pleasure. When it is expressed by that word love, then it is to show us that his affection was and is in what he doeth, and that he doeth what he doeth for us with complacency and delight. But when it is set forth to us under the notion of mercy, then it bespeaks us to be in a state both wretched and miserable, and that his bowels and compassions yearn over us in this our fearful plight.
There are many things which men call the grace of God that are not.
1. The light and knowledge that are in every man.
2. That natural willingness that is in man to be saved.
3. That power that is in man by nature to do something, as he thinketh, towards his own salvation.
But do thou remember that the grace of God is his good-will and great love to sinners, in his Son Jesus Christ; by the which good-will they are sanctified, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
His blood is not laws, nor ordinances, nor commandments, but a price, a redeeming price. He justifies us by bestowing upon us, not by expecting from us. He justifies us by his grace, not by our works.
OPERATION OF GRACE.
The good child is not the first-born, but Abel. God often doth as Jacob did, even cross hands in bestowing blessings, giving that which is best to him that is least esteemed; for Cain was "the man" in Eve's esteem: she thought, when she had him, she had got an inheritance; but as for Abel (vanity,) he was little worth; by his name they showed how little they set by him.
It is so with the sincere to this day; they bear not the name of glory with the world: Cain with them is the profitable son; Abel is of no credit with them, neither see they form or comeliness in him; he is the melancholy or lowering child whose countenance spoils the mirth of the world. "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
Abel, last in appearance, but in truth the first in grace; as it also is at this day. Who do so flutter it out as our ruffling, formal worshippers? Alas, the good, the sincere, the humble, they seem to be least and last; but the conclusion of the tragedy will make manifest that the first is last and the last first.
"And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." Herein are the true footsteps of grace discovered; the person must be the first in favor with God—-the person first, the performance afterwards: for though it be true among men that the gift makes way for the acceptance of the person, yet in the order of grace it is after another manner; for if the person be not first accepted, the offering must be abominable; for it is not a good work that makes a good man, but a good man makes a good work. The fruit does not make a good tree, but a good tree bringeth forth good fruit.
Abel then presented his person and offering, as shrouding both by faith under the righteousness of Christ, which lay wrapped up in the promise; but Cain stands upon his own legs, and so presents his offering. Abel therefore is accepted, both his person and offering, while Cain remains accursed. This then makes the difference hetwixt Abel and his brother; Abel had faith, but Cain had none. Abel's faith covered him with Jesus Christ; therefore he stood righteous in his person before God.
There is a man proceeded against for life by the law and the sentence of death is in conclusion most justly and righteously passed upon him by the judge. Suppose now, that after this, this man lives and is exalted to honor, enjoys great things, and is put into place of trust and power, and this by him that he has offended, even by him that did pass the sentence upon him.
What will all say, or what will they conclude, even upon the very first hearing of this story? Will they not say, "Well, whoever he was that found himself wrapped up in this strange providence, must thank the mercy of a gracious prince; for all these things bespeak grace and favor?"
Forgiveness is according to the riches of God's grace, wherein he has abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. Grace can continue to pardon, favor, and save—-from falls, in falls, and out of falls. Grace can comfort, relieve, and help those that have hurt themselves; and grace can bring the unworthy to glory. This the law cannot do; this man cannot do; this angels cannot do; this God cannot do, but only by the riches of his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
A throne is the seat of majesty and greatness; it is not for things of an inferior quality to ascend or assume a throne. Now, then, since this river of water of life proceeds from the throne, it intimates that in grace and mercy there is great majesty; for grace, as it proceeds, has a voice from the throne. And indeed there is nothing in heaven or earth that can so awe the heart as the grace of God. Hos. 3: 5. It is that which makes a man fear; it is that which makes a man tremble; it is that which makes a man how and bend, and break to pieces. Jer. 33: 9; Exod. 34: 6-9. Nothing has such majesty, and commanding greatness in and upon the hearts of the sons of men, as has the grace of God. There is nothing overmastereth the heart like grace, and so obligeth to sincere and unfeigned obedience as that.
Strong grace makes corruptions weak and strikes them through, laying them at the point of death, always gasping for life.
Mercy and the revelation thereof is the only antidote against sin. It is of a thawing nature; it will loose the heart that is frozen up in sin; yea, it will make the unwilling willing to come to Christ for life.
Some say, When grace and a good nature meet together, they do make shining Christians: but I say, When grace and a great sinner meet, and when grace shall subdue that great sinner to itself, and shall operate after its kind in the soul of that great sinner, then we have a shining Christian.
Men may fall by sin, but cannot raise up themselves without the help of grace.
There were two men that went on pilgrimage; the one began when he was young, the other when he was old: the young man had strong corruptions to grapple with, the old man's were weak with the decays of nature: the young man trode his steps as even as did the old one, and was every way as light as he. Who now, or which of them, had their graces shining clearest, since both seemed to be alike? The young man's, doubtless; for that which heads it against the greatest opposition, gives best demonstration that it is strongest.
As nature, even where grace is, cannot without the assistance of that grace do any thing acceptably before God; so grace received, if it be not also supplied with more grace, cannot cause that we continue to do acceptable service to God.
A present dispensation of grace is like a good meal, a seasonable shower, or a penny in one's pocket, all of which will serve for the present necessity. But will that good meal that I ate last week enable me without supply to do a good day's work in this? or, will that seasonable shower which fell last year, be, without supplies, a seasonable help to the grain and grass that is growing now? or will that penny that supplied my want the other day—I say, will the same penny also, without a supply, supply my wants to-day?
The day of grace is the day of expense; this is our spending time. Hence we are called pilgrims and strangers in the earth; that is, travellers from place to place, from state to state, from trial to trial. Now, as the traveller at the fresh inn is made to spend fresh money, so Christians, at a fresh temptation, at a new temptation, are made to spend fresh and a new supply of grace. Great men, when and while their sons are travellers, appoint that their bags of money be lodged ready or conveniently paid in at such and such a place; and so they meet with supplies. Why, so are the sons of the great One; and he has allotted that we should travel beyond sea, or at a great distance from our Father's house: wherefore he has appointed that grace shall be provided for us, to supply at such a place, such a state or temptation, as need requires. But withal, as my lord expeeteth his son should acquaint him with the present emptiness of his purse and with the difficulty he hath now to grapple with; so God our Father expects that we should plead by Christ our need at the throne of grace, in order to a supply of grace. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Then I saw in my dream that the Interpreter took Christian by the hand, and led him into a place where was a fire burning against a wall, and one standing by it always casting much water upon it to quench it; yet did the fire burn higher and hotter.
Then said Christian, "What means this?"
The Interpreter answered, "This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart; he that casts water upon it to extinguish and put it out, is the devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt also see the reason of that." So he had him about to the backside of the wall, where he saw a man with a vessel of oil in his hand, of which he did also continually cast, but secretly, into the fire.
Then said Christian, "What means this?"
The Interpreter answered, "This is Christ, who continually with the oil of his grace maintains the work already begun in the heart; by the means of which, notwithstanding what the devil can do, the souls of his people prove gracious still. 2 Cor. 12: 9. And in that thou sawest that the man stood behind the wall to maintain the fire; this is to teach thee that it is hard for the tempter to see how this work of grace is maintained in the soul."
There is to be seen at the bottom of this holy river, the glory of God. We are saved, saved by grace, saved by grace through the redemption that is in Christ, to the praise and glory of God. And what a good bottom is here. Grace will not fail, Christ has been sufficiently tried, and God will not lose his glory; therefore they that drink of this river, shall doubtless be saved; to wit, they that drink of it with a spiritual appetite to it.
It pleased God, for the glory of his wisdom, to make this the way; to wit, to set up grace to reign. I have often thought, and sometimes said, If God will be pleased with any way, surely he will be pleased with his own. Now this is the way of his own devising, the fruit and effect of his own wisdom. Wherefore, sinner, please him, please him in that wherein he is well pleased; come to the waters, cast thyself into them and fear not drowning; let God alone to cause them to carry thee into his paradise, that thou mayest see his throne.
Let us take notice of the carriage of God to man, and again of man to God, in his conversion.
First, of God's carriage to man. He comes to him while he is in his sins; he comes to him now, not in the heat and fire of his jealousy, but in the cool of the day, in unspeakable gentleness, mercy, pity, and love—not in clothing himself with vengeance, but in a way of entreaty, and meekly beseecheth the sinner to be reconciled unto him. 2 Cor. 5: 19, 20.
It is expected among men, that he who gives the offence, should be the first in seeking peace; but, sinner, betwixt God and man it is not so: not that we loved God, not that we chose God; but God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. God is the first that seeketh peace; and in a way of entreaty, he bids his ministers pray you in Christ's stead: "As if God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."
O sinner, wilt thou not open? Behold, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ stand both at the door of thy heart, beseeching there for favor from thee, that thou wilt be reconciled to them; with the promise, if thou wilt comply, to forgive thee all thy sins. O grace, O amazing grace! To see a prince entreat a beggar to receive an alms, would be a strange sight; to see a king entreat the traitor to accept of mercy, would be a stranger sight than that; but to see God entreat a sinner, to hear Christ say, "I stand at the door and knock, with a heart full and a heaven full of grace to bestow upon him that opens;" this is such a sight as dazzles the eyes of angels. What sayest thou now, sinner? Is not this God rich in mercy? hath not this God great love for sinners? Nay, further, that thou mayst not have any ground to think that all this is hut complimenting, there is also here declared, that "God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." If God would have stuck at any thing, it would have been at the death of his Son; but he delivered him up for us freely: how shall he not then with him freely give us all things?
Let us now come to the carriage of these sinners to God, and that from the first day he begins to deal with their souls, even to the time that they are to be taken up into heaven.
1. And to begin with God's ordinary dealing with sinners: when at first he ministers conviction to them by his word, how strangely do they behave themselves. They love not to have their consciences touched; they like not to ponder upon what they have been, what they are, or what is like to become of them hereafter: such thoughts they count unmanly and hurtful. And now they are for any thing rather than the word: an alehouse, a playhouse, sports, pleasures, sleep, the world, and what not, so they may stave of the power of the word of God.
2. If God now comes up closer to them, and begins to fasten conviction upon the conscience, though such convictions be the first step to faith and repentance, yea, to life eternal, yet what shifts will they have to forget them and wear them off! Yea, although they now begin to see that they must either turn or turn, yet ofttimes they will study to waive a present conversion. They object, they are too young to turn yet; seven years hence is time enough; when they are old, or come upon a sick bed.
O what an enemy is man to his own salvation! I am persuaded that God has visited some of you often with his word, and you have thrown water, as fast as he hath by the word cast fire, upon your conscience.
Christian, what had become of thee, if God had taken thy denial for an answer, and said, "Then will I carry the word of salvation to another, and he will hear it?"
"Sinner, turn!" says God. "Lord, I cannot attend to it," says the sinner. "Turn or burn," says God. "I will venture that," says the sinner. "Turn and be saved," says God. "I cannot leave my pleasures," says the sinner; "sweet sins, sweet pleasures, sweet delights," says the sinner. But what grace is it in God thus to parley with the sinner! O the patience of God to a poor sinner! What if God should now say, "Then get thee to thy sins, get thee to thy delights, get thee to thy pleasures, take them for thy portion; they shall be all thy heaven, all thy happiness, all thy portion?"
3. But God comes again, and shows the sinner the necessity of turning now or not at all; yea, and giveth the sinner this conviction so strongly that he cannot put it if. But behold, the sinner has one spark of enmity still: if he must needs turn now, he will either turn from one sin to another, from great ones to little ones, from many to few, or from all to one, and there stop. But perhaps convictions will not thus leave him. Why, then he will turn from profaneness to the law of Moses, and will dwell as long as God will let him, upon his own seeming goodness. And now observe him, he is a great stickler for legal performance; now he will be a good neighbor, he will pay every man his own, will leave off his swearing, the ale-house, his sports, and carnal delights; he will read, pray, talk of scripture, and be a very busy one in religion, such as it is; now he will please God, and make him amends for all the wrong he has done him, and will feed him with chapters, and prayers, and promises, and vows, and a great many more such dainty dishes as these; persuading himself that now he must be fair for heaven, and thinks besides that he serveth God as well as any man: but all this while he is as ignorant of Christ as the stool he sits on, and no nearer heaven than was the blind Pharisee, only he has got in a cleaner way to hell than the rest of his neighbors are.
Might not God now cast off this sinner, and cast him out of his sight? might he not leave him to his own choice, to be deluded by and to fall in his own righteousness, because he trusts to it and commits iniquity?
But grace, preventing grace preserves him. It is true, this turn of the sinner is a turning short of Christ. But,
4. God in this way of the sinner will mercifully follow him, and show him the shortness of his performances, the emptiness of his duties, and the uncleanness of his righteousness. This I speak of the sinner, the salvation of whose soul is graciously intended and contrived of God; for he shall by gospel light be wearied out of all; he shall be made to see the vanity of all, and that the personal righteousness of Jesus Christ, and that only, is it which of God is ordained to save the sinner from the due reward of his sins. But behold, the sinner now, at the sight and sense of his own nothingness, falleth into a kind of despair; for although he hath it in him to presume of salvation through the delusiveness of his own good opinion of himself, yet he hath it not in himself to have a good opinion of the grace of God in the righteousness of Christ. Wherefore he concludeth that if salvation be alone of the grace of God through the righteousness of Christ, and all of a man's own is utterly rejected as to the justification of his person with God, then he is cast away.
Now, the reason of this sinking of heart is the sight that God has given him—a sight of the uncleanness of his best performance. The former sight of his immoralities did somewhat distress him, and make him betake himself to his own good deeds to ease his conscience; wherefore this was his prop, his stay. But behold, now God has taken this from under him, and now he falls. Wherefore his best doth also now forsake him, and fly away like the morning dew.
Besides, this revelation of the emptiness of his own righteousness brings also with it a further discovery of the naughtiness of his heart, in its hypocrisies, pride, unbelief, hardness of heart, deadness, and backwardness to all gospel obedience; which sight of himself lies like millstones upon his shoulders, and sinks him yet further into doubts and fears of damnation. For bid him now receive Christ; he answers, he cannot, he dares not. Ask him why he cannot; he will answer, he has no faith nor hope in his heart. Tell him that grace is offered him freely; he says, "But I have no heart to receive it." Besides, he finds not, as he thinks, any gracious disposition in his soul, and therefore concludes he does not belong to God's mercy, nor has an interest in the blood of Christ, and therefore dares not presume to believe. Wherefore he sinks in his heart, he dies in his thoughts, he doubts, he despairs, and concludes he shall never be saved.
5. But behold, the God of all grace leaves him not in this distress, but comes up now to him closer than ever; he sends the Spirit of adoption, the blessed Comforter, to him to tell him God is love, and therefore not willing to reject the broken in heart; bids him cry and pray for an evidence of mercy to his soul, and says, "Peradventure you may be hid in the day of the Lord's anger."
At this the sinner takes some encouragement; yet he can get no more than that which will hang upon a mere probability, which, by the next doubt that ariseth in the heart, is blown quite away, and the soul left again in its first plight, or worse; where he lamentably bewails his miserable state, and is tormented with a thousand fears of perishing; for he hears not a word from heaven, perhaps for several weeks together. Wherefore unbelief begins to get the mastery of him, and takes off the very edge and spirit, of prayer, and inclination to hear the word any longer; yea, the devil also claps in with these thoughts, saying, "All your prayers, and hearing, and reading, and godly company, which you frequent, will rise up in judgment against you at last; therefore better it is, if you must be damned, to choose as easy a place in hell as you can."
The soul at this being quite discouraged, thinks to do as it has been taught, and with dying thoughts it begins to faint when it goes to prayer or to hear the word. But behold, when all hope seems to be quite gone, and the soul concludes, "I die, I perish," in comes on a sudden the Spirit of God again, with some good word of God which the soul never thought of before; which word of God commands a calm in the soul, makes unbelief give place, encourages to hope and wait upon God again: perhaps it gives some little sight of Christ to the soul, and of his blessed undertaking for sinners.
But behold, so soon as the power of things again begins to wear off the heart, the sinner gives place to unbelief, questions God's mercy, and fears damning again. He also entertains hard thoughts of God and Christ, and thinks former encouragements were fancies, delusions, or mere think-sos.
And why doth not God now cast the sinner to hell, for thus abusing his mercy and grace? O no: "He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion;" wherefore goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life, that he may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
6. God, therefore, after all these provocations, comes by his Spirit to the soul again, and brings sealing grace and pardon to the conscience, testifying to it that its sins are forgiven and that freely, for the sake of the blood of Christ. And now has the sinner such a sight of the grace of God in Christ, as kindly breaks his heart with joy and comfort. Now the soul knows what it is to eat promises; it also knows what it is to eat and drink the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ by faith; now it is driven by the power of his grace to its knees, to thank God for forgiveness of sins and for hopes of an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith which is in Christ; now it has a calm and a sunshine; now "he washes his steps with butter, and the rock pours him out rivers of oil."
7. But after this, perhaps the soul grows cold again; it also forgets the grace received, and waxes carnal; begins again to hanker after the world; loseth the life and savor of heavenly things; grieves the Spirit of God; wofully backslides; casteth off closet duties quite, or else retains only the formality of them; is a reproach to religion, and grieves the heart of them that are awake and tender of God's name.
But what will God now do? Will he take this advantage to destroy the sinner? No. Will he let him alone in his apostasy? No. Will he leave him to recover himself by the strength of his now languishing grace? No. What then? Why, he will seek this man out till he finds him, and bring him home to himself again: "For thus saith the Lord God, Behold I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out, as a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among the sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away; I will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick." Ezek. 34:11-16.
Of God's ordinary way of fetching the backslider home I will not now discourse; namely, whether he always breaketh his bones for his sins, as he broke David's, or whether he will all the days of his life for this leave him under guilt and darkness; or whether he will kill him now, that he may not be condemned in the day of judgment, as he dealt with them at Corinth. I Cor. 11: 30-32.
God is wise, and can tell how to imbitter backsliding to them he loveth. He can break their bones and save them; he can lay them in the lowest pit, in darkness and the deep, and save them; he can slay them as to this life, and save them. And herein appears wonderful grace, that Israel is not forsaken.
8. But suppose God deals not either of these ways with the backslider, but shines upon him again, and seals up to him the remission of his sins a second time, saying, "I will heal their backslidings, and love them freely." What will the soul do now? Surely it will walk humbly now, and holily all its days. It will never backslide again, will it? It may happen it will not; it may happen it will. It is just as his God keeps him; for although his sins are of himself, his standing is of God; I say, his standing while he stands, and his recovery if he falls, are both of God. Wherefore, if God leaves him a little, the next gap he finds, away he is gone again: "My people," says God, "are bent to backsliding from me."
Here is grace. So many times as the soul backslides, so many times God brings him back again—I mean the soul that must be saved by grace; he renews his pardons and multiplies them. Yea, for aught I know, there are some saints, and they not long-lived either, that must receive, before they enter into life, millions of pardons from God for these; and every pardon is an act of grace, through the redemption that is in Christ's blood.
The first step to the cure of a wounded conscience is for thee to know the grace of God, especially the grace of God as to justification.
Grace can pardon our ungodliness and justify us with Christ's righteousness; it can put the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us; it can help us when we are down; it can heal us when we are wounded; it can multiply pardons, as we through frailty multiply transgressions.
A self-righteous man, a man of the law, takes grace and mercy for his greatest enemy.
The best of things that are of this world are some way hurtful. Honey is hurtful, wine is hurtful, silver and gold are hurtful; but grace is not hurtful. Never did man yet catch harm by the enjoyment and fulness of the grace of God. There is no fear of excess or surfeiting here. Grace makes no man proud, no man wanton, no man haughty, no man careless or negligent as to his duty that is incumbent upon him, towards either God or man. No; grace keeps a man low in his own eyes, humble, self-denying, penitent, watchful, savory in good things, charitable: and makes him kindly affectioned to the brethren, pitiful and courteous to all men.
True, there are men in the world that abuse the grace of God, as some are said to turn it into wantonness and into lasciviousness. But this is not because grace has any such tendency, but because such men are themselves empty of grace, and have only done as death and hell have done with wisdom, "heard the fame thereof with their ears."
Some receive the rain of God and the droppings of his clouds, because they continually sit under the means of grace. But alas, they receive it as stones receive showers, or as dunghills receive the rain: they either abide as hard as stones still, or else return nothing to heaven for his mercy, hut as dunghills do, a company of stinking fumes.
To slight grace, to do despite to the Spirit of grace, to prefer our own works, thus derogating from grace—-what is it but to contemn God? to contemn him when he is on the throne, when he is on the throne of his glory? I say again, it is to spit in his face, even then when he commands thee to how before him, to be subject unto him, and to glorify the grace of his glory, that proceeds from the throne of his glory. If men in old time were damned because they glorified him not as God, shall not they be more than damned, if more than damned can he, who glorify him not for his grace? And, to he sure, none glorify him for his grace but those that close in therewith, and submit themselves thereto. Talkers of grace are but mockers of God, but flatterers of God. Grace God has exalted; has set it upon the throne, and so made it a king, and given it authority to reign; and thou goest by and nearest thereof, but wilt not submit thyself thereto, neither thy soul, nor thy life. Why, what is this more than to flatter God with thy lips, and than to lie unto him with thy tongue? What is this but to count him less wise than thyself, while he seeks glory by that by which thou wilt not glorify him—-while he displays his grace before thee in the world from the throne, and as thou goest by, with a nod thou callest it a fine thing, but followest that which leadeth therefrom? Tremble, tremble, ye sinners, that have despised the riches of his goodness. The day is coming when ye shall behold and wonder and perish, if grace prevaileth not with you to be content to be saved by it to the praise of its glory, and to the glory of him who hath set it upon the throne. Acts 13: 38-41.
There is a spring that yields water good and clear, but the channels through which this water comes to us are muddy, foul, or dirty; now of the channels the waters receive a disadvantage, and so come to us as savoring of what came not with them from the fountain, hut from the channels.
This is the cause of the coolness, and of the weakness, and of the flatness, and of the many extravagances that attend some of our desires: they come warm from the Spirit and grace of God in us; hut as hot water running through cold pipes, or as clear water running through dirty convey ances, so our desires gather soil.
GRACE—THE WATER OF LIFE.
"And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." Rev. 22: 1.
This "water of life" is the Spirit and grace of God, and the spirit of life. Zech. 12: 10; John 4: 10, 11, 14; 7: 37-39; Rev. 11: 11.
A throne is the seat of justice: "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne." Psal. 89: 14. And it is also from justice that this river of grace flows to us: justice to Christ, and justice to those that are found in him. Rom. 3: 24. God declares that he can justly justify, justly forgive: now, if he can justly justify and justly forgive, then can he give grace and cause that it should proceed to, yea, flow after us as a river. But whence must this come? the text says, from the throne—from the throne, the seat of justice; for from thence, by reason of what He hath found in Christ for us, he in a way of righteousness and justice lets out to us rivers of his pleasures, whoso original is that great and wide sea of mercy that flows in his infinite heart beyond thought.
There is a river, clear and pleasant, the streams whereof make glad the city of God.
These are the waters that the doves love to sit by, because by the clearness of these streams they can see their pretty selves as in a glass. Song 5: 12.
These he the streams where the doves wash their eyes, and by which they solace themselves and take great content. These streams are instead of a looking-glass; their clearness presents us with an opportunity of seeing our own features.
As in fair waters a man may see the hody of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars, and the very body of heaven; so ho that stands upon the bank of this river, and that washeth his eyes with this water, may see the Son of God, the stars of God, the glory of God, and the habitation that God has prepared for his people. And are not these pleasant sights? Is not this excellent water? Has not this river pleasant streams?
Some men fly from the "river of the water of life," as from a bear; arid some are afraid to drink of it, for fear it should he poison unto them. Some again, dare not take it, because it is not mixed, and as they, poor souls, imagine, qualified and made toothsome by a little of that which is called the wisdom of this world. Thus one shucks, another shrinks, and another will none of God. Meanwhile, whoso shall please to look into this river, shall find it harmless and clear; yea, offering itself to the consciences of all men to make trial if it be not the only chief good, the only necessary waters, the only profitable for the health of the soul, of all the things that are in the world, and as clear of mischief as is the sun of spots.
In old times the ancients had their habitations by the rivers; yea, we read of Aroer, that stood upon the brink of the river Arnon. Balaam also had his dwelling in his city Pethor, by the river of the land of the children of his people. O, by the river side is the pleasantest dwelling in the world; and of all rivers, the river of the water of life is the best. They that dwell there shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat or sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by springs of water shall he guide them. Isa. 49: 10; Psal. 1: 3; Jer. 17: 8.
Trees planted by the rivers, and that spread out their roots by the rivers, they are the flourishing trees, they bring forth their fruit in their season. And the promise is, that men that take up their dwellings by this river of water of life, shall be fruitful as such trees.
If thou be a Christian, thou hast more than an ordinary call and occasion to abide by these waters; thy things will not grow but by these waters. Weeds, and the excellences of most men, we may find in the barren wilderness; they grow under every hedge, Jer. 31: 12; but thine are garden, and so choice, things, and will not thrive without much water; no, not without the water of God's river. Isa. 21: 1-3. Dwell therefore here, that thy soul may be as a watered garden.
By the characters that are given of this water of life, thou art capacitated to judge, when a notion, a doctrine, an opinion comes to thy ears, whether it is right good and wholesome, or how. This river is pure, is clear, is pure and clear as crystal. Is the doctrine offered unto thee so? or is it muddy and mixed with the doctrines of men? Look, man, and see if the foot of the worshippers of Bel [Footnote: Story of Bel and the dragon in the Apychrypha.] be not there; and if the waters be not fouled thereby. What water is fouled is not the water of life, or at least, not the water of life in its clearness. Wherefore, if thou findest it not right, go up higher to the spring-head; for always the nearer to the spring, the more pure and clear is the water. Fetch then thy doctrine from afar, if thou canst not have it good nearer hand. Job 36: 3. Thy life lies at stake; the counterfeit of things is dangerous; every body that is aware, is afraid thereof. Now a counterfeit here is most dangerous, is most destructive; wherefore take heed how you hear what you hear; for, as men say of the fish, by your color it will be seen what waters you swim in. Wherefore look you well to yourselves.
The grace of God is called a river, to show that it is only suited to those who are capable of living therein. Water, though it is that which every creature desireth, yet is not an element in which every creature can live. Who is it that would not have the benefit of grace, of a throne of grace? But who is it that can live by grace? even none but those whose temper and constitution is suited to grace. Hence, as the grace of God is compared to a river, so those that live by grace are compared to fish; for that, as water is that element in which the fish liveth, so grace is that which is the life of the saint. "And there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither; for they shall he healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh." Ezek. 47: 9. Art thou a fish, man—art thou a fish? canst thou live in the water? canst thou live always, and nowhere else hut in the water? is grace thy proper element? The fish dieth if she be taken out of the water, unless she be timely put in again; the saint dieth if he be not in this river. Take him from his river, and nothing can make him live; let him have water, water of life enough, and nothing can make him die.
I know that there are some things besides fish that can make a shift to live in the water; but the water is not their proper, their only proper element. The frog can live in the water, but not in the water only; the otter can live in the water, hut not in the water only. Give some men grace and the world, grace and sin—admit them to make use of their lusts for pleasure, and of grace to remove their guilt, and they will make a pretty good shift, as we say; they will finely scrabble on in a profession. But hold them to grace only, confine their life to grace, put them into the river and let them have nothing hut river, and they die; the word, and way, and nature of grace, is to them as light bread, and their soul can do no other but loathe it, for they are not suited and tempered for that element.
THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST.
THE first main design of the life and conversation of the Lord Jesus, was that thereby God, the Eternal Majesty, according to his promise, might be seen by, and dwell with, mortal men. For the Godhead being altogether in its own nature invisible, and yet desirous to be seen by and dwell with the children of men, therefore was the Son, who is the self-same substance with the Father, clothed with or tabernacled in our flesh, that in that flesh the nature and glory of the Godhead might be seen by and dwell with us. "The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory;" what glory? "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Again, "The life"—that is, the life of God in the works and conversation of Christ—"was manifest, and we have seen it and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us." And hence he is called the image of the invisible God; or he by whom the invisible God is most perfectly presented to the sons of men.
Did I say before that the God of glory is desirous to be seen of us? Even so also have the pure in heart a desire that it should be so. "Lord," say they, "show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." And therefore the promise is for their comfort, that "they shall see God." But how then must they see him? Why, in the person, and by the life and works of Jesus, When Philip, under a mistake, thought of seeing God some other way than in and by this Lord Jesus Christ, what is the answer? "Have I been so long time with you," saith Christ, "and hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; hut the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very work's sake."
See, here, that both the words and works of the Lord Jesus were not to show you, and so to call you back to the holiness we had lost, but to give us visions of the perfections that are in the Father. "He hath given us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." And hence it is that the apostle, in that brief collection of the wonderful mystery of godliness, places this in the front thereof: "God was manifest in the flesh"—was manifested in and by the person of Christ, when in the flesh he lived among us; manifest, I say, for this as one reason, that the pure in heart, who long after nothing more, might see him. "I beseech thee," said Moses, "show me thy glory." "And will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?" saith Solomon.
Though Adam be called the image or similitude of God, yet but so as that he was the shadow of a more excellent image. Adam was a type of Christ, who only is the express image of his Father's person, and the likeness of his excellent glory; for those things that were in Adam were but of a human, but of a created substance; but those things that were in Christ, of the same divine and eternal excellency with the Father.
Is Christ then the image of the Father, simply as considered of the same divine and eternal excellency with him? Certainly not; for an image is doubtless inferior to that of which it is a figure. Understand, then, that Christ is the image of the Father's glory, as born of the Virgin Mary, yet so as being very God also: not that his Godhead in itself was a shadow or image, but by the acts and doing of that man, every act being infinitely perfect by virtue of his Godhead, the Father's perfections were made manifest to flesh. An image is to be looked upon, and by being looked upon, another thing is seen; so by the person and doings of the Lord Jesus, they that indeed could see him as he was, discovered the perfection and glory of the Father. "Philip, he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" Neither the Father nor the Son can by us at all be seen, as they are simply and entirely in their own essence. Therefore the person of the Father must be seen by us through the Son, as consisting of God and man; the Godhead, by working effectually in the manhood, showing clearly there through the infinite perfection and glory of the Father. "The word was made flesh, and" then "we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of his Father"—he being in his personal excellencies, infinitely and perfectly, what is recorded of his Father, "full of grace and truth."
When Jesus Christ came down from glory, it was that he might bring us to glory; and that he might be sure not to fail, he clothed himself with our nature—as if we should take a piece out of the whole lump instead of the whole, Heb. 11:l4—and invested it with that glory which he was in before he came down from heaven. Eph. 2:6.
THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST.
We perceive love, in that the human nature, the nature of man, not of angels, is taken into union with God. Whoso could consider this as it is possible for it to be considered, would stand amazed till he died with wonder. By this very act of the heavenly Wisdom we have an inconceivable pledge of the love of Christ to man; for in that he hath taken into union with himself our nature, what doth it signify but that he intends to take into union with himself our persons? For this very purpose did he assume our nature. Wherefore we read that in the flesh he took upon him, in that flesh he died for us, "the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God."
The psalmist saith of Christ, that "he was fairer than the children of men;" and that, as I believe in his outward man as well as in his inward part, he was the exactest, purest, completest, and beautifulest creature that ever God made, till his visage was so marred by his persecutions; for in all things he had, and shall have the preeminence.
THE HUMILIATION OF CHRIST
Christ did not only come into our flesh, but also into our condition, into the valley and shadow of death, where we were, and where we are, as we are sinners.
That which would have been death to some—the laying aside of glory, and the King of princes becoming a servant of the meanest form—this he of his own goodwill was heartily content to do. Wherefore he that was once the object of the fear of angels, is now become a little creature, a worm, an inferior one, born of a woman, brought forth in a stable, laid in a manger, scorned of men, tempted of devils, was beholden to his creatures for food, for raiment, for harbor, and a place wherein to lay his head when dead. In a word, he made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, that he might become capable to do this kindness for us, to give himself a ransom for us.
And it is worth your noting, that all the while that he was in the world, putting himself upon those other preparations which were to be antecedent to his being made a sacrifice for us, no man, though he told what he came about to many, had, as we read of, a heart once to thank him for what he came about. No; they railed on him they degraded him, they called him devil, they said he was mad and a deceiver, a blasphemer of God and a rebel against the state; they accused him to the governor; yea, one of his own disciples sold him, another denied him, and they all forsook him, and left him to shift for himself in the hands of his horrible enemies, who beat him with their fists, spat on him, mocked him, crowned him with thorns, scourged him, made a gazing-stock of him, and finally, hanged him up by the hands and feet alive, and gave him vinegar to increase his affliction, when he complained that his anguish had made him thirsty. And yet all this could not take his heart off the work of our redemption. To die he came, die he would, and die he did, before he made his return to the Father, for our sins, that we might live through him.
When Christ betook himself to his ministry, he lived upon the charity of the people; when other men went to their own houses, Jesus went to the mount of Olives.
THE GLORY OF CHRIST.
Christ is rich indeed, both in his blood, resurrection, intercession, and all his offices, together with his relations, and all his benefits; all which he bestoweth upon every one that receiveth him, and maketh them unspeakably wealthy.
The pearl, as it is rich, and so worth much, so again it is beautiful and amiable, even to take the eyes of all beholders; it hath, I say, a very sweet and sparkling light and glory in it, enough to take the eye and affect the heart of all those that look upon it. And thus is Christ to all that come to him, and by him to the Father. "My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest of ten thousand; his mouth is most sweet, he is altogether lovely."
THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
Here is love, that God sent his Son, his darling, his Son that never offended, his Son that was always his delight. Herein is love, that he sent him to save sinners; to save them by bearing their sins, by bearing their curse, by dying their death, and by carrying their sorrows. Here is love, in that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us; yea, here is love, in that while we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.
Oh, blessed Jesus, how didst thou discover thy love to man in thy thus suffering! And, O God the Father, how didst thou also declare the purity and exactness of thy justice, in that, though it was thine only, holy, innocent, harmless, and undefiled Son Jesus, that did take on him our nature and represent our persons, answering for our sins instead of ourselves; thou didst so wonderfully pour out thy wrath upon him, to the making of him cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And, O Lord Jesus, what a glorious conquest hast thou made over the enemies of our souls—even wrath, sin, death, hell, and devils—in that thou didst wring thyself from under the power of them all. And not only so, but hast led them captive which would have led us captive; and also hast received for us that glorious and unspeakable inheritance that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.
The great Bringer of the gospel is the good Lord Jesus Christ himself; he came and preached peace to them that the law proclaimed war against. And to touch a little upon the dress in which, by the gospel, Christ presents himself unto us, while he offers unto sinful souls his peace by the tenders thereof:
He is set forth as born for us, to save our souls. Isa. 9:6; Luke 2:9-12; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 3:13; Rom 10:4; Dan. 9:24.
He is set forth before us as bearing our sins for us, and suffering God's wrath for us.
He is set forth before us as fulfilling the law for us, and as bringing everlasting righteousness to us for our covering.
Again, as to the manner of his working out the salvation of sinners for them, that they might have peace and joy, and heaven and glory for ever:
He is set forth as sweating blood while he was in his agony, wrestling with the thoughts of death, while he was to suffer for our sins, that he might save the soul. Luke 22:24.
He is set forth as crying, weeping, and mourning under the lashes of justice that he put himself under, and was willing to bear for our sins.
He is set forth as betrayed, apprehended, condemned, spit on, scourged, buffeted, mocked, crowned with thorns, crucified, pierced with nails and a spear, to save the soul from being betrayed by the devil and sin; to save it from being apprehended by justice and condemned by the law; to save it from being spit on in a way of contempt by holiness; to save it from being scourged with guilt of sins as with scorpions; to save it from being continually buffeted by its own conscience; to save it from being mocked at by God; to save it from being crowned with ignominy and shame for ever; to save it from dying the second death; to save it from wounds and grief for ever.