(2.) By this knowledge, room is made for a Christian, and liberty is ministered unto him, to turn himself every way in all spiritual things. This is the Christian's rehoboth, that well for which the Philistines have no heart to strive, and that which will cause that we be fruitful in the land (Gen 26:22).
If Christians know not with this knowledge, they walk in the world as if they were pinioned; or as if fetters were hanged on their heels. But this enlarged their steps under them (2 Sam 22:37): by the knowledge of this love they may walk at liberty, and their steps shall not be straitened. This is that which Solomon intends when he saith, "Get wisdom, and get understanding" (Prov 4:5). Then "when thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened, and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble" (Prov 4:12). A man that has only from hand to mouth, is oft put to it to know how to use his penny, and comes off also, many times, but with an hungry belly; but he that has, not only that, but always over and to spare, he is more at liberty, and can live in fullness, and far more like a gentleman. There is a man has a cistern, and that is full of water: there is another also, that has his cistern full, and withal, his spring in his yard; but a great drought is upon the land in which they dwell: I would now know, which of these two have the most advantage to live in their own minds at liberty, without fear of wanting water? Why this is the case in hand. There is a Christian that knows Christ in all those degrees of his love that are knowable, but he knoweth Christ nothing in his love that passeth knowledge. There is another Christian, and he knows Christ, as the first, but withal, he also knows him as to his love that passeth knowledge. Pray now tell me, which of these two are likeliest to live most like a Christian, that is, like a spiritual prince, and like him that possesseth all things? which has most advantage to live in godly largeness of heart, and is most at liberty in his mind? which of these two have the greatest advantage to believe, and the greatest engagements laid upon him to love the Lord Jesus? which of these have also most in readiness to resist the wiles of the devil, and to subdue the power and prevalency of corruptions? 'Tis this, that makes men fathers in Christianity. "I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known;—I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known" (1 John 2:13-14), why, have not others known, not so as the fathers? The fathers have known and known. They have known the love of Christ in those degrees of love which are knowable, and have also known the love of Christ to be such which passeth knowledge. In my father's house is bread enough and to spare, was that that fetched the prodigal home (Luke 15:17). And when Moses would speak an endless all to Israel, for the comfort and stay of their souls, he calls their God, "The fountain of Jacob upon a land of corn and wine" (Deu 33:28).
(3.) By this knowledge, or knowing of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, there is begot in Christians a greater desire to press forwards to that which is before them (Phil 3:12-21). What is the reason of all that sloth, carnal contentedness, and listlessness of spirit in Christians, more than the ignorance of this. For he that thinks he knows what can be known, is beyond all reason that should induce him to seek yet after more. Now the love of Christ may be said, not to be knowable, upon a threefold account: [namely]. For that my knowledge is weak. For that my knowledge is imperfect. Or for that, though my knowledge be never so perfect, because the love of Christ is eternal.
There is love that is not to be apprehended by weak knowledge. Convince a man of this, and then, if the knowledge of what he already has, be truly sweet to his soul (Prov 2:10), it will stir him up with great heartiness to desire to know what more of this is possible.
There is love beyond what he knows already, who is indued with the most perfect knowledge, that man here may have. Now if what this man knows already of this love is indeed sweet unto him; then it puts him upon hearty desires that his soul may yet know more. And because there is no bound set to man, how much he may know in this life thereof; therefore his desires, notwithstanding what he has attained, are yet kept alive, and in the pursuit after the knowledge of more of the love of Christ. And God in old time has taken it so well at the hands of some of his, that their desires have been so great, that when, as I may say, they have known as much on earth as is possible for them to know; (that is by ordinary means) he has come down to them in visions and revelations; or else taken them up to him for an hour or two into paradise, that they might know, and then let them down again.
But this is not all, There is a knowledge of the love of Christ, that we are by no means capable of until we be possessed of the heavens. And I would know, if a man indeed loveth Christ, whether the belief of this be not one of the highest arguments that can be urged, to make such an one weary of this world, that he may be with him. To such an one, "to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21-23). And to such an one, it is difficult to bring his mind to be content to stay here a longer time; except he be satisfied that Christ has still work for him here to do.
I will yet add, There is a love of Christ, I will not say, that cannot be known, but I will say, that cannot be enjoyed; no, not by them now in heaven (in soul) until the day of judgment. And the knowledge of this, when it has possessed even men on earth, has made them choose a day of judgment, before a day of death, that they might know what is beyond that state and knowledge which even the spirits of just men made perfect, now do enjoy in heaven (2 Cor 5:4). Wherefore, as I said at first, To know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge, is advantageous upon this account; it begetteth in Christians a great desire to reach, and press forward to that which is before.
One thing more, and then, as to this reason, I have done. Even that love of Christ that is absolutely unknowable, as to the utmost bound thereof because it is eternal, will be yet in the nature of it sweet and desirable, because we shall enjoy or be possessed of it so. This therefore, if there were no more, is enough, when known, to draw away the heart from things that are below, to itself.
(4.) The love that passeth knowledge. The knowledge of that is a very fruitful knowledge. It cannot be, but it must be fruitful. Some knowledge is empty, and alone, not attended with that good, and with those blessings wherewith this knowledge is attended. Did I say, it is fruitful? I will add, it is attended with the best fruit; it yieldeth the best wine: It fills the soul with all the fullness of God. "And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God." God is in Christ, and makes himself known to us by the love of Christ. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God," for God is not to be found nor enjoyed, but in him, consequently, he that hath, and abideth in the doctrine of Christ, "hath both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). Now, since there are degrees of knowledge of this doctrine, and since the highest degree of the knowledge of him, is to know that he has a Love that passeth knowledge, it follows, that if he that has the least saving knowledge of this doctrine, hath God; he that hath the largest knowledge of it, has God much more, or, according to the text, is filled with all the fullness of God. What this fullness of God should be, is best gathered from such sayings of the Holy Ghost, as come nearest to this, in language, filled,
Full of goodness (Rom 15:14).
Full of faith (Acts 6:5).
Full of the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:55).
Full of assurance of faith (Heb 10:22).
Full of assurance of hope (Heb 6:11).
Full of joy unspeakable, and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8).
Full of joy (1 John 1:4).
Full of good works (Acts 11:36).
Being filled with the knowledge of his will (Col 1:9).
Being filled with the spirit (Eph 5:18).
Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God (Phil 4:11). These things to be sure are included either for the cause or effect of this fullness. The cause they cannot be, for that is God's, by his Holy Spirit. The effects therefore they are, for wherever God dwells in the degree intended in the text, there is shewn in an eminent manner, by these things, "what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph 1:18). But these things dwell not in that measure specified by the text, in any, but those who know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.
But what a man is he that is filled with all these things! or that is, as we have it in the text, "filled with all the fullness of God!" Such men are, at this day, wanting in the churches. These are the men that sweeten churches, and that bring glory to God and to religion. And knowledge will make us such, such knowledge as the Apostle here speaketh of.14 I have now done, when I have spoken something by way of USE unto you, from what hath been said. And,
Use First, Is there such breadth, and length, and depth, and height in God, for us? And is there toward us love in Christ that passeth knowledge? Then this shews us, not only the greatness of the majesty of the Father and the Son, but the great good will that is in their heart to them that receive their word.
God has engaged the breadth, and length and depth, and height of the love, the wisdom, the power, and truth that is in himself, for us; and Christ has loved us with a love that passeth knowledge. We may well say, "Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods?" (Exo 15:11). Or, as another prophet has it, "Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever: because he delighteth in mercy" (Micah 7:18). Yea, no words can sufficiently set forth the greatness of this love of God and his Son to us poor miserable sinners.
Use Second, Is there so great a heart for love, towards us, both in the Father and in the Son? Then let us be much in the study and search after the greatness of this love. This is the sweetest study that a man can devote himself unto; because it is the study of the love of God and of Christ to man. Studies that yield far less profit than this, how close are they pursued, by some who have adapted themselves thereunto? Men do not use to count telling over of their money burdensome to them, nor yet the recounting of their grounds, their herds, and their flocks, when they increase. Why? the study of the unsearchable love of God in Christ to man, is better in itself, and yields more sweetness to the soul of man, than can ten thousand such things as but now are mentioned. I know the wise men of this world, of whom there are many, will say as to what I now press you unto; Who can shew us any good in it? But Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increaseth (Psa 4:6,7). David also said that his meditation on the Lord should be sweet. Oh, there is in God and in his Son, that kindness for the sons of men, that, did they know it, they would like to retain the knowledge of it in their hearts. They would cry out as she did of old; "Set me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thine arm: For love is strong as death" (Song 8:6,7). Every part, crumb, grain, or scrap of this knowledge, is to a Christian, as drops of honey are to sweet-palated children, worth the gathering up, worth the putting to the taste to be relished. Yea, David says of the word which is the ground of knowledge: "It is sweeter than honey or the honey-comb. More," saith he, "to be desired are they than gold; yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey or the honey-comb" (Psa 19:10). Why then do not Christians devote themselves to the meditation of this so heavenly, so goodly, so sweet, and so comfortable a thing, that yieldeth such advantage to the soul? The reason is, these things are talked of, but not believed: did men believe what they say, when they speak so largely of the love of God, and the love of Jesus Christ, they would, they could not but meditate upon it. There are so many wonders in it, and men love to think of wonders. There is so much profit in it, and men love to think of that which yields them profit. But, as I said, the belief of things is wanting. Belief of a thing will have strong effects, whether the ground for it be true, or false. As suppose one of you should, when you are at a neighbour's house, believe that your own house is on fire, whilst your children are fast asleep in bed, though indeed there were no such thing; I will appeal to any of you if this belief would not make notable work with and upon your hearts. Let a man believe he shall be damned, though afterwards it is evident he believed a lie, yet what work did that belief make in that man's heart; even so, and much more, the belief of heavenly things will work, because true and great, and most good; also, where they are indeed believed, their evidence is managed upon their spirit, by the power and glory of the Holy Ghost itself: Wherefore let us study these things.
Use Third, Let us cast ourselves upon this love. No greater encouragement can be given us, than what is in the text and about it. It is great, it is love that passeth knowledge. Men that are sensible of danger, are glad when they hear of such helps upon which they may boldly venture for escape. Why such an help and relief, the text helpeth trembling and fearful consciences to. Fear and trembling as to misery hereafter, can flow but from what we know, feel, or imagine: but the text speaks of a love that is beyond that we can know, feel, or imagine, even of a love that passeth knowledge; consequently of a love that goes beyond all these. Besides, the Apostle's conclusion upon this subject, plainly makes it manifest that this meaning which I have put upon the text, is the mind of the Holy Ghost. "Now unto him," saith he, "that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph 3:20,21). What can be more plain? what can be more full? What can be more suitable to the most desponding spirit in any man? He can do more than thou knowest he will. He can do more than thou thinkest he can. What dost thou think? why, I think, saith the sinner, that I am cast away. Well, but there are worse thoughts than these, therefore think again. Why, saith the sinner, I think that my sins are as many as the sins of all the world. Indeed this is a very black thought, but there are worse thoughts than this, therefore prithee think again. Why, I think, saith the sinner, that God is not able to pardon all my sins. Ay, now thou hast thought indeed. For this thought makes thee look more like a devil than a man, and yet because thou art a man and not a devil, see the condescension and the boundlessness of the love of thy God. He is able to do above all that we think! Couldest thou (sinner) if thou hadst been allowed, thyself express what thou wouldest have expressed, the greatness of the love thou wantest, with words that could have suited thee better? for 'tis not said he can do above what we think, meaning our thinking at present, but above all we can think, meaning above the worst and most soul-dejecting thoughts that we have at any time. Sometimes the dejected have worse thoughts than at other times they have. Well, take them at their worst times, at times when they think, and think, till they think themselves down into the very pangs of hell; yet this word of the grace of God, is above them, and shews that he can yet recover and save these miserable people. And now I am upon this subject, I will a little further walk and travel with the desponding ones, and will put a few words in their mouths for their help against temptations that may come upon them hereafter. For as Satan follows such now, with charges and applications of guilt, so he may follow them with interrogatories and appeals: for he can tell how by appeals, as well as by charging of sin, to sink and drown the sinner whose soul he has leave to engage. Suppose therefore that some distressed man or woman, should after this way be engaged, and Satan should with his interrogatories, and appeals be busy with them to drive them to desperation; the text last mentioned, to say nothing of the subject of our discourse, yields plenty of help for the relief of such an one. Says Satan, dost thou not know that thou hast horribly sinned? yes, says the soul, I do. Says Satan, dost thou not know, that thou art one of the vilest in all the pack of professors? yes, says the soul, I do. Says Satan, doth not thy conscience tell thee that thou art and hast been more base than any of thy fellows can imagine thee to be? Yes, says the soul; my conscience tells me so. Well, saith Satan, now will I come upon thee with my appeals. Art thou not a graceless wretch? Yes. Hast thou an heart to be sorry for this wickedness? No, not as I should. And albeit, saith Satan, thou prayest sometimes, yet is not thy heart possessed with a belief that God will not regard thee? yes, says the sinner. Why then despair, and go hang thyself, saith the devil. And now we are at the end of the thing designed and driven at by Satan. But what shall I now do, saith the sinner; I answer, take up the words of the text against him, Christ loves with a love that passeth knowledge, and answereth him farther, saying Satan, though I cannot think that God loves me; though I cannot think that God will save me; yet I will not yield to thee: for God can do more than I think he can. And whereas thou appealest unto me, if whether when I pray, my heart is not possessed with unbelief that God will not regard me; that shall not sink me neither: for God can do abundantly above what I ask or think. Thus this text helpeth, where obstructions are put in against our believing, and thereby casting ourselves upon the love of God in Christ for salvation.
And yet this is not all, for the text is yet more full: "He is able to do abundantly more," yea, "exceeding abundantly more," or "above all that we ask or think." It is a text made up of words picked and packed together by the wisdom of God, picked and packed together on purpose for the succour and relief of the tempted, that they may when in the midst of their distresses, cast themselves upon the Lord their God. He can do abundantly more than we ask. Oh! says the soul, that he would but do so much for me as I could ask him to do! How happy a man should I then be. Why, what wouldest thou ask for, sinner? you may be sure, says the soul, I would ask to be saved from my sins; I would ask for faith in, and love to, Christ; I would ask to be preserved in this evil world, and ask to be glorified with Christ in heaven. He that asketh of all this, doth indeed ask for much, and for more than Satan would have him believe that God is able or willing to bestow upon him; but mark, the text doth not say, that God is able to do all that we can ask or think, but that he is able to do above all, yea, abundantly above all, yea, exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. What a text is this! What a God have we! God foresaw the sins of his people, and what work the devil would make with their hearts about them, and therefore to prevent their ruin by his temptation, he has thus largely, as you see, expressed his love by his word. Let us therefore, as has been bidden us, make this good use of this doctrine of grace, as to cast ourselves upon this love of God in the times of distress and temptation.
Use Fourth, Take heed of abusing this love. This exhortation seems needless; for love is such a thing, that one would think none could find in their heart to abuse. But for all that, I am of opinion, that there is nothing that is more abused among professors this day, than is this love of God. There has of late more light about the love of Christ broke out, than formerly: every boy now can talk of the love of Christ; but this love of Christ has not been rightly applied by preachers, or else not rightly received by professors. For never was this grace of Christ so turned into lasciviousness, as now. Now it is a practice among professors to learn to be vile, of the profane. Yea, and to plead for that vileness: Nay, we will turn it the other way, now it is so that the profane do learn to be vile of those that profess (They teach the wicked ones their ways): a thing that no good man should think on but with blushing cheeks (Jer 2:33).15 Jude speaketh of these people, and tells us that they, notwithstanding their profession, deny the only Lord God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ (verse 4). "They profess," saith Paul, "that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:16).
But I say, let not this love of God and of Christ, be abused. 'Tis unnatural to abuse love, to abuse love is a villany condemned of all, yea, to abuse love, is the most inexcusable sin of all. It is next the sin of devils to abuse love, the love of God and of Christ.
And what says the Apostle? "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, therefore God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess 2:10-12). And what can such an one say for himself in the judgment, that shall be charged with the abuse of love? Christians, deny yourselves, deny your lusts, deny the vanities of this present life, devote yourselves to God; become lovers of God, lovers of his ways, and "a people zealous of good works"; then shall you show one to another, and to all men, that you have not received the grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1). Renounce therefore the hidden things of dishonesty, walk not in craftiness, nor handle God's word deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth, commend yourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. Do this, I say, yea, and so endeavour such a closure with this love of God in Christ, as may graciously constrain you to do it, because, when all proofs of the right receiving of this love of Christ shall be produced, none will be found of worth enough to justify the simplicity of our profession, but that which makes us "zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). And what a thing will it be to be turned off at last, as one that abused the love of Christ! as one that presumed upon his lusts, this world, and all manner of naughtiness, because the love of Christ to pardon sins was so great! What an unthinking, what a disingenuous one wilt thou be counted at that day! yea, thou wilt be found to be the man that made a prey of love, that made a stalking-horse of love, that made of love a slave to sin, the devil and the world, and will not that be bad? (Read Eze 16)
Use Fifth, Is the love of God and of Christ so great? let us then labour to improve it to the utmost for our advantage, against all the hindrances of faith.
To what purpose else is it revealed, made mention of, and commended to us? We are environed with many enemies, and faith in the love of God and of Christ, is our only succour and shelter. Wherefore our duty and wisdom and privilege is, to improve this love for our own advantage. Improve it against daily infirmities, improve it against the wiles of the devil; improve it against the threats, rage, death, and destruction, that the men of this world continually with their terror set before you. But how must that be done? why, set this love and the safety that is in it, before thine eyes; and behold it while these things make their assaults upon thee. These words, the faith of this, God loves me, will support thee in the midst of what dangers may assault thee. And this is that which is meant, when we are exhorted to rejoice in the Lord (Phil 3:1), to make our boast in the Lord (Psa 44:8); to triumph in Christ (2 Cor 2:14); and to set the Lord always before our face (Psa 16:8). For he that can do this thing stedfastly, cannot be overcome. For in God there is more than can be in the world, either to help or hinder; wherefore if God be my helper, if God loves me, if Christ be my redeemer, and has bestowed his love that passeth knowledge upon me, who can be against me? (Heb 13:6, Rom 8:31) and if they be against me, what disadvantage reap I thereby; since even all this also, worketh for my good? This is improving the love of God and of Christ for my advantage. The same course should Christians also take with the degrees of this love, even set it against all the degrees of danger; for here deep calleth unto deep. There cannot be wickedness and rage wrought up to such or such a degree, as of which it may be said, there are not degrees in the love of God and of Christ to match it. Wherein Pharaoh dealt proudly against God's people, the Lord was above him (Exo 18:11), did match and overmatch him; he came up to him, and went beyond him; he collared with him, overcame him, and cast him down. "The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea—they sank into the bottom as a stone" (Exo 15:5). There is no striving against the Lord that hath loved us; there is none that strive against him can prosper. If the shields of the earth be the Lord's (Psa 47:9), then he can wield them for the safeguard of his body the church; or if they are become incapable of being made use of any longer in that way, and for such a thing, can he not lay them aside, and make himself new ones? Men can do after this manner, much more God. But again, if the miseries, or afflictions which thou meetest with, seem to thee to overflow, and to go beyond measure, above measure, and so to be above strength, and begin to drive thee to despair of life (2 Cor 1:8); then thou hast also, in the love of God, and of Christ, that which is above, and that goes beyond all measure also, to wit, love unsearchable, unknown, and "that can do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." Now God hath set them one against the other, and 'twill be thy wisdom to do so too, for this is the way to improve this love. But, though it be easy, thus to admonish you to do, yet you shall find the practical part more difficult; wherefore, here it may not be amiss, if I add to these, another head of COUNSEL.
Counsel First, Then, Wouldest thou improve this love of God and of Christ to thy advantage, Why then thou must labour after the knowledge of it. This was it that the Apostle prayed for, for these Ephesians, as was said before, and this is that that thou must labour after, or else thy reading and my writing, will, as to thee, be fruitless. Let me then say to thee, as David to his son Solomon, "And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father" (1 Chron 28:9). Empty notions of this love will do nothing but harm, wherefore, they are not empty notions that I press thee to rest in, but that thou labour after the knowledge of the favour of this good ointment (Song 1:3), which the Apostle calleth the favour of the knowledge of this Lord Jesus (2 Cor 2:14). Know it, until it becometh sweet or pleasant to thy soul, and then it will preserve and keep thee (Prov 2:10,11). Make this love of God and of Christ thine own, and not another's. Many there are that can talk largely of the love of God to Abraham, to David, to Peter and Paul. But that is not the thing, give not over until this love be made thine own; until thou find and feel it to run warm in thy heart by the shedding of it abroad there, by the spirit that God hath given thee (Rom 5:5). Then thou wilt know it with an obliging and engaging knowledge; yea, then thou wilt know it with a soul-strengthening, and soul-encouraging knowledge.
Counsel Second, Wouldest thou improve this love? then set it against the love of all other things whatsoever, even until this love shall conquer thy soul from the love of them to itself.
This is Christian. Do it therefore, and say, why should any thing have my heart but God, but Christ? He loves me, he loves me with love that passeth knowledge. He loves me, and he shall have me: he loves me, and I will love him: his love stripped him of all for my sake; Lord let my love strip me of all for thy sake. I am a son of love, an object of love, a monument of love, of free love, of distinguishing love, of peculiar love, and of love that passeth knowledge: and why should not I walk in love? In love to God, in love to men, in holy love, in love unfeigned? This is the way to improve the love of God for thy advantage, for the subduing of thy passions, and for sanctifying of thy nature. 'Tis an odious thing to hear men of base lives talking of the love of God, of the death of Christ, and of the glorious grace that is presented unto sinners by the word of the truth of the gospel. Praise is comely for the upright, not for the profane. Therefore let him speak of love that is taken with love, that is captivated with love, that is carried away with love. If this man speaks of it, his speaking signifies something; the powers, and bands of love are upon him, and he shews to all that he knows what he is speaking of. But the very mentioning of love, is in the mouth of the profane, like a parable in the mouth of fools, or as salt unsavory. Wherefore, Christian, improve this love of God as thou shouldest, and that will improve thee as thou wouldest. Wherefore,
Counsel Third, If thou wouldest improve this love, keep thyself in it. "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). This text looks as if it favoured the Socinians, but there is nothing of that in it. And so doth that, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (John 15:10). The meaning then is this, that living a holy life is the way, after a man has believed unto justification, to keep himself in the savour and comfort of the love of God. And Oh, that thou wouldest indeed so do. And that because, if thou shall want the savour of it, thou will soon want tenderness to the commandment, which is the rule by which thou must walk, if thou wilt do good to thyself, or honour God in the world. "To him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of God" (Psa 50:23). He that would live a sweet, comfortable, joyful life, must live a very holy life. This is the way to improve this love to thyself indeed.
Counsel Fourth, To this end, you must take root and be grounded in love; that is, you must be well settled, and stablished in this love, if indeed you would improve it. You must not be shaken as to the doctrine and grounds of it (Eph 3:17). These you must be well acquainted with: for he that is but a child in this doctrine, is not capable as yet, of falling in with these exhortations: For such waver, and fear when tempted; and "he that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18), nor can he so improve it for himself and soul's good as he should.
Counsel Fifth, and lastly, Keep, to this end, those grounds, and evidences that God hath given you of your call to be partakers of this love, with all clearness upon your hearts, and in your minds. For he that wants a sight of them, or a proof that they are true and good, can take but little comfort in this love. There is a great mystery in the way of God with his people. He will justify them without their works, he will pardon them for his Son's sake: but they shall have but little comfort of what he hath done, doth, and will do for them that are careless, carnal, and not holy in their lives. Nor shall they have their evidences for heaven at hand, nor out of doubt with them, yea, they shall walk without the sun, and have their comforts by bits and knocks;16 while others sit at their father's table, have liberty to go into the wine-cellar, rejoice at the sweet and pleasant face of their heavenly Father towards them; and know it shall go well with them at the end.
Something now for a conclusion should be spoken to the carnal world, who have heard me tell of all this love. But what shall I say unto them? If I should speak to them, and they should not hear; or if I should testify unto them, and they should not believe; or intreat them, and they should scorn me; all will but aggravate, and greaten their sin, and tend to their further condemnation. And therefore I shall leave the obstinate where I found him, and shall say to him that is willing to be saved, Sinner, thou hast the advantage of thy neighbour, not only because thou art willing to live, but because there are [those] that are willing thou shouldest; to wit, those unto whom the issues from death do belong, and they are the Father and the Son, to whom be glory with the blessed Spirit of grace, world without end. Amen.
1 In the first edition of this treatise, which was published four years after Bunyan's death, this is quoted "deeper than the sea," probably a typographical error. It is afterwards quoted correctly.—Ed.
2 How admirably does Bunyan bring home to the Christian's heart these solemn truths. The breadth and length and depth and height of our guilt and misery, requires a remedy beyond all human power. This can only be found in the love of God in Christ: this extends beyond all bounds. It is divine, unsearchable, eternal mercy, swallowing up all our miseries.—Ed.
3 Shuck, a corruption of shrug, to express horror by motions of the body.
4 This is a very striking application of these words of David, which so fearfully describe the agitation of those who are exposed to a hurricane at sea. We too generally limit this passage to its literal sense. To Bunyan, who had passed through such a deep experience of the "terrors of the Lord," when he came out of tribulation and anguish, he must have richly enjoyed the solemn imagery of these words, depicting the inmost feelings of his soul when in the horrible deeps of doubt and despair. But young Christians must not be distressed because they have never experienced such tempests: thousands of vessels of mercy get to heaven, without meeting with hurricanes in their way.—Ed.
5 How thankful should we be, for the great spread of gospel light in this country, since Bunyan's days. He for refusing to attend, what he considered, an unscriptural church; suffered above twelve years incarceration in a miserable den; while all his friends were either imprisoned or plundered. It was a dreadful attempt to root out Christianity from this country; but was overruled to make it take deeper root. How long will Antichrist still hold up his head in this country? He has had some hard knocks of late.—Ed.
6 The descent of Christ into hell has been the subject of much controversy, and the question is as far from solution now as it was in the dark ages, when it was first propounded, and then arbitrarily decreed to be an article of faith. Those who explain hell as hades, the place of departed souls, or of the dead generally, fortify themselves with Psalm 139:8, and also Psalm 16:10; and yet the first passage may only imply the omnipresence of God, and the second, the resurrection of the incorruptible body of Christ from the grave. The descent of Christ into the place of torment is a figment, a monkish fable, in which Bible incidents and heathen myths are woven together to delude a credulous and ignorant laity. The formulary designated the Apostles' creed, has, beyond question, a high claim to antiquity, but none whatever to be the work of the Apostles themselves. The "descent into hell" was an after interpolation, and its rejection has been suggested.—Ed.
7 This is one of those strikingly solemn passages, which abound in Bunyan's works. It almost irresistibly brings to our imagination his expressive countenance, piercing eyes and harmonious voice; pressed on by his rapid conceptions and overpowering natural eloquence. How must it have riveted the attention of a great congregation. It is a rush of words, rolling on like the waves of the sea; increasing in grandeur and in force as they multiply in number.—Ed.
8 The reader must not misunderstand the word common as here applied to the Saviour. It has the same meaning that is applied to a piece of land, to which many persons have an equal or common right; but which none but those, who have a right or title, can use. It strikingly illustrates the union of Christ and his church.—Ed.
9 There is no affectation of learning in Bunyan's giving the meaning of the Hebrew word, Metheg; it is translated in the margin of our Bibles, "the bridle" of Ammah.—Ed.
10 Bunyan seems here evidently to refer to the case of unregenerate and worldly men entering into the ministry, and making a public and solemn declaration that they "are inwardly moved thereto by the Holy Ghost," and "truly called according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ." See form and manner of ordaining deacons and priests in the Church of England.—Ed.
11 Bunyan quotes this passage from the puritan version; vulgarly called "The Breeches Bible." The present authorized translation is "might be rich."
12 "Virtue," secret agency: efficacy without visible or material action. "Walker's Dictionary."—Ed.
13 "Improving," not in quality but by extending the benefits, employing to good purpose; turning to profitable account.—Ed.
14 How delightfully has Bunyan brought forth the marrow of this important text. He felt that those who were filled with all the fullness of God, sweetened the churches in his day; they were wanted then; are they not equally wanted now?—Ed.
15 Bunyan lived in singularly eventful times. Under the Commonwealth the strictest outward morality was enforced. But when a licentious monarch was placed upon the throne, a flood of the grossest debauchery was let loose; and those hypocrites, who had put on a cloak of religion to serve a temporary purpose, threw it off and became ringleaders in the vilest iniquities. See Matthew 12:43-45.—Ed.
16 "Bits and knocks"; this phrase is now obsolete: it alludes to a dog at table, who while picking up the crumbs, often gets a bite and a buffet or knock with it, but still perseveres.—Ed.