Dost thou understand me, sinful soul? He wrestled with justice, that thou mightest have rest; he wept and mourned, that thou mightst laugh and rejoice; he was betrayed, that thou mightest go free; was apprehended, that thou mightst escape; he was condemned, that thou mightst be justified, and was killed, that thou mightest live; he wore a crown of thorns, that thou mightest wear a crown of glory; and was nailed to the cross with his arms wide open, to show with what freeness all his merits shall be bestowed on the coming soul, and how heartily he will receive it into his bosom.
All this he did of mere good-will, and offers the benefit thereof unto thee freely. Yea, he comes unto thee in the word of the gospel, with the blood running down from his head upon his face, with his tears abiding upon his cheeks, as with the holes fresh in his hands and his feet, and as with the blood still bubbling out of his side, to pray thee to accept of the benefit, and to be reconciled to God thereby.
By this we may see his love, in that as a forerunner he is gone into heaven to take possession thereof for us; there to make ready and prepare for us our summer-houses, our mansions and dwelling-places; as if we were the lords, and he the servant. Oh, this love!
Thou Son of the Blessed, what grace was manifest in thy condescension! Grace brought thee down from heaven; grace stripped thee of thy glory; grace made thee poor and despicable; grace made thee bear such burdens of sin, such burdens of sorrow, such burdens of God's curse as are unspeakable.
O Son of God, grace was in all thy tears; grace came bubbling out of thy side with thy blood; grace came forth with every word of thy sweet mouth; grace came out where the whip smote thee, where the thorns pricked thee, where the nails and spear pierced thee. O blessed Son of God, here is grace indeed! unsearchable riches of grace! unthought of riches of grace! grace to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy, grace to astonish devils!
And what will become of them that trample under foot this Son of God?
Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father. What solace then must that soul be filled with, that hath the possession of him to all eternity.
Who can tell how many heart-pleasing thoughts Christ had of us before the world began? Who can tell how much he then was delighted in that being we had in his affections, as also in the consideration of our beings, believings, and being with him afterwards?
Christ was never so joyful in all his life, that we read of, as when his sufferings grew near; then he takes the sacrament of his body and blood into his own hands, and with thanksgiving bestows it among his disciples; then he sings a hymn, then he rejoices, then he comes with a "Lo, I come." O the heart, the great heart that Jesus had for us to do us good! He did it with all the desire of his soul.
When a man shall not only design me a purse of gold, but shall venture his life to bring it to me, this is grace indeed. But, alas, what are a thousand such short comparisons to the unsearchable love of Christ?
Christ Jesus has bags of mercy that were never yet broken up or unsealed. Hence it is said, he has goodness laid up; things reserved in heaven for his. And if he breaks up one of these bags, who can tell what he can do?
It is not exaltation, nor a crown, nor a kingdom, nor a throne that shall make Christ neglect his poor ones on earth; yea, because he is exalted and on the throne, therefore it is that such a river of life, with its golden streams, proceeds with us. And it shall proceed, to be far higher than ever were the swellings of Jordan. Rev. 22:1.
How the brave sun doth peep up from beneath, Shows us his golden face, doth on us breathe; Yea, he doth compass us around with glories Whilst he ascends up to his highest stories, Where he his banner over us displays And gives us light to see our works and ways.
Nor are we now, as at the peep of light, To question is it day or is it night; The night is gone, the shadow's fled away, And now we are most certain that 'tis day.
And thus it is when Jesus shows his face, And doth assure us of his love and grace.
This makes Christ precious, if I consider how he did deliver me: it was, I, with his life, his blood; it cost him tears, groans, agony, separation from God; to do it, he endured his Father's wrath, bare his Father's curse, and died thousands of deaths at once.
2. He did this while I was his enemy, without my desires, without my knowledge, without my deserts; he did it unawares to me.
3. He did it freely, cheerfully, yea, he longed to die for me; yea, heaven would not hold him for the love he had to my salvation, which also he has effectually accomplished for me at Jerusalem.
Honorable Jesus! precious Jesus! loving Jesus! Jonathan's kindness captivated David, and made him precious in his eyes for ever. "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan," said he; "very pleasant hast thou been to me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." Why, what had Jonathan done? Oh, he had delivered David from the wrath of Saul. But how much more should He be precious to me, who hath saved me from death and hell—who hath delivered me from the wrath of God? "The love of Christ constraineth us." Nothing will so edge the spirit of a Christian as, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." This makes the heavens themselves ring with joy and shouting.
THE DAY, BEFORE THE SUN-RISING.
But all this while, where's he whose golden rays Drive night away, and beautify our days? Where's he whose goodly face doth warm and heal, And show us what the darksome nights conceal? Where's he that thaws our ice, drives cold away? Let's have him, or we care not for the day. Thus 'tis with those who are possessed of grace; There's naught to them like the Redeemer's face.
Oh thou loving one, Oh thou blessed one, thou descrvest to have me; thou hast bought me; thou deservest to have me all; thou hast paid for me ten thousand times more than I am worth!
O you that are upon this march [to hell,] I beseech you, consider a little. What, shall Christ become a servant for you, and will you be drudges for the devil? Shall Christ covenant with God for the salvation of sinners, and shall sinners covenant with hell, death, and the devil, for the damnation of their souls? Shall Christ come down from heaven to earth to declare this to sinners; and shall sinners stop their ears against these good tidings? Will you not hear the errand of Christ, although he telleth you tidings of peace and salvation? How if he had come, having taken a command from his Father to damn you and to send you to dwell with devils in hell? Sinners, hear this message, John 3: 16, 17, etc.; he speaketh no harm, his words are eternal life; all men that give ear unto them have eternal advantage by them-advantage, I say, that never hath an end.
Besides, do but consider these two things; they may have some sway upon thy soul.
1. When he came on his message, he came with tears in his eyes, and did even weepingly tender the terms of reconciliation to them—I say, with tears in his eyes. And when he came near the city with the message of peace, beholding the hardness of their hearts, he wept over it, and took up a lamentation over it, because he saw they rejected his mercy, which was tidings of peace. I say, wilt thou then slight a weeping Jesus, one that so loveth the soul that rather than he will lose thee, he will with tears persuade thee?
2. Not only so, but also when he came, he came all on a gore of blood, to proffer mercy to thee, to show thee still how dearly he did love thee; as if he had said, "Sinner, here is mercy for thee; but behold my bloody sweat, my bloody wounds, my accursed death; behold, and see what danger I have gone through to come unto thy soul. I am come indeed unto thee, and do bring thee tidings of salvation, but it cost me my heart's blood before I could come at thee, to give thee the fruits of my everlasting love."
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST.
Many there are who, in the day of grace and mercy, despise those things which are indeed the birthright to heaven, who yet when the declining days appear will cry as loud as Esau, "Lord, Lord, open to us;" but then, as Isaac would not repent, no more will God the Father, but will say, "I have blessed these, yea, and they shall be blessed; but as for you, Depart, you are workers of iniquity."
When I had thus considered these scriptures and found that thus to understand them was not against, but according to the Scriptures, this still added further to my encouragement and comfort, and also gave a great blow to that objection—to wit, that the Scriptures could not agree in the salvation of my soul.
And now remained only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone beyond me, only some drops did still remain that now and then would fall upon me; but because my former frights and anguish were very sore and deep, therefore it oft befell me still, as it befalleth those that have been seared with the fire, I thought every voice was, "Fire, fire'!" Every little touch would hurt my tender conscience.
But one day, as I was passing into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul: "Thy righteousness is in heaven;" and methought withal I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand—there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, he wanted my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed; I was loosed frorn my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures [Footnote: Numb. 15:30; Jer. 7:16; Heb. 10:31; 12:27.] of God left off to trouble me: now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, "Thy righteousness is in heaven," but could not find such a saying; wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, "He is made unto us of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." By this word I saw the other sentence true.
For by this scripture I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as he is distinct from us as touching his bodily presence, so he is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God through Christ. Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes. I was now not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of his blood; burial, or resurrection, but considering him as a whole Christ—as he in whom all these, and all his other virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that he sat on the right hand of God in heaven.
Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of the union with the Son of God—that I was joined to him, and that I was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone; and now was that a sweet word to me in Eph. 5:30. By this also was my faith in him as my righteousness, the more confirmed in me; for if he and I were one, then his righteousness was mine, his merits mine, his victory also mine. Now, I could see myself in heaven and earth at once: in heaven, by my Christ, by my Head, by my Righteousness and Life, though on earth by body or person.
Let divine and infinite justice turn itself which way it will, it finds One that can tell how to match it. For if it say, "I will require the satisfaction of man," there is a man to satisfy its cry; and if it say, "But I am an infinite God, and must and will have an infinite satisfaction," here is One also that is infinite, even "fellow" with God; fellow in his essence and being; fellow in his power and strength; fellow in his wisdom; fellow in his mercy and grace, together with the rest of the attributes of God. So that, let justice turn itself which way it will, here is a complete person and a complete satisfaction.
"The law," sayst thou, "must be obeyed." I answer, "Christ Jesus has done that in his own person, and justified me thereby; and for my part, I will not labor now to fulfil the law for justification, lest I should undervalue the merits of the man Christ Jesus, and what he has done without me; and yet will I labor to fulfil, if it were possible, ten thousand laws, if there were so many. And Oh, let it be out of love to my sweet Lord Jesus; for the love of Christ constraineth me."
Though no man can be justified by the works of the law, yet unless the righteousness and holiness by which they attempt to enter into this kingdom be justified by the law, it is in vain once to think of entering in at this strait gate. Now, the law justifieth not, but upon the account of Christ's righteousness; if therefore thou be not indeed found in that righteousness, thou wilt find the law lie just in the passage into heaven to keep thee out.
CHRIST A COMPLETE SAVIOUR.
"This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." John 6:39.
The Father therefore, in giving them to him to save them, must needs declare unto us the following things:
1. That he is ABLE to answer this design of God to save them to the uttermost sin, the uttermost temptation. Hence he is said to "lay help on one that is mighty," mighty to save. Sin is strong, Satan is also strong, death and the grave are strong, and so is the curse of the law; therefore it follows, that this Jesus must needs be by God the Father accounted almighty, in that he hath given his elect to him to save them from these, and that in despite of all their force and power. And he gave us testimony of this his might, when he was employed in that part of our deliverance that called for a declaration of it. He abolished death; he destroyed him that had the power of death; he was the destruction of the grave; he hath finished sin, and made an end of it; he hath vanquished the curse of the law, nailed it to his cross, triumphed over them upon his cross, and made a show of these things openly. Yea, and even now, as a sign of his triumph and conquest, he is alive from the dead, and hath the keys of death and hell in his own keeping.
2. The Father's giving them to him to save them, declares unto us that he is and will be FAITHFUL in his office of Mediator, and that therefore they shall be secured from the fruit and wages of their sins, which is eternal damnation. And of this the Son hath already given a proof; for when the time was come that his blood was by divine justice required for their redemption, washing, and cleansing, he as freely poured it out of his heart as if it had been water out of a vessel; not sticking to part with his own life, that the life which was laid up for his people in heaven might not fail to be bestowed upon them.
3. The Father's giving of them to him to save them, declares that he is and will be GENTLE AND PATIENT towards them under all their provocations and miscarriages. It is not to be imagined, the trials and provocations that the Son of God hath all along had with these people that have been given to him to save. Indeed, he is said to be A TRIED STONE; for he has been tried not only by the devil, guilt of sin, death, and the curse of the law, but also by his people's ignorance, unruliness, falls into sin, and declining to errors in life and doctrine. Were we but capable of seeing how this Lord Jesus has been tried, even by his people, ever since there was one of them in the world, we should be amazed at his patience and gentle carriages to them. It is said indeed, "The Lord is very pitiful, slow to anger, and of great mercy." And indeed, if he had not been so, he could never have endured their manners as he has done, from Adam hitherto. Therefore are his pity and bowels towards his church preferred above the pity and bowels of a mother towards her child. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, saith the Lord."
God did once give Moses, as Christ's servant, a handful of his people to carry them in his bosom, but no further than from Egypt to Canaan; and this Moses, as is said of him by the Holy Ghost, was the meekest man that was then to be found upon the earth. God gave them to Moses that he might carry them in his bosom, that he might show gentleness and patience towards them, under all the provocations wherewith they would provoke him from that time till he had brought them to their land. But he failed in the work; he could not exercise it, because he had not that sufficiency of patience towards them. But now it is said of the person speaking in the text, that "he shall gather his lambs with his arm, shall carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead them that are with young."
4. The Father's giving them to him to save them, declares that he hath a SUFFICIENCY OF WISDOM to wage with all those difficulties that would attend him in his bringing his sons and daughters unto glory. He hath made him to us to be wisdom; yea, he is called Wisdom itself. And God saith, moreover, that he "shall deal prudently." And indeed, he that shall take upon him to be the Saviour of the people, had need be wise, because their adversaries are subtle above any. Here they are to encounter the serpent, who for his subtlety outwitted our father and mother when their wisdom was at highest. But if we talk of wisdom, our Jesus is wise, wiser than Solomon, wiser than all men, wiser than all angels; he is even "the wisdom of God." And hence it is that he turneth sins, temptations, persecutions, falls, and all things, for good unto his people.
I do not doubt but there is virtue enough in the blood of Christ, would God Almighty so apply it, to save the souls of the whole world. But it is the blood of Christ, his own blood, and he may do what he will with his own. It is also the blood of God, and he also may restrain its merits, or apply it as he sees good. But the coming soul, he shall find and feel the virtue thereof, even the soul that comes to God by Christ, for he is the man concerned in its worth.
There is sufficiency of merit in Christ to save a thousand times as many more as are like to be saved by him.
No man needs at all to go about to come at life and peace and rest: let him come directly from sin to grace, from Satan to Jesus Christ.
The cross, it stands and hath stood from the beginning as a way-mark to the kingdom of heaven. Art thou inquiring the way to heaven? Why, I tell thee Christ is the way; into him thou must get, into his righteousness to be justified; and if thou art in him, thou wilt presently see the cross: thou must go close by it, thou must touch it, nay, thou must take it up, or else thou wilt quickly go out of the way that leads to heaven, and turn up some of those crooked lanes that lead down to the chambers of death.
Many there be that begin with grace and end with works, and think that is the only way. Indeed, works will save from temporal punishments, when their imperfections are purged from them by the intercession of Christ; but to be saved and brought to glory, to be carried through this dangerous world from my first moving after Christ until I set foot within the gates of paradise, this is the work of my Mediator, of my High-priest and Intercessor. It is he that fetches us again when we are run away; it is he that lifts us up when the devil and sin have thrown us down; it is he that quickens us when we grow cold; it is he that comforts us when we despair; it is he that obtains fresh pardon when we have contracted sin, and that purges our consciences when they are laden with guilt. I know that rewards do wait for them in heaven, that believe in Christ, and shall do well on earth; but this is not a reward of merit, but of grace. We are saved by Christ, brought to glory by Christ, and all our works are no other ways made acceptable to God but by the person and personal excellencies and works of Christ; therefore, whatever the jewels are, and the bracelets and the pearls, that thou shalt be adorned with as a reward of service done for God in the world, for them thou must thank Christ, and before all confess that he was the meritorious cause thereof.
Christ must be helpful to thee every way, or he will be helpful to thee no way; thou must enter in by every whit of Christ, or thou shalt enter in by never a whit of him. Wherefore look not to have him thy Saviour, if thou take him not for King and Prophet; nay, thou shalt not have him in any one, if thou dost not take him in every one of these.
Christ shall bear the glory of our salvation from sin, preservation in the midst of all temptations, and of our going to glory; also he shall bear the glory of our labor in the gospel, of our gifts and abilities, of making our work and labor effectual to the saving of sinners, that in all things he might have the preeminence.
If you have indeed laid Christ, God-man, for your foundation, then you do lay the hope of your felicity and joy on this, that the Son of Mary is now absent from his children in his person and humanity, making intercession for them and for thee in the presence of his Father. 2 Cor. 5:6.
And the reason that thou canst rejoice hereat is, because thou hast not only heard of it with thine ear, but dost enjoy the sweet hope and faith of it in thy heart; which hope and faith are begotten by the Spirit of Christ, which Spirit dwelleth in thee if thou be a believer, and showeth those things to thee to be the only things.
And God having shown thee these things thus within thee, by the Spirit that dwells in thee, thou hast mighty encouragement to hope for the glory that shall be revealed at the coming again of the man Christ Jesus; of which glory thou hast also greater ground to hope for a share, because that Spirit which alone is able to discover to thee the truth of these things, is given to thee of God as the first fruits of that glory which is hereafter to be revealed—-being obtained for thee by the man Christ Jesus' death on Calvary, and by his blood that was shed there, together with his resurrection from the dead out of the grave where they had laid him.
Also, thou believest that he is gone away from thee in the same body which was hanged on the cross, to take possession of that glory which thou, through his obedience, shalt at his the very same man's return from heaven the second time, have bestowed upon thee, he having all this while prepared and preserved it for thee; as he saith himself, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Again, if thou hast laid Christ, God-man, for thy foundation, though thou hast the Spirit of this man Christ within thee, yet thou dost not look that justification should be wrought out for thee by that Spirit of Christ that dwells within thee; for thou knowest that salvation is already obtained for thee by the man Christ Jesus without thee, and is witnessed to thee by his Spirit which dwells within thee. And thus much doth this man Christ Jesus testify unto us, where he says, "He shall glorify me," saith the Son of Mary. But how? Why, "he shall take of mine"—-what I have done and am doing in the presence of the Father—"and shall show it unto you." John 16:14.
CHRIST NOT A SAVIOUR BY HIS EXAMPLE.
A third thing you mention is, that "the Son of God taught men their duty by his own example, and did himself perform what he required of them; and that himself did tread before us every step of that which he hath told us leadeth to eternal life."
ANSWER. Now we are come to the point, namely, that "the way to eternal life is, first of all, to take Christ for our example, treading his steps." And the reason, if it be true, is weighty; for "he hath trod every step before us which he hath told us leads to eternal life."
"Every step." Therefore he went to heaven by virtue of an imputative righteousness; for this is one of our steps thither.
"Every step." Then he must go thither by faith in his own blood for pardon of sin; for this is another of our steps thither.
"Every step." Then he must go thither by virtue of his own intercession at the right hand of God before he came thither; for this is one of our steps thither.
"Every step." Then he must come to God and ask mercy for some great wickedness which he had committed; for this is also one of our steps thither.
But again, we will consider it the other way.
"Every step." Then we cannot come to heaven before we first be made accursed of God; for so was he before he came thither.
"Every step." Then we must first make our body and soul an offering for the sin of others; for this did he before he came thither.
"Every step." Then we must go to heaven for the sake of our own righteousness; for that was one of his steps thither.
O, sir, what will thy gallant, generous mind do here? Indeed, you talk of his being an expiatory sacrifice for us, but you put no more trust to that than to baptism or the Lord's supper; counting that with the other two but things indifferent in themselves.
You add again, that "this Son of God being raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, is our high-priest there." But you talk not at all of his sprinkling the mercy-seat with his blood, but clap upon him the heathens' demons, negotiating the affairs of men with the supreme God, and so wrap up [Footnote: That is, dismiss the subject.] with a testification that it is needless to enlarge on the point.
What man that ever had read or assented to the gospel, but would have spoken more honorably of Christ than you have done? His sacrifice must be stepped over; his intercession is needless to be enlarged upon. But when it falleth in your way to talk of your human nature, of the dictates of the first principles of morals within you, and of your generous mind to follow it, Oh what need there is now of amplifying, enlarging, and pressing it on men's consciences, as if that poor heathenish pagan principle was the very Spirit of God within us, and as if righteousness done by that was that and that only that would or could fling heaven's gates off the hinges.
Yea, a little after you tell us that "the doctrine of sending the Holy Ghost was to move and excite us to our duty, and to assist, cheer, and comfort us in the performance of it;" still meaning our close adhering, by the purity of our human nature, to the dictates of the law as written in our hearts as men; which is as false as God is true.
For the Holy Ghost is sent into our hearts, not to excite us to a compliance with our old and wind-shaken excellencies that came into the world with us, but to write new laws in our hearts, even the law of faith, the word of faith and of grace, and the doctrine of remission of sins through the blood of the Lamb of God, that holiness might flow from thence.
CHRIST A TEACHER.
At this time I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford. whose doctrine, by God's grace, was much for my stability. This man made it much his business to deliver the people of God from all those hard and unsound tests that by nature we are prone to. He would bid us take special heed that we took not up any truth upon trust, as from this or that or any other man or men; but cry mightily to God that he would convince us of the reality thereof, and set us down therein by his own Spirit in the holy word; "for," said he, "if you do otherwise, when temptation comes strongly upon you, you not having received them with evidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist, that once you thought you had."
This was as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rain in their season, for I had found, and that by sad experience, the truth of these his words; for I had felt that no man, especially when tempted by the devil, "can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
But O now, how was my soul led from truth to truth by God; even from the birth and cradle of the Son of God, to his ascension and second coming from heaven to judge the world.
Once I was troubled to know whether the Lord Jesus was a man as well as God, and God as well as man; and truly, in those days, let men say what they would, unless I had it with evidence from heaven, all was nothing to me. Well, I was much troubled about this point, and could not tell how to be resolved; at last, that in Rev. 5:6 came into my mind: "And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb." "In the midst of the throne"—thought I, there is the godhead; "in the midst of the elders"—there is his manhood: but Oh, methought this did glister; it was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction. That other scripture also did help me much in this: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the ever lasting Father, the Prince of Peace."
O friends, cry to God to reveal Jesus Christ unto you; there is none teacheth like him.
It would be long to tell you in particular how God did set me down in all the things of Christ, and how he did, that he might do so, lead me into his words; yea, and also how he did open them unto me, and make them shine before me, and cause them to dwell with me, talk with me, and comfort me over and over, both of his own being and the being of his Son and Spirit, and word and gospel.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
We never read that Jesus Christ was more cheerful in all his life on earth, than when he was going to lay down his life for his enemies; now he thanked God, now he sang.
Christ died and endured the wages of sin, and that without an intercessor, without one between God and him. He grappled immediately with the eternal justice of God, who inflicted on him death, the wages of sin; there was no man to hold off the hand of God; justice had his full blow at him, and made him a curse for sin.
A second thing that demonstrates that Christ died the cursed death for sin, is the frame of spirit that he was in at the time he was to be taken. Never was poor mortal so beset with the apprehensions of approaching death as was this Lord Jesus Christ; amazement beyond measure, sorrow that exceeded seized upon his soul: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. And he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy." Add to this that Jesus Christ was better able to grapple with death, even alone, than the whole world joined all together. 1. He was anointed with the Spirit without measure. 2. He had all grace perfect in him. 3. Never had any so much of his Father's love as he. 4. Never one so harmless and without sin as he, and consequently never man had so good a conscience as he. 5. Never one prepared such a stock of good works to bear him company at the hour of death as he. 6. Never one had greater assurance of being with the Father eternally in the heavens than he. And yet, behold, when he comes to die, how weak is he, how amazed at death, how heavy, how exceeding sorrowful! and, I say, no cause assigned but the approach of death.
Alas, how often is it seen that we poor sinners can laugh at destruction when it cometh; yea, and rejoice exceedingly when we find the grave, looking upon death as a part of our portion, yea, as that which will be a means of our present relief and help. 1 Cor. 3:22.
This Jesus could not do, considered as dying for our sin; but the nearer death, the more heavy and oppressed with the thoughts of the revenging hand of God; wherefore he falls into an agony and sweats—not after the common rate, as we do when death is severing body and soul: "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
What should be the reason but that death assaulted him with his sting? If Jesus Christ had been to die for his virtues only, doubtless he would have borne it lightly.
How have the martyrs despised death, having peace with God by Jesus Christ, scorning the most cruel torments that men and hell could devise and invent! but Jesus Christ could not do so, as he was a sacrifice for sin; he died for us, he was made a curse for us. O, my brethren, Christ died many deaths at once; he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.
It was because of sin, the sin that was put into the death he died, and the curse of God that was due to sin, that that death was so bitter to Jesus Christ; it is Christ that died. The apostle speaks as if never any died but Christ; nor indeed did there, so wonderful a death as he. Death, considered simply as a deprivation of natural life, could not have these effects in a person personally more righteous than an angel; yea, even carnal wicked men, not awakened in their conscience, how securely they can die! It must therefore he concluded that the sorrows and agony of Jesus Christ came from a higher cause, even from the curse of God that was now approaching for sin.
At last they condemn him to death, even to the death of the cross, where they hang him up by wounds made through his hands and feet, between the earth and the heavens; where he hanged for the space of six hours. No God yet appears for his help. While he hangs there some rail at him, others wag their heads, others tauntingly say, "He saved others, himself he cannot save." Some divide his raiment, casting lots for his raiment before his face; others mockingly hid him come down from the cross; and when he desires succor, they give him vinegar to drink. No God yet appears for his help.
Now the earth quakes, the rocks are rent, the sun becomes black, and Jesus still cries out, that he was forsaken of God; and presently boweth his head and dies.
And for all this there is no cause assigned from God, but sin. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed."
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
You shall have the testimony of the holy angels by the Scriptures, to the resurrection of the Son of God. And first, in Mark 16: 3-7, the words are these:
"And they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone?" They had a good mind to see their Lord; but they could not, as they thought, get away the stone which covered the mouth of the sepulchre. "And when they had looked," that is, towards the sepulchre, "they saw the stone rolled away, for it was great; and entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man," that is, an angel, "sitting on the right side, clothed with a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not afraid," you have no cause for it; "you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; he is not here, he is risen: behold the place where they laid him." What scripture can be plainer spoken than this? Here is an angel of the Lord ready to satisfy the disciples of Jesus that he was risen from the dead. And lest they should think it was not the right Jesus he spoke of, Yes, saith he, it is the same Jesus that you mean; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, do you not? Why, "he is risen, he is not here." But do you speak seriously and in good earnest? Yea, surely; if you will not believe me, "behold the place where they laid him." This scripture is very clear to our purpose.
But again, in Matt. 28: 3-7, there is an angel as before bearing witness of the resurrection of Jesus. "His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto them," the women who came to seek Jesus, "Fear you not; but let them that seek to keep the Lord in his grave fear if they will, for you have no ground of fear who seek the Jesus that was crucified: he is not here, he is risen; he cannot be here, in body, and risen too: if you will not believe me, come, see where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and behold, he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall you see him." But shall we be sure of it? "Yea," saith the angel; "lo, it is I that have told you." See how plainly this scripture also doth testify of Christ's resurrection. "Here," saith the angel, "you seek a Saviour, and none will content you but he, even the same that was crucified: well, you shall have him, but he is not here." Why, where is he then? "He is risen from the dead." But are you sure it is the same that we look for? "Yea, it is the same that was crucified." But where shall we find him? Why, "he goeth before you into Galilee, where he used to be in his lifetime, before he was crucified. And that you might be sure of it there to find him, know that he is an angel of God that has told you."
THE GLORIFICATION OF CHRIST.
For God to adorn his Son with all this glory in his ascension, thus to make him ride conqueror up into the clouds, thus to go up with sound of trumpet, with shout of angels and with songs of praises, and let me add, to be accompanied also with those that rose from the dead after his resurrection, who were the very price of his blood—this does greatly demonstrate that Jesus Christ, by what he has done has paid a full price to God for the souls of sinners, and obtained eternal redemption for them: he had not else rode thus in triumph to heaven.
Consider those glorious circumstances that accompany his approach to the gates of the everlasting habitation. The everlasting gates are set, yea, bid stand open: "Be ye open, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." The King of glory is Jesus Christ, and the words are a prophecy of his glorious ascending into the heavens, when he went up as the High-priest of the church, to carry the price of his blood into the holiest of all.
THE OFFICES OF CHRIST.
Christ as a Saviour is not divided. He that hath him not in all, shall have him in none at all of his offices in a saving manner.
CHRIST AN INTERCESSOR.
Study the priesthood, the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ, both the first and second part of it. The first part was that when he offered up himself without the gate, when he bore our sins in his own body on the tree.
The second part is that which he executes there whither he is now gone, even into heaven itself, where the throne of grace is. I say, study what Christ has done and is doing. Oh, what is he doing now? He is sprinkling his blood, with his priestly robes on, before the throne of grace. That is too little thought on by the saints of God: "We have such a High-priest, who is set down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man." Busy thyself, fellow-Christian, about this blessed office of Christ. It is full of good, it is full of sweet, it is full of heaven, it is full of relief and succor for the tempted and dejected.
The priestly office of Christ is the first and great thing that is presented to us in the gospel; namely, how he died for our sins, and gave himself to the cross, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us through him. But now because this priestly office of his is divided into two parts, and because one of them, to wit, this of his intercession, is to be accomplished for us within the veil, therefore—as we say among men, out of sight, out of mind—he is too much as to this forgotten by us. We satisfy ourselves with the slaying of the sacrifice; we look not after our Aaron as he goes into the holiest, there to sprinkle the mercy-seat with blood upon our account.
But since his dying is his laying down his price, and his intercession the urging and managing the worthiness of it in the presence of God against Satan, there is glory to be found therein, and we should look after him into the holy place. The second part of the work of the high-priests under the law, had great glory and sanctity put upon it. Forasmuch as the holy garments were provided for him to officiate in within the veil, also it was there that the altar stood on which he offered incense. Also there were the mercy-seat and the cherubim of glory, which were figures of the angels, that love to be continually looking and prying into the management of this second part of the priesthood of Christ in the presence of God. For although themselves are not the persons so immediately concerned therein as we, yet the management of it, I say, is with so much grace and glory, and wisdom and efiectualness, that it is a heaven to the angels to see it. O, to enjoy the odorous scent and sweet memorial, the heart-refreshing perfumes that ascend continually from the mercy-seat to the throne where God is, and also to behold how effectual it is to the end for which it is designed, is glorious; and he that is not somewhat let into this by the grace of God, there is a great thing lacking to his faith, and he misseth of many a sweet bit that he might otherwise enjoy. Wherefore, I say, be exhorted to the study of this part of Christ's work in the managing of our salvation for us.
They who are justified by the blood of Christ, should still look to him for the remaining part of their salvation; and let them look for it with confidence, for it is in a faithful hand. And for thy encouragement to look and hope for the completing of thy salvation in glory, let me present thee with a few things.
1. The hardest or worst part of the work of thy Saviour is over: his bloody work, his bearing thy sin and curse, his loss of the light of his Father's face for a time. His dying upon the cursed tree, that was the worst, the sorest, the hardest, and most difficult part of the work of redemption; and yet this he did willingly, cheerfully, and without thy desires; yea, this he did, as considering those for whom he did it in a state of rebellion and enmity to him.
2. Consider also that he has made a beginning with thy soul to reconcile thee to God, and to that end has bestowed his justice upon thee, put his Spirit within thee, and begun to make the unwieldable mountain and rock, thy heart, to turn towards him and desire after him, to believe in him and rejoice in him.
3. Consider also that some comfortable pledges of his love thou hast already received; namely, as to feel the sweetness of his love, as to see the light of his countenance, as to be made to know his power in raising thee when thou wast down, and how he has made thee to stand while hell has been pushing at thee utterly to overthrow thee.
4. Thou mayst consider also, that what remains behind of the work of thy salvation in his hands, as it is the most easy part, is so the most comfortable, and that part which will more immediately issue in his glory; and therefore he will mind it.
5. That which is behind is also more safe in his hand than if it was in thine own. He is wise, he is powerful, he is faithful, and therefore will manage that part that is lacking to our salvation well, until he has completed it. It is his love to thee has made him that he putteth no trust in thee: he knows that he can himself bring thee to his kingdom most surely, and therefore has not left that work to thee, no, not any part thereof.
Live in hope, then, in a lively hope, that since Christ is risen from the dead he lives to make intercession for thee; and that thou shalt reap the blessed benefit of this twofold salvation that is wrought and that is working out for thee by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Every believer may say, Christ did not only die and rise again, but he ascended into heaven to take possession thereof for me, to prepare a place for me. He standeth there in the second part of his suretyship to bring me safe thither, and to present me in a glorious manner, "not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing." He is therefore exercising his priestly office for me, pleading the perfection of his own righteousness and the virtue of his blood.
He is there ready to answer the accusations of the law, the devil, and sin, for me. Here a believer may through faith look the devil in the face and rejoice, saying, "O Satan, I have a precious Jesus, a soul-comforting Jesus, a sin-pardoning Jesus." Here he may listen to the thunders of the law, and yet not be daunted. He may say, "O law, thou mayest roar against sin, but thou canst not reach me; thou mayest 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, and thy condemnation. I am brought into another covenant, under better promises of life and salvation, freely to comfort me without my merit, through the blood of Jesus; therefore though thou layest my sins to my charge and provest me guilty, yet so long as Christ hath brought in everlasting righteousness and given it to me, I shall not fear thy threats. My Christ is all, hath done all, and will deliver me from thine accusations." Thus also thou mayest say, when death assaulteth thee, "O death, where is thy sting? Thou canst not devour; I have comfort through Jesus Christ, who hath taken thee captive and taken away thy strength; he hath pierced thy heart and let out all thy soul-destroying poison. Though I see thee, I am not afraid of thee; though I feel thee, I am not daunted; for thou hast lost thy sting in the side of the Lord Jesus, through whom I overcome thee. Also, O Satan, though I hear thee make a hellish noise, and though thou threaten me highly, yet my soul shall triumph over thee so long as Christ is alive and can be heard in heaven—so long as he hath broken thy head and won the field—so long as thou art in prison and canst not have thy desire. When I hear thy voice, my thoughts are turned to Christ my Saviour; I hearken to what he will say, for he will speak comfort: he hath gotten the victory and doth give me the crown, and causeth me to triumph through his most glorious conquest.
"And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne stood a Lamb as it had been slain." Rev. 5: 6. That in the midst of the throne is our sacrifice, with the very marks of his death upon him, showing to God that sitteth upon the throne the holes of the thorns, of the nails, of the spear; and how he was disfigured with blows and blood when at his command he gave himself a ransom for his people; for it cannot be imagined that either the exaltation or glorification of the body of Jesus Christ should make him forget the day in which he died the death for our sins; especially since that which puts worth into his whole intercession is the death he died, and the blood he shed upon, the cross for our trespasses.
Since Christ is an intercessor, I infer that believers should not rest at the cross for comfort: justification they should look for there; but being justified by his blood, they should ascend up after him to his throne. At the cross you will see him in his sorrows and humiliations, in his tears and blood; but follow him to where he is now, and then you shall see him in his robes, in his priestly robes, and with his golden girdle about him. There you shall see him wearing the breastplate of judgment, and with all your names written upon his heart. Then you shall perceive that the whole family in heaven and earth is named of him, and how he prevails with God the Father of mercies for you. Stand still awhile and listen, yea, enter with boldness unto the holiest, and see your Jesus as he now appears in the presence of God for you; what work he makes against the devil and sin, and death and hell, for you. Ah, it is brave following of Jesus Christ to the holiest: the veil is rent; you may see with open face as in a glass the glory of the Lord.
This then is our High-priest; this is intercession—these the benefits of it. It lies in our part to improve it; and wisdom to do so—THAT also comes from the mercy-seat or throne of grace where he, even our High-priest, ever liveth to make intercession for us. To whom he glory for ever and ever.
CHRIST AN ADVOCATE.
"We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." This consideration will yield relief, when by Satan's abuse of some other of the offices of Christ, thy faith is discouraged and made afraid. Christ, as a prophet, pronounces many a dreadful sentence against sin; and Christ, as a king, is of power to execute them: and Satan, as an enemy, has subtlety enough to abuse both these to the almost utter overthrow of the faith of the children of God.
This consideration will help thee to put by that vizor [Footnote: That is, mask.] wherewith Christ by Satan is misrepresented to thee, to the weakening and affrighting thee. There is nothing more common among saints, than thus to be wronged by Satan; for he will labor to fetch fire out of the offices of Christ to burn us: so to present him to us with so dreadful and so ireful a countenance, that a man in temptation and under guilt shall hardly be able to lift up his face to God.
But now, to think really that he is my Advocate, this heals all. Put a vizor upon the face of a father, and it may perhaps for a while fright the child; but let the father speak, let him speak in his own fatherly dialect to the child, and the vizor is gone, if not from the father's face, yet from the child's mind; yea, the child, notwithstanding that vizor, will adventure to creep into its father's bosom.
Why, thus it is with the saints when Satan deludes and abuses them by disfiguring the countenance of Christ to their view: let them but hear their Lord speak in his own natural dialect—and he doth so indeed when we hear him speak as an advocate—and their minds are calmed, their thoughts settled, their guilt vanished, and their faith revived.
Is Christ Jesus the Lord my advocate with the Father? Then awake, my faith, and shake thyself like a giant; stir up thyself and be not faint: Christ is the advocate of his people; and as for sin, which is one great stumble to thy actings, O my faith, Christ has not only died for that as a sacrifice, nor only carried his sacrifice unto the Father into the holiest of all, but is there to manage that offering as an advocate, pleading the efficacy and worth thereof before God against the devil for us.
The modest saint is apt to be abashed, to think what a troublesome one he is, and what a make-work he has been in God's house all his days; and let him be filled with holy blushing, but let him not forsake his Advocate.
If thy foot slippeth, if it slippeth greatly, then know thou it will not be long before a bill be in heaven preferred against thee by the accuser of the brethren; wherefore then thou must have recourse to Christ as advocate, to plead before God thy Judge against the devil thine adversary for thee. And as to the badness of thy cause, let nothing move thee save to humility and self-abasement, for Christ is glorified by being concerned for thee; yea, the angels will shout aloud to see him bring thee off. For what greater glory can we conceive Christ to obtain as advocate, than to bring off his people when they have sinned, notwithstanding Satan's so charging of them as he doth?
He gloried when he was going to the cross to die; he went up with a shout and the sound of a trumpet to make intercession for us; and shall we think that by his being an advocate he receives no additional glory?
Christ, when he pleads as an advocate for his people in the presence of God against Satan, can plead those very weaknesses of his people for which Satan would have them damned, for their relief and advantage. "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" This is part of the plea of our Advocate against Satan, for his servant Joshua, when he said, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." Zech. 13: 2. Now, to be a brand plucked out of the fire, is to be a saint—impatient, weakened, defiled, and made imperfect by sin. This then is the next plea of our goodly Advocate for us: "O Satan, this is a brand plucked out of the fire." As if he should say, "Thou objectest against my servant Joshua, that he is black like a coal, or that the fire of sin at times is still burning in him. And what then? The reason why he is not totally extinct as tow, is not thy pity but rny Father's mercy to him. I have plucked him out of the fire, yet not so out but that the smell thereof is yet upon him; and my Father and I, we consider his weakness and pity him; for since he is as a brand pulled out, can it be expected by my Father or me, that he should appear before us as clear and do our biddings as well as if he had never been there? This is a brand plucked out of the fire, and must be considered as such, and must be borne with as such."
His righteousness Christ presents to God for us; and God, for this righteousness' sake, is well pleased that we should be saved, and for it can save us and secure his honor and preserve the law in its sanction.
For Christ, in pleading against Satan as an advocate with, the Father for us, appeals to the law itself if he has not done it justice; saying, "Most mighty law, what command of thine have I not fulfilled? What demand of thine have I not fully answered? Where is that jot or tittle of the law that is able to object against my doings for want of satisfaction?"
Here the law is mute; it speaks not one word by way of the least complaint, but rather testifies of this righteousness that it is good and holy. Rom. 3:22,23; 5:15-19.
Now then, since Christ did this as a public person, it follows that others must be justified thereby; for that was the end and reason of Christ's taking on him to do the righteousness of the law. Nor can the law object against the equity of this dispensation of heaven; for why might not that God who gave the law its being and its sanction, dispose as he pleases of the righteousness which it commends? Besides, if men be made righteous, they are so; and if by a righteousness which the law commends, how can fault be found with them by the law? Nay, it is "witnessed by the law and the prophets," who consent that it should be "unto all and upon all them that believe," for their justification. Rom. 3:20,21.
And that the mighty God suffereth the prince of the devils to do with the law what he can against this most wholesome and godly doctrine, it is to show the truth, goodness, and permanency thereof; for this is as if it were said, Devil, do thy worst.
When the law is in the hand of an easy pleader, though the cause that he pleads be good, a crafty opposer may overthrow the right; but here is the salvation of the children in debate, whether it can stand with law and justice: the opposer of this is the devil, his argument against it is the law; he that defends the doctrine is Christ the advocate, who in his plea must justify the justice of God, defend the holiness of the law, and save the sinner from all the arguments, pleas, stops, and demurs that Satan is able to put in against it. And this he must do fairly, righteously, simply, pleading the voice of the self-same law for the justification of the soul that he standeth for, which Satan leads against it; for though it is by the new law that our salvation comes, yet by the old law is the new law approved of, and the way of salvation thereby consented to.
VIII. THE HOLY SPIRIT.
IT is the Spirit of God, even the Holy Ghost that convinceth us of sin, and so of our damnable state because of sin.
Therefore the Spirit of God, when he worketh in the heart as a spirit of bondage, doeth it by working in us by the law, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Rom. 6: 20. And he in this his working is properly called a spirit of bondage; because by the law he shows us that indeed we are in bondage to the law, the devil, and death and danmation.
He is called in his working the spirit of bondage, because he here also holds us—to wit, in this sight and sense of our bondage state—so long as it is meet we should be so held; which to some of the saints is a longer, and to some a shorter time. Paul was held in it three days and three nights, but the jailer and the three thousand, so far as can be gathered, not above an hour; but some in these later times are so held for days and months, if not for years. But I say, let the time be longer or shorter, it is the Spirit of God that holdeth him under this yoke, and it is good that a man should be his time held under it.
Now, as I said, the sinner at first is by the Spirit of God held under this bondage; that is, hath such a discovery of his sin and of his damnation for sin made to him, and also is held so fast under the sense thereof, that it is not in the power of any man, nor yet of the very angels in heaven, to release or set him free, until the Holy Spirit changeth his ministration and comes in the sweet and peaceable tidings of salvation by Christ in the gospel to his poor dejected and afflicted conscience.
The Spirit loveth to do what it does in private: that man to whom God intendeth to reveal great things, he taketh him aside from the lumber and cumber of this world, and carrieth him away in the solace and contemplation of the things of another world.
This water of life is the very groundwork of life IN us, though not the groundwork of life FOR us. The groundwork of life FOR us is the passion and merits of Christ; this is that for the sake of which grace is given unto us, as is intimated by the text, Rev. 22:1. It proceeds from the throne of God, who is Christ. Christ then having obtained grace for us, must needs be precedent as to his merit, to that grace he hath so obtained. Besides, it is clear that the Spirit and grace come from God through him. Therefore, as to the communication of grace to us, it is the fruit of his merit and purchase.
But I say, IN US grace is the groundwork of life; for though we may be said before to live virtually in the person of Christ before God, yet we are dead in ourselves, and so must be until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high; for the Spirit is life, and its graces are life, and when that is infused by God from the throne, then we live, and not till then. And hence it is called as before, living water, the water of life, springing up in us into everlasting life. The Spirit then and graces of the Spirit, which is the river here spoken of, is that, and that only, which can cause us to live; that being life to the soul, as the soul is life to the body. All men therefore, as was said afore—though elect, though purchased by the blood of Christ—are dead and must be dead until the Spirit of life from God and his throne shall enter into them; until they shall drink it in by vehement thirst, as the parched ground drinks in the rain. Now when this living water is received, it takes up its seat in the heart, whence it spreads itself to the awakening of all the powers of the soul. For as in the first creation, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, in order to the putting of that creation into that excellent fashion and harmony which now we behold with our eyes, even so the new creation, to wit, the making of us new to God, is done by the overspreading of the same Spirit also.
As the herb that is planted or seed sown needs watering with continual showers of the mountains, so our graces implanted in us by the Spirit of grace must also be watered by the rain of Heaven. "Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly, thou settest the furrows thereof, thou makest it soft with showers, thou blessest the springing thereof." Hence he says that our graces shall grow. But how? "I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."
All the warmth that we have in our communion, is the warmth of the Spirit. When a company of saints are gathered together in the name of Christ to perform any spiritual exercise, and their souls are edified warmly and made glad therein, it is because this water, this river of water of life, has, in some of the streams thereof, run into that assembly. Then are Christians like those that drink wine in bowls, merry and glad; for that they have drank into the Spirit, and had their souls refreshed with the sweet gales and strong wine thereof. This is the feast that Isaiah speaks of when he saith, "In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." Isa. 25:6. This is called in another place, "The communion of the Holy Ghost." 2 Cor. 13:14. Now he warmeth spirits, uniteth spirits, enlighteneth spirits, reviveth, cherisheth, quickeneth, strengtheneth graces; renews assurances, brings old comforts to mind, weakens lusts, emboldeneth and raiseth a spirit of faith, of love, of hope, of prayer, and makes the word a blessing, conference a blessing, meditation a blessing, and duty very delightful to the soul. Without this water of life, communion is weak, flat, cold, dead, fruitless, lifeless; there is nothing seen, felt, heard, or understood, in a spiritual, heart-quickening way. Now ordinances are burdensome, sins strong, faith weak, hearts hard, and the faces of our souls dry, like the dry and parched ground.
This drink also revives us when tempted, when sick, when persecuted, when in the dark, and when we faint for thirst. The life of religion is this water of life; where that runs, where that is received, and where things are done in this spirit, there all things are well—the church thrifty, the soul thrifty, graces thrifty, and all is well.
You that are spiritual, you know what a high and goodly lifting up of heart one small gale of the good Spirit of God will make in your souls; how it will make your lusts to languish, and your souls to love and take pleasure in the Lord that saves you. You know, I say, what a flame of love, and compassion, and self-denial, and endeared affection to God and all saints, it will beget in the soul: "Oh, it is good to be here," saith the gracious heart.
This is the reason why so many are carried away with the errors that are broached in these days, because they have not indeed received the Lord Jesus by the revelation of the Spirit and with power, but by the relation of others only; and so having no other witness to set them down withal, but the history of the word and the relation of others concerning the truths contained in it, yet not having had the Spirit of the Lord to confirm these things effectually to them, they are carried away with delusions.
IX. JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
True justifying faith is said to receive, to embrace, to obey the Son of God as tendered in the gospel; by which expressions is showed both the nature of justifying faith in its actings in point of justification, and also the cause of its being full of good works in the world. A gift is not made mine by my seeing it, or because I know the nature of the thing so given; but it is mine if I receive and embrace it, yea, and as to the point in hand, if I yield myself up to stand and fall by it. Now he that shall not only see but receive, not only know but embrace the Son of God to be justified by him, cannot but bring forth good works; because Christ, who is now received and embraced by faith, leavens and seasons the spirit of this sinner, through his faith, to the making of him so to be. Acts 15:9. For faith has joined Christ and the soul together, and being so joined, the soul is one spirit with him: not essentially, but in agreement and oneness of design. Besides, when Christ is truly received and embraced to the justifying of the sinner, in that man's heart he dwells by his word and Spirit through the same faith also. Now Christ by his Spirit and word must needs season the soul he thus dwells in; so then the soul being seasoned, it seasoneth the body and soul, the life and conversation.
If the receiving of a temporal gift naturally tends to the making of us to move our cap and knee, and binds us to be the servant of the giver, shall we think that faith will leave him who by it has received Christ, to be as unconcerned as a stock or stone, or that its utmost excellency is to provoke the soul to a lip-labor, and to give Christ a few fair words for his pains and grace, and so wrap up the business? No, no; the love of Christ constraineth us thus to judge, that it is but reasonable, since he gave his all for us, that we should give our some for him. 2 Cor. 5:14.
We are said to be saved by faith, because by faith we lay hold of, venture upon, and put on Jesus Christ for life: for life, I say, because God having made him the Saviour, has given him life to communicate to sinners; and the life that he communicates to them is the merit of his flesh and blood, which whoso eateth and drinketh by faith hath eternal life, because that flesh and blood have merit sufficient to obtain the favor of God. Yea, it hath done so, that day it was offered through the eternal Spirit a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor to him. Wherefore God imputeth the righteousness of Christ to him that believeth in him, by which righteousness he is personally justified and saved from that just judgment of the law that was due unto him. John 5:26; 6:53-57; Eph. 4:32; 5:2; Rom. 4:23-25.
Here let Christians warily distinguish betwixt the meritorious and the instrumental cause of their justification. Christ, with what he has done and suffered, is the meritorious cause of our justification; therefore he is said to be "made unto us of God wisdom and righteousness," and we are said to be "justified by his blood and saved from wrath through him," 1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 5:9,10; for it was his life and blood that was the price of our redemption.
Thou art therefore to make Christ Jesus the object of thy faith for justification; for by his righteousness thy sins must be covered from the sight of the justice of the law. Acts 16:31; Matt. 1:21.
FAITH THE INSTRUMENTAL CAUSE OF SALVATION.
Faith as the gift of God is not the Saviour, as our act doth merit nothing. Faith was not the cause that God gave Christ, neither is it the cause why God converts men to Christ; but faith is a gift bestowed upon us by the gracious God, the nature of which is to lay hold on Christ, whom God before did give for a ransom to redeem sinners. This faith hath its nourishment and supplies from the same God who at the first did give it; and is the only instrument through the Spirit that doth keep the soul in a comfortable frame both to do and suffer; for Christ helps the soul to receive comfort from him, when it can get none from itself, bearing up the soul in its progress heavenward. But that it is the first cause of salvation, I deny; or that it is the second, I deny. It is only the instrument or hand that receiveth the benefits that God hath prepared for thee before thou hadst any faith; so that we do nothing for salvation, as men. But if we speak properly, it was God's grace that moved him to give Christ a ransom for sinners, and the same God with the same grace, that doth give to the soul faith to believe and by believing to close in with him whom God out of his love and pity did send into the world to save sinners; so that all the works of the creature are shut out as to justification and life, and men are saved freely by grace.
TRUE AND FALSE FAITH DISTINGUISHED.
There are two sorts of good works; and a man may be shrewdly guessed at with reference to his faith, even by the works that he chooseth to be conversant in.
There are works that cost nothing, and works that are chargeable; and observe it, the unsound faith will choose to itself the most easy works it can find: for example, there is reading, praying, hearing of sermons, baptism, breaking of bread, church-fellowship, preaching, and the like; and there is mortification of lusts, charity, simplicity, and open-heartedness with a liberal hand to the poor, and their like also. Now, the unsound faith picks and chooses, and takes and leaves; but the true faith does not so. Satan is afraid that men should hear of justification by Christ, lest they should embrace it. But yet if he can prevail with them to keep fingers off, although they do hear and look on and practise lesser things, he can the better bear it; yea, he will labor to make such professors bold to conclude they shall by that kind of faith enjoy Christ, though by that they cannot embrace him nor lay hold of him; for he knows that how far soever a man engages in a profession of Christ with a faith that looks on but cannot receive nor embrace him, that faith will leave him to nothing but mistakes and disappointments at last.
The Son of God was manifest that he might destroy the works of the devil, but these men profess his faith and keep these works alive in the world. 1 John, 3. Shall these pass or such as believe to the saving of the soul? For a man to be content with this kind of faith and to look to go to salvation by it, what to God is a greater provocation?
The devil laugheth here, for he knows he has not lost his vassal by such a faith as this, but that rather he hath made use of the gospel, that glorious word of life, to secure his captive, through his presumption of the right faith, the faster in his shackles.
FAITH AND WORKS.
When I write of justification before God from the dreadful curse of the law, then I must speak of nothing but grace, Christ, the promise, and faith; hut when I speak of our justification before men, then I must join to these good works; for grace, Christ, and faith are things invisible, and so not to be seen by another, otherwise than through a life that befits so blessed a gospel as has declared unto us the remission of our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. He then that would have forgiveness of sins, and so be delivered from the curse of God, must believe in the righteousness and blood of Christ; but he that would show to his neighbors that he hath truly received this mercy of God, must do it by good works, for all things else to them is but talk; as for example, a tree is known to be what it is, whether of this or that kind, by its fruit. A tree it is without fruit; but so long as it so abideth, there is minisered occasion to doubt what manner of tree it is.
JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION DISTINGUISHED.
A believer is to do nothing for justification, only believe and be saved; though the law be a rule for every one that believes to walk by, it is not for justification. But if you do not put a difference between justification wrought by the Man Christ without, and sanctification wrought by the Spirit of Christ within, teaching believers their duty to their God for his love in giving Christ, you are not able to divide the word aright; but contrariwise, you corrupt the word of God, and cast stumbling-blocks before the people, and will certainly one day most deeply smart for your folly, except you repent.
To those who do believe in Christ aright, and lay him for their foundation: see that you are laborers after a more experimental knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; fly more to his birth, death, blood, resurrection, ascension, and intercession, and fetch refreshing for your souls more and more from him without, through the operation of his Spirit within; and though the fruits of the Spirit be excellent, and to be owned where they are found, yet have a care you take not away the glory of the blood of Christ shed on the cross without the gates of Jerusalem, and give it them; which you will do, if you content yourselves and satisfy your consciences with this—that you find the fruits of the Spirit within you—and do not go for peace and consolation of conscience to the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.
Therefore learn of the saints, or rather of the Spirit, who teaches to sing this song, "Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof, for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood." Rev. 5: 9.
And as for you that cannot yet well endure to think that you should be justified by the blood of the Son of Mary shed on the cross without the gate, I say to you, "Kiss the Son, lest he he angry and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: blessed are all they that put their trust in him." Psa. 2:12.
The work of the Spirit is to lead us into the sayings of Christ; which, as to our redemption from death, are such as these: "I lay down my life, that you may have life; I give my life a ransom for many; and the bread which I give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
The Holy Ghost breatheth nowhere so as in the ministry of this doctrine; this doctrine is sent with the Holy Ghost from heaven.
What is the church of God redeemed by from the curse of the law? It is by something done within them, or by something done without them.
If you say it is redeemed by something that worketh in them, then why did the man Christ Jesus hang on the cross on Calvary, without the gate of Jerusalem, for the sins of his children? and why do the Scriptures say that "through this man is preached to us the forgiveness of sins?"
The answer thou givest is, "The church of God is redeemed by Christ Jesus who is revealed in all believers, and Christ Jesus wrought in them mightily, and it was he that wrought in them to will and to do. This is plain scripture; and the man Christ Jesus," sayest thou, "hanged on the cross on Calvary because they wickedly judged him to be a blasphemer, and through their envy persecuted him to death because he bore witness against them, and in their account he died and hanged on the cross an evil-doer."
Ha, friend, I had thought thou hadst not been so much hardened. Art thou not ashamed thus to slight the death of the man Christ Jesus on the cross, and reckon it not effectual for salvation, but sayest, the church is redeemed by Christ Jesus who is revealed within? and to confirm it, thou dost also corruptly bring in this scripture: "Whereunto I labor, according to his working which worketh in me mightily; "by which words Paul signifies, that as God was with him in the ministry of the word, so did he also strive according to his working which wrought in him mightily. What is this to the purpose?
That thy answer is false, I shall clearly prove. First, because thou deniest that redemption was wrought out for sinners by the man Christ Jesus on the cross on Calvary; when the scripture says plainly, that when he did hang on the tree, then did he bear our sins there in his own body. And secondly, in thy saying it is redeemed by Christ within, by being within, when the work of the Spirit of Christ in believers is to make known to the soul, by dwelling within, which way and how they are redeemed by the man Christ Jesus on the cross. And this I prove further, because when thou art forced to answer to these words, Why did the man Christ Jesus hang en the cross, on Calvary for the sins of his children? thou sayest, "Because they wickedly judged him to be a blasphemer." Friend, I did not ask thee why the JEWS did put him to death; but why was he crucified there for the sins of his children? But thou, willing to cover over thine error, goest on cunningly, saying, that through their envy they persecuted him to death for an evil-doer.
As for thy saying that salvation is Christ within, if thou mean in opposition to Christ without, instead of pleading for Christ thou wilt plead against him; for Christ, God-man, without on the cross, did bring in salvation for sinners; and the right believing of that justifies the soul. Therefore Christ within, or the Spirit of him who did give himself a ransom, doth not work out justification for the soul in the soul, but doth lead the soul out of itself and out of what can he done within itself, to look for salvation in that Man that is now absent from his saints on earth. 2 Cor. 5:6. Why so? For it knows that there is salvation in none other, Acts 4: 12; and therefore I would wish thee to have a care what thou doest, for I tell thee, that Man who is now jeered by some, because he is preached to be without them, will very suddenly come the second time to the great overthrow of those who have spoken and shall still speak against him.
And indeed they that will follow Christ aright must follow him without, to the cross without, for justification on. Calvary without—that is, they must seek for justification by his obedience without—to the grave without, and to his ascension and intercession in heaven without; and this must be done through the operation of his own Holy Spirit that he has promised shall show these things unto them, being given within them for that purpose. Now the Spirit of Christ, that leads also; but whither? It leads to Christ without.
What a poor argument is this to say, that "because the Spirit of Christ doth convince of sin, therefore whatsoever doth convince of sin must needs be the Spirit of Christ:" as much as to say, because the saints are called the light of the world, therefore the saints are the Saviour of the world, seeing Christ also doth call himself the light of the world; or because the moon hath or is light, therefore the moon is the sun.
X. CONVICTION OF SIN.
WHEN man is taken and laid under the day of God's power, when Christ is opening his ear to discipline, and speaking to him that his heart may receive instruction, many times that poor man is as if the devil had found him, and not God. How frenzily he imagines; how crossly he thinks; how ungainly he carries it under convictions, counsels, and his present apprehension of things! I know some are more powerfully dealt withal, and more strongly bound at first by the word; but others more in an ordinary manner, that the flesh and reason may be seen to the glory of Christ. Yea, and where the will is made more quickly to comply with its salvation, it is no thanks to the sinner at all. It is the day of the power of the Lord that has made the work so soon to appear. Therefore count this an act of love, in the height of love; love in a great degree.
"I heard thy voice in the garden." Gen. 3: 10. It is a word from without that does it. While Adam listened to his own heart, he thought fig-leaves a sufficient remedy; but the voice that walked in the garden shook him out of all such fancies.
A man's own righteousness will not fortify his conscience from fear and terror, when God begins to come near to him to judgment.
Few know the weight of sin. When the guilt thereof takes hold of the conscience, it commands homeward all the faculties of the soul.
It was upon this account that Peter and James and John were called the sons of thunder, because in the word which they were to preach there were to be not only lightnings, but thunders—not only illuminations, but a great seizing of the heart with the dread and majesty of God, to the effectual turning of the sinner to him.
Lightnings without thunder are in this case dangerous, because they that receive the one without the other are subject to miscarry: they were once enlightened, but you read of no thunder they had, and they were subject to fall into an irrecoverable state. Paul had thunder with his lightning, to the shaking of his soul; so had the three thousand, so had the jailer: they that receive light without thunder, are subject to turn the grace of God into wantonness; but they that know the terror of God will persuade men. So then, when he decrees to give the rain of his grace to a man, he makes a way for the lightning and thunder; not the one without the other, but the one following the other.
We have had great lightnings in this land of late years, but little thunders; and that is one reason why so little grace is found where light is, and why so many professors run on their heads in such a day as this is, notwithstanding all they have seen.
The method of God is to kill and make alive, to smite and then heal.
He that hath not seen his lost condition, hath not seen a safe condition; he that did never see himself in the devil's snare, did never see himself in Christ's bosom.
Grace proceeds from the throne, from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Wherefore, sinner, here is laid a necessity upon thee; one of the two must be thy lot: either thou must accept of God's grace, and be content to be saved freely thereby, notwithstanding all thy undeservings and unworthiness, or else thou must be damned for thy rebellion, and for thy neglecting of this grace. Wherefore consider with thyself, and think what is best to be done. Is it better that thou submit to the grace and mercy of God, and that thou accept of grace to reign for thee, in thee, and over thee, than that thou shouldst run the hazard of eternal damnation because thou wouldst not be saved by grace? Consider of this, I say, for grace is now in authority: it reigns, and proceeds from the throne. This therefore calls for thy most grave and sedate thoughts. Thou art in a strait; wilt thou fly before Moses, or with David fall into the hands of the Lord? Wilt thou go to hell for sin, or to life by grace? One of the two, as was said before, must be thy lot; for grace is king, is upon the throne, and will admit of no other way to glory. Rom. 5:2. In and by it thou must stand, if thou hast any hope, or canst at all rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
If thou do get off thy convictions, and not the right way—which is by seeing thy sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ—it is a question whether God will ever knock at thy heart again or no; but rather say, "Such a one is joined to idols; let him alone. My spirit, my ministers, my word, my mercy, my grace, my love, my pity, my common providences, shall no more strive with him; let him alone." O sad! O miserable! who would slight convictions that are on their souls, which tend so much for their good?
In the creation of man, God began with his outside; but in the work of regeneration, he first begins within, at the heart.
Whoever receive the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and the Son of God revealed in them.
THE DIFFICULTY OF CONVERSION.
CONVERSION to God is not so easy and so smooth a thing, as some would have men believe it is. Why is man's heart compared to fallow ground, God's word to a plough, and his ministers to ploughmen, if the heart indeed has no need of breaking in order to the receiving of the seed of God unto eternal life? Why is the conversion of the the soul compared to the grafting of a tree, if that be done without cutting?
CONVERSION THE POWER OF GOD.
A broken heart is the handy-work of God, a sacrifice of his own preparing, a material fitted for himself. By breaking the heart he opens it, and makes it a receptacle for the graces of his Spirit; that is the cabinet, when unlocked, where God lays up the jewels of the gospel: there he puts his fear: "I will put my fear in their heart;" there he writes his law: "I will write my law in their heart;" there he puts his Spirit: "I will put my Spirit within you."
The heart God chooses for his cabinet: there he hides his treasure; there is the seat of justice, mercy, and of every grace of God.
Here is naught but open war, acts of hostility, and shameful rebellion on the sinner's side; and what delight can God take in that? Wherefore, if God will bend and buckle the spirit of such a one, he must shoot an arrow at him, a bearded arrow, such as may not be plucked out of the wound—an arrow that will stick fast, and cause that the sinner fall down as dead at God's foot. Then will the sinner deliver up his arms, and surrender up himself as one conquered into the hand of God, and beg for the Lord's pardon, and not till then sincerely.
And now God has overcome, and his right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory. Now he rides in triumph, with his captive at his chariot-wheel; now he glories, now the bells in heaven do ring, now the angels shout for joy, yea, are bid to do so: "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost."
Thou thinkest that thou art a Christian; thou shouldst be sorry else. Well, but when did God show thee that thou wert no Christian? When didst thou see that; and in the light of the Spirit of Christ see that thou wert under the wrath of God because of original sin? Rom. 5:12. Nay, dost thou know what original sin means? Is it not the least in thy thoughts? And dost thou not rejoice in secret that thou art the same that thou ever wert? If so, then know for certain that the wrath of God to this very day ahideth on thee, John 3:36; and if so, then thou art one of those that will fall in the judgment, except thou art born again and made a new creature. 2 Cor. 5:17
THE STRAIT GATE.
The porch, at which was an ascent to the temple, had a gate belonging to it. This gate, according to the prophet Ezekiel, was six cubits wide. The leaves of this gate were double, one folding this way, the other folding that. Ezek. 40:48.
Now here some may object, and say, "Since the way to God by these doors was so wide, why doth Christ say the way and gate is narrow?"
ANSWER. The straitness, the narrowness, must not be understood of the gate simply, but because of that cumber that some men carry with them that pretend to be going to heaven. Six cubits! What is sixteen cubits to him who would enter in here with all the world on his back? The young man in the gospel who made such a noise for heaven, might have gone in easy enough, for in six cubits breadth there is room; but, poor man, he was not for going in thither unless he might carry in his houses upon his shoulders too; and so the gate was strait. Mark 10:17-23.
Wherefore, he that will enter in at the gate of heaven, of which this gate into the temple was a type, must go in by himself, and not with his bundles of trash on his back; and if he will go in thus, he need not fear but there is room. "The righteous nation that keepeth the truth, they shall enter in."
They that enter in at the gate of the inner court must be clothed in fine linen; how then shall they go into the temple that carry the clogs of the dirt of this world at their heels? Thus saith the Lord, "No stranger uncircumcised in heart, or uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary."
The wideness, therefore, of this gate, is for this cause here made mention of, namely, to encourage them that would gladly enter thereat according to the mind of God, and not to flatter them that are not for leaving off all for God.