John Newton (1725-1807): Gradual Increase of Gospel Illumination

On the Gradual Increase of Gospel Illumination
By
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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LETTER XXVI

On the Gradual Increase of Gospel Illumination

Dear Sir,

THE day is now breaking, how beautiful its appearance! how welcome the expectation of the approaching sun! It is this thought makes the dawn agreeable, that it is the presage of a brighter light; otherwise, if we expect no more day than it is this minute, we should rather complain of darkness, than rejoice in the early beauties of the morning. Thus the life of grace is the dawn of immortality: beautiful beyond expression, if compared with the night and thick darkness which formerly covered us; yet faint, indistinct, and unsatisfying, in comparison of the glory which shall be revealed.

It is, however, a sure earnest; so surely as we now see the light of the Sun of Righteousness, so surely shall we see the Sun himself, Jesus the Lord, in all his glory and lustre. In the mean time, we have reason to be thankful for a measure of light to walk and work by, and sufficient to show us the pits and snares by which we might be endangered: and we have a promise, that our present light shall grow stronger and stronger, if we are diligent in the use of the appointed means, till the messenger of Jesus shall lead us within the vail, and then farewell shades and obscurity for ever.

I can now almost see to write, and shall soon put the extinguisher over my candle: I do this without the least reluctance, when I enjoy a better light; but I should have been unwilling half an hour ago. Just thus, methinks, when the light of the glorious Gospel shines into the heart, all our former feeble lights, our apprehensions, and our contrivances, become at once unnecessary and unnoticed. How cheerfully did the apostle put out the candle of his own righteousness, attainments, and diligence, when the true Sun arose upon him! Phil, iii. 7, 8. Your last letter is as a comment upon his determination. Adored be the grace that has given us to be like-minded, even to “account all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.”

While I am writing, a new lustre, which gilds the house on the hill opposite to my study-window, informs me that the sun is now rising; he is rising to others, but not yet to me; my situation is lower, so that they enjoy a few gleams of sun-shine before me; yet this momentary difference is inconsiderable, when compared to the duration of a whole day. Thus some are called by grace earlier in life, and some later; but the seeming difference will be lost and vanish when the great day of eternity comes on. There is a time, the Lord’s best appointed time, when he will arise and shine upon many a soul that now sits “in darkness, and in the region of the shadow of death.” I have been thinking on the Lord’s conference with Nicodemus; it is a copious subject, and affords room,

in one part or other, for the whole round of doctrinal and experimental topics, Nicodemus is an encouraging example to those who are seeking the Lord’s salvation: he had received some favourable impressions of Jesus; but he was very ignorant, and much under the fear of man. lie durst only come by night, and at first, though he heard, he understood not; but He, who opens the eyes of the blind, brought him surely, though gently, forward. The next time we hear of him, he durst put in a word in behalf of Christ, even in the midst of his enemies, John vii.; and at last, he had the courage openly and publicly to assist in preparing the body of his master for its funeral, at a time when our Lord’s more avowed followers had all forsook him, and fled. So true is that, ”Then shall ye know, if ye follow on to know the Lord;” and again, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength.”

Hope then, my soul, against hope; though thy graces are faint and languid, he who planted them will water his own work, and not suffer them wholly to die. He can make a little one as a thousand; at his presence mountains sink into plains, streams gush out of the flinty rock, and the wilderness blossoms as the rose. He can pull down what sin builds up, and build up what sin pulls down; that which was impossible to us, is easy to him, and he has bid us expect seasons of refreshment from his presence. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

I am, &c.

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AW Pink (1886-1952): THE CALL OF CHRIST

THE CALL OF CHRIST
By
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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THE CALL OF CHRIST

“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mat 11:28-30).

Familiar as is the sound of those words unto professing Christians, yet there is a pressing need for their careful examination, for there are few portions of God’s Word which have received such superficial treatment at the hands of preachers generally as has the above. That these verses, like all others in the Sacred Volume, call for prayerful meditation some will formally allow, but that such a “simple passage” demands protracted study few seem to realize. It is at this very point so much damage has been wrought: many took it for granted they already understood the meaning of such a passage, and hence no diligent inquiry into the significance of its terms was undertaken. The mere fact that a verse is so frequently quoted that we are thoroughly familiar with its language, is no proof that we really perceive its purport: yea, the fact that such familiarity has precluded careful examination renders it far more likely that we do not rightly apprehend it.

There is a vast difference between being acquainted with the sound of a verse of Holy Writ and entering into the sense of it. The sad fact is that today there are thousands of unqualified “evangelists” and self-appointed open-air “speakers” who glibly quote snippets from the Word of God, yet no more understand the spiritual significance of the words uttered by their lips than the telegraph wires cognize the messages which pass over them. Nor is this to be wondered at. Ours is an age which is more and more marked by industrial loafing and mental slackness, when work is detested, when how quickly a task may be disposed of rather than how well it may be done is the order of the day. And the same dilatory spirit and slipshod methods mark the products both of the pulpit and the printed page. Hence the superficial treatment which the above passage commonly receives: no regard is paid to its context, no laborious attempt assayed to ascertain its coherence (the relation of one clause to another), no pains-taking examination and exposition of its terms.

If ever a passage of Scripture was mutilated and mangled by preachers, its meaning perverted and wrested, it is the one quoted above. Nineteen times out of twenty only a mere fragment of it is quoted: that part which is most unpalatable to the flesh being omitted. A particular call is twisted into a promiscuous invitation by deliberately ignoring the qualifying terms there used by the Saviour. Even where the opening clause is quoted, no attempt is made to show what is signified by and involved in “come to Christ,” so that the hearer is left to assume that he already understands the meaning of that expression. The special offices in which the Son of God is there portrayed, namely, as Lord and Master, as Prince and Prophet, are ignored, and another is substituted in their place. The conditional promise here made by Christ is falsified by making it an unconditional one, as though His “rest” could be obtained without our taking His “yoke” upon us and without our “learning” of Him who is meek and lowly in heart.

We are well aware that such charges and strictures as we have just made would be bitterly resented by a large class of church-goers, who do not wish to hear anyone or anything criticized. But it is not for them we write: if they are prepared to remain “at ease in Zion,” if they are content whether they be deceived or not, if they have such confidence in men that they are willing to receive the most valuable and vital things of all second hand, if they refuse to examine their foundations and search their hearts, then we must “let them alone” (Mat 15:14). But there are still a few left on earth who prize their souls so highly that they consider no effort too great in order to ascertain whether or not they possess a saving knowledge of God’s truth, whether or not they truly understand the terms of God’s salvation, whether or not they are building on an unshakable foundation: and it is in the hope that the Lord may deign to bless these writings unto them, that we are penning the same.

But let us now take a closer look at our passage. It opens with “Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest,” and virtually closes with, “and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Now it is not (as some have strangely supposed) two different rests which are here spoken of, but the same in both cases, namely, spiritual rest, saving rest. Nor is it two different aspects of this rest which are here portrayed, but rather the one rest is viewed from two distinct viewpoints. In the former, Divine sovereignty is in view: “I will give”; in the latter, human responsibility is being enforced: “ye shall find.” In the opening clause Christ makes the bare affirmation that He is the Giver of rest: in what follows He specifies the terms upon which He dispenses rest; or to express it in another way, the conditions which must be met by us if we are to obtain the same. The rest is freely given, yet only to those who comply with the revealed requirements of its Bestower.

“Come unto Me.” Who is it that issues this call? Christ, you reply. True, but Christ in what particular character? Some may ask, Exactly what do you mean by that? This: was Christ here speaking as King, commanding His subjects; as Creator, addressing His creatures; as the Physician, inviting the sick; or as Lord, instructing His servants? Does someone reply, Such distinctions confuse, are beyond me: sufficient for me to regard this as the Saviour offering rest unto poor sinners. But do you not yourself draw a distinction in your mind between the Person of Christ and the office of Christ? and do you not distinguish sharply between His office as Prophet, as Priest, and as King? And have you not found such distinctions both necessary and helpful? Then why complain if we are seeking to call attention to the varied relations which our Lord sustains and the importance of noting which of these relations He is acting in at any given time. It is attention to such details as this which often makes all the difference between a right and wrong understanding of a passage.

In order to answer our query, In what particular character did Christ here issue this call “Come unto Me,” it is necessary for us to look at the verses preceding: attention to the context is one of the very first concerns for those who would carefully ponder any particular passage. Matthew 11 opens with mention of John the Baptist having been cast into prison, from which he sent messengers unto Christ acquainting Him with his perplexity (vv. 2, 3). Thereupon our Lord publicly vindicated His forerunner and magnified his unique office (vv. 4-15). Having praised the Baptist and his ministry, Christ went on to reprove those who had been privileged to enjoy both it and that of His own, because they profited not from the same, yea, had despised and rejected both the one and the other. So depraved were the people of that day, they accused John of being demon possessed and charged Christ with being a glutton and a winebibber (vv. 16-19).

In verses 20-24 we have one of the most solemn passages to be found in Holy Writ, recording as it does some of the most fearful words which ever fell from the lips of the incarnate Son of God. He upbraided the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done, and that, because “they repented not” (v. 20). Let it be duly noted by those who seem to delight in picturing our Lord as a spineless and effeminate person, who was incapable of uttering a syllable that would hurt the feelings of anyone—a caricature of maudlin sentimentality manufactured by Romanists, but since fostered increasingly by many in the ranks of Protestantism—that the Christ of Scripture refused to gloss over the perversity of the people, instead, charging them with their sins. And let Antinomians also observe that, so far from the Christ of God ignoring human responsibility or excusing men’s spiritual impotency, He held them strictly accountable and blamed them for their impenitency.

“Willful impenitency is the great damning sin of multitudes that enjoy the Gospel, and which (more than any other) sinners will be upbraided with to eternity. The great doctrine that both John the Baptist, Christ Himself, and the Apostles preached, was repentance; the great thing designed both in the ‘piping’ and in the ‘mourning’ was to prevail with people to change their minds and ways, to leave their sins and turn to God; but this they would not be brought to. He does not say, because they believed not, for some kind of faith many of them had, that Christ was a ‘Teacher come from God’ but because they ‘repented not’—their faith did not prevail to the transforming of their hearts and the reforming of their lives. Christ reproved them for their other sins that He might lead them to repentance, but when they repented not, He upbraided them with that as their refusal to be healed. He upbraided them with it, that they might upbraid themselves, and might at length see the folly of it, as that which alone makes the sad case a desperate one and the wound incurable” (Matthew Henry).

The particular sin for which Christ upbraided them was that of impenitency, the special aggravation of their sin was that they had witnessed most of Christ’s miraculous works, for it was in those cities the Lord had for some time been residing and where many of His miracles of healing had been performed. Now there are some places which enjoy the means of grace more plentifully and powerfully than others. As certain parts of the earth receive a much heavier rainfall than others, certain countries and particular towns in them have been favoured with purer Gospel preaching and more outpourings of the Spirit than others, for God is sovereign in the distribution of His gifts both natural and spiritual. And “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luk 12:48). The greater our privileges and opportunities the greater our obligations, and the stronger the inducements we have to repent the more heinous is impenitency, and the heavier will the reckoning be. Christ keeps note of His “mighty works” done among us, and will yet hold us to an account of them.

“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!” (Mat 11:21). Christ came into the world in order to dispense blessing, but if His person be despised, His authority rejected, and His mercies slighted, then He has woes in reserve, and His woes are of all the most terrible. But how many who attend church now hear anything at all about this? O the treachery of the modern pulpit, its abounding unfaithfulness! It has deliberately taken the line of least resistance and sought only to please the pew, guiltily withholding what is unpalatable and unpopular. How often was this writer told, even twenty years ago, “our people would not tolerate such plain speaking” and, “preaching of that kind would empty our church,” to which we replied, “far better close your church altogether than keep it open for the purpose of deceiving souls.” And souls are deceived if a sentimental Christ is substituted for the Scriptural Christ, if His “Beatitudes” of Matthew 5 are emphasized and His “Woes” of Matthew 23 be ignored.

In still further aggravation of their sin of impenitency, our Lord affirmed that the citizens of Chorazin and Bethsaida were worse at heart than the Gentiles they despised, asserting that had Tyre and Sidon enjoyed such privileges as had been theirs, they had “repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Some of the blessings which Christendom despises would be welcomed in many parts of heathendom. “We are not competent to solve every difficulty, or fully to understand the whole of this subject; it suffices that Christ knew the hearts of the impenitent Jews to be more hardened in rebellion and enmity, and less susceptible of suitable impressions from His doctrine and miracles, than those of the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon would have been; and therefore their final condemnation would be proportionally more intolerable” (Thomas Scott). It is to be noted on the one hand that this passage does not stand alone—see Eze 3:6-7; and on the other that the repentance here spoken of by Christ is not necessarily one which leads to eternal salvation. Still more solemn are the awful words of Christ recorded in Mat 11:23-24. There He announces the doom of highly-favoured Capernaum. Because of the unspeakable privileges vouchsafed its inhabitants, they had been lifted Heavenwards, but because their hearts were so earth-bound they scorned such blessings, and therefore they would be “brought down to Hell.” The greater the advantages enjoyed, the more fearful the doom of those who abuse them; the higher the elevation, the more fatal the fall from it. The honourable Capernaum is then compared with the dishonourable Sodom, which, because of its enormities, God had destroyed with fire and brimstone. It was in Capernaum that the Lord Jesus had chiefly resided upon entry into His public ministry, and where so many of His miracles of healing had been wrought. Yet so obdurate were its inhabitants, so wedded to their sins, they refused to apply unto Him for the healing of their souls. Had such mighty works been done by Him in Sodom its people would have been duly affected thereby and their city had remained as a lasting monument of Divine mercy.

“But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (v. 24). Yes, my reader, though you may hear nothing about it from the flesh-pleasing pulpit of this degenerate age, nevertheless there is a “Day of judgment” awaiting the whole world. It is “the Day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds; it is the Day “when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel” (Rom 2:6-7, Rom 2:16). “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:14). “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the Day of judgment to be punished” (2Pe 2:9). The punishment which shall then be meted out will be proportioned to the opportunities given and despised, the privileges vouchsafed and scorned, the light granted and quenched. Most intolerable of all will be the doom of those who have abused the greatest advancements Heavenwards.

“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Mat 11:25). The connection between this and the preceding verses is most blessed and instructive. There the Lord Jesus intimates that the majority of His mighty works had produced no good effect upon those who saw them, that their beholders remained impenitent—so little influence had His holy and gracious presence exerted upon Capernaum, wherein He spent much of His time, that its fate would be worse than that of Sodom. But here Christ looks away from earth to Heaven, and finds consolation in the high sovereignty of God and the absolute security of His covenant. From upbraiding the impenitence of men Christ turned to the rendering of thanks unto the Father. On the word “answered” Matthew Henry said, “It is called an answer though no other words are found recorded but His own, because it is so comfortable a reply to the melancholy considerations preceding it, and is aptly set in the balance against them.”

A word of warning is needed, perhaps, at this point, for we are such creatures of extremes. In earlier paragraphs we referred to those who have substituted a sentimental Christ for the true Christ, yet the reader must not infer from this that the writer believes in a stoical Christ—hard, cold, devoid of feeling. Not so, the Christ of Scripture is perfect Man as well as God the Son, possessed therefore of human sensibilities, yea, capable of much deeper feeling than any of us, whose faculties are corrupted and blunted by sin. It must not be thought, then, that the Lord Jesus was unaffected by grief, when He pronounced the doom of those cities, or that He viewed them with fatalistic indifference as He found comfort in the sovereignty of God. Scripture must be compared with Scripture: He who wept over Jerusalem (Luk 19:41) would not be unmoved as He foresaw the intolerable portion awaiting Capernaum—the very fact that He was “the Man of sorrows” utterly precludes any such concept.

A similar warning is needed by hyper-Calvinists with fatalistic stoicism. “It seems plain then, that those who are indifferent about the event of the Gospel, who satisfy themselves with this thought, that the elect shall be saved, and feel no concern for unawakened sinners, make a wrong inference from a true doctrine, and know not what spirit they are of. Jesus wept for those who perished in their sins. Paul had great grief and sorrow of heart for the Jews, though he gave them this character, ‘that they pleased not God, and were contrary to all men.’ It well becomes us, while we admire distinguishing grace to ourselves, to mourn over others: and inasmuch as secret things belong to the Lord, and we know not but some of whom we have at present but little hopes, may at last be brought to the knowledge of the Truth, we should be patient and forbearing after the pattern of our heavenly Father, and endeavour by every proper and prudent means to stir them up to repentance, remembering that they cannot be more distant from God than by nature we were once ourselves” (John Newton.)

As perfect Man and as “Minister of the circumcision” (Rom 15:8) the Lord Jesus felt acutely any lack of response to and the little measure of success which attended His gracious and arduous efforts: this is clear from His lament: “I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for naught” (Isa 49:4). Striking it is to observe how Christ comforted Himself: “yet surely My judgment is with the Lord, and My work (or “reward”) with My God” (Isa 49:4). Thus, both in the language of prophecy and here in Mat 11:25-26, we find the Lord Jesus seeking relief from the discouragements and disappointments of the Gospel by retreating into the Divine sovereignty. “We may take great encouragement in looking upward to God, when round about us we see nothing but what is discouraging. It is sad to see how regardless most men are of their own happiness, it is comfortable to think that the wise and faithful God will, however, effectually secure the interests of His own glory” (Matthew Henry).

Christ alluded here to the sovereignty of God under three details. First, by owning His Father as “Lord of Heaven and earth,” that is, as sole Proprietor and Disposer thereof. It is well for us to remember, especially in seasons when it appears as though Satan is complete master of this lower sphere, that God not only “doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven,” but also “among the inhabitants of the earth,” so that “none can stay His hand” (Dan 4:35). Second, by affirming, “Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent”: that is, the things pertaining to salvation are concealed from the apprehension of the self-sufficient and self-complacent, God leaving them in nature’s darkness. Third, by declaring, “and hast revealed them unto babes”: by the effectual operations of the Holy Spirit a Divine discovery is made to the hearts of those who are made little and helpless in their own esteem. “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight” expressed the Saviour’s perfect acquiescence in the whole.

“All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Mat 11:27). This verse supplies the immediate connecting link between the sovereignty of Divine grace mentioned in verses 25 and 26 (Mat 11:25-26), and the offer and communication of that grace through Christ in verses 28-30 (Mat 11:28-30). The settlements of Divine grace were made and secured in the Everlasting Covenant: the communication of the same is by and through Christ as the Mediator of that covenant. First, we have here the grand commission which the Mediator received from the Father: all things necessary to the administration of the covenant were delivered unto Christ (compare Mat 28:18, Joh 5:22, Joh 17:2). Second, we have here the inconceivable dignity of the Son: lest a false inference be drawn from the preceding clause, the essential and absolute Deity of Christ is affirmed. Inferior in office, Christ’s nature and dignity is the same as the Father’s. As Mediator Christ receives all from the Father, but as God the Son He is, in every way, equal to the Father in His incomprehensible and glorious Person. Third, the work of the Mediator is here summed up in one grand item: that of revealing the Father unto those given to Him.

Thus the context of Mat 11:28 reveals Christ in the following characters As the Upbraider of the impenitent; as the Pronouncer of solemn “woe” upon those who were unaffected by His mighty works; as the Announcer of the Day of judgment, declaring that the punishment awaiting those who scorned Gospel mercies should be more intolerable than that meted out to Sodom: as the Affirmer of the high sovereignty of God who conceals and reveals the things pertaining to salvation as seemeth good in His sight; as the Mediator of the covenant; as the Son co-equal with the Father, and as the One by whom the Father is revealed.

WHOM DID CHRIST CALL?

“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28). Having examined at some length the context of these words, that we might the better perceive their connection and the particular characters in which Christ is there portrayed, we turn now to consider the persons here addressed, the ones who were invited to come to the Rest-Giver. On this point there has been some difference among the commentators, some giving a narrower scope to this call of Christ and some a wider. It is to be noted however, that all of the leading men among the earlier expositors united in restricting this particular call to a special class. Let us quote two or three of the principal ones:

“He now kindly invites to Himself those whom He acknowledges to be fit for becoming His disciples. Though He is ready to reveal the Father to all, yet the great part are careless about coming to Him, because they are not affected by a conviction of their necessities. Hypocrites give themselves no concern about Christ because they are intoxicated with their own righteousness, and neither hunger nor thirst after His grace. Those who are devoted to the world set no value on a heavenly life. It would be vain therefore for Christ to invite either of these classes, and therefore He turns to the wretched and afflicted. He speaks of them as ‘labouring’ or being under a ‘burden,’ and does not mean generally those who are oppressed with griefs and vexations, but those who are overwhelmed by their sins, who are filled with alarm at the wrath of God and are ready to sink under so weighty a burden” (John Calvin)

“The character of the persons invited: all that labour and are heavy laden. This is a word in season to him that is weary (Isa 50:4). Those that complain of the burden of the ceremonial law, which was an intolerable yoke, and was made much more so by the tradition of the elders (Luk 11:46); let them come to Christ and they shall be made easy . . . But it is rather to be understood of the burden of sin, both the guilt and the power of it. All those, and those only, are invited to rest in Christ that are sensible of sin as a burden and groan under it, that are not only convicted of the evil of sin—their own sin—but are contrite in soul for it; that are really sick of sin, weary of the service of the world and the flesh, that see their state sad and dangerous by reason of sin, and are in pain and fear about it: as Ephraim (Jer 31:18-20), the prodigal (Luk 15:17), the publican (Luk 18:13), Peter’s hearers (Act 2:37), Paul (Acts 9), the jailer (Act 16:29-30). This is a necessary preparative for pardon and peace” (Matthew Henry).

“Who are the persons here invited? They are these who ‘labour’ (the Greek expresses toil with weariness) and are ‘heavy laden.’ This must here be limited to spiritual concerns, otherwise it will take in all mankind, even the most hardened and obstinate opposers of Christ and the Gospel.” Referring to the self-righteous religionists, this writer went on to say, “You avoid gross sins, you have perhaps a form of godliness. The worst you think that can be said of you is, that you employ all your thoughts and every means that will not bring you under the lash of the law, to heap up money, to join house to house and field to field; or you spend your days in a complete indolence, walking in the way of your own hearts and looking no further: and here you will say you find pleasure, and insist on it, that you are neither weary nor heavy laden . . . then it is plain that you are not the persons whom Christ here invites to partake of His rest” (John Newton).

“The persons invited are not ‘all’ the inhabitants of mankind, but with a restriction: ‘all ye that labour and are heavy laden,’ meaning not those who labour in the service of sin and Satan, are laden with iniquity and insensible of it: those are not weary of sin nor burdened with it, nor do they want or desire any rest for their souls; but such who groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin on their consciences and are pressed down with the unsupportable yoke of the Law and the load of their trespasses, and have been labouring till they are weary, in order to obtain peace of conscience and rest for their soul by the observance of these things, but in vain. These are encouraged to come to Him, lay down their burdens at His feet and look to Him, and lay hold by faith on His person, blood and righteousness” (John Gill).

In more recent times the majority of preachers have dealt with our text as though the Lord Jesus was issuing an indefinite invitation, regarding His terms as being sufficiently general and wide in their scope as to include sinners of every grade and type. They supposed that the words, “ye that labour and are heavy laden” refer to the misery and bondage which the Fall has brought upon the whole human race, as its unhappy subjects vainly seek satisfaction in the things of time and sense, endeavouring to find happiness in the pleasures of sin. “The Universal wretchedness of man is depicted on both its sides— the active and the passive forms of it” (Fausset and Brown): that is, they are labouring for contentment by gratifying their lusts, only to add to their miseries by becoming more and more the burdened slaves of sin.

It is quite true that the unregenerate “labour in the very fire” and that they “weary themselves for the very vanity” (Hab 2:13). It is quite true that they “labour in vain” (Jer 51:58), and “what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?” (Ecc 5:16). It is quite true that they “spend money for that which is not bread” and “labour for that which satisfieth not” (Isa 55:2), for “the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing” (Ecc 1:8). It is equally true that the unregenerate are heavy laden—“a people laden with iniquity” (Isa 1:4), yet are they totally insensible of their awful state: “the labour of the foolish wearieth everyone of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the City” (Ecc 10:15). Moreover, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa 57:20-21): they have neither peace of conscience nor rest of heart. But it is quite another matter to affirm that these are the characters which Christ invited to come unto Him for rest. Personally we much prefer the view taken by the older writers, for with rare exceptions their expositions are much sounder than those furnished in more recent days. As far back as a century ago a latitudinarian spirit had begun to creep in, and even the most orthodox were often, unconsciously, to some degree affected thereby. The pew was more and more inclined to chafe against what they regarded as the “rigidity” and “narrowness” of their fathers, and those in the pulpit had to tone down those aspects of the Truth which were most repellent to the carnal mind if they were to retain their popularity. Side by side with modern discoveries and inventions, the increased means for travel and the dissemination of news, came in what was termed “a broader outlook” and “a more charitable spirit,” and posing as an angel of light Satan succeeded in Arminianising many places of Truth, and even where this was not accomplished, high Calvinism was whittled down to moderate Calvinism.

That to which we have just alluded is no distorted conception of ours, issuing from an extreme theology, but a solemn fact which no honest student of ecclesiastical history can deny. Christendom, my reader, has not got into the unspeakably dreadful condition it is now in all of a sudden: rather is its present state the outcome of a steady and long deterioration. The deadly poison of error was introduced here a little and there a little, the quantity being increased as less opposition was made against it. As “missionary” activities absorbed more and more the attention and strength of the Church, the standard of doctrine was lowered, sentiment displaced convictions, fleshly methods were introduced, until in a comparatively short time nine tenths of those sent out to “the foreign field” were rank Arminians, preaching “another Gospel.” This reacted upon the homelands and soon the interpretations of Scripture given out by its pulpits were brought into line with the “new spirit” which had captivated Christendom.

While we are far from affirming that everything modern is evil or that everything ancient was excellent, yet there is no doubt whatever in our own mind that by far the greater part of the boasted “progress” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a progress downward and not upward, away from God and not toward Him, into the darkness and not the light. And therefore it behooves us to examine with double care and caution any religious views or ways which deviated from the common teachings and practices of the godly Reformers and Puritans. This writer sincerely trusts that he is not a worshipper of antiquity as such, nor does he desire to call any man “father,” yet in view of the awful corruption of the Truth and departure from vital godliness we are compelled to regard with suspicion those “broader” interpretations of God’s Word which have become so popular in recent times.

It behooves us now to point out one or two of the reasons we do not believe that Christ was here making a broadcast invitation, issued promiscuously to the light-headed, gay-hearted, pleasure-crazy, masses which have no appetite for the Gospel and no concern for their eternal interests: that this call was not addressed to the godless, careless, giddy and worldly multitudes, but rather unto those who were burdened with a sense of sin and longed for relief of conscience. First because the Lord Jesus had received no commission from Heaven to bestow rest of soul upon all and sundry, but only upon the elect of God. Said He, “For I came down from Heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And 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” (Joh 6:38-39), and that, necessarily, regulated all His ministry.

Second, because the Lord Jesus ever practiced what He preached. Unto His disciples He said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Mat 7:6). Can we, then, conceive of our holy Lord inviting the unconcerned to come unto Him for that which their hearts abhorred? Has He set His ministers such an example? Surely, the word He would have them press upon the pleasure-intoxicated members of our rising generation is, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” (Ecc 11:9).

Third, because the immediate context is entirely out of harmony with the wider interpretation. There we find Christ pronouncing most solemn “woes” upon those who despised and rejected Him (Mat 11:20-24), drawing consolation from the sovereignty of God and thanking Him because He had hidden from the wise and prudent the things which belonged unto their eternal peace but had revealed them unto babes (Mat 11:25-26), and it is these “babes” He here invites unto Himself; and there we find Him presented as the One commissioned by the Father and as the Revealer of Him. (Mat 11:27).

It must not be concluded from anything said above that the writer does not believe in an unfettered Gospel or that he is opposed to the general offer of Christ to all who hear it. Not so: his marching orders are far too plain for any misunderstanding: his Master has bidden him “preach the Gospel to every creature” so far as Divine providence admits, and the substance of the Gospel message is that Christ died for sinners and stands ready to welcome every sinner who is willing to receive Him on His prescribed terms. Though His mission was the saving of God’s elect (Mat 1:21), the Lord Jesus announced the design of His incarnation in sufficiently general terms as to warrant any man truly desiring salvation to believe in Him. “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mat 9:13). Many are called even though but few be chosen (Mat 20:16). The way in which we spell out our election is in coming to Christ as lost sinners, trusting in His blood for pardon and acceptance with God.

In his excellent sermon on the words before us, John Newton of blessed memory pointed out that, when David was driven into the wilderness by the rage of Saul that “everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them” (1Sa 22:2). But David was despised by those who, like Nabal (1Sa 25:10), lived at their ease: they believed not that he should be a king over Israel, and therefore they preferred the favour of Saul whom God had rejected. Thus it was with the Lord Jesus: though a Divine Person, invested with all authority, grace and blessings, and declaring that He would be the King of all who obeyed His voice and that they should be His happy people, yet the majority saw no beauty that they should desire Him, felt no need of Him, and so rejected Him. Only a few, who were consciously wretched and burdened believed His Word and came to Him for rest.

We must now inquire, what did our Lord signify when He bade all the weary and heavy laden “come unto Me”? First, it is quite evident that something more than a physical act or local coming to hear Him preach was intended, for these words were first addressed to those who were already in His presence: there were many who attended His ministry and witnessed His Miracles who never came to Him in the sense here intended. The same holds good today: something more than a bare approach through the ordinances —listening to preaching, submitting to baptism, partaking of the Lord’s Supper— is involved in a saving coming to Christ, for such acts as those may be performed without the performer being any gainer thereby. Coming to Christ in the sense He here invited is a going out of the soul after Him, a desire for Him, a seeking after Him, a personal embracing of and trusting in Him.

A saving coming to Christ suggests first and negatively a leaving of something, for the Divine promise is, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Pro 28:13). Coming to Christ, then, denotes a turning our backs upon the world and turning our hearts unto Him as our only Hope and Portion. It is the abandoning of every idol and the surrendering of ourselves to His Lordship. It is the repudiation of our own righteousness and every dependency, and the heart going out to Him in loving submission and trustful confidence. It is in entire going out of self with all its resolutions and performances to cast ourselves upon His grace and mercy. It is the will yielding itself up to His authority to be rifled by Him and to follow Him whithersoever He may lead. In short, it is the whole soul of a guilty and self-condemned sinner turning unto a whole Christ, in the exercise of all our facilities, responding to His claims upon us, prepared to unreservedly trust, unfeignedly love, and devotedly serve Him.

We have said that coming to Christ is the turning of the whole soul unto Him. Perhaps this calls for some amplification, though we trust we shall not confuse the reader by multiplying words and entering into detail. There are three principal facilities in the soul: the understanding, the affections, and the will—and as each of these were operative and were affected by our original departure from God, so they are and must be active in our return to Him in Christ. Of Eve it is recorded, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof” (Gen 3:6). First, she “saw that the tree was good for food,” that is, she perceived the fact mentally—it was a conclusion drawn by her understanding. Second, “and that it was pleasant to the eyes”: that was the response and going out of her affections unto it. Third, “and a tree to be desired to make one wise”: there was the moving of her will. “And took of the fruit thereof and did eat”: there was the completed action.

Thus it is in the sinner’s coming to Christ. There is first apprehension by the understanding: the mind is enlightened and brought to see our deep need of Christ and His perfect suitability to meet our needs: the intelligence perceives that He is “good for food,” the Bread of life which God has graciously provided for the nourishment of our souls. Second, there is the moving of the affections: hitherto we discerned no beauty in Christ that we should desire Him, but now He is “pleasant to the eyes” of our souls: it is the heart turning from the love of sin to the love of holiness, from self to the Saviour—it is for this reason that backsliding or spiritual declension is termed a leaving of our “first love” (Rev 2:4). Third, in coming to Christ there is an exercise of the will, for said He to those who received Him not, “ye will not come to Me that ye might have life” (Joh 5:40). This exercise of the will consists of a yielding of ourselves to His authority to be ruled by Him.

None will come to Christ while they remain in ignorance of Him: the understanding must perceive His suitability for sinners before the mind can turn intelligently and consciously unto Him as He is revealed in the Gospel. Neither can the heart come to Christ while it hates Him or is wedded to the things of time and sense: the affections must be drawn out to Him—“If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema” (1Co 16:22). Equally evident is it that no man will come to Christ while his will is opposed to Him: it is the enlightening of his understanding and the firing of his affections which subdues his enmity and makes the sinner willing in the day of God’s power (Psa 110:3). It is helpful to observe that these exercises of the three faculties of the soul correspond in character to the threefold office of Christ: the understanding being enlightened by Him as Prophet, the affections being moved by His work as Priest, and the will bowing to His authority as King over Zion.

In the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus condescended to minister unto the ailments and needs of men’s bodies and not a few came unto Him and were healed: in that we may see an adumbration of Him as the great Physician of souls and what is required from sinners if they are to receive spiritual healing at His hands. Those who sought out Christ in order to obtain bodily relief were persuaded of His mighty power, His gracious willingness, and of their own dire need of healing. But let it be noted that then, as now, this persuasion in the Lord’s sufficiency and readiness to succour varied in degree in different cases. The centurion spoke with full assurance: “Speak the word only and my servant shall be healed” (Mat 8:8). The leper expressed himself more dubiously, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean” (Mat 8:2). Another used still fainter language, “If Thou canst do anything, have compassion and help us” (Mar 9:22), yet even there the Redeemer did not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, but graciously wrought a miracle on his behalf.

But let it be carefully observed that in each of the above cases there was a personal and actual application unto Christ, and it was this very application (or approach unto and appeal to Him) which made manifest their faith, even though that faith was as small as a grain of mustard seed. They did not rest content with having heard of His fame, but improved it: they actually sought Him out for themselves, acquainted Him with their case, and implored His compassion. So it must be with those troubled about soul concerns: saving faith is not passive, but operative. Moreover, the faith of those who sought unto Christ for physical relief was one which refused to be deterred by difficulties and discouragements. In vain the multitudes charged the blind man to be quiet (Mar 10:48): knowing that Christ was able to give sight, he cried so much the more. Even when Christ appeared to manifest a great reserve, the woman refused to leave till her request was granted (Mat 15:27).

THE REST OF CHRIST

“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat 11:28). In his most excellent sermons on these words and the verses which follow, John Newton pointed out that the dispensation of the Gospel may be compared to the cities of refuge in Israel. It was a privilege and honour to the nation in general that they had such sanctuaries of Divine appointment, but the real value of them was known and felt by only a few. Those alone who found themselves in that case for which they were provided could rightly prize them.

Thus it is with the Gospel of Christ: it is the highest privilege and honour of which a professing nation can boast, but it can be truly understood and esteemed by none except weary and heavy laden souls, who have felt their misery by nature, are tired of the drudgery of sin, and have seen the broken Law pursuing them like the avenger of blood of old. This is the only consideration which keeps them from sinking into abject despair, in that God has graciously provided a remedy by the Gospel and that Christ bids them “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”

If those awakened, convicted, and distressed souls would but appropriate to themselves the full comfort of that blessed invitation and heartily obey its terms, their complaints would be at an end; but remaining ignorance, the workings of unbelief, and the oppositions of Satan combine in various ways to keep them back. Some will say, Alas, I am not qualified to come to Christ: my heart is so hard, my conscience so insensible that I do not feel the burden of my sin as I ought to nor my need of Christ’s rest as I should. Others will say, I fear that I do not come aright. I see from the Scriptures and hear from the pulpit that repentance is required from me and that faith is an absolute essential if I am to be saved, but I am much concerned to know whether my repentance be sincere and deep enough and whether my faith be anything better than an historical one—the assent of the mind to the facts presented in the Gospel.

Let us then add a few words to what we have said previously on what is meant by a saving coming to Christ. It was pointed out earlier that we may discover from the cases of those who sought bodily healing from Him of old what is connoted by the invitation which Christ here makes to those who have sought diligently to secure the approbation of God and meet His just requirements in the Law, who are heavy laden by a sense of their wretched failures and weighted down by the conscious load of their guilt and pollution. First, they were persuaded of His power and willingness and of their own deep need of His help. Thus it is in the matter of salvation: the sinner must be convinced that Christ is “mighty to save,” that He is ready to receive all who are sick of sin and desire to be healed by Him. Second, they made an application unto Him. They were not content to hear of His fame, but made proof for themselves of His wonder-working power. So, too, the sinner must not only credit the blessed message of the Gospel, but he must also venture on Christ for himself, seek unto Him and trust in Him.

As we peruse the Gospel Narratives we see that those who sought unto Christ as a Physician of souls continued with Him and became His followers. They received Him as their Lord and Master, renounced everything that was inconsistent with His will (Luk 9:23, Luk 9:60), professed an obedience to His precepts, and accepted a share in His reproach. Some had a more definite and open call to Him, as Matthew, who was sitting at the seat of custom, indifferent to the claims of Christ till He passed by and said, “Follow Me” (Mat 9:9). That word was accompanied with power and won his heart, separating him from worldly pursuits in an instant. But others were drawn to Him more secretly by His Spirit and Providence, as Nathanael (Joh 1:46), and the weeping penitent (Luk 7:38). In the case of the ruler who came to the Lord Jesus with no other intention than to obtain the life of his son (Joh 4:53), he secured much more than he asked or expected—the Lord affording such an affecting sense of His power and goodness that he, from henceforth, believed with all his house. Now all these things are recorded for our encouragement today.

The Lord Jesus is no longer here on earth in visible form but He has promised His spiritual presence to abide with His Word, His ministers and His people to the end of time. Weary and heavy laden souls—sin-sick and conscious-burdened sinners—do not have to take a long and hard journey in order to seek and find the Saviour, for He is always near to them (Act 17:27) in a spiritual manner wherever His Gospel is preached. “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise: Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above): or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the Word of Faith, which we preach” (Rom 10:6-8). Then raise your hearts, breathe forth your complaints to Him. If you feel that you cannot come to Christ with a tender heart and burdened conscience, then come to Him for them. If you fear your repentance and faith are defective, then beg Him to bestow upon you the genuine article.

“Is it a sense of your load which makes you say you are not able? Then consider that this is not a work, but a rest. Would a man plead I am so heavy laden that I cannot consent to part with my burden; so weary that I am not able either to stand still or to lie down, but must force myself farther? The greatness of your burden, so far from being an objection, is the very reason why you should instantly come to Christ, for He alone is able to release you. But perhaps you think you do not come aright. I ask, how would you come? If you come as a helpless unworthy sinner, without righteousness, without any hope but what arises from the worth, work, and Word of Christ, this is to come aright. There is no other way of being accepted. Would you refresh and strengthen yourself, wash away your own sins, free yourself from your burden, and then come to Him to do these things for you? May the Lord help you to see the folly and unreasonableness of your unbelief” (John Newton).

Persevere in your application to Christ. There is no promise recorded in Scripture that God will reward the careless, half-hearted, indolent seeker, but He has declared, “Ye shall seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). He has a fixed time for everyone whom He receives. He knew how long the poor man had waited at the side of the pool (Joh 5:6), and when his hour came He spake and relieved him. So do you endeavour to be found in the way: where His Word is faithfully preached, and if that be not available (or even if it is) diligently search His Word in the privacy of your own room. Be much in secret prayer. As you have opportunity converse with His people, perhaps He may unexpectedly join you, as He did the two disciples when walking to Emmaus, and cause your heart to burn within you. These are the means which the Lord has appointed. You will find many things both from within and without to discourage and weary you, but in good time, if you seek with all your heart, You shall find rest unto your soul.

“I will give you rest.” What a claim to make! This was something which no mere man, no matter how godly and spiritual, could promise. Abraham, Moses, David could not have bidden the weary and heavy laden to come unto him with the assurance that they would give them rest! To impart rest of soul to another lies beyond the power of the most exalted creature. Even the holy angels in Heaven are quite incapable of bestowing rest upon others, for they are entirely dependent upon the grace of God for their own rest. How this promise of Christ, then, makes manifest His uniqueness. Neither Confucius, Buddha, nor Mohammed ever made such a claim as this. Ah, my reader, it was no mere Man who uttered these words: “Come unto Me all ye that art weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Though appearing in the form of a Servant, yet was He, in Himself, infinitely more than that. He was the Son of God incarnate. He was Himself the Creator of man, and therefore could He restore him. He was the Prince of peace and therefore capable of giving rest.

As Christ is the only One who can bestow rest of soul, so there is no true rest to be found apart from Him. The creature cannot impart it. The world cannot communicate it. We ourselves cannot, by any efforts of our own, manufacture it. One of the most pathetic things in this world is to behold the unregenerate vainly seeking happiness and contentment in the things of time and sense, and when it is at last discovered that these are all broken cisterns which hold no water, to observe them turning to priests and preachers, penance and fastings, reading and praying, only to find as the prodigal son did when he “began to want,” that “no man gave unto him” (Luke 15). Like the poor woman mentioned in Mark 5, who had “suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse” (Mar 5:26). Of all the unregenerate, illiterate or learned, it is true that “the way of peace have they not known” (Rom 3:17).

Ah, my reader, it is much to be thankful for when we are made to realize experimentally that none but Christ can do helpless sinners any good. This is a hard lesson for flesh and blood, and slow are we to learn it. Not that the fact is involved or intricate in itself, but because the devilish pride of our hearts makes us self-assertive and self-sufficient until Divine grace humbles us. This is part of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit to bring us off from all creature dependence, to knock all props from under us, to make us perceive that the Lord Jesus Christ is our only hope. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Act 4:12). Strikingly was this adumbrated of old in the dove sent forth by Noah: “But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark; for the waters were on the face of the whole earth. When he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark” (Gen 8:9). Significantly enough the very name “Noah” meant rest (Gen 5:29, margin), and it was only as the poor dove was “caused to come unto him” that she obtained rest. Thus it is with the sinner. We must now inquire, What is the nature of this “rest” which Christ gives to all who come to Him? “The Greek word expresses something more than rest, or a mere relaxation from toil; it denotes refreshment likewise. A person weary with long bearing a heavy burden will need not only to have it removed, but likewise he wants food and refreshment to restore his spirits and to repair his wasted strength. Such is the rest of the Gospel. It not only puts a period to our fruitless labour, but it affords a sweet reviving cordial. There is not only peace, but joy in believing” (John Newton). Thus it is a spiritual rest, a satisfying rest, “rest for the soul” as the Saviour declares later in this passage. It is such a rest as this world can neither give nor take away.

In particularizing upon the nature of this rest we may distinguish between its present and its future forms. Concerning the former we would note, first, it is a deliverance from that vain and wearisome quest which engages and absorbs the sinner before the Spirit of God opens his eyes to see his folly and moves him to seek after the true riches. Piteous indeed is it to behold those who are made for eternity wasting their time and energies wandering from object to object searching for that which will satisfy them not, only to be mortified by repeated and incessant disappointments. And thus it is with all until they come to Christ, for He has written over all the pursuits and pleasures of this world, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” (Joh 4:13). Forcibly was that fact exemplified by the case of Solomon, who was provided with everything which the carnal heart could desire and who gratified his lusts to the full, only to find that, “behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (Ecc 1:14). It is from this vexation of spirit that Christ delivers His people, for He declares “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (Joh 4:14).

Second, it is the easing and tranquilizing of a burdened conscience. Only one who has been enlightened and convicted by the Holy Spirit can appreciate what this means. When one is made to cry out, “The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me” (Job 6:4): when the curse of God’s broken Law thunders in our ears, when we have an inward sense of Divine wrath, when the terrors of a future judgment and of eternal damnation fall upon the soul, then is there an indescribable anguish of mind. When a true Law-work is wrought in the heart by the Spirit we are made to exclaim, “Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin” (Psa 38:2-3). So, too, when we first perceive the wondrous love of God for us and His abounding goodness unto us, and how vilely we have repaid Him: then we are cut to the quick and “a wounded spirit who can bear”! But when by faith we come to Christ all this is altered. As we view Him dying in our place and perceive that there is now no condemnation for us, the intolerable load falls from our conscience and a peace which passes all understanding becomes our portion.

Third, it is a rest from the dominion and power of sin. Here again it is only those who have been made the subjects of a work of grace that can enter into what is meant by this. The unawakened are utterly unconcerned about the glory of God, indifferent whether their conduct pleases or displeases Him. They have no concept of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and no realization of how completely sin dominates them at all times. It is only when the Spirit of God illumines their minds and convicts their consciences that they begin to see the awfulness of their state; and only then, as they endeavour to reform their ways, are they made conscious of the might of their inward foe and of their own inability to cope with it. In vain is deliverance sought from resolutions and endeavours in our own strength. Even after we are quickened and begin to understand the Gospel salvation, for a season (often a lengthy one) it is rather a fight than a rest. But as we grow more out of ourselves and are taught to live upon Christ as our sanctification, drawing our strength and motives from Him by faith, we obtain a comparative rest, by His grace, in this respect also.

Fourth, there is a resting from our own works. As the believer realizes more clearly the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ, that his Surety offered unto God a perfect satisfaction on his behalf which met every claim upon him, as he perceives by faith that Christ is “the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom 10:4), he is delivered experimentally from the law as a Covenant of Works and sees that he no longer owes it service in that sense. His obedience is no more legal but evangelical, no longer rendered out of fear but from gratitude. His service unto the Lord is performed not in a servile but in a gracious spirit, and what was formerly a burden is now a delight. He is no longer seeking to earn God’s favour, but acts in the realization that the smile of God is upon him. So far from rendering him careless, this will spur him on to strive with might and main to glorify the One who gave His own Son to be a sacrifice in his place. Thus, bondage gives place to liberty, slavery to worship, toil to rest, and the soul is enabled to repose on the unchangeable Word of Christ and to follow Him steadily through light and darkness.

There is also a future rest beyond any that can be experienced here, though most inadequate are our best conceptions of the glory awaiting the people of God. First, in Heaven there shall be a perfect resting from all sin, for nothing shall ever enter there which could either defile or disturb our peace. What it will mean to be delivered from indwelling corruptions no mortal tongue can tell. The plague of their hearts is an occasion of constant grief to the saints as long as they are left in this wilderness of sin, a burden under which they groan and from which they long to be delivered. The closer a believer’s walk with the Lord and the more intimate his communion with Him, the more bitterly he bewails that within him which is ever fighting against his endeavours after holiness. Therefore it was that the Apostle cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). But blessed be God, we shall not carry this burden beyond the grave: the hour of death will free us from this awful incubus.

Second, we shall be delivered from beholding the sins of others. No more shall our ears be offended nor our hearts pained by those evils which flood the earth. Now, like it was with Lot in Sodom, we are grieved every day with the conversation of the godless. “Who that has any love to the Lord Jesus, any spark of true holiness, any sense of the worth of souls in his heart, can see what passes amongst us without trembling? How openly, daringly, almost universally, are the Commandments of God broken, His Gospel despised, His patience abused, and His power defied” (J. Newton). If that were the state of affairs almost two hundred years ago what would this writer say were he on earth today, and witnessed not only the wickedness of the profane world, but also the hypocrisy and degeneracy of Christendom? As the believer beholds how the Lord of glory is dishonoured in the house of those who pose as being His friends, how often is he constrained to say, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest” (Psa 55:6). Ere long this wish shall be answered.

Third, there will be perpetual rest from all outward afflictions, for in Heaven there is none to oppose and harass the people of God. No more shall the saint live in the midst of an ungodly generation, which when they do not actively persecute him, yet only reluctantly tolerate his presence. Though afflictions be needful for us in this present scene, and when sanctified to us are also profitable, nevertheless they are grievous to bear; but a day is coming when such tribulations will no longer be necessary, for the fine gold shall have been purged from all the dross. The storms of life will all be behind, and an unbroken calm shall be the believer’s portion forever and ever. Where there shall be no more sin, there shall be no more sorrow: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Rev 21:4). Thank God that will be an eternal morning “without clouds.”

Fourth, it will be a rest from Satan’s temptations. How often he succeeds in disturbing the present rest of believers! How often they have cause to say with the Apostle, “Satan hath hindered me.” He seeks in various ways to hinder them from attending the public means of grace, and if he fails in that, to unfit them while they are there. He seeks to hinder them when they are endeavouring to meditate on the Word or while engaged in private prayer. Like the miserable fiend that he is, the devil cannot bear to see one of Christ’s people happy, and therefore he tries constantly to disturb their peace and joy. One reason why God permits this is that they may be conformed to their Head: when He was here on earth the devil was continually hounding Him—sufficient then for the disciple to be as his Master. Even when believers come to the hour of their departure from this world, their great Enemy endeavours to rob them of their assurance; but he can pursue them no further. Absent from the body, they are present with the Lord—forever out of the reach of their adversary.

Finally, they rest from unsatisfied desires. When one has really been born of the Spirit, he yearns to be done with sin forever, that never again there may be anything in his heart or life dishonouring unto the One who has redeemed him at such infinite cost. He pants for perfect conformity to the image of Christ, and for unbroken fellowship with Him. But such longings as these are not realized in this life. Instead, the old nature is left within the believer, and it is ever opposing the new, bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members (Rom 7:23). But death affords him a welcome relief from indwelling corruptions, and he is made “a pillar in the temple of his God, and he shall go out no more” (Rev 3:12). In the morning of the resurrection the believer’s body shall be “fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Php 3:21) and every longing of his soul shall then be fully realized. The change from grace to glory will be as radical as the change from nature to grace.

William Guthrie (1620-1665): The Christian’s Great Interest–1/3

The Christian’s Great Interest

(The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ)

By

William Guthrie (1620-1665)

Copyright: Public Domain

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THE CHRISTIAN’S GREAT INTEREST (P 1 of 3)

PART I. THE TRIAL OF A SAVING INTEREST IN CHRIST

INTRODUCTION

SINCE there are so many people living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ, and to his favour and his salvation, as is stated by our Lord, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”–“Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” And since many who have good ground of claim to Christ are not established in the confidence of his favor, but remain in the dark, without comfort, hesitating concerning the reality of godliness in themselves, and speaking little in the commendation of religion to others, especially in the time of their straits, I shall speak a little respecting two things of the greatest concern: the one is, How a person shall know if he hath a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he doth lay just claim to God’s favour and salvation? The other is, In case a person fall short of assurance in this trial, what course he shall take for making sure God’s friendship and salvation to himself?

Quest. How shall a man know if he hath a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he hath, or may lay claim justly to God’s favour and salvation?

CHAP. I.

A Man’s Interest in Christ may be known.

SECT. I. It is a Matter of the highest Importance, and is to be determined by Scripture.

Before we speak directly to the question, we shall premise some things, to make way for the answer. First, That a man’s interest in Christ, or his gracious state, may be known, and that with more certainty than people conjecture; yea, and the knowledge of it may be more easily attained than many do imagine: for not only hath the Lord commanded men to know this interest in him, as a thing attainable: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith,” &c. “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” &c. but many of the saints have attained unto the clear persuasion of their interest in Christ, and in God as their own God. How often do they call him their God and their Portion and how persuaded is Paul “that nothing can separate him from the love of God!” Therefore the knowledge of a man’s gracious state is attainable.

And this knowledge of it, which may be attained, is no fancy and mere conceit, but it is most sure: “Doubtless thou art our Father,” saith the prophet, in name of the church. It is clear from this:

1. That can be no fancy, but a very sure knowledge, which doth yield to a rational man comfort in most real straits; but so doth this: “When the people spake of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” He saith, “He will not be afraid of ten thousands that rise against him.”

Compare these words with the following: “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.”–“The Lord is my light, and my salvation, whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.”

 

2. That is a sure knowledge of a thing which maketh a wise merchant sell all he hath that he may keep it sure; that maketh a man forego children, lands, life, and suffer the spoiling of all joyfully; but so doth this.

3. That must be a sure and certain knowledge, and no fancy, upon which a man voluntarily and freely doth adventure his soul when he is stepping into eternity, with this word in mouth, “This is all my desire:” but such a knowledge is this.

And again, not only may a godly man come to the sure knowledge of his gracious state, but it is more easily attainable than many apprehend: for supposing, what shall he afterwards proved, that a man may know the gracious work of God’s Spirit in himself; if he will but argue rationally from thence, he shall be forced to conclude his interest in Christ, unless he deny clear Scripture truths. I shall only make use of one here, because we are to speak more directly to this afterwards. A godly man may argue thus, Whosoever receive Christ are justly reputed the children of God: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God;” but I have received Christ in all the ways which the word there can import; for I am pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, I agree to the terms, I welcome the offer of Christ in all his offices, as a King to rule over me, a Priest to offer sacrifice and intercede for me, a Prophet to teach me; I lay out my heart for him and towards him, resting on him as I am able. What else can be meant by the word receiving? Therefore may I say, and conclude plainly and warrantably, I am justly to reckon myself God’s child according to the above-quoted Scripture which cannot fail.

The Second thing to be premised is, That a man be savingly in covenant with God is a matter of the highest importance; “It is his life.” And yet very few have or seek after a saving interest in the covenant, and many foolishly think they have such a thing without any solid ground: “Few find, or walk, in the narrow way.” This should alarm people to be serious about the matter, since it is of so great consequence to be in Christ, and since there be but few that may lay just claim to him: and yet many do foolishly fancy an interest in him, who are deceived by a false confidence, as the foolish virgins do.

The Third thing to be premised is, Men must resolve to be determined by Scripture in this matter of their interest in Christ. The Spirit speaking in the Scripture is Judge of all controversies: “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;” and of this also, whether a man be savingly in covenant with God or not. Therefore do not mock God whilst you seem to search after such a thing. If we prove from Scripture, which is the uncontroverted rule, that you are gracious, and have made a covenant savingly with God, then resolve to grant so much, and to acquiesce in it: and if the contrary appear, let there be a determination of the controversy, else you do but mock the Lord, and so “your hands shall be made strong;” for “a jot of his word cannot fail.” Therefore seek eye-salve from Christ to judge of things according as the word of God shall discover them to be.

SECT. II. Reasons why so few come to the clear Knowledge of their Interest in Christ.

The fourth thing to be premised is, Although the matter of a man’s interest in Christ be of so great importance, and the way to attain to the knowledge of it so plainly held forth in the Scriptures, yet there be but few who reach the distinct knowledge of it. And that this may not discourage any person from attempting it, I shall hint some few reasons why so few come to the clear knowledge of it; which will also prepare the way for what is to be spoken afterwards.

The first thing which hinders many from the knowledge of their interest in Christ is their ignorance of some special principles of religion: as,

1. That it was free love in God’s bosom, and nothing in man, that moved him to send a Saviour to perfect the work of redemption: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” Men are still seeking some ground for that work in themselves, which leads them away from suitable and high apprehensions of the first spring and rise of God’s covenant-favour to his people, which hath no reason, cause, or motive in us; and so they cannot come to the knowledge of their interest.

2. They are ignorant how that love effectually discovers itself to a man’s heart, so as he hath ground to lay claim to it, namely, That ordinarily it,

1st, Discovers his fallen state himself, because of sin and corruption defiling the whole man, and any thing in him that might be called a righteousness: “All these things are loss and dung.”

2dly, It discovers Christ as the full and satisfying treasure above all things: “The man finds a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all,” &c.

3dly, It determines the heart, and causeth it to approach unto a living God in the ordinances: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts,” and causeth the heart to wait upon him, and him alone. “My soul, wait thou only upon God.” Thus having dropped in the seed of God in the heart, and formed Christ there, the heart is changed and made new in the work: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” And God’s law is so stamped upon the heart in that change, that the whole yoke of Christ is commended to the man without exception. The law is acknowledged “good, holy, just, and spiritual.”

Upon all which, from that new principle of life, there flow out acts of a new life; “faith worketh by love;” and the man becomes “a servant of righteousness unto God,” which doth especially appear in the spirituality of worship; men then “serve God in spirit and truth; and in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter;” and tenderness in all manner of conversation: the man then “exerciseth himself how to keep a conscience void of offence towards God” and towards men.” Now in this way doth the love of God discover itself unto man, and acteth on him, so as he hath ground of laying some good claim to it; that he may justly think that the love which sent a Saviour, had respect to such a man as hath found these things made out to him. Surely ignorance in this doth hinder many from the knowledge of their interest in Christ; for if a man know not how God worketh with a person, so that he may justly lay claim to his love, which was from eternity, he will wander in the dark, and not come to the knowledge of an interest in him.

3. Many are also ignorant of this, that God alone is the hope of his people: he is called “the Hope of Israel.” Although inherent qualifications are evidences of it, yet the staying of the heart upon him as a full blessing and satisfying portion is faith; “The faith and hope must be in God;” and the only proper condition which giveth right to the saving blessings of the covenant. “To him that worketh not, but believeth–faith is counted for righteousness.” Indeed, if any person take liberty here, and turn grace into licentiousness, there is, without doubt, in so far, a delusion; since there “is mercy with him upon condition that it conciliate fear to him.” Yea, hardly can any man who hath found the former-mentioned expressions of God’s love made out in him, make a cloak of the covenant for sinful liberty without some measure of a spiritual conflict: in this respect, “he that is born of God doth not sin;” and, “he who doth so sin hath not seen God.” I say, God is the hope of his people, and not their own holiness. If they intend honestly, and long seriously to be like unto him, many failings should not weaken their hope and confidence, for it is in him “who changeth not;”–“and if any man sin, he hath an advocate.” Now, when men place their hope in any other thing besides the Lord, it is no wonder they are kept in a staggering condition, according to the changes of the thing which they make the ground of their hope, since they give not to God the glory due to his name, and which he will not give to another. “They who know thy name will put their trust in thee.” “My glory will I not give to another; I am the Lord, that is my name.”

4. Many are ignorant of the different ways and degrees of God’s working with his people, and this doth much darken their knowledge, and reflex acts of their interest in him. This ignorance consists mainly of three things:

 

1. They are ignorant of the different degrees and ways of that work of the law which ordinarily dealeth with men, and of the different ways in which the Lord bringeth people at first to Christ. They consider not that the jailer is not kept an hour in bondage. Paul is kept in suspense three days, Zaccheus not one moment.

2. They are ignorant of, at least they do not consider, how different the degrees of sanctification are in the saints, and the honourable appearances thereof before men in some, and the sad blemishings thereof in others. Some are very blameless, and more free of gross outbreakings, adorning their profession much, as Job and Zacharias. These are said to be “perfect and upright, fearing God, and eschewing evil; righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless:” others were subject to very gross and sad evils, as Solomon, Asa, &c.

 

3. They are ignorant of the different communications of God’s face, and expressions of his presence. Some walk much in the light of God’s countenance, and are much in sensible fellowship with him, as David was; others are “all their days kept in bondage through fear of death.” Surely the ignorance of the different ways of God’s working and dealing with his people doth very much darken the knowledge of their interest in him, whilst they usually limit the Lord to one way of working, which he doth not keep, as we have shown in the former examples.

The second thing which darkens men about their interest in Christ is, there is one thing or other wherein their heart in some respect doth condemn them, as dealing deceitfully and guilefully with God. It is not to be expected that these can come to dearness about their interest, whose heart doth condemn them for keeping up some known transgression against the Lord, which they will not let go, neither are using the means which they know to be appointed by God for delivering them from it: neither can these come to clearness who know some positive duty commanded them in their stations, which they deceitfully shift and shun, not closing cheerfully with it, or not willing to be led into it: these are also, in some respect, condemned of their own heart, as the former sort are; and in that case it is difficult to come to a distinct knowledge of their state. “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.” It is supposed here, that a self-condemning heart maketh void a man’s confidence proportionally before God.

I do not deny but that men may, on good grounds, plead an interest in Christ in the case of prevailing iniquity: “Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions thou shalt purge them away.” “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” But it is hard to be attained, if at all attainable, when the heart is dealing deceitfully; and entertaining known guile in any particular: therefore, let people clear themselves of the particular which they know too well. It is the thing which hinders them, marring their confidence and access in all their approaches unto God: “Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.” The idolatries of the people are cast up to them by the Lord, and their suit thereupon rejected. That which draws away the heart first in the morning, and last at night, like “an oven heated at night, and it burneth as a flaming fire in the morning,” spoken of the wicked; and taketh up their thoughts often on their bed: as it is said of some, “He deviseth mischief upon his bed,” &c. That which doth ordinarily lead away the heart in time of religious duty, and the remembrance of which hath power to enliven and quicken the spirits more than the remembrance of God, so as “their heart is after the heart of some detestable thing.” That which withstandeth men when they would lay hold on the promise, as God casteth up men’s sins to them who are meddling with his covenant: “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?” &c. that is the thing which doth hinder the knowledge of a gracious state; let it go, and it will be more easy to reach the knowledge of an interest in Christ.

The third thing which hindereth the knowledge of an interest in Christ in many, is, a spirit of sloth and careless negligence. They complain that they know not whether they be in Christ or not: but as few take pains to be in him, so take few pains to try if they be in him. It is a work and business which cannot be done sleeping: “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves: know ye not your own selves?” &c. The several words used there, namely, examine, prove, know–say that there is a labour in it: “Diligence must be used to make our calling and election sure.” It is a business above flesh and blood: the “holy anointing which teacheth all things,” must make us “know the things freely given to us of God.” “Shall the Lord impart a business of such great concern, and not so much as to be inquired after to do it for men?” Be ashamed, you who spend so much time in reading romances, in adorning your persons, in hawking and hunting, in consulting the law concerning your outward state in the world, and it may be in worse things than these; be ashamed you that spend so little time in the search of this, Whether ye be as heir of glory or not? whether you be in the way that leadeth to heaven, or that way which will land you in darkness for ever? You who judge this below you, and unworthy of your pains any part or minute of your time, it is probable, in God’s account, you have judged yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, so that you shall have no lot with God’s people in this matter.

 

The fourth thing that darkens the knowledge of an interest in Christ is, men do not condescend upon what would satisfy them. They complain that God will not show unto them what he is about to do with them, but yet cannot say they know what would satisfy concerning his purpose. This is a sad thing. Shall we think those are serious who have never as yet pitched on what would satisfy them, nor are making earnest inquiry after what should satisfy? If the Lord had left us in the dark in that matter, we were less inexcusable; but since the grounds of satisfaction, and the true marks of an interest in Christ, are so clear and frequent in Scripture, and so “many things written, that our joy may be full;” and “that those who believe may know that they have eternal life;” and since “he that believeth hath the witness of it in himself,” none can pretend excuse here. We shall not here insist to show what may and should satisfy concerning our interest, since we are to speak directly of it afterwards.

The fifth thing that helpeth much to keep men in the dark respecting their interest in Christ is, they pitch upon some mutable grounds, which are not so apposite proofs of the truth of an interest in Christ, as of the comfortable state of a triumphing soul sailing before the wind; and marks, which I grant are precious in themselves, and do make out an interest clearly where they are; yet they are such as without which an interest in Christ may be, and be known also in a good measure. We shall touch on a few of them.–

1st, Some think that all who have a true interest in him are above the prevailing power of every sin: but this is contrary to that of the Psalmist: “Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions thou shalt purge them away:” where we find that holy man laying just claim to pardon, in the case of prevailing iniquity; and that of Paul, where he thanketh God through Christ, as freed from the condemnation of the law, even while a law in his members leadeth captive unto sin.

2nd, Some think that all true saints have constantly access unto God in prayer, and sensible returns of prayer at all times; but this is contrary to the many sad experiences of his people, complaining often that they are not heard nor regarded of God: “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?” “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.”

3rd, Some think that all who have any true interest in him have God witnessing it unto them, by a high operation of that witnessing Spirit of his, spoken of: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God:” whereof afterwards: and so they still suspect their own interest in Christ, because of the want of this. But they do not remember that they must first believe and give credit to that “record which God hath given of his Son, that there is life enough in him” for men; and then look for the seal and witness of the Spirit: “In whom, after ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” &c. As long as people hold fast these principles, and the like, they can hardly come to the knowledge of their gracious state, which God hath warranted people to prove and clear up to themselves, other ways than by these foresaid things.

SECT. III. Some Mistakes concerning an Interest in Christ removed.

THE Fifth thing to be premised is, The removal of some mistakes into which people may readily run themselves, when they are about to prove their, interest in Christ.

As,

1. It is a mistake to think that every one who is in Christ doth know that he is in him; for many are truly gracious, and have a good title to eternal life, who do not know so much, until it be made out afterwards: “These things are written to believers, that they may know they have a true title to eternal life;” that is, that they may know they are believers, and so it is supposed they knew it not before.

2. It is a mistake to think that all who come to the knowledge of their interest in Christ do attain an equal certainty about it. One may say, “He is persuaded nothing present, or to come, can separate him from the love of God;” another cometh but this length, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

 

3. It is a mistake to think that every one who attains a strong persuasion of his interest doth always hold there; for he who to-day may say of the Lord, “He is his refuge,” and “his portion,” will at an time say, “He is cut off;” and will ask, “If the truth of God’s promise doth fail for evermore?”

4. It is also a mistake to think that every one who attains a good knowledge of their gracious state, can formally answer all objections made, to the contrary; but yet they may hold fast the conclusion, and say, I “know whom I have believed.” There are few grounds of the Christian religion, of which many people are so persuaded, as that they are able to maintain them formally against all arguments brought to the contrary; and yet they may and will hold the conclusion steadfastly and justly: so it is in this case in hand.

5. It is no less a mistake to imagine, that the vain groundless confidence, which many profane ignorant Atheists maintain, is this knowledge of an interest in Christ which we plead for. Many do falsely avow him “to be their Father;” and many look for heaven who will, be beguiled with the “foolish virgins.” Yet we must not think, because of this, that all knowledge of an interest is a delusion and fancy, although these fools be deceived; for, whilst thousands are deluded, some can say on good and solid grounds, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness,”

CHAP. II.

SECT. I. The Ways by which the Lord draweth some to Christ, without a sensible preparatory work of the Law.

Having premised these things, it now follows that we give some marks by which a man may know if he be savingly in covenant with God, and hath a special interest in Christ, so that he may warrantably lay claim to God’s favour and salvation. We shall only pitch upon two great and principal marks, not willing to trouble people with many.

But before we begin to these, we will speak of a preparatory work of the law, of which the Lord doth generally make use, to prepare his own way in men’s souls. This may have its own weight, as a mark, with some persons. It is called the Work of the Law, or, the Work of Humiliation. It hath some relation to that “spirit of bondage,” and now under the New Testament answers to it, and usually leads on to the “Spirit of adoption.”

Only, here, let it be remembered,

1. That we are not to speak of this preparatory work of the law as a negative mark of a true interest in Christ, as if none might lay claim to God’s favour who have not had this preparatory work, in the several steps, as we are to speak of it; for, as we shall see, the Lord doth not always take that way with men.

2. The great reason why we speak of it is, because the Lord deals with many, whom he effectually calls by some such preparatory work: and to those, who have been so dealt with, it may prove strengthening, and will confirm them in laying the more weight on the marks which follow.

3. It may help to encourage others, who are under such bondage of spirit, as a good indication of a gracious work to follow: for, as we shall explain it, it will be rarely found to miscarry and fail of a gracious issue.

4. Where God uses such a preparatory work, he does not keep one way or measure in it, as we shall see. For the more distinct handling of this preparatory work, we shall shortly hint the most ordinary ways by which the Lord leads people in to the covenant savingly, and draws them unto Christ.

I. There are some called from the womb, as John the Baptist was, or in their very early years, before they can be deeply engaged actively in Satan’s ways, as Timothy. It cannot be supposed that those have such a preparatory work as we are to speak of. And because some persons may pretend to this way of effectual calling, we offer these marks of it, whereby those who have been so called may be confirmed.

1. Such wont from their childhood to be kept free of ordinary pollutions with which children usually are defiled; as swearing, lying, mocking of religion and religious persons, &c. Those whom God calleth effectually, he sanctifieth them from the time of that effectual calling: “Sin cannot have dominion over them” as over others, “because they are under grace.”

2. Religion is, as it were, natural to them; I mean, they need not to be much pressed to religious duties, even when they are but children; they run willingly that way, because there is an inward principle of “love constraining them,” so that they “yield themselves, servants of righteousness,” without outward restraint.

3. Although such know not when they were first acquainted with God, yet they have afterwards such exercises of spirit befalling them, as the saints in Scripture speak of, of whose first conversion we hear not. They are shut out from God, upon some occasion, now and then, and are admitted to come nearer again to their apprehension; their heart is also further broken up by the ordinances, as is said of Lydia. And generally they remember when some special subject of religion and duty, or when some sin, of which they were not taking notice before, was discovered to them. They who can apply these things to themselves, have much to say for their effectual calling from their youth.

II. Some are brought into Christ in a sovereign gospel-way, when the Lord, by some few words of love swallowing up any work of the law, quickly taketh a person prisoner at the first, as he did Zaccheus, and others, who, upon a word spoken by Christ, did leave all and follow him; and we hear no noise of a work of the law dealing with them before they close with Christ Jesus.

And because some may pretend to this way of calling, we shall touch on some things most remarkable in that transaction with Zaccheus, for their clearing and confirmation.

1. He had some desire to see Christ, and such a desire as made him waive that which some would have judged prudence and discretion, whilst he climbeth up a tree that he might see him.

2. Christ spake to his heart, and that word took such hold upon him, that presently with joy he did accept of Christ’s offer, and closed with Christ as Lord, whilst few of any note were following him.

3. Upon this his heart opened to the poor, although it seems he was a covetous man before.

4. He had a due impression of his former ways, giving evidence of his respect to Moses’ law, and this he signified before all the company then present, not caring to shame himself in such things as probably were notorious to the world.

5. Upon all these things, Christ confirms and ratifies the bargain by his word; recommending to him that oneness of interest which behooved to be between him and the saints, and the thoughts of his own lost condition if Christ had not come and sought him, and found him.

We grant the Lord calleth some so, and if any can lay claim to the special things we have now hinted, they have a good confirmation of God’s dealing with them from Scripture; neither are they to vex themselves because of the want of a distinct preparatory work of the law, if their heart hath yielded unto Christ; for a work of the law is not desirable, except for this end. Therefore Christ doth offer himself directly in the Scripture, and people are invited to come to him: and although many will not come to him who is the surety, until the spirit of bondage distress them for their debt, yet if any, upon the knowledge of their lost estate, would flee and yield to Christ, none might warrantably press a work of the law upon them.

As for others, whom Christ persuaded by a word to follow him; whatsoever he did, or howsoever he spake to them, at his first meeting with them, we must rationally suppose that then he discovered so much of their own necessity, and his own fulness and excellency to them, as made them quit all, and run after him: and if he do so to any, we crave no more, since there is room enough there for the Physician.

So that from all this, as some may be confirmed and strengthened, with whom God hath so dealt, so there is no ground nor occasion for deluded souls to flatter themselves in their condition, who remain ignorant and senseless of their own miseries, and Christ’s all-sufficiency, and hold fast deceit.

III. There are some brought into Christ in a way yet more declarative of his free grace; and this is, when he effectually calls men at the hour of death. We find somewhat recorded of this way in that pregnant example of the “thief on the cross.” Although this seems not very pertinent for the purpose in hand, yet we shall speak a little of it, that on the one hand men may be sparing to judge and pass sentence upon either themselves or others before the last breath; and we shall so particularize it, that, on the other hand, none may dare to delay so great a business to the last hour of their life.

We find these things remarkable in that business between Christ and the thief.

1. The man falleth out with his former companion.

2. He dares not speak a wrong word of God, whose hand is on him, but justifies him in all that has befallen him.

3. He now sees Jesus Christ persecuted by the world without a cause, and most injuriously.

4. He discovers Christ to be a Lord and a King, whilst his enemies seem to have him under.

5. He believes a state of glory after death so really, that he prefers a portion of it to the present safety of his bodily life, which he knew Christ was able to grant him at that time, that he might have chosen that with the other thief.

6. Although he was much abased in himself,

and so humbled, that he pleaded but that Christ would remember him, yet he was nobly daring to throw himself upon the covenant, on life and death; and he had so much faith of Christ’s all-sufficiency, that he judged a simple remembrance from Christ would satisfyingly do his business.

7. He acquiesced sweetly in the word which, Christ spake to him for the ground of his comfort. All which are very clear in the case of that poor dying man, and do prove a very real work of God upon his heart.

As this example may encourage some to wait for good from God, who cannot as yet lay clear claim to any gracious work of his Spirit; so we earnestly entreat all, as they love their souls not to delay their soul-salvation, hoping for such assistance from Christ in the end, as too many do; this being a rare miracle of mercy, with the glory of which Christ did honourably triumph over the ignominy of his cross; a parallel of which we shall hardly find in all the Scripture besides. Yea, as there be but few at all saved: “Many be called, but few chosen;” and fewest saved this way; so the Lord hath peremptorily threatened to laugh at the calamity, and not to hear the cry of such as formerly mocked at his reproof, and would not hear when he called to them: “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.” Which Scripture, although it doth not shut the door of mercy upon any, who at the hour of death do sincerely judge themselves and flee to Christ, as this penitent thief did; yet it is certain, it implies that very few, who reject the offer until then, are honoured with repentance as he was; and so their cry, as not being sincere, and of the right stamp, shall not be heard.

SECT. II. The Work of the Law, by which the Lord prepares his way unto Men’s Souls; which is either more violent and sudden, or more calm and gradual.

IV. The fourth and most ordinary way by which many are brought to Christ, is by a clear and discernible work of the law, and humiliation; which we generally call “the spirit of bondage,” as was hinted before. We do not mean that every one, whose conscience is wakened with sin and fear of wrath, does really close with Christ; the contrary appears in Cain, Saul, Judas, &c. But there is a conviction of sin, an awakening of conscience, and work of humiliation, which, as we shall particularize it, doth rarely miscarry or fail of a gracious issue, but ordinarily resolves into the “Spirit of adoption,” and a gracious work of God’s Spirit. And because the Lord dealeth with many sinners this way, and we find that many are much puzzled about the giving judgment of this work of the law, we shall speak of it particularly.

This work is either more violently and suddenly despatched, or it is more soberly and easily protracted through a greater length of time, and so as the steps of it are very discernible. It is more violent in some, as in the jailer, Paul, and some other converts in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, on whom Christ did break in at an instant, and fell on them as with fire and sword, and led them captive terribly. And because some great legal awakenings are deceitful, and turn to nothing, if not worse, we shall point at some things remarkable in these converts spoken of before, which proves the work of the law on them to have had a gracious issue and result.

1. Some word of truth, or dispensation, puts the person to a dreadful stand, with a great stir in the soul; “some are pricked in heart,” “some fall on trembling.” And this is such a stir, that the person is brought to his wit’s end: “What wilt thou have me to do?” saith Paul; “What must I do to be saved?” saith the jailer.

2. The person is content to have salvation and God’s friendship on any terms, as the question does import, “What shall I do?” As if he had said, What would I not do? what would I not forego? what would I not undergo?

3. The person accepts the condition offered by Christ and his servants, as is clear in the forecited Scriptures.

4. The person presently becomes of one interest with the saints, joining himself with that persecuted society, putting respect on those whom he had formerly persecuted, joining and continuing with them in the profession of Christ at all hazards. Those with whom the Lord hath so dealt, have much to say for a gracious work of God’s Spirit in them; and it is probable, many of them can date their work from such a particular time and word, or dispensation, and can give some account of what passed between God and them, and of a sensible change following in them from that time forward; as Paul giveth a good account of the work and way of God with him afterwards.

Again, the Lord sometimes carries on this work more calmly, softly, and easily, protracting it so, as the several steps of men’s exercise under it are very discernible. It would draw us to a great length to enlarge on every step of it; we shall touch on the most observable things in it.

1. The Lord lays siege to men, who, it may be, have often refused to yield to him, when he offered himself in his ordinances; and by some word preached, read, or borne in on the mind, or by some providence leading in the word, he doth assault the house kept peaceably by the strong man, the devil; and thus Christ, who is the stronger man, cometh upon him, and, by the Spirit of truth, fastens the word on the man, in which God’s curse is denounced against such and such sins, of which the man knows himself guilty. The Spirit convinces the man, and binds it upon him, that he is the same person against whom the word of God doth speak, because he is guilty of such sins; and from some sins the man is led on to see more, until usually he comes to see the sins of his youth, sins of omission, &c. yea, he is led on, until he see himself guilty almost of the breach of the whole law; he sees “innumerable evils compassing him,” as David speaketh in a fit of exercise. A man sometimes will see awful sights of sin in this case, and is sharp-sighted to reckon a relation almost to every sin. Thus “the Spirit cometh and convinceth of sin.”

2. The Lord shaketh a special strong-hold in the garrison, a refuge of lies, to which the man betakes himself when his sins are thus discovered to him. The poor man pretendeth to faith in Christ, by which he thinks his burden is taken off him, as the Pharisees said, “We have one Father, even God:” they pretend to a special relation to God as a common Lord. The Spirit of God drives the man from this by the truth of the Scriptures, proving that he hath no true faith, and so no interest in Christ, nor any true saving grace; showing clearly the difference between true grace and the counterfeit fancies which the man hath in him; and between him and the truly godly, as Christ laboureth to do to the Jews “If God were your Father, ye would love me. Ye are of the devil, for ye do the lusts of such a father.” So, “fear surpriseth the hypocrite in heart,” especially when the Lord discovereth to him conditions, in many of these promises in which be trusted most, not easily attainable: he now seeth grace and faith to be another thing than once he judged them to be. We may, in some respect, apply that word here, “The Spirit convinceth him of sin, because he hath not believed on the Son:” he is particularly convinced of unbelief—he seeth now an immense distance between himself and the godly, who he thought before outstripped him only in some unnecessary, proud, hateful preciseness–he now sees himself deluded, and in the broad way with the perishing multitude; and so, in this sight of his misery, lies down under his own burden, which, before this time, he thought Christ did bear for him: he now begins to scar at the promises, because of that and such other words, “What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth?” &c.

3. The man becomes careful about his salvation, and begins to take it to heart, as the one thing necessary; he is brought to this with the jailer, “What shall I do to be saved?” His salvation becomes the leading thing with him. It was least in his thoughts before, but now it prevaileth, and other things are much disregarded by him. Since his soul is ready to perish, “what shall it profit him to gain the world, if he lose his soul?” Some here are much puzzled with the thoughts of an irrevocable decree to their prejudice, and with the fears of uncertain death, which may attack them before they get matters brought to an issue; and some are vexed with apprehensions that they are guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is unpardonable, and so are driven to a dangerous length; Satan still upbraiding them with many sad examples of people who have woefully put an end to their own existence: but they are in the hand of one who “knoweth how to succour them that are tempted.”

4. When a man is thus in hazard of miscarrying, the Lord useth a work of preventing mercy towards him, quietly and under-hand, supporting him; and this is by bearing in upon his mind the possibility of his salvation, leading the man to the remembrance of numerous proofs of God’s free and rich grace, pardoning gross transgressors, such as Manasseh, who was a bloody idolatrous man, and had correspondence with the devil, and yet obtained mercy; and other Scriptures bearing offers of grace and favour indifferently to all who will yield to Christ, whatsoever they have been formerly: so that the man is brought again to this, “What shall I do to be saved?” which doth suppose that he apprehends a possibility of being saved, else he mould not propound the question. He applies that or the like word to himself; “It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” He finds nothing excluding him from mercy now, if he have a heart for the thing. Although, here it may be, the man does not perceive that it is the Lord who upholds, yet afterwards he can say, that “when his foot was slipping, God’s mercy held him up;” as the Psalmist speaketh in another case. And he will afterwards say, when he “was as a beast, and a fool, in many respects, God held him by the hand.”

5. After this discovery of a possibility of being saved, there is a work of desire quickened in the soul; which is obvious from that same expression, “What shall I do to be saved?” But sometimes this desire is directed amiss, whilst it goes out thus, “What shall I do that I may work the works of God?” In which case the man, formerly perplexed with fear and care about his salvation, would be at some work of his own to extricate himself; and here he suddenly resolves to do all that is commanded, and to forego every evil way, (yet much mistaking Christ Jesus,) and so begins to take some courage to himself again, “establishing his own righteousness; but not submitting unto the righteousness of God,” upon which the Lord maketh a new assault on him, with the view of discovering to him his absolutely fallen state in himself, that so room may be made for the surety; as Joshua did to the people, when he found them so bold in their undertakings: “Ye cannot serve the Lord,” saith he, “for he is a holy God, a jealous God,” &c. In this new assault the Lord,

1. Sets up against the man the spirituality of the law; the commandment comes with a new charge in the spiritual meaning of it. “The law came,” saith Paul, that is, in the spiritual meaning of it: Paul had never seen such a view of the law before.

2. God most holily doth loose the restraining bonds which he had laid upon the man’s corruption, and suffers it not only to work and swell within, but to threaten to break out in all the outward members. Thus sin grows bold, and spurneth at the law, becoming exceedingly sinful: “But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. Was then that which is good made death unto me! God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.”

3. The Lord discovers to the man, more now than ever before, the uncleanness of his righteousness, and what spots are in his best things. These things kill the man, and he dies to his own self-righteousness, and despairs of relief in himself, if it come not from another quarter.

6. After many ups and downs here, generally the man resolves on retirement; he desires to be alone, he cannot keep company as before. Like those in a besieged thy, who, when they see they cannot hold out, and would be glad of any good condition from the besieging enemy, go to a council, that they may resolve on something; so the man here retires, that he may speak with himself. This is like that “communing with our own heart.” Thus God leadeth to the wilderness, that he may speak to the heart. When the person is retired, the thoughts of his heart, which were scattered in former steps of the exercise, do more observably throng in here. We shall reduce them to this method:–

1. The man thinks of his unhappy folly in bearing arms against God; and here there are numerous thoughts of former ways, with a blushing countenance and self-loathing: “Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall loathe yourselves in your own sight,” &c. like the Psalmist: “His sin is ever before him.”

2. Then, he remembers how many fair opportunities of yielding to God he has basely lost: his spirit is like to faint when he remembers that, as is said in another case, “When I remember these things I pour out my soul in me.–O my God, my soul is cast down within me.–Deep calleth unto deep: all thy waves are gone over me.”

3. He now thinks of many Christians whom he mocked and despised in his heart, persuading himself now that they are happy, as having chosen the better part; he thinks of the condition of those who wait on Christ, as the Queen of Sheba did of Solomon’s servants: “Happy are thy servants,” saith she, “who stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom:” “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house,” &c. He wishes to be one of the meanest who have any relation to God: as the prodigal son doth speak, he would be as “one of his Father’s hired servants.”

4. Then he calls to mind the good report that is gone abroad of God, according to that testimony of the prophet, who knew that God was a gracious “God and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness,” &c. The free and large promises and offers of grace come in here; and the glorious dealings which have past upon sinners of all sorts, according to the account of God in Scripture.

5. He thinks with himself, Why hath God spared me so long? and why have I got such a sight of my sin? and why hath he kept me from destroying myself with my own hand, in choosing some unhappy relief? why hath he made this strange change on me? It may be it is in his heart to do me good: O that it may be so!–Although all these thoughts be not in the preparatory work of every one, yet they are with many, and very promising where they are.

7. Upon all these thoughts and meditations the man, more seriously than ever before, resolves to pray, and to make some attempt with God, upon life and death; he concludes, “It can be no worse with him; for if he sit still he perisheth;” as the lepers speak. He considers, with the perishing prodigal son, “that there is bread enough in his. Father’s house and to spare, whilst he perisheth for want:” so, he goes to God, for he knows not what, else to make of his condition, as the prodigal son Both. And, it may be, he resolves what to speak; but things readily vary when he is sisted before God, as the prodigal son forgot some of his premeditated prayers: “I will arise and go to my father, and, will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came unto his father, and said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

And now, when he comes before God, more observably than ever before,

1. He begins, with the Publican, afar off; with many thorough confessions and self-condemnations, of which he is very liberal: “I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy,” &c.

2. Now his thoughts are occupied concerning the hearing of his prayer, which he was not wont to question much: he now knows what those expressions of the saints, concerning the bearing of their prayers, do import.

3. It is observable in this address, that there are many broken sentences, like that of the Psalmist, “But thou, O Lord, how long?” supplied with sighs and “groanings which cannot be uttered;” and earnest looking upward, thereby speaking more than can be well expressed by words.

4. There is usually some interruptions, and, as it were, diversions; the man speaking sometimes to the enemy, sometimes to his own heart, sometimes to the multitude in the world, as David doth in other cases, “O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end.” “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?”

5. It is observable here, that sometimes the man will stop, and be silent, to hear some indistinct whispering of a joyful sound glancing on the mind, or some news in some broken word of Scripture, which, it may be, the man scarcely knows to be Scripture, or whether it is come from God, or whether an insinuation from Satan to delude him; yet this he hath resolved, only to “hear what God the Lord will speak,” as upon another occasion.

6. More distinct promises come into the man’s mind, upon which he attempteth to lay hold, but is beaten off with objections, as in another case the Psalmist is: “But thou art holy–but I am a worm.” Now it is about the dawning of the day with the man, and faith will stir as soon as the Lord imparteth “the joyful sound.” This is the substance of the covenant, which may be shortly summed up in these words: “Christ Jesus is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.”

We can speak no further of the man’s exercise as a preparatory work; for what follows is more than preparatory; yet, that the exercise may appear complete and full, we shall add here, that after all these things, the Lord, it may be, after many answers of divers sorts, powerfully conveys the knowledge of his covenant into the heart, and determines the heart to close with it; and God now draweth the heart so to Christ, and so layeth out the heart for him, that the work cannot miscarry; for now the heart is so enlarged for him, as that less cannot satisfy, and more is not desired; like that of the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? or whom have I desired on earth beside thee?” The soul now resolves to die if he command so, yet at his door, and facing towards him.

We have narrated this preparatory work at some length, not tying any man to such a work so particularized; only we say, the Lord deals so with some; and where he so convinces of sin, corruption, and self-emptiness, and makes a man take salvation to heart as the one thing necessary, and sets him to work in the use of the means which God hath appointed for relief; I say, such a work rarely shall be found to fail of a good issue and gracious result.

SECT. III.–The Difference betwixt that preparatory work of the Law which hath a gracious issue, and the Convictions of Hypocrites.

Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have great stirrings of conscience, and deep convictions about sin, setting them to work sometimes, and I do suspect any preparatory work of the law I ever had to be but such as they have.

Ans. It will be hard to give sure essential distinctions between the preparatory work in those in whom afterwards Christ is formed, and those legal stirrings which are sometimes in reprobates. If there were not some gracious result of these convictions and wakenings of conscience in the Lord’s people, and other marks, of which we shall speak afterwards, it were hard to determine upon any difference that is clear in these legal stirrings. Yet, for answer to the objection, I shall offer some things, which rarely will be found in the stirrings of reprobates, and which are usually found in that work of the law which hath a gracious issue.

1. The convictions of hypocrites and reprobates are usually confined to some few very gross transgressions. Saul grants no more but the “persecuting of David.” Judas grants only the “betraying of innocent blood;” but usually those convictions, by which the Lord prepares his own way in the soul, although they may begin at one or more gross particular transgressions, yet they stop not; but the man is led on to see many violations of the law, and “innumerable evils compassing him,” as David speaketh in the sight of his sin. And withal, that universal conviction, if may call it so, is not general, as usually we hear senseless men saying, “that in all things they sin;” but it is particular and condescending, as Paul afterwards spake of himself; he not only is the “chief of sinners,” but particularly, he was a “blasphemer, a persecutor.”

2. The convictions which hypocrites have, do seldom reach their corruption, and that body of death, which works an aversion to what is good, and strongly inclines to what is evil. Generally where we find hypocrites speaking of themselves in Scripture, they speak loftily, and with some self-conceit, as to their freedom from corruption. The Pharisees say to the poor man, “Thou wast altogether born in sin, and dost thou teach us?” as if they themselves were not as corrupt by nature as he: they speak of great sins; as Hazael did, “Am I a dog, that I should do this great thing?” and also in their undertakings of duty, as that scribe spake, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” See how the people do speak: “Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” They undertake to do all that God will command them; so that they still “go about,” in any case, “to establish their own righteousness not submitting unto the righteousness of God.” But I may say, that convictions and exercise about corruption, and that body of death, inclining them to evil, and disenabling them for good, is not the least part of the work where the Lord is preparing his own way. They use to judge themselves very wretched because of a body of sin, and are at their wits end how to be delivered, as Paul speaketh, when he is under the exercise of it afterwards: “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

3. It will generally be found, that the convictions which are in hypocrites either are not so serious, as that some other business will not put them out of mind before any satisfaction is gotten; as in Cain, who went and built a city, and we hear no more of his convictions. Felix went away until a more convenient time, and we hear no more of his trembling. Or, if that work become very serious, then it runs to the other extremity, and despair of relief, leaving no room for escape. So we find Judas very serious in his convictions, yet he grew desperate, and hanged himself. But where the Lord prepares his own way, the work is both so serious as the person cannot be put of it, until he find some satisfaction, and yet under that very seriousness he lies open for relief: both which are clear from the jailer’s words, “What must I do to be saved?” This serious inquiry after relief is a very observable thing in the preparatory work which leadeth on to Christ. Yet we desire none to lay too much weight on these things, since God hath allowed clear differences between the precious and the vile.

Object. I still fear I have not had so thorough a sight of my sin and misery as the Lord gives to many whom he effectually calls, especially to great transgressors, such as I am.

Answ. It is true, the Lord discovers to some, strong impressions of their sin and misery, and they are thereby put under great legal terrors; but as all are not brought in by that sensible preparatory work of the law, as we showed before, so even those who are dealt with after that way are very differently and variously exercised, in regard of the degrees of terror, and of the continuance of that work. The jailer had a violent work, of very short continuance; Paul had a work continuing three days; some persons are “in bondage, through fear of death, all their days.” So that we must not limit the Lord to one way of working here. The main thing we are to look to, in these legal awakenings and convictions of sin and misery, is, if the Lord reach those ends in us, for which usually these stirrings and convictions are sent into the soul; and if those ends are reached, it is well; we are not to vex ourselves about any preparatory work further. Now, those ends which God seeks to accomplish with sinners, by these legal terrors and awakenings of conscience, are four.

First, The Lord discovers a sight of men’s sin and misery to them, to drive them out of themselves, and to put them out of conceit with their own righteousness. Men naturally have high thoughts of themselves, and do incline much to the covenant of works; the Lord therefore discovers to them so much of their sin and corruption, even in their best things, that they are made to loathe themselves, and to despair of relief in them selves; and so they are forced to flee out of themselves, and from the covenant of works, to seek refuge elsewhere: “They become dead to themselves and the law,” as to the point of justification. Then “have they no more confidence in the flesh.” This is supposed in the offers of Christ, “coming to seek and save that which is lost,” and “to be a physician to those who are sick.”

The second great end is, to commend Christ Jesus to men’s hearts above all things, that so they may fall in love with him, and betake themselves to that treasure and jewel which only enricheth, and, by so doing, may serve the Lord’s design in the contrivance of the gospel, which was the manifestation of his free grace through Christ Jesus in the salvation of men. The view of a man’s own misery and perishing condition by nature is a ready way to make him prize Christ highly, who alone can set such a wretch at liberty: yea, it not only leads a man to a high esteem of Christ, but also of all things that relate to that way of salvation, as grace, the new covenant, faith, &c. and makes him carefully gather and treasure up his Michtams or golden Scriptures, for the confirmation of his interest in these things.

The third great end is, to deter and scare people from sin, and to make them quarrel with it, and consent to put their neck under all his yoke. God kindles some sparks of hell in men’s bosoms by the discovery of their sin, as a ready means to make them henceforth stand in awe, knowing “how bitter a thing it is to depart from the Lord.” So we find rest offered to the weary, upon condition they will take on Christ’s yoke: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” And God offereth to own men as their God and Father, upon condition they will allow no peaceable abode to Belial: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

The fourth great end is, to work up men to a patient and thankful submission to all the Master’s pleasure. This is a singular piece of work: “Then shalt thou remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee, for all that thou hut done, saith the Lord.” The sight of a man’s own vileness and deserving makes him silent, and to lay his hand on his mouth, whatsoever God does unto him: “I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” “God hath punished us less than our iniquities.” “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned.” The man careth not what God doth to him, or how he deal with him, if he save him from the deserved wrath to come: also, any mercy is a great mercy, to him who hath seen such a view of himself; he is “less than the least of mercies;” “any crumb falling from the Master’s table, is welcome;” he thinks it rich “mercy that he is not consumed.” This is the thing that marvellously maketh God’s poor afflicted people so silent under, and satisfied with, their lot; nay, they think he deserves hell, who opens his mouth at any thing God does to him, since he hath pardoned his transgressions.

So, then, for satisfying the objection, I say, if the Lord hath driven thee out of thyself, and commended Christ to thy heart above all things, and made thee resolve, in his strength, to wage war with every known transgression, and thou art in some measure as a weaned child, acquiescing in what he doth to thee, desiring to lay thy hand on thy mouth thankfully; then thy convictions of sin and misery, and whatsoever thou dost plead as a preparatory work, is sufficient, and thou art to debate no more concerning it. Only be advised so to study new discoveries of the sense of thy lost condition every day, because of thy old and new sins; and also to seek fresh help in Christ, who is a priest for ever to make intercession; and to have the work of sanctification and patience, with thankfulness, renewed and quickened often; for somewhat of that work which abaseth thee, exalteth Christ, and conforms to his will, must accompany thee throughout all thy lifetime in this world.

CHAP. III.

Of Faith

WE come now to speak of some more clear and sure marks, by which men may discover their gracious state and interest in Christ. The first thing by which men may know it is, their closing with Christ in the gospel, wherein he is held forth. This is believing, or faith, which is the condition of the covenant: “It is of faith, that it might be by grace.” “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Now, although, in propriety of speech, it is hard to prove an interest by faith, it being our very interest in him; yet the heart’s closing with Christ Jesus, is so discernible in itself, that we may well place it amongst the marks of a gracious state: and if a man can make out this, that he believeth on and in Christ Jesus, he thereby proves a very true interest in him.

Many do scare at this as a mark, upon one of these three grounds:–

1. Some conceive faith to be a difficult mysterious thing, hardly attainable. To these I say, Do not mistake; faith is not so difficult as many apprehend it to be. I grant true faith, in the least degree, is the gift of God, and above the power of flesh and blood; for God must draw men to Christ.” “No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.” “Unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, to believe on him.” Yet it were a reflection upon Christ, and all he hath done, to say it were a matter of insuperable difficulty; as is clear: “The righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above; or, Who shall descend into the deep? that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. But what with it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith which we preach. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, “Whosoever believeth on him, shall not be ashamed.” It were, according to that scripture, as much upon the matter as to say, Christ came not from heaven, is not risen from the dead, nor ascended victorious to heaven. I say, he hath made the way to heaven most easy; and faith, which is the condition required on our part, more easy than men do imagine. For the better understanding of this, consider, that justifying faith is not to believe that I am elected, or to believe that God loveth me, or that Christ died for me, or the like: these things are indeed very difficult, and almost impossible at the first to be got at by those who are serious; whilst natural Atheists and deluded hypocrites find no difficulty in asserting all those things. I say, true justifying faith is not any of these things; neither is it simply the believing of any sentence that is written, or that can be thought upon. I grant, he that believeth on Christ Jesus, believeth what God hath said concerning man’s sinful miserable condition by nature; and he believeth that to be true, that “there is life in the Son, who was slain, and is risen again from the dead,” &c. But none of these, nor the believing of many such truths, do speak out justifying faith, or that believing on the Son of God spoken of in Scripture: for then it were simply an act of the understanding: but true justifying faith, which we now seek after, as a good mark of an interest in Christ, is chiefly and principally an act or work of the heart and will; having presupposed several things about truth in the understanding: “With the heart it is believed unto righteousness,” Rom. x. 10. And although it seem, ver. 9. of that chapter, that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, “God raised Christ from the dead,” yet we must understand another thing there, and ver. 10. than the believing the truth of that proposition: for besides that all devils have that faith, whereby they believe that God raised Christ from the dead, so the Scripture hath clearly resolved justifying faith into a receiving of Christ: “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” The receiving of Christ, is there explained to be the believing on his name. It is still called a staying on the Lord, a trusting in God, often mentioned in the Psalms, and the word is a leaning on him. It is a believing on Christ: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent; and often so expressed in the New Testament.

When God maketh men believe savingly, he is said to draw them unto Christ; and when the Lord inviteth them to believe, he calleth them to come to him: “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” The kingdom of heaven is like a man finding a jewel, with which he falleth in love: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great prices went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” Now, I say, this acting of the heart on Christ Jesus, is not so difficult a thing as is conceived. Shall that be judged a mysterious difficult thing; which doth consist much in desire? If men have but an appetite, they have it; for they are “blessed that hunger after righteousness.” If you will, you are welcome. Is it a matter of such intricacy and insuperable difficulty, earnestly to look to that exalted Saviour? “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” And to receive a thing that is offered, held forth, and declared to be mine, if I will but accept and take it, and in a manner “open my mouth,” and give way to it? “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Such a thing is faith, if not less. Oh, if I could persuade people what is justifying faith, which appropriateth Christ to me! We often scare people from their just rest and quiet, by making them to apprehend faith to be some deep mysterious thing, and by moving unnecessary doubts about it, whereby it is needlessly darkened.

2. Some make no use of this mark, as judging it a high presumptuous crime to pretend to so excellent a thing as is the very condition of the new covenant. To these I say, You need not startle so much at it, as if it were high pride to pretend to it: for whatsoever true faith be, men must resolve to have it, or nothing at all; all other marks are in vain without it; a thousand things besides will not do the business: “Unless a man believe, he abideth in the state of condemnation:” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

3. Others do not meddle with this noble mark of faith, because they judge it a work of the greatest difficulty to find out faith where it is. To these I say, It is not so difficult to find it out, since “he that believeth hath the witness in himself.” It is a thing which by some serious search may be known. Not only may we do much to find it out by the preparatory work going before it in many, as the apprehending and believing of a man’s lost estate, and that he cannot work out his own salvation, and that there is satisfying fulness in Christ, very desirable if he could overtake it; a serious minding of this, with a heart laid open for relief; as also by the ordinary companions and concomitants of it, that is, the liking of Christ’s dominion, his kingly and prophetical office, a desire to resign myself wholly up to him, to be at his disposing; as also by the native consequences of it, that is, the acquitting of the word, the acquitting of my own conscience according to the word, a heart-purifying work, a working by love, &c. I say, not only may we know faith by these things, but it is discernible by itself and of its own nature. Although I deny not but there must be some help of God’s Spirit, “by which we know what is freely given unto us of God;” as also, that God hath allowed many evidences and marks as precious helps, whereby men may clear up faith more fully to themselves: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life;” yet I still say, that faith, or believing, which is some acting of the heart upon Christ in the gospel, and the transacting with him there, is discernible of itself, and by itself, to a judicious understanding person, with an ordinary influence of the Spirit; unless the Lord, for reasons known to himself, overcloud a man’s reflex light, by which he should take up and perceive what is in him.

This justifying faith, which we assert to be so discernible, is, in the Lord’s deep wisdom and gracious condescension, variously expressed in Scripture, according to the different actings of it upon God, and outgoings after him; so that every one who hath it, may find and take it up in his own mould. It sometimes acteth by a desire of union with him in Christ; this is that looking to him in Isaiah: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” This seems to be a weak act of faith, and far below other actings of it at other times perhaps in that same person. Men will look to what they dare not approach, to their apprehension which they dare not touch or embrace; they may look to one to whom they dare not speak; yet God hath made the promise to faith in that acting, as the forementioned Scripture doth show; and this he hath done mercifully and wisely; for this sometimes is the only discernible way of the acting of faith of some persons. Such are the actings or outgoings of faith expressed in Scripture by “hungering and thirsting after righteousness;” and that expressed by willing, “and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

Again, this faith goes out sometimes in the act of recumbency, or leaning on the Lord, the soul taking up Christ then as a resting-stone, and God hath so held him out, although he be a stumbling-stone to others. This acting of it is hinted in the expressions of trusting and staying on God, so often mentioned in Scripture; and precious promises are made to this acting of faith: “God will keep them in perfect peace whose minds are stayed on him; because such do trust in him. Trust in the Lord; for with him is everlasting strength.” “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which abideth for ever.” I say, the Lord hath made promises to this way of faith’s acting, as knowing it will often go out after him in this way with many persons; and this way of its acting will be most discernible to them.

It goes out after God sometimes by an act of waiting; when the soul hath somewhat depending before God, and hath not got out his mind satisfyingly concerning that thing, then faith doth wait; and so it hath the promise, “They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” Sometimes it acteth in a wilful way upon the Lord, when the soul apprehends God thrusting it away, and threatening its ruin: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” The faith of that poor woman of Canaan, so highly commended by Christ, went out in this way of willful acting over difficulties; and the Lord speaketh much good of it, and to it, because some will sometimes be put to it to exercise faith that way, and so they have that for their encouragement. It were tedious to instance all the several ways of the acting of faith upon, and its exercise about, and outgoing after Christ: I may say, according to the various conditions of man. And accordingly faith, which God hath appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument of conveyance of his fulness to man, and of maintaining union and communion with him, acts variously and differently upon God in Christ: for faith is the very laying out of a man’s heart according to God’s device of salvation by Christ Jesus, “in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell;” so that, let Christ turn what way he will, faith turneth and pointeth that way. Now he turns all ways in which he can be useful to poor man; and therefore faith acts accordingly on him for drawing out of that fulness, according to a man’s case and condition. As for example, The soul is naked, destitute of a covering to keep it from the storm of God’s wrath; Christ is fine raiment: then accordingly faith’s work here is to “put on the Lord Jesus.” The soul is hungry and thirsty after somewhat that may everlastingly satisfy; Christ Jesus, is “milk, wine, water, the bread of life, and the true manna.” He is, “the feast of fat things, and of wine refined;” then the work and exercise of faith is to “go, buy, eat and drink abundantly.” The soul is pursued with guilt more or less, and is not able to answer the charge; Christ Jesus is the city of refuge, and the high priest there, during whose priesthood, that is for ever, the poor man who gets thither is safe; therefore the work and exercise of faith is “to flee thither for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.” In a word, whatever way he may benefit poor man, he declares himself able to do. And in whatever way he holdeth out himself in the Scriptures, so faith doth point towards him. If he be a Bridegroom, faith will go out in a marriage relation; if he be a Father, faith pleadeth the man to be a child; if he be a Shepherd, faith pleads the man may be one of his sheep: if he be a Lord, faith calleth him so, which none can do but by the Spirit of Jesus; if he be dead, and risen again for our justification, faith “believeth God hath raised him” on that amount. Wheresoever he be, there would faith be; and whatsoever he is, faith would be somewhat like him; for by faith the heart is laid out in breadth and length for him; yea, when the fame and report of him goeth abroad in his truth, although faith seeth not much, yet it “believeth on his name,” upon the very fame he hath sent abroad of himself.

But here, for avoiding mistakes, consider,

1. That although justifying faith acts so variously, yet every believer who hath a good title to Christ Jesus, hath not all these various workings and exercises of faith: for his condition requires them not; and also the Master is pleased, at some times, not to lead out the faith of some persons in all these ways, for reasons known to himself, even when their necessity (to their apprehension) calls for such working of faith. Surely, every one dare not say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Many would not have gone up with the woman of Canaan, I spake of, but would have been discouraged, and would have quit the pursuit. It is on this account that Christ highly commends the faith of some beyond the faith of others–of the centurion–of the woman of Canaan. Many good people are much disquieted concerning their faith, because it goeth not out in all those ways we find recorded in Scripture; but there is hardly any man will be found, whose faith has wrought all these ways.

2. Many of these workings of faith are much intended and remitted. They are sometimes strong and vigorous, and discernible; and sometimes they fail, and unbelief prevails; so it were an uncertain thing to judge of a man’s state by those. We find the saints sometimes very different from themselves, in regard of the workings of faith, as we showed before.

3. Each one of these workings of faith speaks good to the person in whom it is, and hath promises annexed to it, as we have said.

4. Although these workings of faith have promises annexed to them, they are not, on that account, the condition of the new covenant; for then every one behooved to have each one of them, which is not true, as we said before. A promise is made to him who overcometh; but perseverance is not the condition of the new covenant, though it doth suppose it. There are promises made to the exercise of all graces in Scripture; but faith only is the condition of the covenant. I say then these promises are made to these workings of faith, not as such, but as they do suppose justifying faith, which is the condition of the covenant. All these are workings of faith, but not as it is justifying. Therefore,

5. There is something common to all gracious persons, which may be supposed by all the abovementioned workings of faith, wherein the nature and essence of justifying faith consist. And this is the heart’s satisfaction concerning God’s plan of salvation by Christ; when man is pleased with God’s method of satisfaction to justice, through Christ Jesus, in whom all fulness doth now dwell by the Father’s pleasure; when the soul and heart of man acquiesce in that, then it believeth unto salvation, As at first the Lord made man suitable to the covenant of works, by creating him perfect, and so putting him in a capacity to perform his will in that covenant; so, under the new covenant, when God giveth the new heart to man, he putteth the idea and stamp of all his device in the new covenant upon the man, so as there is a consonance to God’s will there: thus he beareth the image of the second Adam, Christ Jesus, on him. This is a great part of the new heart, and is most opposed to works; since now the man absolutely falleth from works, “becoming dead to the law,” as to the point of justification “by the body of Christ.” Man perceiving that God hath devised a way of satisfying divine justice, and recovering lost man by the incarnation of Christ, he thinks this so good and sure, a way, that he absolutely gives up with the law, as I said before, and closes with this device; and this is believing, or faith, very opposite to works, and all resting thereupon. This cannot fail to be in all gracious persons, in whom many of the workings of faith are not to be found. This clearly supposes known distress in a man, without all relief in himself; this supposes known fulness in Christ, as the alone sufficient relief: this imports a sort, of appropriation; for the heart, being pleased with that device, in so far swayeth towards it. This is a thing clearly supposed in all the workings of faith spoken of before. He that greedily hungereth, hath this; and he that leaneth, hath this; and he that puts on Christ, hath this, &c. This is to esteem “Christ the wisdom and power of God” to salvation: so is he said to be to all that believe. They esteem that device wise and sure, and beseeming God; and that is to believe. On this account, “Christ, who is the rejected stone to many, is precious to them who believe;” a fit stone to recover, fortify, and beautify the tottering building and fabric of lost man. “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief Corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe, he is precious; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.” “The kingdom of God is like a man finding a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all.” These words hold out the very way of believing; namely, salvation is discovered in the gospel to be by Christ; the heart valueth that method as satisfying. This is to believe on the Son of God lifted up; which is compared with the looking to the brazen serpent. It was man’s approbation of that device, which made it effectual for his healing; so is it here: “He that so believeth, setteth to his seal that God is true.” True! Wherein? In that record he hath borne, that God hath provided life for men, and placed it all in Christ: “He that believeth not, maketh God a liar.” Wherein? In his saying that Christ is a safe and sure way to heaven. This is being pleased and acquiescing in that device; and it is consonant to all I know spoken of justifying faith in Scripture. This is the believing on Christ and on his name, the receiving of him, and resting on him for salvation, in our Catechism; the believing that Jesus is the Christ, that is, the anointed One, whom the Father hath sealed and set apart, and qualified for the work of reconciling man unto God; and “he that believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” This is to “believe with the heart, that God hath raised Christ from the dead.” The man believeth Christ died, and is raised as a satisfaction for man’s transgression. Devils may believe that; nay; but the man I speak of, “believeth it with the heart,” which no natural man doth, until a new heart be given him; that is, he cordially is pleased and satisfied with, and acquiesceth in, this glorious method. And thus faith lays out itself now and then in its actings, outgoings, and exercise, according to all the covenant-relations under which Christ is held forth in the Scripture.

Now, I say, this faith is discernible, many times, not only in these actings; a man may know if his heart doth hunger after Christ, and flee for refuge to him, when pursued; and if he doth commit himself unto God, &c. but also in its very nature; as it is justifying, it is discernible, and may be known. A man may clearly know, if from known distress in himself, upon the report and fame of Christ’s fulness, his heart is pleased with God’s device in the new covenant; if it goes out after Christ in that invention, and pleases him as Lord of the life of men, terminating and resting there, and no where else; acquiescing in that contrivance with desire and complacency. This is a discernible thing: therefore I exhort men impartially to examine themselves; and if they find that their heart has closed so with that device of salvation, and is gone out after him as precious, that thereupon they conclude a sure and true interest in Christ Jesus, and a good claim and title to the crown, since “he that believeth shall never perish, but have everlasting life.”

SECT. II.–The difference between the Faith of Hypocrites, and true saving justifying Faith.

Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have a sort of faith, and are said to believe: “Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men.” “Then Simon the sorcerer himself believed also;” and could not choose but go out after Christ, and that device of salvation, when they hear of it; and they profess they do so, yet are deluded, and so may I be.

Answ. To say nothing of that thought of your heart, by which you wonder that any man should not be pleased with the device of salvation by Christ, and led out towards him, as a very promising thing, and declaring justifying faith to be in your bosom; and, to say nothing in contradiction to that which you think, a natural man, whilst such, and before he get a new heart, can be pleased with that device, and affectionately believe with his heart, and that which perfectly overthroweth the covenant of works, and abaseth man in the point of self-righteousness already attained, or that can be got at by him, which is inconsistent with many scriptural truths; I offer these distinctions between the faith of all hypocrites or reprobates, and that true saving justifying faith of which we have spoken.

1. They never close with Christ Jesus in that device, and him alone, as a sufficient covering of the eyes, as is said of Abraham to Sarah; they still hold fast something of their own, at least to help to procure God’s favour and salvation; their heart doth still speak, as that young man’s speech doth insinuate: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Besides that, they do still retain their former lovers, and will not break their covenants with hell and death, imagining they may have Christ with these things equally sharing in their heart, contrary to that: “A man cannot serve two masters.” Either Christ must be judged absolute Lord, and worthy to be so, or nothing at all; and so it is clear their heart is not laid out for that device of salvation by Christ, whom God hath alone made Lord here, in whom all fulness shall dwell. But where justifying faith is, the soul of a man and his heart doth close with Christ, and him alone, “having no confidence in the flesh,” he trusteth only in God. Also the man here giveth up with other lovers; as they compete with Christ, he resolves “not to be for another.” He calls him Lord, “which a man can only do by the Spirit of Christ.”

2. As hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ alone, so they never close with Christ fully, as he is anointed to be a King, to rule over a man in all things; a Priest, to procure pardon and to make peace for man upon all occasions; a Prophet, to be wisdom, and a teacher and counsellor in all cases to man: so they do not receive Christ, especially in the first and third office. But where true justifying faith is, a man closes with Christ wholly in all his offices, judging all his will “good, holy, just, and spiritual,” and “right concerning all things,” “making mention of his righteousness only.

The man also giveth up himself to be taught of him: “Learn of me.” So that “Christ is made,” to the true believer, with his own consent, “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and complete redemption.” And although he has not all these things formally in exercise when his heart goes out after Christ, yet, upon search and trial, it will be found with him as I have said.

3. Hypocrites and reprobates never close with Christ, and all the inconveniences that may follow him; they stick at that, with the Scribe, “And a certain Scribe came and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” But where true justifying faith is, a man closes with him on all hazards; he resolves to forego all; rather than to forego Christ: “We have left all, and have followed thee.” “He reckoneth all to be loss and dung, for the excellency of Christ Jesus, as his Lord, and to be found in him.”

We might give other distinctions also; as that true faith is operative, “purifying the heart,” “working by love;” whilst “hypocrites only cleanse the outside of the platter,” and “do all to be seen of men,” “not seeking the honour that is of God only, and so cannot believe.” We might also show, that true faith is never alone in a man, but attended with other saving graces. But because these things will coincide with what follows, and as we are showing here that a man may take up his gracious state by his faith, and the acting thereof on Christ, we at present pass these things.

William Guthrie (1620-1665): The Christian’s Great Interest–2/3

The Christian’s Great Interest

(The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ)

By

William Guthrie (1620-1665)

Copyright: Public Domain

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THE CHRISTIAN’S GREAT INTEREST (P 2 of 3)

CHAP. IV.

Of the New Creature.

The second great mark of a gracious state, and true saving interest in Jesus Christ, is the new creature: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” This new creation, or renovation of man, is a very sensible change; although not in those who are effectually called from the womb, or in their younger years; because those have had this new creature from that time in them, so that this change in after periods of time is not so discernible as in those who have been regenerated and brought in to Christ after they were come to greater age, and so have more palpably been under the “power of darkness,” before they were “translated into the kingdom of Christ.” But in all who do warrantably pretend to Christ, this new creature must be; although some do not know experimentally the opposite character and condition so much as others do; because they have not been equally, in regard of practice, under the power of darkness. This new creature is called “the new man,” which doth hold out the extent of it. It is not simply a new tongue, or new hand, but “a new man.” There is a principle of new life and motion put into the man, which is the new heart; which new principle of life sendeth forth acts of life, or of “conformity to the image of him who created it;” so that the party is renewed in some measure every way.

This renovation of the man who is in Christ may be reduced to these two great heads:–

I. There is a renovation of the man’s person, soul and body, in some measure.

1. His understanding is renewed, so that he judgeth “Christ preached” in the gospel, to be “the wisdom and power of God,” a wise and strong device, beseeming God. He knoweth the things of God really and solidly, not to be yea and nay, and uncertain fancies; but all to be yea and amen, solid, certain, and substantial things, having a desirable accomplishment in Christ, and resolving much into him: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned: but he that is spiritual, judgeth all things.” “As God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. Nor the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Natural men, educated under gospel-ordinances, although they have some intellectual knowledge of God, Christ, the promises, the motions of the Holy Spirit, &c. so that they may confer, preach, and dispute, about these things; yet they look on them as commonly-received maxims of Christianity, from which to recede, were a singularity and a disgrace; but not as real, solid, substantial truths, so as to adventure their souls and everlasting being on them. The understanding is renewed also, to understand somewhat of God in the creatures, as bearing marks of his glorious attributes; they see “the heavens declaring his glory and power;” and somewhat of God in providence, and the dispensations that fall out: “His wondrous works declare that his name is near.” The understanding also perceiveth the conditions and cases of the soul otherwise than it was wont to do; as we find the saints usually speaking in Scripture: “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord;” “My soul said, Thy face will I seek;” “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.”

2. The heart and affections are renewed. The heart is made “a new heart, a heart of flesh,” capable of impressions, having a copy of his law stamped on it, and the fear of God put into it, whereby the man’s duty becomes in a manner native and kindly to the man: “A new heart also will I give you, And a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” It was before a “heart of stone,” void of the fear of God. The affections are now renewed; the love is renewed in some good measure; it goeth out after God: “I will love the Lord” after his law: “O how love I thy law!” after those who have God’s image in them. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” This love to God’s people is upon a pure account, as they are the children of God, and do keep his statutes; it is “with a pure heart fervently;” and therefore it goeth towards all those whom the man knows or apprehends to be such: “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts,” in all cases and conditions, even where there is nothing to beautify or commend but the image of God. And this love is so fervent many times, that it putteth itself out in all relations, so that a man seeketh a godly wife, a godly master, a godly servant, a godly counsellor, if ye have to choose upon: “Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.” And “it is not quenched by many waters.” Many imperfections and infirmities, differences in opinion, wrongs received, will not altogether quench love. Also it is communicative of good according to its measure, and as the case of the poor godly requires: “Thou art my Lord, my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints;” “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” The man’s hatred is also renewed, and is now directed against sin: “I hate vain thoughts;”–against God’s enemies, as such: “Do not I hate them that hate thee?” The joy or delight is renewed, for it runneth towards God: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee:” towards his law and will: “His delight is in the law of the Lord;” and towards the godly and their fellowship: “To the saints, in whom is all my delight.” The sorrow is turned against sin which hath wronged Christ: “Looking to him whom they have pierced, they mourn.” “The sorrow is godly” against what encroacheth upon God’s honour: “They are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, and the reproach of that is their burden.” There is some renovation in all the affections, as in every other part of the soul pointing now towards God.

3. The very outward members of the man are renewed, as the Scripture speaks,–the tongue, the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot; so that “those members which once were improved as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin, are now improved as weapons of righteousness unto holiness.”

II. A man who is in Christ is renewed in some measure in all his ways: “Behold all things are become new.” The man becometh new,

1. In the way of his interest. He was set upon any good before, though but apparent, and at best but external: “Many say, Who will show us any good?” But now his interest and business is, how to “be found in Christ,” in that day; or how to be obedient to him, and “walk before him in the light of the living,” which he would choose among all the mercies that fill this earth: “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy, teach me thy statutes.” The interest of Christ also becomes the man’s interest, as appears in the song of Hannah, and in the song of Mary. It is strange to see people newly converted, and having reached but the beginnings of knowledge, concern and interest themselves in the public matters of Christ’s kingdom, so desirous to have him riding prosperously, and subduing the people under him.

2. The man that is in Christ, is renewed in the way of his worship. He was wont to “serve God in the oldness of the letter,” in appearance, answering the letter of the command in external duty, which one in whom the old man hath absolute dominion can do; but now he worships God “in newness of spirit,” in a new way, wherein he is “helped by the Spirit of God,” beyond the reach of flesh and blood. He “serveth now the true and living God,” “in spirit and in truth.” Having spiritual apprehensions of God, and engaged in his very soul in that work, doing and saying truly and not feignedly when he worshippeth; still “desiring to approach unto him as a living God,” who heareth and seeth him, and can accept his service. I grant he fails of this many times; yet I may say, such worship he intends, and sometimes overtakes, and doth not much reckon that worship which is not so so performed unto God: and the iniquity of his holy things is not the least part of his burden and exercise. To such a worship natural men are strangers, whilst they babble out their vain-glorious boastings, like the Pharisee, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men;” or “to an unknown God.”

3. The man that is in Christ is renewed in the way of his outward calling and employment in the world; he now resolves to be diligent in it, because God hath commanded so: “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;”–and to eye God in it as the last end, “doing it to his glory;” and studies to keep some intercourse with God in the exercise of his outward employments, as Jacob doth in his latter will, “have waited for thy salvation, O Lord;” and as Nehemiah did, “Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven:” so that the man resolves to walk with God, and “set him always before him,” in which I deny not he often faileth.

4. He becomes new in the way of his relations; he becomes a more dutiful husband, father, brother, master, servant, neighbour, &c. “Herein doth he exercise himself, to keep a conscience void of offence towards men as well as towards God,” “becoming all things to all men.”

5. He becomes new in the way of lawful liberties; he studies to make use of meat, drink, sleep, recreations, apparel, with an eye to God, labouring not to come under the power of any lawful thing: “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient; all things are lawful for me, but 1 will not be brought under the power of any:” nor to give offence to others in the use of these things. “For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification; not using liberty as an occasion to the flesh.” Yea, he labours to use all these things as a stranger on earth, so that his moderation may appear: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.” And he always looks to God as the last end in these things; “doing all to the glory of God:” so that we may say of that man, “Old things are much passed away, all things are,” in some measure, “become new.” He that is so new a creature, is undoubtedly in Christ.

This renovation of a man in all manner of conversation, and this being under law to God in all things, is that “holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Men may fancy things to themselves; but unless they study to approve themselves unto God in all well-pleasing, and attain to some inward testimony of sincerity in that way, they shall not assure their hearts before him. “The testimony of mens’ conscience is their rejoicing.” “By this we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.” There is no confidence if the heart condemn. This is the new creature, having a principle of new spiritual life infused by God into the heart, by which it becomes new, and puts forth acts of new life throughout the whole man, as we have said, so that he pointeth towards the whole law.

1. Towards those commands which forbid sin; so he resolveth to set against secret sins, “not to lay a stumbling-block before the blind.” Little sins, which are judged so by many, the least things of the law: “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Spiritual sins, filthiness of the spirit: “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Sins of omission as well as of commission, since, men are to be judged by these: “Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me, no drink,” &c. Yea, sins that are wrought into his natural humour and constitution, and thus are as “a right eye or hand” to him: “If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee,” &c. This new principle of life, by the good hand of God, maketh the man set himself against every known sin, so far as not to allow peaceable abode to any known darkness: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

2. As also he pointeth towards those commands which relate to duty, and the quickening of grace in man: it maketh a man “respect all God’s known commands;” to “live godly, righteously, and soberly:” yea, and to study a right and sincere way and manner of doing things, resolving not to give over this study of conformity to God’s will, whilst he lives on earth, but still to “press forward toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” This is true holiness, very becoming all those who pretend to be heirs of that holy habitation, in the immediate company and fellowship of a holy God: “We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”

Some may think those things high attainments, and very hard to be got at. I grant it is true. But,

I. Remember that there is a very large allowance in the covenant, promised to his people, which makes things more easy. The Lord has engaged “to take away the stony heart, to give a heart of flesh, a new heart, a heart to fear him for ever;” he has engaged to “put his law in men’s heart; to put his fear in their heart, to make them keep that law; to put his Spirit in them, to cause them keep it.” He hash promised “to satisfy the priests with fatness,” that the souls of “the people may be satisfied with his goodness; and to keep and water them continually every moment.” And if he must be “inquired to do all these things unto men,” he engageth to “pour out the spirit of grace and supplication on them;” and so to learn them how to seek these things, and how to set him to it, to do all for them.

II. For the satisfaction of weaker Christians, I grant this new creature, as we have circumscribed and enlarged it, will not be found, in all the degrees of it, in every gracious person. But it is well if,

1. There be a new man. We cannot grant less: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;” and that is the new man, which all must put on who are savingly taught of Christ: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind: and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” There must be some renewing after the image of God in a man’s soul and body; there must be somewhat of every part of the man pointing towards God. Although I grant every one cannot teach this to others, neither discern it in himself, because many know not the distinct parts of the soul, nor those reformations competent to every part of the soul and body; yet it will be found there is some such thing in them, yea, they have a witness of it within them, if you make the thing plain and clear to them what it is.

2. There must be such a respect unto God’s known commands, that a man do not allow peaceably any known iniquity to dwell in him; for “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” He must not regard iniquity: “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” I grant men may be ignorant of many commands and many sins, and may imagine, in some cases, that some sins are not hateful to God: but supposing that they are instructed in these things, there can be no agreement between righteousness and unrighteousness.

3. Men must point towards all the law of God in their honest resolutions; for this is nothing else than to give up the heart unto God, to put his law in it without exception, which is a part of the covenant we are to make with God: “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel–I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.” I grant many know not how to point towards God’s law in all their ways; but if it be made manifest to them how that should be done, they will point at it. And it is true, they will many times fail of their resolutions in their practice; yet when they have failed, they can say, they did resolve otherwise, and will yet honestly, and without guile, resolve to do otherwise, and it will prove their affliction to have failed of their resolution, when the Lord discovers it to them, which he will do in due time.

4. When we are to judge of our state by the new creature, we must do it at a convenient time, when we are in good case, at least, not when we are in the worst case; for “the flesh and spirit do lust and fight against each other;” and sometimes the one and sometimes the other doth prevail. Now, I say, we must choose a convenient time, when the spiritual part is not by some temptation worsted and overpowered by the flesh; for in that case the new creature is driven back in its streams, and much returned to the fountain and the habits, except in some small things not easily discernible, by which it makes opposition to the flesh, according to the above scripture. For, now is it the time of winter in the soul, and we may not expect fruit, yea, not leaves, as in some other season: only here, lest profane Atheists should take advantage of this, we will say, that the spirit often prevails over the flesh in a godly man, and yet the scope, aim, tenor, and main drift of his way is “in the law of the Lord,” that is his walk; whereas, the path-way and ordinary course of the wicked is sin, as is often hinted in the book of the Proverbs of Solomon. And if it happen that a godly man be overmastered by any transgression, it is usually his sad exercise; and we suppose he keeps it still in dependency before God to have it rectified, as David speaketh, “Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling!”

CHAP. V.

The Difference between a truly renewed Man who is in Christ, and Hypocrites.

Object. Atheists and hypocrites may have great changes and renovations wrought upon them, and in them, and I fear mine may be such.

Answ. I grant that Atheists and hypocrites have many things in them which do look like the new creature.

I. In regard of the parts of the man, they may,

1. Come to much knowledge–they are enlightened.

2. There may be a stir amongst their affections: “They receive the word with joy, as he that received the seed into stony places.”

3. They may reach a great deal of outward reformation in the outward man, both concerning freedom from sin, and engagement to positive duty, as the Pharisee did: “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Yea,

4. In regard of their practical understanding, they may judge some things of God to be excellent–the officers said, that “never man spake as Christ.”

II. Hypocrites may have a great deal of professions.

1. They may talkof the law and gospel, and of the covenant, as the wicked do–“What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?”

2. They may confess sin openly to their own shame, as King Saul did: “Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David; for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”

3. They may humble themselves in sackcloth with Ahab: “And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sack-cloth, and went softly.”

4. They may inquire busily after duty, and come cheerfully to receive it: “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask me of the ordinances of justice: they take delight in approaching to God.”

5. They may join with God’s interest in a hard and difficult time, as Demas and other hypocrites, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, who afterwards fell off.

6. They may give much of their goods to God and to the saints, as Ananias, if not all their goods: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Yea,

7. It is not impossible for some such, being straitly engaged in their credit, to “give their bodies to be burned,” as in the last cited place.

III. Hypocrites may advance far in the common and ordinary steps of a Christian work; such as the elect have when God leads them captive. As, 1. They may be under great convictions of sin, as Judas was: “Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. So was King Saul often.

2. They may tremble at the word of God, and be under much terror, as Felix was: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for thee.”

3. They may “rejoice in receiving of the truth, as he that received the seed into stony places.”

4. They may be in some peace and quiet, in expectation of salvation by Christ, as the foolish virgins were.

5. All this may be backed and followed with some good measure of reformation, as the Pharisee: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” “The unclean spirit may go out of them.”

6. This work may seem to be confirmed by some special experiences and “tastings of the good word of God.”

IV. Hypocrites may have some things very like the saving graces of the Spirit; as,

1. They may have a sort of faith with Simon Magus: “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.”

2. They may have a sort of repentance, and may walk mournfully: “What profit is it that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?”

3. They may have a great fear of God, such as Balsam had, who, for a house-full of gold, would not go with the messengers of Balak, without leave asked of God, and given.

4. They have a sort of hope: “The hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”

5. They have some love, so had Herod to John: “And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.” I need not to insist, it is out of all question they have counterfeits of all saving graces.

V. They have somewhat like the special communications of God, and the witnessing of his Spirit, and somewhat like “the powers of the world to come,” powerfully on them, with some flashes of joy arising thence. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” Notwithstanding of all which, they are but “almost persuaded, with Agrippa, to be Christians.” It were tedious to speak particularly to each of these things, and to clear it up, that they are all false and unsound: I shall condescend upon some few things, in which a truly renewed man, who is in Christ, doth differ from hypocrites and reprobates.

1. Whatever change be in hypocrites, yet their heart is not changed and made new. The new heart is only given to the elect, when they are converted and brought under the bond of the covenant: 1 will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever.” “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Hypocrites never apprehended Christ as the only satisfying good in all the world, for which with joy they would quit all; for then the kingdom of God were entered into them: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” The truly renewed man dare, and can upon good ground say, and hath a testimony of it from on high, that his heart hath been changed in taking up with Christ, and hath been led out after him, as the only enriching treasure, in whom “to be found he accounteth all things else loss and dung.”

2. Whatever reformation or profession hypocrites do attain to, as it cometh not from a new heart, and pure principle of zeal for God, so it is always for some wicked and by-end, as, “to be seen of men,” or to evade and shun some outward strait, to be free of God’s wrath, and the trouble of their own conscience: “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?” “What profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” In testimony of this, they never have respect to all known commands, else they should “never be ashamed;” nor do they, without approven guile in their own heart, resolve against every known iniquity, else they were freed of heart-condemnings, and so might justly have “confidence before God.” If in never so small a degree they did, from a principle of love unto, and of seal for Christ, and for a right end, confess and profess him, Christ were obliged by his own word “to confess them before his Father.”

3. Whatever length hypocrites advance in that work, by which people are led in unto Christ, yet, they never “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” “The one thing that is necessary,” namely, Christ’s friendship and fellowship, is never their “one thing,” and heart-satisfying choice, else that “better part would never be taken from it.”

4. Whatever counterfeits of grace are in hypocrites, yet they are all formed there, without any saving work of the Spirit of Christ; and it is enough to exclude them from the benefit of this mark, that they are never denied to these things, nor emptied of them, but still do rest on them as their saviour, so that “they submit not unto the righteousness of God;” and that is enough to keep them at a distance from Christ, who will never mend that old garment of hypocrites with his fine new linen, nor “put his new wine into these old bottles.”

5. We may say, Let hypocrites, reprobates, or Atheists, have what they can, they want the three great essentials of religion and true Christianity.

1. They are not broken in their hearts, and emptied even of their righteousness, the length of self-loathing, yet lying open for relief. Such “lost ones Christ came to seek and save.”

2. They never took up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can only enrich, and should satisfy; and therefore have never cordially agreed to God’s device in the covenant, and so are not worthy of him; neither hath the kingdom of God savingly entered into their heart: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

3. They never in earnest do close with Christ’s whole yoke without exception, judging all his “will just and good, holy and spiritual;” and therefore no rest followed on them by Christ “Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Therefore, whosoever thou art, who can lay clear and just claim to these three mentioned things, thou art beyond the reach of all Atheists, hypocrites, and reprobates, in the world, as having answered the great ends and intents of the law and gospel.

Object. I am clear sometimes, I think, to lay claim to that mark of the new creature; yet at other times sin doth so prevail over me, that I am made to question all the work within me.”

Answ. It is much to be lamented, that people professing his name, should be so abused and enslaved by transgression, as many are. Yet, in answer to the objection, if it be seriously proposed, we say, The saints are found in Scripture justly laying claim to God and his covenant, when iniquity did prevail over them; as we find: “Iniquities prevail against me; as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.” Paul “thanks God through Christ,” though he acknowledges “a law in his members leads him captive unto sin.” But, for the better understanding, and safe application, of such truths, we must make a difference between gross outbreakings, and ordinary infirmities or heart-evils, or sins that come unawares upon a man, without forethought or any deliberation. As for the former sort, it is hard for a man, whilst he is under the power of them, to see his gracious change, although it be in him; and very hard to draw any comfort from it, until the man be in some measure recovered, and begin seriously to resent such sins, and to resolve against them. We find David calling himself God’s servant, quickly after his numbering of God’s people; but he was then under the serious resentment of his sin: “And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done very foolishly.” Jonah layeth claim to God as his master under his rebellion; but he is then repenting it, and in a spirit of revenge against himself for his sin. Next, as for these sins of infirmity, and daily incursion of heart-evils, it is like they were such as those whereof Paul doth complain.

We shall draw out some things from the seventh chapter to the Romans, upon which Paul maintains his interest in Christ; and if you can apply them, it is well.

1. When Paul finds that he doth much fail, and cannot reach conformity to God’s law, he doth not blame the law as being too strict, so that men cannot keep it, as hypocrites use to speak; but he blames himself as being carnal, and he saith of the law, “that it is good, holy, and spiritual.”

2. He can say, he failed of a good which he intended, and did outshoot himself, and he had often honestly resolved against the evil which he fell into: “For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. For I know that in me that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

3. He saith, that the prevailing of sin over him is his exercise, so that he judges himself wretched, because of such a body of death, from which he longs to be delivered.

4. He says, that whilst he is under the power and law of sin, there is somewhat in the bottom of his heart opposing it, although over-mastered by it, which would be another way; and when that gets the upper hand, it is a delightsome thing, Rom. vii. 22-25. Upon these things he “thanks God in Christ that there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Now, then, look if you can lay claim to these things.

1. If you do blame yourself, and approve the law, whilst you fail.

2. If you can say, that you do often resolve against sin honestly, and without known guile; and do so resolve the contrary good, before the evil break in upon you.

3. If you can say, that you are so far exercised with your failings, as to judge yourself wretched because of such things, and a body of death, which is the root and fountain of such things.

4. If you can say, that there is a party within you opposing these evils, which would be at the right way, and, as it were, is in its element when it is in God’s way, it is well only be advised not to take rest, until in some good measure you be rid of the ground of this objection, or, at least, until you can very clearly say, you are waging war with these things. Now, a good help against the prevailing power of sin, is to cleave close to Christ Jesus, by faith, which, as it is a desirable part of sanctification, and a high degree of conformity to. God’s will, and most subservient unto his design in the gospel: “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I do not frustrate the grace of God; and so should be much endeavoured after by people, as a work pleasing unto God: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent:” so it is the ready way to draw life and nourishment from Christ the blessed root, for fruitfulness in all cases “Abide in me, and I in you: as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself; except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, ye can do nothing.”

CHAP. VI.

Of the special Communications of God, and the singular gracious Operations of his Spirit.

Object. I do not partake of those special communications of God mentioned in the Scripture, and of those actings and outgoings of his Spirit, of which gracious people often are speaking, and to which they attain. The want of these things makes me much suspect my state.

Answ. I shall shortly notice some of these excellent communications; and I hope, upon a right discovery of them, there will be but small ground found for the jealous complaints of many gracious people.

1. Besides these convictions of the Spirit of God, which are wont to usher Christ’s way into the souls of men, and those also which afterwards do ordinarily attend them, there is a seal of the Spirit of God spoken of in Scripture, the principal thing whereof is the sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost, imprinting the draughts and lineaments of God’s image and revealed will upon a man, as a seal or signet doth leave an impression and stamp of its likeness upon the thing sealed. So it is: “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” And thus I conceive the seal to be called “a witness:” “He that believeth hath the witness in himself;” that is, the grounds upon which an interest in Christ is to be made out and proved, are in every believer; for he hath somewhat of the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in him, which is a sure, although not always a clear and manifest witness.

II. There is communion with God much talked of among Christians, by which they understand the sensible presence of God refreshing the soul exceedingly. But if we speak properly, communion with God is a mutual interest between God and a man, who has closed with him in Christ. It is a commonness, or a common interest between God and a man not only is a man interested in God himself, but in all that is the Lord’s; so the Lord hath a special interest in the man, and also all that belongs to him. There is a communion between husband and wife, whereby they have a special interest in each others’ persons, goods; and concerns; so is it here: there is such a communion with God, he is our God, and a things are ours, because he is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times; as we shall afterwards show. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly meddle with any thing that belongs unto God, and do meddle with himself, as their own, with much homeliness and familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul doth converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto him, and sweetly travelling through his attributes, and, with some condence of interest, viewing. these things as the man’s own goods and property: this we call communion with God in ordinances. This indeed is not so usually nor frequently made out to men, and all his people do not equally partake of it: and it is true, that what is in God, goes not out for the behoof of the man to his apprehension equally at all times; yet certainly communion with God, properly so called, namely, that commonness of interest between God and a man, who is savingly in covenant with him, does always stand firm and sure; and so much of communion with God in ordinances all believers have, so that their heart converses with a living God there, now and then, and is in some measure changed into that same image; and there needeth be no doubt about it any further.

III. There is what is called fellowship with God, often mistaken also amongst believers. If by fellowship be meant the walking in our duty, as in the sight of a living God, who seeth and heareth us, and is witness to all our carriage, it is a thing common unto all gracious men; they all have it habitually, and in design:, “I have set the Lord always before me.” Yea, and often they have it actually in exercise, when their spirit is in any good frame; they walk as if they saw God standing by them, and have some thought of his favour through Christ: “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” If we by fellowship mean a sweet, refreshing, familiar, sensible conversing with God, which doth delight and refresh the soul, besides what the conscience of duty doth; it is then a walking in the light of his countenance, and a good part of sensible presence: and although it seems Enoch had much of it, whilst it is said, “He walked with God,” yet it is not so general as the former, nor so common to all Christians: for here the soul is filled as with marrow and fatness, following hard after its guide, and singularly upheld by his right hand: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. My soul followeth hard after thee, thy right hand upholdeth me.”

IV. There is what is called access unto God; and this I take to be the removing of obstructions out of the way between a man and God, so that the man is admitted to come near. We are said to have access to a great person when the doors are cast open, the guards removed from about him, and we are admitted to come close to him; so it is here. Now this access, in Scripture, is sometimes taken for Christ’s preparing the way, the removing of enmity between God and sinners, so as men now have a patent way to come unto God through Christ. “For through him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Sometimes it is taken for the actual improvement of that access purchased by Christ, when a man finds all obstructions and differences, which do ordinarily fall in between him and God, removed: God is not reserve to him, nor as a stranger, keeping up himself from him, or frowning on him; but the man is admitted to “come even to his seat.” Of the want of this doth Job complain, whilst he saith, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.” The first sort of access is common to all believers; they are brought near by the blood of the covenant, and are no more afar off, as the deadly enmity between God and them is removed but access in the other sense is dispensed more according to the Lord’s absolute sovereignty and pleasure, and it is left in the power of believers to obstruct it to themselves, until it please the Lord mercifully and freely to grant it unto them again; so it is up and down, and there needs be no question as to a man’s state about it.

V. There is what is called liberty before God; and this property is freedom, or free speaking unto God. Many do much question their state, because of the want of this now and then, since the Scripture hath said, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” but they do unjustly confine that liberty spoken of there unto this free speaking before God. I grant, where the Spirit of the Lord doth savingly discover God’s will in the Scriptures to a man, there is liberty from any obligation to the ceremonial law, and from the condemning power of the moral law, and from much of that gross darkness and ignorance which is on natural men’s hearts as a veil hiding Christ in the gospel from them. I grant also, that sometimes even this liberty, which is a free communing with God, and “ordering of our cause before him, and filling of our mouth with arguments,” is granted to the godly, but not as liberty taken in the former senses. Although the Lord hath obliged himself to “pour out the spirit of prayer upon all the house of David” in some measure, yet this communication of the Spirit, which we call liberty, or free speaking unto God, dependeth much on the Lord’s absolute pleasure, when, and in what measure to allow it. This liberty, which we call freedom or free speaking with God in prayer, is sometimes much withdrawn from any great confidence in the time of prayer, at least, until it draw towards the close of it; it stands much in a vivacity of the understanding to take up the case which a man is to peak before God, so that he can order his cause: and next, there be words, or verbal expressions, elegant, suitable, and very emphatical, or powerful and pithy. There is also joined a fervency of spirit in prayer, of which the Scripture speaks; the soul is warm and bended, and very intent. There is also usually in this liberty a special melting of the heart often joined with a great measure of the “spirit of grace and supplication.” So the soul is poured out before God as for a first-born. Such is the liberty which many saints get before God, whilst, in much brokenness of heart and fervency of spirit, they are admitted to speak their mind fully to God, as a living God, noticing (at least) their prayer. Sometimes this liberty is joined with confidence, and then it is not only a free but also a bold speaking before God. It is that “boldness with confidence.” “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence, by the faith of him.” This is more rarely imparted unto men than the former, yet it is ordinary: it hath in it, besides what we mentioned before, some influence of the Spirit upon faith, making it put forth some vigorous acting in prayer. There is a sweet mournful frame of spirit, by which a man poureth out his heart in God’s bosom, and, with some confidence of his favour and good-will, pleadeth his cause before him as a living God; and this is all the sensible presence to which many saints do attain. There is no ground of doubt concerning a man’s state in the point of liberty before God, in this last sense, because there is nothing, essential to the making up of a gracious state here: some have, it, some want it, some have it at some times, and not at ether times, so that it is much up and down; yet I may say, gracious men may do much, by a very ordinary influence, in contributing towards the attaining and retaining, or keeping, of such a frame of spirit.

VI. There is what is called influence, or breathing of the Spirit. This gracious influence (for of such only do I now speak) is either ordinary; and this is the operations of the Holy Spirit on the soul, and the habits of grace there, whereby they are still kept alive, and in some exercise and acting, although not very discernible. This influence, I conceive, always attends believers, and is that “keeping and watering night and day, and every moment:” or, this influence is more singular and special, and is the same to a gracious, although a withered, soul, as the “wind and breath to the dry bones,” putting them in good case, and “as the dew or rain to the grass,” or newly mown field and parched ground. Such influence is meant, by the “blowing of the southwind, making the spices to flow out.” When the Spirit moveth thus, there is an edge put upon the graces of God in the soul, and they are made to act more vigorously. This is the “enlarging of the heart,” by which a “man doth run in the ways of God.” This influence is more discernible than the former, and not so ordinarily communicated. Also here, sometimes the wind bloweth more upon one grace, and sometimes more discernibly upon another, and often upon many of the graces together; and, according to the lesser or greater measure of this influence, the soul acteth more or less vigorously towards God: and since faith is a created grace in the soul, this influence of the Spirit is upon it, sometimes less, sometimes more, and accordingly is the assurance of faith small or great

VII. There is the hearing of prayer, often spoken of in Scripture; and many vex themselves about it, alleging that they know nothing of it experimentally. I. grant, there is a favourable hearing of prayer; but we must remember it is twofold. Either,

1. It is such as a man is simply to believe by way of argument on scriptural grounds: as if I have fled unto Christ, and do approach to God in him, pray according to his will, not regarding iniquity in my heart, exercising faith about the thing I pray for absolutely or conditionally, according to the nature of the thing and promises concerning it: I am obliged to believe that God heareth my prayer, and will give what is good, according to these Scriptures: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name, I will do it.”–“This is our confidence, that whatsoever we ask according to his will, he heareth us.”–“Believe that ye receive, and ye shall have what ye desire.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear:” then, if I regard not iniquity, I may believe that he doth hear me. Or,

2. A man doth sensibly perceive that God hears his prayer: it is made out to his heart, without any syllogistical deduction. Such a hearing of prayer got Hannah; “Her countenance was no more sad.” Surely the Lord did breathe upon her faith, and made her believe that she was heard: she could not make it out by any argument; for she had not grounds upon which to build the premises of the argument, according to Scripture, in that particular: God did stamp it some way upon her heart sensibly, and so made her believe it. This is but rarely granted, especially in cases clearly deducible in Scripture: therefore people are much to be satisfied in exercising their faith about the other, and ought to leave it to God to give of this latter what he pleaseth. A man’s gracious state should not be brought into debate upon the account of such hearing of prayer.

VIII. There is assurance of God’s favour by the witnessing of our own spirits; which assurance is deduced by way of argument syllogistically, thus: Whosoever believeth on Christ shall never perish: but I do believe on Christ; therefore, I shall never perish. Whoso hath respect unto all God’s commandments shall never be ashamed: but I have respect unto all his commands; therefore, I shall never be ashamed. I say, by reasoning thus, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, a man may attain to it good certainty of his gracious state. It is supposed; “That by loving the brethren in deed and in truth we may assure our hearts before God–And that a man may rejoice upon the testimony of a good conscience: “A man may have confidence towards God, if his heart do not condemn him.” We may then attain to some assurance, although not full assurance, by the witness of our own spirits. I do not deny that in this witnessing of our spirits concerning assurance, there is some concurrence of the Spirit of God: but, I conceive, there needs but a very ordinary influence, without which we can do nothing. Now, this assurance, such as it is, may be reached by intelligent believers, who keep a good conscience in their walk. So, I hope, there needs be no debate about it, as to a man’s gracious state; for if a man will clear himself of heart-condemnings, he will speedily reach this assurance.

IX. There is a “witnessing of God’s Spirit,” mentioned as “bearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” This operation of the Spirit is best understood, if we produce any syllogism by which our spirit doth witness our sonship; as, for example, Whosoever loveth the brethren is passed from death to life, and consequently is in Christ: but I love the brethren; therefore, I am passed from death to life. Here there is a threefold operation of the Spirit, or three operations rather: The first is a beam of divine light upon the first proposition, convincing of the divine authority of it; as the word of God. The Spirit of the Lord must witness the divinity of the Scriptures, and that it is the infallible word of God, far beyond all other arguments that can be used for it. The second operation is a glorious beam of light from the Spirit, shining upon the second proposition, and so upon his own graces in the soul, discovering them to be true graces, and such as the Scripture calls so. Thus we are said to “know by his Spirit the things that are freely given unto us of God.” The third operation is connected with the third proposition of the argument, or the conclusion, and this I conceive to be nothing else but an influence upon faith, strengthening it to draw a conclusion of fall assurance upon the foresaid premises.

Now, with submission to others, who have greater light in the Scripture, and more experience of these precious communications, I do conceive the witness of the Spirit, or witnessing of it, which is mentioned, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God,” is not that first operation upon the first proposition; for that operation is that testimony of the Spirit by which he bears witness to the divinity of the whole Scriptures, and asserts the divine authority of it unto the souls of gracious men; and such an operation may be upon a truth of Scripture, which does not relate to a man’s sonship or interest in Christ at all. The Spirit may so shine upon any truth, relating to duty, or any other fundamental truth, impressing the divinity of it upon and unto the soul, and speak nothing relating to a man’s interest in Christ. Neither is the third operation of the Spirit, by which he makes faith boldly draw the conclusion, this witnessing of the Spirit; for that operation it nothing else but an influence upon faith, bringing it out to full assurance: but that upon which this full assurance is drawn or put out is somewhat confirmed and witnessed, already; therefore I conceive the second operation of the Spirit upon the second proposition, and so upon the graces in the man, is that witness of God’s Spirit, that beam of divine light shining upon those graces by which they are made very conspicuous to the understanding. That is the witness, the shining so on them is his witnessing: for only here, in this proposition, and in this operation, doth the Spirit of God prove a co-witness with our spirit: for the main thing wherein the witness of our spirit lies, is in the second proposition; and so the Spirit of God witnessing with our spirits, is also in that same proposition. So these two witnesses having confirmed and witnessed one and the same thing, that is, the truth and reality of such and such graces in the man, which our own spirit or conscience doth depone according to its knowledge, and the Spirit of the Lord doth certainly affirm and witness to be so; there is a sentence drawn forth, and a conclusion of the man’s sonship by the man’s faith, breathed, upon by the Spirit for that purpose: and this conclusion beareth the full assurance of a man’s sonship. It may be presumed, that some true saints do not partake of this all their days: “And deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

X. I speak with the experience of many saints, and, I hope, according to Scripture, if I say there is, a communication of the Spirit of God which is sometimes let out to some of his people, that is somewhat besides, if not beyond, that witnessing of a sonship spoken of before. It is a glorious divine manifestation of God unto the soul, shedding abroad God’s love in the heart: it is a thing better felt than spoken of: it is no audible voice, but it is a flash of glory filling the soul with God, as he is life, light, love, and liberty, countervailing that audible voice, “O men, greatly beloved,” putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, “It is good to be here.” It is that which went out from Christ to Mary, when he but mentioned her name: “Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.” He had spoken some words to her before, and she understood not that it was he: but when he uttereth this one word MARY, there was some admirable divine conveyance and manifestation made out to her heart, by which she was so satisfyingly filled, that there was no place for arguing and disputing whether or no that was Christ, and if she had any interest in him. That manifestation wrought faith to itself, and did purchase credit and trust to itself, and was equivalent with “Thus saith the Lord.” This is such a glance of glory, that it may in the highest sense be called, “the earnest,” or first fruits, “of the inheritance,” for it is a felt manifestation of the holy God, almost wholly conforming the man unto his likeness, so swallowing him up, that he forgetteth all things except the present manifestation. O how glorious is this manifestation, of the Spirit! faith here riseth to so full an assurance, that it resolves wholly into sensible presence of God. This is the thing which doth best deserve the title of sensible presence, and, it is probable, is not given unto all believers, some whereof “are all their days under bondage, and in fear;” but here, love, almost perfect, casteth “out fear.” This is so absolutely let out upon the Master’s pleasure, and so transient or passing, or quickly gone, when it is, that no man may bring his gracious state into debate for want of it.

XI. There is what we call peace, about which many do vex themselves. This peace is either concerning a man’s state, that he is reconciled unto God by Jesus Christ, or it is concerning his present case and condition, that he is walking so as approven of God, at least, so far as there is no quarrel or controversy between God and him threatening a stroke. Both of these are either such in the court of Scripture, and consequently in God’s account; or in the court of a man’s own conscience. Peace concerning a man’s state, as being in Christ, is sure in the court of Scripture and of heaven, when a man doth by faith close with Christ and the new creature: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” It being sure and solid in the court of Scripture, it should hold sure in the court of a man’s conscience, if it be rightly informed; for, in that case, it still speaks according to Scripture: but, because the conscience is often misinformed and in the dark, therefore, there is often peace concerning a man’s state according to Scripture, whilst his conscience threatens the contrary, and still condemns, and refuses to assoilzie the man, as being reconciled unto God through Christ. In this case, the conscience must be informed, and the man’s gracious state made out by the marks of grace, as we showed before; and here the witness of my own spirit will do much to allay the cry of the conscience: and if the Spirit of the Lord join his witness and testimony, the conscience is perfectly satisfied, and proclaimeth peace to the man.

The other peace concerning a man’s present case or condition, that is, that it is approven of God in a gospel-sense, it may be wanting, and justly wanting, although the peace concerning a man’s state be sure. This peace concerning a man’s case and condition, is either such in the court of Scripture; and this is when a man is not regarding iniquity, and respecting the commands of God without exception; then the Scripture saith, he stands in an even place, and he needeth fear no stated quarrel between God and him, in order to a temporary stroke: and when it is thus, his conscience should also assoilzie him that same way, and would do so, if it were rightly informed: but because the conscience is often in the dark, therefore a man may be alarmed with evil in the court of conscience, as if he were justly to expect a stroke from God because of his sin, and some quarrel God hath with him, although he intend salvation for him. This is enough to keep a man in disquiet, and to prohibit him the rejoicing allowed to him, whilst he is walking in his integrity: therefore a man must here also inform his conscience, and receive no accusations nor condemnings from it, unites it make them clear by Scripture. At that bar let every man stand, both concerning his state, and his condition or case; and let him appeal from all other courts to that, and not receive any indictment but what is conformable to the truth of God, by which the conscience is to proceed in all things. And if this were well looked to, there would not be so, many groundless suspicions amongst the Lord’s people, either concerning their state, or their condition, upon every thought which enters their mind.

XII. There is the joy of the Holy Ghost; and this is when the Spirit breathes upon our rejoicing in God, which is a grace very little in exercise with many, and makes it set out sensibly and vigorously; and he excites and stirs the passion of joy and of delight in the soul, so that there is an “unspeakable and glorious joy in the soul,” in the apprehension of God’s friendship and nearness unto him: “In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” This joy followeth upon peace, and peace followeth righteousness: “The kingdom of God–is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” This joy generally will not fail to be according to the measure of the assurance of faith, as el In whom believing, ye rejoice.” So that the removal of mistakes about other things will allay doubts concerning this.

Now, because some of these excellent communications of the Spirit, after they are gone, are brought in question as delusions of Satan; for vindication of them, we say, that the special operations of God’s Spirit in any high degree, usually are communicated to people after such brokenness of spirit: “Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. After singular pains in religious duty: “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.–And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin–the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me.” Or in time of much suffering for righteousness: “Rejoice, in as much as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.” Or if they break in as the rain that waiteth not for man, then they do so humble and abase the person: “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips—for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” And there are found so many evidences of grace in the man: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Or these things do so provoke unto holiness, and to have every thing answerable and conformable unto these manifestations of God: “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” The person under them doth loathe all things besides God’s friendship and fellowship: “Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here:” and these things carry on them and with them so much authority and divine superscription, whilst they are in the soul, that afterwards they may appear sufficiently to be special communications of God, and singular gracious operations of his Spirit, and no delusions of “Satan transforming himself into an angel of light.” Nor such common flashes of the Spirit as may admit afterwards of irrecoverable apostacy from God: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come; if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.”

Now then, to conclude this part of the work that relates to the trial; I say to all those who complain of the want of the precious out-pourings of the Spirit,

1. Bless God if you want nothing essential for the making out of a saving interest in Christ. God hath given unto you Christ Jesus, the greatest gift he had; and since your heart is laid out for him, he will, with him, give you all things that are good for you in their season.

2. I do believe, upon a strict search and trial, after you have understood the communications of the Spirit, you are not so great a stranger to many things as you suspected yourself to be. But,

3. Remember the promises of life and of peace with God are no where in Scripture made unto those special things of which you allege the want: the promises are made unto faith, followed with holiness; and it may be presumed, that many heirs of glory do not in this life partake of some of these things, but “are in bondage all their days through fear of death; so that there should be no mistake about these things: we may seek after them, but God is free to give or withhold them.

4. Many do seek after such manifestations before they give credit by faith to God’s word. He hath borne record that there is life enough for men in Christ Jesus; and if men would by believing set to their seal that God is true, they should partake of more of these excellent things.

5. I may say, many have not honourable apprehensions and thoughts of the Spirit of God, whose proper work it is to put forth the foresaid noble operations. They do not adore him as God, but vex, grieve, quench, and resist him: and many people, complaining of the want of these things, are not at the pains to seek the Spirit in his outgoings, and few do set themselves apart for such precious receptions: therefore, be at more pains in religion, give more credit to his word, and esteem more highly of the Spirit of God, and so you may find more of these excellent things.

PART II. HOW TO ATTAIN A SAVING INTEREST IN CHRIST.

Having, in the former part of this Treatise, put every man’s state to the trial, it now remains that, in this following part, we give advice to those, who neither can nor dare lay claim to the marks formerly mentioned.

Quest. II. What shall they do who want the marks of a true and saving interest in Christ, already spoken of, and neither can nor dare pretend to them?

Answ. If men do not find in themselves the marks of a saving interest in Christ, spoken of before, then it is their duty, and of all that hear the gospel, personally and heartily to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, and this will secure their state.

CHAP. I.

Some things premised for the Information of those who are more Ignorant.

For the better understanding of this, we shall premise some things for the information of those who are more ignorant, and then speak more directly to the thing. As for the things to be premised:–

1. The Lord, at the beginning, out of his bounty, made a covenant with man in Adam: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”–and enabled man to abide in that covenant: “God hath made man upright;” but man, by eating of that forbidden fruit, did break that covenant: “They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant,” and made it void for ever: “By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight;”–and involved himself in all misery thereby: “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

2. The Lord did most freely from everlasting, purpose and intend to save men another way, that is, by Christ Jesus, and the covenant of grace, in which he intended reconciliation with the elect through Christ Jesus, God and man, born of a woman in due time, to make this agreement effectual. And this device of satisfying his own justice, and saving of the elect by Christ, he did at first intimate to our parents in paradise, where he saith, “That the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” And the Lord hath in all generations made this known to his church.

3. The Lord hath in all ages covenanted to be the reconciled God of all those, who by their subjection to his ordinances did profess their satisfaction with this device, and obliged themselves to acquiesce in it, and to seek salvation by Christ Jesus, as God doth afar him in the gospel; so all the people of Israel are called the Lord’s people, and are said to avouch him to be their God, and he doth avouch them to be his people: “Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and to hearken unto his voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments.” Yea, the Lord doth also engage himself to be the God of the seed and children of those who do so subject themselves to his ordinances. The covenant is said to be made between God and all the people, young and old, present and not present that day; and all are appointed to come under some seal of that covenant, as was enjoined to Abraham. Not only was it so in the Old Testament, but it is so in the New Testament also. The Lord makes offer of himself to be our God in Christ Jesus; and the people professing their satisfaction in that offer, and in testimony thereof subjecting themselves unto the ordinances, they are reckoned a covenanted people, and are joined unto his church in thousands, receiving a seal of the covenant, without any further particular previous trial: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.”

4. Many do deal treacherously with God in this covenant: “Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues; for their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” And although they profess their estimation of Christ the Saviour, and their heart satisfaction with that device of saving sinners by him, and having the image of God restored by him in them; yet their heart is not right with God, and they do content themselves with an empty title of being in a sealed covenant with God. “Abraham is our father,” say they. For although the Lord obligeth every man, who professeth his satisfaction with Christ Jesus, the devised ransom, to be cordial and sincere herein; and only to these who are so, doth he make out the spiritual promises of the covenant, they only being “privileged to be the sons of God, who do really receive Christ;” yet the Lord doth permit many to profess their closing with him in Christ, both in the Old and New Testament, whilst their heart is not engaged; and he doth admit them to be members of his church, granting unto them the use of ordinances, and many other external mercies and privileges denied to the Heathen, who are not in covenant with him.

5. Although the greater part of people do foolishly fancy, that they have closed with God in Christ Jesus sincerely and heartily; or, at least, they do, without any ground or warrant, promise a new heart to themselves before they die; yet there be but very few who do really and cordially close with God in Christ Jesus, as he is offered in the gospel; and so there be but very few saved; as is clear: “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be who find it.” “Many are called, but few are chosen.” If people would believe this, it might help to alarm them.

6. Although none at all do cordially close with God in Christ Jesus, and acquiesce in that ransom found out by God, except only such as are elected: “But the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded;”–and whose hearts the. Lord doth sovereignly determine to that blessed choice: “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him;” yet the Lord hath left it as a duty upon people who hear this gospel, to close with his offer of salvation through Christ Jesus, as if it were in their power to do it; and the Lord, through these commands and exhortations, wherein he obligeth men to the thing, doth convey life and strength to the elect, and doth therein convey the new heart to them, who cordially embrace God’s device of saving sinners, and receive Christ in his covenant-relations; or, it is the Lord’s mind; in these commands and invitations, to put people on some duty, with which he uses to concur for accomplishing that object between him and them. So then, it is a coming on our part, and yet a drawing on his part: “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him:” it is a drawing on his part, and a running on our part: “Draw me, we will run after thee.” It is an approaching on our part, and yet a “choosing and causing to approach on his part.” It is a believing or receiving on our part: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;” and yet “it is given us to believe.”

CHAP. II.

SECT. I.–What it is to close with God’s Device of saving Sinners by Christ Jesus, and that it is a necessary Duty.

Having premised these things, I say, If men do not find in themselves the marks of a saving interest in Christ, spoken of in the former part of the Treatise; then, for securing their state, they are obliged, with all diligence, personally and heartily to accept of and close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, held out in the gospel.

In handling of this, we shall,

I. Show what it is to accept of and close with that noble plan.

II. We shall show that it is the necessary duty of these who would be in favour with God, and secure their souls.

III. What is previously required of those who perform this duty.

IV. What are the qualifications and properties of this duty, if rightly managed.

V. What are the native consequences of it, if it be performed aright.

I. As for the First, What it is to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, held out in the gospel. Here we must remember, as we showed before, that at first God willed man to abide In his favour, by holding fast his first integrity in which he was created; but man by his transgression lost God’s favour, made void that covenant of works, and put himself into an utter incapacity to regain the Lord’s friendship, which he had lost by his sin, and to rescue himself from the curse and wrath now due to him for sin, or any way to procure his own salvation: but the Lord hath freely manifested another way of repairing man’s lost estate, that is, by sending his Son Christ Jesus in the flesh, to satisfy his justice for the sins of the elect, and to restore in them his image now defaced, and to bring them unto glory; and he hath made open proclamation in the church, that whosoever will lay aside all thoughts of saving themselves by the covenant of works, or inherent righteousness, and will agree heartily to be saved by Christ Jesus, they shall be restored to a better condition than formerly man was in, and shall be saved. So then, to close with God’s device of saving sinners by Christ Jesus, is to quit and forego all thoughts of help of salvation by our own righteousness, and to agree to this way which God hath found out; it is to value and highly esteem Christ Jesus as the treasure sufficient to enrich poor man, and with the heart to believe this record, that there is life enough in him for men; it is to be pleased with this invention, and to acquiesce in it, as the only way to true happiness: it is to point towards this Mediator, as God holds him out in the gospel, with a desire to lay the stress of our whole state on him. This is that which is called faith, or believing, the “receiving of Christ,” or “believing on his name.” This is that “believing on the Lord Jesus Christ,” commanded to the jailer for his safety; this agreeth to all the descriptions of justifying faith in the Scripture. This doth answer the type of “looking to the brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness,” and this is supposed in all these ordinary actings of faith to which promises are annexed in the Scripture; and will be found in all who have got the new heart from God, and it will be found in none else.

II. As to the Second thing, namely, That this is the necessary duty of all such who would be in favour with God and secure their souls; it appears thus:

1. This closing with God’s device, or believing in Christ, is commanded every where in Scripture by the Lord as the condition of the new covenant, giving title and right to all the spiritual blessings of the covenant; for it is, upon the matter, the receiving of Christ. This is commanded, whilst God bids men “come and buy,” that is, appropriate all, by closing with that device: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The weary are commanded to come unto him thus, for their rest: “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” This is enough to prove it a duty incumbent. But further, it is such a duty as only gives title and right to a sonship; for only they who receive him are privileged to be sons: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

2. It appears to be the necessary duty of all, thus: No less than this doth give an opportunity for God, offering himself to be our God in Christ; and no less than this doth answer our profession, as we are in covenant with him, as members of his visible church. The Lord offereth to be our God in Christ; if we do not close with the offer, laying aside all thoughts of other ways by which we may attain to happiness, we give no opportunity to him. He saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” If we close not with the offer, we give no answer to God. Moreover, we are all “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins;” now, unless we close with Christ, as we said, we falsify that profession; therefore, since this is the thing which doth answer God’s offer in the gospel, and maketh good our profession, as members of his church, it is a necessary duty lying upon us.

3. Whatsoever a man hath else, if he do not thus close with God’s device concerning Christ Jesus, and do not receive him, it doth not avail, either as to the accepting of his person, or of his performances, or as to the saving of his soul. Men are accepted only in Christ the beloved: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Abel and his offering are accepted by faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” and “He that believeth not is condemned already, and shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” For want of this, no external title doth avail: “the children of the kingdom are cast out,” if this be wanting. The people of Israel are like other Heathens, in regard of a graceless state, lying “open to the wrath of God:” “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all shew which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Egypt, and Judah, and Edom for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.” If men do not believe that he who was slain at Jerusalem, who was called Christ Jesus, and witnessed unto by the prophets, and declared to be the Son of God by many mighty works: I say, if men do not believe that he is the way, and close not with him as the only way, they shall die in their sins: “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

We say, then, it is a most necessary duty thus to close with Christ Jesus, as the blessed relief appointed for sinners. Every one who is come to years of understanding, and heareth this gospel, is obliged to take to heart his own lost condition, and God’s gracious offer of peace and salvation through Christ Jesus, and speedily to flee from the wrath to come, by accepting and closing with this offer, heartily acquiescing therein as a satisfying way for the saving of lost sinners. And, that all may be the more encouraged to set about this duty, when they hear him praying them to be reconciled unto him, let them remember that peace and salvation is offered to the people in universal terms, to all without exception: “If any man will,” he shall be welcome. If any thirst, although after that which will never profit, yet they shall be welcome here, on the above-mentioned condition: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat: yea, come buy wine and milk without money, and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” All are “commanded to believe.” “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ. The promises are to all who are externally called by the gospel. God excludes none, if they do not exclude themselves: “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” So that if any have a mind for the thing, they may come forward, “he will in nowise cast them out;” being “able to save to the uttermost them who come to God through him.” And those who have long delayed to take this matter to heart had now the more need to look to it, lest what belongs to their peace be hid from their eyes. But all these words will not take effect with people, until “God pour out his Spirit from on high,” to cause men approach to God in Christ; yet we must still press men’s duty upon them, and entreat and charge them by the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, and their reckoning to him in that day, that they give the Lord no rest, until he send out that “Spirit, which he will give to them who ask it,” and cause them know what belongs to their peace, and bring them to their duty.

SECT. II. What is previously required of those that would believe on Christ Jesus.

III. WE come now to speak of the Third thing, which is previously required of those who are to perform this duty. Men must not rashly, inconsiderately, and ignorantly, rush in upon this matter, saying, they are pleased with that device of saving sinners by Christ, and will acquiesce and rest on him for safety. Often men do deceive themselves here, and do imagine that they have done the thing. We shall therefore hold out some things pre-required in a person who is to close with Christ Jesus; which; although we offer noir as positive qualifications, fitting a man for Christ that way: “Come–without money, and without price;” yet they are such things, as without them a man cannot knowingly and cordially perform the duty of believing on Christ Jesus.

Besides the common principles which are to be supposed in those who live under gospel-ordinances; as the knowledge that men have immortal souls; that soul and body will lie united again at the last day; that there is a heaven and hell, one of which will be the everlasting portion of all men; that the Old and New Testament is the true word of God, and the rule of faith and manners; that every man is by nature void of the grace of God, and is an enemy to God, and an heir of condemnation; that reconciliation is only by the Mediator Christ Jesus; that faith unites unto him, and is the condition of the new covenant; that holiness is the fruit of true faith, and is to be followed, as that without which no man shall see God; I say, besides these things, the knowledge of which is necessary, it is required of him who would believe on Christ Jesus,

First, That he take to heart his natural condition: and here he must know some things, and also be very serious about them; I say, he must know some things; as,

1. That as he was born a rebel and outlaw unto God, so he hath by many actual transgressions disobeyed God, and ratified the forfeiture of his favour: yea, a man should know many particular instances of his rebellion in every way; as that he is a liar, Sabbath-breaker, blasphemer, or the like; as Paul speaketh very particularly of himself afterwards: “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.”

2. The man must know that the wrath of God, denounced in Scripture, is standing in force against those very sins of which he is guilty, and so, consequently, he is the party undoubtedly against whom God, who cannot lie, hath denounced war. A man must know, that when the Scripture saith, “Cursed is he that offereth a corrupt thing unto God,” it speaketh against him for his superficial service performed unto God with the outward man, when his heart was far off. When the word saith, “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain,” the man must know it speaketh against himself, who hath often carelessly profaned that dreadful name, before which all knees should bow,” and “which his enemies do take in vain.” When the word saith, “Cursed is he that doth the work of the Lord negligently,” the man must know that it speaks against himself, who hath irreverently, with much wandering of heart and drowsiness, heard the word preached; and without sense, faith, or understanding, hath often prayed before him. When the word saith, “Woe be unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, and putteth his bottle to him, to make him drunk also, that he may look on his nakedness,” the man must know that it is spoken against himself, who hath gloried in making his neighbour drunk, and that dreadful wrath is determined by the Lord against him, according to that Scripture. When the word saith, “God will judge unclean persons,” and will exclude them from the “New Jerusalem, and they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” the man must know that the Scripture speaketh these very words against him, he being an unclean person; so that he is the person against whom the curses of the law do directly strike.

3. A man must know that he hath nothing of his own to procure his peace, and to set him free from the hazard under which he lieth; because “all his righteousness is as an unclean thing.” His prayers, his other service done to God, his alms-deeds, &c. are not acceptable before God, since they came not from a right principle in his heart, and were not performed in a right way, nor upon a right account, nor for a right end; his “sacrifices have been an abomination unto God.”

4. He must know, that as he is void of all the saving graces of the Spirit, as the true love of God, the true fear of his naive, godly sorrow for sin, &c. so particularly, that he wants faith in Christ, who taketh away the sins of all them who believe on him. Until a man know this, he will still leave all his debt and burden, without care or regard any where else, before he bring it to the surety.

Now, not only must a man know these things, as I said before, but must also very seriously take them to heart; that is to say, he must be affected with these things, and be in real earnest about them, as he useth to be in other cases, in which he useth to be most serious; yea, he should be more in earnest here, than in other cases, because it is of greater concern unto him. This seriousness produces,

1st, A taking of salvation to heart more than any thing else. Shall men be obliged to “seek first the kingdom of God?” Is there but “one thing necessary?” Shall Paul “count all things loss and dung” for this matter? Is a man a gainer, “gaining all the world, if he lose his soul?” Shall this, be the only ground of joy, “that men’s names are written in the book of life?” and shall not men, who would be reckoned serious, take their soul and salvation more to heart than any thing else? Surely it cannot fail. Let none deceive themselves. If the hazard of their soul, and the salvation thereof, and how to be in favour with God, hath not gone nearer to their heart than any thing in the world beside, it cannot be presumed, upon just grounds, that they ever know sin or God, or the eternity of his wrath, aright.

2d, This seriousness breaks the man’s heart, and makes the stoutness of it faint, and leads it out to sorrow, as one doth for a first-born. I grant their sorrow will better suit that Scripture afterwards, when they apprehend Christ pierced by their sins.

3d, It leads the man to a self-loathing: A man taking up himself so, cannot but loathe himself for his abominations, whereby he hath destroyed himself. There is somewhat of that spirit of revenge, which is mentioned as a fruit of true repentance: “This self-same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you–yea, what revenge?”

4th, This seriousness makes the man peremptory to find relief; since it is not in himself, he dare not put off and delay his business as before: and this is indeed required, that he find himself so pursued and urged to it, that he flee for refuge somewhere. I grant some have a higher and some a lesser degree of this seriousness, as we showed in the former part of this Treatise: but if we speak of the Lord’s ordinary way of working with those who are come to age, we say, they must very seriously take their soul’s state to heart, despairing of help in themselves, “since the whole need not a physician, but those who are sick.” As for the measure, we plead only that which probably supposes that a man will be induced thereby to transact cordially with Christ, on any terms he offers himself to be closed with.

The second thing pre-required of him who would believe on Christ Jesus is, he must know and take to heart the way of escape from God’s wrath: the Spirit must convince him of that righteousness. Here a man must understand somewhat distinctly, that God hath devised a way to save poor lost man by Jesus Christ, whose perfect righteousness hath satisfied offended justice, and procured pardon and everlasting favour to all those whom he persuadeth, by this gospel, to accept of God’s offer: “Be it known unto you therefore–that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” So that no person is excluded, of whatsoever rank or condition, whatsoever hath been his former way, unless he be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is a malicious hatred and rejection of the remedy appointed for sinners, as we shall hear: for, all manner of sin is forgiven unto those who accept of the offer in God’s way: “He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God through him.”

The third thing pre-required is, A man must know, that as God hath net excluded him from the relief appointed, so he is willing to be reconciled unto men through Christ, and hath obliged men to close with him through Christ Jesus, and so to appropriate that salvation to themselves. He not only invites all to come–“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price,”–and welcometh all that come, as we find in the gospel, and commandeth those who come as the centurion, and the woman of Canaan, and chideth for not coming and closing with him: “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life;” and condemneth for not closing so with him: “He that believeth not is condemned already;” but also he commandeth all to believe on Christ: “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” So that a man is not to question the Lord’s willingness to receive men who go to Christ honestly, for God hath abundantly cleared that in Scripture. Unless a man know so much, he will scarcely dare to lay his heart open for that noble device of saving sinners, or adventure the whole weight of his salvation upon Christ Jesus.

The fourth thing pre-required is, The man who would close with Christ Jesus must resolve to break all covenants with hell and death: “Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.” Whatsoever known evil men are engaged in, they must resolve to forego it: “for there is no concord between Christ and Belial.” The Lord requireth that they who would expect “him to be for them, should not be for another.” This is far from evangelical repentance, which I grant doth not precede a man’s closing with Christ by faith there is little here beyond a disregard of these things to which a man was formerly devoted, and a slighting what he was mad upon, because he seeth himself destroyed thereby, and relief now offered: upon which his heart begins to be more intent than formerly it was. After this, when Christ is looked upon alone, his worth and beauty doth appear, so that among all the gods there is none like unto him, and he appeareth as a sufficient covering of the eyes to all who get him: upon which the heart loves God’s device in the new covenant, and loves to lay its weight upon Christ rather than any other way, bending towards him; and so the man becomes a believer.

Now, I will not say that all these things of which we have spoken, are formally, orderly, and distinctly, found in every person before he close with God in Christ; for the way of the heart with Christ may be added to “the four wonderful things.” It is difficult to trace the heart in its translation from darkness to light; yet we hold out the most ordinary and likely way to him who asks the way; debarring thereby ignorant and senseless persons from meddling, and discharging them to pretend to any interest in him while they remain such.

SECT. III. The Properties and native Consequences of true Believing.

IV. THE Fourth thing we proposed to speak to is, The properties of this duty, when rightly gone about. I shall only mention a few.

1. Believing on Christ must be personal; a man himself, and in his own proper person, must close with Christ Jesus: “The just shall live by his faith.” This saith, that it will not suffice for a man’s safety and relief, that he is in covenant with God as a born member of the visible church, by virtue of the parent’s subjection to Gods ordinances neither will it suffice that the person had the initiating seal of baptism added, and that he then virtually engaged to seek, salvation by Christ’s blood, as all infants do: neither doth it suffice that men are come of believing parents; their faith will not instate their children into a right to the spiritual blessings of the covenant: neither will it suffice that parents did in some respect engage for their children, and give them away to God; all these things do not avail. The children of the kingdom and of godly predecessors are cast out; unless a man, in his own person, put forth faith in Christ Jesus, and with his own heart be pleased and acquiesce in that device of saving sinners, he cannot be saved. I grant, this faith is given unto him by Christ; but certain it is, that it must be personal.

2. This duty must be cordial and hearty: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” A man must be sincere, and without guile, in closing with Christ, judging him the only covering of the eyes, not hankering after another way. The matter must not swim only in the head or understanding, but it must be in the heart; the man not only must be persuaded that Christ is the way, but affectionately persuaded of it, loving and liking the thing, having complacency in it; so that “it is all a man’s desire,” as David speaketh of the covenant. If a man be cordial and affectionate in any thing, surely he must be so here in this “one thing that is necessary.” It must not be simply a fancy in the head, it must be a heart-business, a soul-business; yea, not, a business in the outer court of the affections, but in the flower of the affections, and in the innermost, cabinet of the soul, where Christ is formed. Shall a man be cordial in any thing, and not in this, which comprises all his chief interests and his everlasting state within it? Shall “the Lord be said to rejoice over a man as a bridegroom rejoiceth over his bride,” and to “rest in his love with joy?” and shall not the heart of man go out and meet him here? The heart or nothing; love or nothing; marriage-love, which goeth from heart to heart; love of espousals, or nothing: “My son, give me thine heart.” “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” I will not say that there is in all, as soon as they believe, a prevailing sensible love, which maketh sick; but there must be in believing, a rational and kindly love, so well-grounded, and deeply engaging, that many waters cannot quench it. It is strong as death, and jealousy in it burneth as fire.”

3. The third property or qualification of believing, as it goeth out after Christ, is that it must be rational. By this I mean, that the man should move towards God in Christ, in knowledge and understanding, taking up God’s device of saving sinners by Christ as the Scripture holds it out; not fancying a Christ to himself otherwise than the gospel speaketh of him, nor another way of relief by him than the word of God holdeth out. Therefore we find knowledge joined to the covenant between God and man as a requisite: “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” I mean here also, that a man be in calmness of spirit, and, as it were, in his cold blood, in closing with Christ Jesus; not in a simple fit of affection, which soon vanisheth: “He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;” nor in a distemper through some outward distress, as the people were: “When he slew them, then they sought him–and proved not steadfast in the covenant;” nor under a temptation of some outward temporary interest, as Simon Magus was when he believed. A man must act here rationally, as being master of himself, in some measure able to judge of the good or evil of the thing as it stands before him.

4. The fourth is faith; as it goeth out rationally, so it goeth out resolutely. The poor distressed people in the gospel did most resolutely cast themselves upon Christ. This resoluteness of spirit is in respect to all difficulties that lie in the way; violence is offered to these. The man whose heart is a laying out for Christ Jesus, cannot say, “There is a lion in the street.” If he cannot have access by the door, he will break through the roof of the house, with that man–“And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the house-top, and let him down through the tiling, with his couch, into the midst before Jesus.” He often does not regard that which the world calls discretion or prudence, like Zaccheus climbing up on a tree to see Christ, when faith was forming in his bosom. This resoluteness of spirit looks forward to what inconveniencies may follow, and disregards all these; at least, resolving over all these, like a “wise builder, who reckoneth the expense before-hand.” This resoluteness is also in regard to all a man’s idols, and such weights as would easily beset him, if he did not follow after Christ over them all, like that blind man who cast his garment from him when Christ called him. This resoluteness in the soul proceedeth from desperate self-necessity within the man, as it was with the railer, and from the sovereign command of God, obliging the man to move towards Christ. “This is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ;” and from the good report gone abroad of God, that “he putteth none away that come unto him through Christ, but commends such as do adventure over the greatest difficulties, as the woman of Canaan. But, above all, this resoluteness doth proceed from the arm of JEHOVAH, secretly and strongly drawing the sinner towards Christ “No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.”

I will not say, that every one, closing with Christ in the offers of the gospel, has all the above thoughts formally in his mind; yet, upon search, it will be found, if he be put to it, or put in mind of these things, they are then uppermost in the soul.

From what is said, it manifestly appears, that many in the visible church had need to do some what further for securing of their soul, when they come to years of discretion, than is found to have been done by them before, in the covenant between God and the church, sealed to them in baptism.

From what is said also, there is a competent guard upon the free grace of God in the gospel; held out through Christ Jesus; so that ignorant, senseless, profane men cannot, with any shadow of reason, pretend to an interest in it. It is true, believing in Christ, and closing with him as a perfect saviour, seems easy, and every godless man saith, that he believes on him: but they deceive themselves, since their soul has never cordially, rationally, and resolutely gone out after Christ Jesus, as we have said. It may be, some wicked men have been enlightened, and have found some disturbance in their fear—Felix trembled: or in their joy–“He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it”–and “Herod heard John gladly;” but not “having engaged their heart in approaching to God,” have either sitten down in that common work, as their sanctuary, until the trial came–“When tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended;” or “they return back with the dog to their vomit,” from which they had in some measure “escaped, by the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour;” or they utterly fall away to the hatred and malicious despising and persecuting of Christ and his interests, “from whence hardly can they be recovered:” “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” “For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.–Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite into the Spirit of grace?” Which things sold provoke men to be serious in this great business.

We come now to speak to the Fifth thing proposed; and that is, What are the native consequences of true believing? I shall reduce what I will speak of them to these two; namely, Union with God, and Communion. First, then, I say, when a sinner closes with Christ Jesus, as has been stated, there is presently an admirable union, a strange oneness, between God and the man. As the husband and wife, head and body, root and branches, are not to be reckoned two, but one; so Christ, or God in Christ, and the sinner closing with him by faith, are one: “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,” &c. “He that is so joined unto the Lord, is one spirit.” “As the Father is in the Son, and Christ in the Father; so believers are one in the Father, and the Son: they we one, as the Father and the Son are one. The Father in Christ, and Christ in believers, that they may be made perfect in one.” O what a strange interweaving, and indissoluble union there!

Because of this union betwixt God and the believer,

1. They can never hate one another. Henceforth, the Lord will never hate the believer: “As no man hateth his own flesh at any time, but cherisheth and nourisheth it,” so doth Christ his people. He may be angry, so as to correct and chastise the man that is a believer; but all he doth to him is for his good and advantage. “All the Lord’s paths must be mercy and truth to him.” “All things must work together for good to him.” On the other side, the believer can never hate God maliciously; for “he that is born of God sinneth not.” For the Lord hath resolved and ordained things so, that his hand shall undoubtedly so be upon all believers for good, that they shall never get leave to hate him, and be so plucked out of his hand.

2. Because of this union, there is a strange sympathy and fellow-feeling between God and the believer. “The Lord is afflicted with the man’s affliction.” He doth tenderly, carefully, and seasonably resent it, as if he were afflicted with it. “He who toucheth the believer, toucheth the apple of the Lord’s eye.” “He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities;” and “precious in his sight is their blood.” In a word, what is done to them, is done unto him; and what is not done unto them, is not done unto him: “He that receiveth you, receiveth me.” “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.–In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” On the other part, “the zeal of his house” worketh in the heart of the believer. “The Lord’s reproach” lighteth on the believer. If it go well with his affairs, that is the business of his people. So there is a strange sympathy between God and believers, all by virtue of the union between them because of which, men should hate every thing which would compete with him in their love or affections, and should disdain to be slaves to the creatures, since these are the servants of their Lord and husband, and their servants through him. What a hateful thing for a queen to have evil intercourse with the servants of her prince and, husband: it is also a shame for a believer to be “afraid of evil tidings,” since the Lord, with whom he is one, alone ruleth all things, “and doth whatsoever pleaseth him in heaven and earth.” “All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” “Surely he shall not be moved for ever, he shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord; his heart is established, he shall not be afraid.” “Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he pleased.”

The other great consequence of believing, is an admirable unparalleled communion, by virtue of which,

1. The parties themselves belong each to the other. The Lord is the God of his people: he himself, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is their God, in all his glorious attributes; his justice as well as his mercy; his wisdom, power, holiness, &c. for he becomes the God of his people, as he often speaks in the covenant. On the other part, the believers are his people. In their very persons they are his, as the covenant doth speak; they shall be his people; their head, their heart, their hand, &c. whatsoever they are, they are his.

2. By virtue of this communion they have a mutual interest in one another’s whole goods and property, in as far as can be useful. All the Lord’s word belongs to the believer, threatenings as well as promises, for their good; all his ways, all his works of all sorts, special communications, death, devils, even all things, in so far as can be useful: “All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” On the other side, all that belongs to the believer is the Lord’s; heritage, children, life, wife, credit, &c. all is at his disposing; if any of these can be useful to him, the believer is to forego them, else he falsifies that communion, and declares himself, in so far, unworthy of Christ; “If any man come to me, and hate not his father–yea, and his life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

3. By virtue of this communion, there should be much intimacy and familiarity between God and the believer. The Lord may interfere with any thing which belongs to the believer, and do unto him what seemeth good to him; and the man is not to mistake, or say unto God, “What dost thou?” except in so far as concerns his duty; yea, he is still to say, in every case, “Good is the word and will of the Lord.” On the other part, the believer may, in a humble way, be homely and familiar with God in Christ; he may “come with boldness to the throne of grace,” and not use a number of compliments in his addresses unto God; for “he is no more a stranger unto God,” so that he needs not speak unto God as one who has acquaintance to make every hour, as many professors do; which makes a great inconsistency in their religion.

The believer also may lay open all his heart unto God: “I have poured out my soul before the Lord,” and impart all his secrets unto him, and all his temptations, without fear of a mistake. The believer also may inquire into what God doth, in so far as may concern his own duty, or in so far as may ward of mistakes respecting the Lord’s way, and reconcile it with his words; so Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; but I will maintain mine own ways before him.” The believer is a friend in this respect, as “knowing what the Master doth.”

The believer also may be homely with God, to go to him daily with his failings, and seek repentance, pardon, and peace, through Christ’s advocacy: “Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins:” “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” O how often in one day may the believer plead pardon, if he intend not to mock God, or to turn grace into licentiousness! The Lord hath commanded men to “forgive seventy times seven times in one day;” and has intimated there in the parable, “of a King who took account of his servants,” how much more the Master will forgive.

The believer also may be homely to entrust God with all his outward concerns, for he doth care for these things: “If God so clothe the grass of the field–shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat; or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things:” “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” Yea, the believer may humbly require of God to be forthcoming to him in all such cases as beseemeth, and to help him to suitable fruit in every season, “even grace in time of need.” Yea, how great things may believers seek from him in Christ Jesus, both for themselves and others! “It we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:” “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do:” “Ask of me things to come concerning my sons; and concerning the work of my lands command ye me.” It is the shame and great prejudice of his people, that they do not improve that communion with God more than they do: Christ may justly upbraid them, “that they ask nothing in his name.”

By what is said, it appears of how great consequence this duty of believing is, by which a man doses with Christ Jesus, whom the Father hath sealed, and given for a covenant to the people. It is so honourable to God, answering his very design, and serving his interest in the whole contrivance and manifestation of the gospel; and it is so advantageous to men, that Satan and an evil heart of unbelief do mightily oppose it, by moving objections against it. I shall hint some of the most common.

William Guthrie (1620-1665): The Christian’s Great Interest – 3/3

The Christian’s Great Interest

(The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ)

By

William Guthrie (1620-1665)

Copyright: Public Domain

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THE CHRISTIAN’S GREAT INTEREST (P 3 of 3)

CHAP. III.

Objections taken from a Man’s Unworthiness, and the heinousness of his Sin, answered.

Object. I AM so base, worthless, and weak of myself, that I think it were high presumption for me to meddle with Christ Jesus, or the salvation purchased with the price of his blood.

Answ. It is true, all the children of Adam are base and wicked before him, “who chargeth his angels with folly:” “All nations are less than nothing, and vanity before him.” There is such a disproportion between God and men, that unless he himself had devised that covenant, and of his own freewill had offered so to transact with men, it had been high treason for men or angels to have imagined that God should have humbled himself, and become a servant, and have taken on our nature, and have united it by a personal union to the blessed Godhead; and that he should have subjected himself to the shameful death of the cross; and all this, that men, who were rebels, should be reconciled unto God, and be made eternally happy, by being in his holy company for ever.

But I say, all this was his own device and free choice: yea, moreover, if God had not sovereignly commanded men so to close with him in and through Christ, no man durst have made use of that device of his: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.” So then, although with Abigail I may say, “Let me be but a servant, to wash the feet of the servants of my lord,” yet, since he hath in his holy wisdom devised that way, and knows how to be richly glorified in it: “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know–what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” “All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them;” and he hath commanded me, as I shall be answerable in the great day, to close with him in Christ: as I have stated, I dare not disobey, nor inquire into the reasons of his contrivances and commands, but must comply with the command, as I would not be found to “frustrate the grace of God,” and in a manner disappoint the gospel, and falsify “the record which God hath borne of his Son, that there is life enough in him for men,” and so “make God a liar,” and add that rebellion to all my former transgressions.

Object. I am a person singularly sinful, beyond any I know; therefore I dare not presume to go near to Christ Jesus, or look after that salvation which is through his righteousness.

Answ. Is your sin beyond the drunkenness and incest of Lot; adultery covered with murder in David; idolatry and horrid apostacy in Solomon; idolatry, murder, and witchcraft in Manasseh; anger against God and his way in Jonah; forswearing of Christ in Peter, after he was forewarned, and had vowed the contrary; bloody persecution in Paul, making the saints to blaspheme? &c. but woe to him who is emboldened to sin by these instances recorded in Scripture, and adduced here to the commendation of the free and rich grace of God, and to encourage poor penitent sinners to flee unto Christ. I say, are your sins beyond these? yet all these obtained pardon through Christ, as the Scripture doth show.

Know, therefore, that all sins are equal before the free grace of God, “who loveth freely,” and looketh not to less or more sin. If the person have a heart to “come unto him through Christ, then he is able to save to the uttermost.” Yea, it is more provoking before God, not to close with Christ when the offer comes to a man, than all the rest of his transgressions are; for: “he that believeth not hath made God a liar, in that record he hath borne of life in the Son.” “And he who doth not believe, shall be condemned for not believing on the Son of God.” That shall be the main thing in his duty; so that much sin cannot excuse a man, if he reject Christ; and refuse his offer; since God hath openly declared, that “this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ came to save sinners, whereof I am chief.” Even he who is chief of sinners in his own apprehension, is bound to believe and accept this saying.

Object. My sins have some aggravating circumstance’s beyond the same sins in other persons, which doth much terrify me.

Answ. What can the aggravations of thy sins be, which are not paralleled in the foregoing examples? Is thy sin against great light? so behooved many of these we spake of before. Was it against singular mercies and deliverances? so was that of Lot’s and Noah’s drunkenness. Was thy sin done with much deliberation? so was David’s, whilst he wrote the letter against Uriah. Was it against or after any singular manifestation of God? so was Solomon’s. Was it by a small and despicable temptation? so was that of Jonah and of Peter, if we consider the heinousness of their transgression. Hast thou reiterated the sin, and committed it over again? so did Lot, so did Peter, so did Jehoshaphat, in Joining with Ahab and Jehoram. Are there many gross sins concurring together in thee? so were there in Manasseh. Hast thou stood long out in rebellion? that, as the former, is thy shame; but so did the “thief on the cross;” he stood it out to the last hour. If yet “thou hast an ear to hear,” thou art commanded “to hear.” Although thou hast long “spent thy money for that which is not bread,” thou hast the greater need now to make haste, and to flee for refuge; and if thou do so, he shall welcome thee, and “in nowise cast thee out,” especially, since he hath used no prescription of time in Scripture. So that all those aggravations of thy sin will not excuse thy refusing the Lord’s offer.

Object. In all these instances given, you have not named the particulars of which I am guilty; nor know I any who ever obtained mercy before God, being guilty of such things as are in me.

Answ. It is difficult to condescend upon every particular transgression which may vex the conscience; yea, lesser sins than some of those I have mentioned may greatly disquiet, if the Lord awaken a sense of guilt. But, for thy satisfaction, I shall condescend upon some truths of Scripture, which do reach sins and cases more universally than any man can do particularly: “God pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin;” that is, all manner of sin. “If a man turn from all his wickedness, it shall no more be remembered, or prove his ruin.” “Him that cometh, he will in nowise cast out;” that is, whatsoever be his sins, or the aggravations of them. “Whosoever believeth shall have everlasting life;” that is, without exception of any sin, or any case. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him”–no man can sufficiently declare what is God’s uttermost.” “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men;” that is, there is no sort of sin, whereof one instance shall not be forgiven in one person or other, “except the sin against the Holy Ghost.” These and the like Scriptures carry away all sorts of sin before them: so that, let thy sins be what they will, or can be, they may be sunk in one of these truths; so that thy sin can be no excuse to thee for refusing the offer of peace and salvation through Christ, since “any man who will,” is allowed to “come and take.”

We will not multiply words: the great God of heaven and earth hath sovereignly commanded all who see their need of relief to betake themselves unto Christ Jesus, and to close cordially with God’s device of saving sinners by him, laying aside all objections and excuses, as they shall be answerable unto him in the day he shall judge the quick and the dead, and shall drive from his presence all those who would dare to say, their sins and condition were such as that they durst not adventure upon Christ’s perfect righteousness for their relief, notwithstanding of the Lord’s own command often interposed, and in a manner his credit engaged.

CHAP. IV.

Of the Sin against the Holy Ghost.

Object. I SUSPECT I am guilty of the “sin against the Holy Ghost,” and so am incapable of pardon; and therefore I need not think of believing on Christ Jesus for the saving of my soul.

Answ. Although none should charge, this sin on themselves, or on others, unless they can prove and make clear the charge according to Christ’s example, “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Yet, for satisfying the doubt, I shall,

1. Show what is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, properly so called, because there be some gross sins which people do unwarrantably judge to be this unpardonable sin.

2. I shall show what is the sin against the Holy Ghost.

3. I shall draw some conclusions in answer directly to the objection.

I. As for the first, There be many gross sins, which although, as all other sins, they be sins against the Holy Ghost, who is God equal and one with the Father and the Son, and are done against some of his operations and motions; yet are they not “the sin against the Holy Ghost,” which is the unpardonable sin. As,

1. Blaspheming of God under bodily tortures is not that sin; for some saints fell into this: “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme;”–much less blaspheming of God in a fit of distraction or frenzy: for a man is not a free rational agent at that time: and “he that spareth his people, as a father doth the son that serveth him–and pitieth them that fear him, as a father pitieth his children,” so doth he spare and pity in these rovings; for so would our fathers according to the flesh do, if we blasphemed them in a fit of distraction. Much less are horrid blasphemies against God darted in upon the soul, and not allowed there, this unpardonable sin; for such things were offered to Christ, and are often cast in upon the saints,

2. The hating of good in others, whilst I am not convinced that it is good, but in my light do judge it to be evil; yea, the speaking against it, yea, the persecuting of it in that case, is not the sin against the Holy Ghost; for all these will be found in Paul before he was converted; and he obtained mercy, because he did these things ignorantly.

3. Heart-rising at the prosperity of others, in the work and way of God whilst I love it in myself; yea, the rising of heart against Providence, which often expresses itself against the creatures nearest our hand; yea, this rising of heart entertained and maintained, (although they be horrid things leading towards that unpardonable sin, yet) are not that sin; for those may be in the saints, proceeding from self-love, which cannot endure to be darkened by another, and proceeding from some cross in their idol under a fit of temptation—the most part of all this was in Jonah.

4. Not only are not decays in what once was in the man, and falling into gross sins against light after the receiving of the truth, this unpardonable sin; for then many of the saints in Scripture were undone: but further, apostacy from much of the truth is not that sin; for that was in Solomon, and in the church of Corinth and Galatia: yea, denying, yea, forswearing of the most fundamental truth under a great temptation is not this sin; for then Peter had been undone.

5. As resisting, quenching, grieving, and vexing of the Spirit of God by many sinful ways, are not this unpardonable sin; for they are charged with those who are called to repentance in Scripture, and not shut out as guilty of this sin; so neither reiterating sin against light is the sin against the Holy Ghost, although it leads towards it; for such was Peter’s sin in denying Christ; so was Jehoshaphat’s sin in joining with Ahab and Jehoram.

6. Purposes and attempts of self-murder, and even purposes of murdering godly men, the party being under a sad fit of temptation; yea, actual self-murder, (although probably it often joins in the issue with this unpardonable sin,) which ought to make every soul look upon the very temptation to it with horror and abhorrence, yet it is not the sin against the Holy Ghost. The jailer intended to kill himself upon a worse account than many poor people do, in the sight and sense of God’s wrath, and of their own sin and corruption; yet that jailer obtained pardon; and Paul, before his effectual calling, was accessary unto the murder of many saints, and intended to kill more, as himself granteth: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and, being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.”

Although all these are dreadful sins, each of them deserving wrath everlasting, and not being repented of, bring endless vengeance; especially the last cuts off hope of relief, for aught that can be expected in an ordinary way; yet none of these is the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost: and so under any of these there is hope to him that hath an ear to hear the joyful sound of the covenant. All manner of such sin and blasphemy may be forgiven, as is clear in the Scripture, were these things are mentioned.

II. As for the second thing. Let us see what the sin against the Holy Ghost is. It is not a simple act of transgression, but a combination of many mischievous things, involving soul and body ordinarily in guilt. We thus describe it: “It is a rejecting and opposing of the chief gospel-truth, and way of salvation, made out particularly to a man by the Spirit of God, in the truth and good thereof; and that avowedly, freely, wilfully, maliciously, and despitefully, working hopeless fear.” There are three places of Scripture which speak most of this sin, and from thence we will prove every part of this description, in so far as may be useful to our present purpose; by which it will appear that none who have a mind for Christ need stumble at what is spoken of this sin in Scripture: “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”–“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to re, new them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”–“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

1. Then, let us consider the object about which this sin, or sinful acting of the man guilty thereof, is conversant, and that is the chief gospel-truth and way of salvation; both which come to one thing. It is the way which God hath devised for saving sinners by Jesus Christ the promised Messiah and Saviour, by whose death and righteousness men are to be saved, as he hath held him forth in the ordinances, confirming the same by many mighty works in Scripture tending thereto. This way of salvation is the object. The Pharisees oppose this, that Christ was the Messiah; “And all the people said, Is not this the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” The wrong is done against the Son of God; “It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame:”–and against the blood of the covenant, and the Spirit graciously offering to apply these things: “Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith be was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?”

2. In the description, consider the qualification of this object. It is singularly made out to the party by the Spirit of God, both in the truth and good thereof. This saith,

1st, That there must be knowledge of the truth and way of salvation. The Pharisees knew that Christ was the heir: “But when they saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill him.” The party has knowledge: “But if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”

2d, That knowledge of the thing must not swim only in the head, but there must be some half-heart persuasion of it. “Christ knew the Pharisees’ thoughts,” and so did judge them, and that the opposite of what they Take was made out upon their heart. There is a tasting which is beyond simple enlightening: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come.” Yea, there is such a persuasion ordinarily as leads to a deal of outward sanctification: “Who hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were Sanctified, an unholy thing.”

3d, This persuasion must not only be of the truth of the thing, but of the good of it: the party “tasteth the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” and he apprehendeth the thing as eligible.

4th, This persuasion is not made out only by strength of argument, but also by an enlightening work of God’s Spirit, Shining on the truth, and making it conspicuous; therefore is that sin called, The sin against the Holy Ghost.” The persons are said to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” and to do despite unto the Spirit of grace,” who was in the nearest step of a gracious operation with them.

3. In this description, consider the acting of the party against the object so qualified. It is a rejecting and opposing of it; which importeth,

1st, That men have once, some way at least, been in hands with it, or had the offer of it, as is true of the Pharisees.

2d, That they do reject, even with contempt, what they had of it, or in their offer. The Pharisees deny it, and speak disdainfully of Christ: “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.–They fall away, intending to put Christ to an open shame.”

3d, The men set themselves against it by the spirit of persecution, as the Pharisees did still. They rail against it; therefore it is called “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.” They would “crucify Christ again,” if they could. They are adversaries.

4. Consider the properties of this acting.

1st, It is avowed, that is, not seeking to shelter or hide itself. The Pharisees speak against Christ publicly: “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” They would have “Christ brought to an open shame.” They forsake the ordinances which savour that way: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;”–and despise the danger; for “looking for indignation, they trample that blood still.”

2d, The party acteth freely. It is not from unadvisedness, nor from force or constraint, but an acting of free choice: nothing doth force the Pharisees to speak against and persecute Christ. They “crucify to themselves,” they re-act the murder of their own free accord, and in their own bosom, none constraining them. They sin of free choice, or, as the word may be rendered, spontaneously: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”

3d, It is acted wilfully. They are so resolute, they will not be dissuaded by any offer, or the most precious means, as is clear in the foregoing Scriptures.

4th, It is done maliciously, so that it proceeds not so much, if at all, from a temptation to pleasure, profit; or honour. It proceedeth not from fear, or force, or from any good end proposed, but out of heart-malice against God and Christ, and the advancement of his glory and kingdom: so that it is of the very nature of Satan’s sin, who has an irreconcilable hatred against God, and the remedy of sin, because his glory is thereby advanced. This is a special ingredient in this sin. The Pharisees are found guilty of heart-malice against Christ, since they spake so against him, and not against their own children’s casting out devils; and this is the force of Christ’s argument: “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?” They do their utmost “to crucify Christ again, and to bring him to an open shame.” They are adversaries, like the devil.

5Th, It is done despitefully; the malice must bewray itself. The Pharisees must proclaim that Christ hath correspondence with devils; he must be “put to an open shame, and crucified again;” they must “tread under foot that blood, and do despite to the Spirit:” so that the party had rather perish a thousand times than be in Christ’s debt for salvation.

5. The last thing in the description is, the usual attendant or consequence of this sin; it worketh desperate and hopeless fear. They fear him whom they hate with a slavish, hopeless fear, such as devils have: “A certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” They know that God will put out his power against them; they tremble in the remembrance of it; and if they could be above him, and destroy him, they would; and since they cannot reach that, they bate with the utmost of heart-malice, and do persecute him, and all that is his, with despite.

III. As for the third thing proposed, namely, the conclusions to be drawn from what is said, whereby we will speak directly to the objection.

1. As I hinted before, since the sin against the Holy Ghost is so remarkable, and may be well known where it is, none should charge themselves with it unless they can prove and make clear the charge; for it is a great wrong done unto God to labour to persuade my soul that he will never pardon me: it is the very way to make me desperate, and to lead me to the unpardonable sin; therefore, unless thou canst and dare say that thou dost hate the way which God has devised for the saving of sinners, and dost resolve to oppose the prosperity of his kingdom, both with thyself and others, out of malice and despite against God, thou oughtest not to suspect thyself guilty of this sin.

2. Whatsoever thou hast done against God, if thou dost repent it, and wish it were undone, thou cannot be guilty of this sin; for in it heart-malice and despite against God do still prevail.

3. If thou art content to be his debtor for pardon, and would be infinitely obliged to him for it, then thou cannot, in that case, be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; for, as we showed before, they who are guilty of it do so despise God, that they would not be his debtors for salvation.

4. Whatsoever thou hast done, if thou hast a desire after Jesus Christ, and float look with a grieved heart after him, and cannot think of parting with his blessed company for ever; or, if thou must part with him, yet dost wish well to him, and all his, thou needest not suspect thyself to be guilty of this unpardonable sin; for there can be no such hatred of him in thy bosom as is necessarily required to make up that sin.

5. If thou would be above the reach of that sin, and secure against it for ever, then go work up thy heart to be pleased with salvation by Christ Jesus, and to close with God in him, acquiescing in him as the sufficient ransom and rest, as we have been pressing before, and yield to him to be saved in his way. Do this in good earnest, and thou shalt be for ever put out of the reach of that deadly thing with which Satan doth affright so many poor seekers of God.

CHAP. V.

Objections, taken from Want of Power to believe, and Unfruitfulness, answered.

Object. Although I be not excluded from the benefit of the new covenant, yet it is not in my power to believe on Christ; for faith is the gift of God, and above the strength of flesh and blood.

Answ. It is true, that saving faith, by which alone a man can heartily close with God in Christ, is above our power, and is the gift of God, as we said before in the premises: yet remember,

1. The Lord hath left it as a duty upon all who hear this gospel cordially by faith, to close with his offer of salvation through Christ, as is clear in the Scripture. And you must know, that although it be in our power to perform that duty of ourselves, yet the Lord may justly condemn us for not performing it, and we are inexcusable; because at first he made man perfectly able to do whatsoever he should command.

2. The Lord commanding this thing which is above our power, wills us to be sensible of our inability to do the thing, and would have us to put him to work it in us. He hath promised to give the new heart, and he hath not excluded any from the benefit of that promise.

3. The Lord uses, by these commands and invitations, and men’s meditations on them, and their supplication about the thing, to convey power to the soul to perform the duty.

Therefore, for answer to the objection, I do entreat thee, in the Lord’s name, to lay to heart these his commandments and promises, and meditate on them, and upon that blessed business of the new covenant, and pray unto God, as you can, over them, “for he will be inquired to do these things,” and lay thy cold heart to that device of God expressed in the Scripture, and unto Christ Jesus, who is given for a covenant to the people, and look to him for life and quickening. Go and endeavour to be pleased with that salvation in the way God doth offer it, and to close with, and rest on, Christ for it, as if all were in thy power; yet looking to him for the thing, as knowing that it must come from him; and if thou do so, “he who meets those who remember him in his ways,” will not be wanting on his part; and thou shalt not have ground to say, that thou movedst towards the thing until thou couldst do no more for want of strength, and so left it at God’s door: it shall not fail on his part, if thou have a mind for the business; yea, I may say, if by all thou hast ever heard of that matter, thy heart loveth it, and desireth to be engaged with it, thou hast it already performed within thee: so that difficulty is past before thou wast aware of it.

Object. Many who have closed with Christ Jesus, as has been stated, are still complaining of their leanness and fruitlessness, which makes my heart lay the less weight on that duty of believing.

Answ. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, as has been stated, you may not refuse it under any pretence. As for those complaints of some who have looked after him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say,

1. Many, by their jealousies of God’s love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them: “And he did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”

2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ “have found him a wilderness.” Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in these two great things, namely, how to be found in him in that day: “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” and how to show forth to his praise in the land of the living–“Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep thy word:” “Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living?” They find these two things aloft in the soul, and that is much. Moreover they shall, after search, if they judge aright, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that abundance of the creature cannot fill up: all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when he but breathes a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This saith, that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart. “Who is God but the Lord? worship him all ye gods.” Yea, further, those whose heart has closed with God in Christ, as has been said, will not deny that there have been seasonable preventings and quickenings now and then, when the soul was like to fail: “For thou preventest me with the blessings of thy goodness.” “When I said, My foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul.” Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.

CHAP. VI.

Of Covenanting with God.

Object. Although I judge it my duty to close with God’s device in the covenant, I am in the dark how to manage that duty: for sometimes God offers to be our God, without any mention of Christ, and, sometimes saith, that he will betroth us unto him; and in other places of Scripture, we are called to, come to Christ, and he is the Bridegroom. Again, God sometimes speaketh of himself as a Father to men, sometimes as a Husband; Christ is sometimes called the Husband, and sometimes a Brother;–which relations seem inconsistent, and do much put me in the dark how to apprehend God, when my heart would agree with him, and close with him.

Answ. It may be very well said, that men do come to God, or close with him, and yet they come to Christ, and close with him. They may be said to come under a marriage-relation to God, and to Christ also, who is husband, father, brother, &c. to them; and there is no such mystery here as some do conceive.

For the better understanding of it, consider these few things,

1. Although God made man perfect at the beginning, and put him in some capacity of transacting with him immediately–“God hath made man upright:” “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” &c.–yet man by his fall did put himself at such a distance from God, as to be in an utter incapacity to bargain or deal any more with him immediately.

2. The Lord did, after Adam’s fall, make manifest the new covenant, in which he did signify he was content to transact with man again, in and through a Mediator; and so appointed men to come to him through Christ: “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him;”–and to look for acceptation only in him: “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved;”–ordaining men to hear Christ, he being the only party in whom God was well pleased: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him.”

3. This matter is so clear, and supposed to be so prominent in the Scripture, and so manifest to all who are under the ordinances, that the Lord often speaks of transacting with himself, not making mention of the Mediator, because it is supposed that every one in the church knows that now there is no dealing, with God, except by and through Christ Jesus the Mediator.

4. Consider that Christ Jesus, God-man, is not only a fit place of meeting for God and men to meet in, and a fit mediator to treat between the parties now at variance: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself;”–but we may say also, he is immediate bridegroom; and so our closing or transacting with God may be justly called, the marriage of the King’s son, and the elect may be called the Lamb’s wife; Christ Jesus being, as it were, the hand which God holdeth out to men, and on which they lay hold when they deal with Goa. And so through and by Christ we close with God, as our God, on whom our soul doth terminate lastly and ultimately through Christ: “Who by him do believe in God that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.”

5. Consider that the various relations mentioned in Scripture are set down, to signify the sure and indissoluble union and communion between God and his people. Whatsoever connection is between head and members, root and branches, king and subjects, shepherd and flock, father and children, brother and brother, husband and wife, &c. all is here: “And they all shall he one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gayest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and host loved them, as thou hast loved me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” So that whatsoever is spoken in Scripture, people may be sure, that God calleth them to be reconciled unto him through Christ, and doth offer himself to be their God and husband in him alone: and men are to accept God to be their God in Christ, being pleased with that way of relief for poor man, and to give up themselves unto God in Christ, in whom alone they can be accepted. And they who close with Christ, they do close with God and him, who is in Christ, “reconciling the world to himself.” And we are not to dip further into the various relations mentioned in Scripture between God, or Christ, and men, than as they may point out union and communion, or nearness with God through Christ Jesus, and our advantage thereby.

These things being clear, we will not multiply words: but since to believe on Christ, is the great duty required of all that hear this gospel, we entreat every one in the Lord’s name, to whom the knowledge of this shall come, that, without delay, they take to heart their lost condition in themselves; and that they lay to heart the remedy which God hath provided by Jesus Christ, of which he hath made a free offer unto all who will be content with the same, and to be saved that way; and that they lay to heart, that there is no other way of escape from the wrath that is to come, to escape which, men would be glad, at the last day, to run into a lake of melted lead, to be hid from the face of the Lamb, whom they do here despise: we say, we entreat all, in the consideration of these things, to work up their hearts to this business, and to lay themselves open for God, and to receive him through Christ in the offers of the gospel, acquiescing in him as the only desirable and satisfying good, that so they may secure themselves. Go speedily, and search for his offers of peace and salvation in the Scripture, and work up your heart and soul to close with them, and with Christ in them, and with God in Christ; and do it so as you may have this to say, that you were serious, and in earnest, and cordial here, as ever you were in any thing to your apprehension: and, for aught you know, Christ is the choice of your heart, at least you neither know nor allow any thing to the contrary; upon which your heart doth appeal unto God, to search and try if there be aught amiss, to rectify it, and lead you into the right way.

Now, this cleaving of the heart unto him, and casting itself upon him, to be saved in his way, is believing; which doth indeed secure a man from the wrath that is to come, because now he had] received Christ, and believeth on him, and so shall not enter into condemnation, as saith the Scripture.

Object. When I hear what it is to believe on Christ Jesus, I think sometimes I have faith; for I dare say, to my apprehension, I am pleased with the method of saving sinners by Christ Jesus; my heart goes out after him, and terminates upon him, as a satisfying treasure; and I am glad to accept God to be my God in him; but I often do question if ever I have done so, and so am, for the most part, kept hesitating and doubting if I do believe, or be savingly in covenant with God.

Answ. It is usual for many, whose hearts are gone out after Christ in the gospel, and have received him, to bring the same in question again: therefore I shall advise one thing, as a notable help to fix the soul in the maintaining of faith and an interest in God, and that is, that men not only close heartily with God in Christ, as has been stated, but also, that they “expressly, explicitly, by word of mouth, and viva voce, formally close with Christ Jesus, and accept God’s offer of, salvation through him, and so make a covenant with God.” And this, by God’s blessing, may contribute not a little for establishing them concerning their saving interest in God.

Before speak directly to this express covenanting with God,” I premise these few things:–

1. I do not here intend a covenanting with God, essentially differing from the covenant between God and the visible church, as the Lord doth hold it out in his revealed will; neither do I intend a covenant differing essentially from the transacting of the heart with God in Christ, formerly spoken of: it is that same covenant: only it differs by a singular circumstance, namely, the formal expression of the thing, which, the heart did before practise.

2. I grant this express covenanting and transacting with God, is not absolutely necessary for a man’s salvation; for if any person close heartily and sincerely with God, offering himself in Christ in the gospel, his soul and state is thereby secured, according to the Scripture, although he utter not words with his mouth: but this express verbal covenanting with God is very expedient, for the wellbeing of a man’s state, and for his more comfortable maintaining an interest in Christ Jesus.

3. This express covenanting with God by word of mouth, is of no worth without sincere heart-closing with God in Christ joined with it; for without that, it is but a profaning of the Lord’s name, and a mocking of him to his face, so “to draw near to him with the lips, whilst the heart is far away from him.”

4. I grant, both cordial and verbal transacting with God, will not make out a man’s gracious state to him, so as to put and keep it above controversy, without the joint witness of the Spirit, by which we know what is freely given unto us of God yet this explicit way of transacting with God, joined with that heart-closing with him in Christ, contributes much for clearing up to a man, that there is a fixed bargain between God and him, and will do much to ward off from him many groundless jealousies and objections of an unstable mind and heart, which useth with shame to deny this hour what it did really act and perform the former hour. This explicit covenanting is as an instrument taken of what passed between God and the soul, and so has its own advantage for strengthening of faith.

As for this express covenanting, we shall, 1. Show that it is a very warrantable practice. 2. We shall show shortly what preparation is required of those who do so transact with God. 3. How men should go about that duty. 4. What should follow thereupon.

I. As to the first, I say, it is a warrantable practice, and an incumbent duty, expressly, and by word, to covenant with God; which appeareth thus:

1. In many places of Scripture, if we look to what they may bear, according to their scope, and the analogy of faith, God hath commanded it, and left it on people as a duty: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s.” “Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.” “Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth.” “They shall say, The Lord is my God.” “Thou shalt call me Ishi:”–in many places elsewhere. Now, since Gad hath so clearly left it on men in the letter of the word, they may be persuaded that it is a practice warranted and allowed by him, and well-pleasing unto him.

2. It is the approven practice of the saints in Scripture thus expressly to covenant with God, and they have found much comfort in that duty afterwards. David did often expressly say unto God, that he was his God, his portion, and that himself was his servant. Thomas will put his interest out of question with it: “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord, and my God.” Yea, I say, the saints are much comforted in remembrance of what hath passed that way between God and them: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” “I cried unto thee, O Lord, I said, Thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living.” We find it often so in the book of the Canticles. Now, shall the chief worthies of God be so much in a duty, which gives so much peace and satisfaction to them in many cases, and shall, we, under the New Testament, unto whom access is ministered abundantly, and who partake of the sap of the olive; shall we, I say, fall behind in this approven work of intercourse with God? Since we study to imitate that cloud of witnesses in other things, as faith, zeal, patience, &c. let us also imitate them in this.

3. The thing about which we speak here, is a matter of the greatest concern in all the world: “It is the life of our soul.” Oh! shall men study to be express, explicit, plain, and peremptory, in all their other great business, because they are such; and shall they not much more be peremptory and express in this, which doth most concern them? I wonder that many not only do not speak it with their mouth, but that they do not swear and subscribe it with their hand, and do not every thing for securing of God to themselves in Christ, and themselves unto God, which the Scriptures doth warrant: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”

This also may have its own weight, as an argument to press this way of covenanting, with God, that the business of an interest in Christ, and of real and honest transacting with him, is a thing which, in the experience of saints, is most frequently brought into debate and in question; therefore men had need of all the ways they can, even by thought, word, and deed, to put it to a point.

This also may be urged here for pressing this as a duty, that God is so formal, express, distinct, and legal, to say so, in all the business of man’s salvation; namely, Christ must be a near kinsman, to whom the right of redemption doth belong; he must be chosen, called, authorized, and sent; covenants formally drawn between the Father and him, the Father accepting payment and satisfaction, giving formal discharges, all done clearly and expressly. Shall the Lord be so express, plain, and peremptory in every part of the business, and shall our part of it rest in a confused thought, and we be as dumb beasts before him? If it were a marriage between man and wife, it would not be judged enough although there were consent in heart given by the woman, and known to the man, if she did never express so much by word, being in a capacity to do so. Now, this covenant between God and man is held out in Scripture as a marriage between man and wife: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in judgment, and in loving-kindness and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.”–“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” The whole Song of Solomon speaketh it. The Lord uses similitudes, to signify to us what he intends; and surely this is a special requisite in marriage, that the wife give an express and explicit consent to the business: the man saith, “So I take thee to be my lawful wife, and do oblige myself to be a dutiful husband.” The woman is obliged on the other part, to express her consent, and to say, “Even so I take thee to be my lawful husband, and do promise duty and subjection.” It is so here; the Lord saith, “I do betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt call me Ishi,” that is, my husband. I will be for thee as a head and husband, if “thou wilt not be for another.” The man ought to answer, and say, Amen, so be it, thou shalt be my God, my Head and Lord, and I shall and will be thine, and not for another: “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” And so this making of the covenant with God is called, “a giving of the hand to him,” as the word is: “Now, be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever; and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you:” which doth intimate a very express, formal, explicit, and positive bargaining with God. So, then, we conclude it to be an incumbent duty, and a very approven practice, necessary for the quieting of a man’s mind, and his more comfortable being in covenant with God, and more fully answering God’s condescendency and offer in that great and primary promise, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”

Not only may and should people thus expressly use with God in Christ, for fixing their heart; but they may, upon some occasions, renew this verbal transaction with God, especially when, through temptations, they are made to question if ever they have really and sincerely closed covenant with God. As they are then to exercise new acts of faith, embracing Christ as their desirable portion and treasure, and also upon other occasions, so it were expedient, especially if there remain any doubt concerning the thing, that by viva voce and express word, they determine that controversy, and “say of the Lord, and to him, that he is their refuge and portion.” We find the saints doing so; and we may imitate them. Especially,

1st, In the time of great backsliding, people were wont to renew the covenant with God, and we should do so also. Our heart should go out after Christ, in the promises of reconciliation with God: for he is our peace upon occasions, and our Advocate; and we are bound to apprehend him so, when we transgress: “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;”–and to express so much by word, as the saints did, in their formal renewing of the covenant.

2d, When people are in hazard, and difficulties are present or foreseen, then it were good that they should send out their heart after him, and express their adhering unto him, for securing their own heart. We find Joshua doing so, when he was to settle in the land of Canaan, in the midst of snares:–“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; for the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: and the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then be will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now therefore put away (said he) the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.”–So David doth in his straits: “In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be over-past.”

3. When men apprehend God to be at a distance from them, and their soul to be under withering and decay, then it is safest heartily to close with Christ, and embrace him by faith for the securing of the soul; and it were good to put it out of question by the expression of the thing. This is the ready way to draw sap from Christ the root, for the recovering of the soul, and for establishing the heart before him: The spouse, in the Song of Solomon, doth so, thus asserting her interest in him when in such a condition, professing and avowing him to be her beloved.

4. At the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, men should thus cordially close with God in Christ, and speak and express so much: for that is a feast of love; and then and there we come under a solemn profession of closing with God in Christ personally and openly, and do receive the seal of it. It is therefore beseeming, at that time, to bring up both heart and tongue to second and answer our profession, apprehending God to be his, and at his disposing.

We shall not confine the Lord’s people to times and seasons for this duty, the Lord may bind it upon them at his pleasure; only there is hazard, that by too frequent express covenanting with God, men turn too formal in it. Therefore it is not so fit that people should ordinarily at full length renew that explicit transaction with God, but rather to declare to God that they adhere unto the covenant made with him, and that they do maintain and will never revoke nor recall the same: and withal, they may hint the sum of it, in laying claim to God in Christ as their own God: and this they may do often, even in all their addresses to God. And, probably, this is the thing designed by the saints in their so ordinary practice in Scripture, whilst they assert their interest in God as their God and portion; and it is fit that men, in all their walk, hold their heart to the business, by heart-cleaving to God in Christ. “The life we live in the flesh should be by faith in the Son of God.”

II. As to the second thing, namely, what preparation is required of him who is expressly to transact with God here. Besides what we mentioned before, as previous to a man’s closing with Christ Jesus, we only add,

1. That he who would explicitly bargain with God, must know, that to do so is warranted and allowed by God, as we showed before. If this be wanting, a man cannot do it in faith, and so it will be sin unto him: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

2. The man must labour to bring up his heart to the thing, that it do not belie the tongue: it will be a great mocking of God so to 6, draw near him with the lips, whilst the heart is far off from him.”

III. The third thing to be considered in this express verbal covenanting with God, is the way how it is to be performed and managed. And besides what was said before in heart-closing with Christ, I add here,

1. The man should de it confidently; not only believing that he is about his duty when he doth it, but also, that God in Christ Jesus will accept his poor imperfect way of doing his duty: he doth “accept a man according to what he hath, if there be a willing mind.” A mite is accepted, since it is “all the poor woman’s substance.” Yea, if it can be attained, the man should believe that the issue and consequence of this transacting shall prove comfortable, and all shall be well; and that God, who engageth for all in the covenant (since he hath determined the man to this happy choice) will in some measure make him forthcoming, and will perfect what concerns him: “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” If this confidence be wanting, the matter will be done with much fear and jealousy, if not worse; and will still prove a disquieting business to the man.

2. It should be done holily. It is called “the holy covenant”–“the holy things of David.” Here it were fitting that what is done in this express transacting with God should not be done passingly, and by the bye, but in some special address unto God; the thing should be spoken unto the Lord: “I cried unto thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion.” It is beseeming, in so great a business, that a portion of time were set apart for confession and supplication before God; yea, also the person so transacting with God should labour to have high apprehensions of God’s greatness and sovereignty: “Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee, neither is there any god beside thee,”–although he thus humble himself to behold things in heaven and earth; and these high and holy thoughts of him will and should be attended with debasing and humbling thoughts of self, although admitted to this high dignity: is Then went King David in, and sat before the Lord; and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” It is no small thing to be allied unto, and with the great God of heaven, and his Son Christ; as David speaketh, when King Saul did offer his daughter unto him: “Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?” Yea, further, there should be special guarding and watching, that the heart keep spiritual in transacting with God. There is great reason for this holy way of performing the duty; for men are ready to mistake themselves, and to think of the Lord according to their own fancy, and to turn carnal in the business, since it is a marriage-transaction held out in all the ordinary expressions of love, as in the Song of Solomon.

IV. The fourth thing we shall speak of is, What should follow upon this express verbal covenanting with God. I say, besides that union and communion with God in Christ, following upon believing, if a man explicitly by word transact with God.

1. He should thenceforth be singularly careful to abide close with God, in all manner of conversation; for, if a man thenceforth do any thing unsuitable, he doth falsify his word before God, which will much wound his conscience, and prove a snare. If a man henceforth forsake God, and take on him to dispose of himself, since he is not his own, and hath opened his mouth unto the Lord, “he makes inquiry after vows, and devoureth that which is holy.”

2. He who so transacteth with God should hold steadfast that determination and conclusion. It is a shame for a man, whose heart hath closed with God, and whose mouth hath ratified and confirmed it solemnly before him, to contradict himself again, and to admit any thing to the contrary; he ought boldly to maintain the thing against all opposition.

Then, let me entreat you, who desire to be established in the matter of your interest in God, that, with all convenience, you set apart a portion of time for prayer before God, and labouring to work up your heart to seriousness, affection, and the faith of the duty, to make a covenant, and to transact with God by express words, after this manner:–

“O Lord, I am a lost and fallen creature by nature, and by innumerable actual transgressions, which I do confess particularly before thee this day: and although, being born within the visible church, I was from the womb in covenant with thee, and had the same sealed to me in baptism; yet, for a long time, I have lived without God in the world, senseless and ignorant of my obligation, by virtue of that covenant. Thou hast at length discovered to me, and impressed upon my heart, my miserable state in myself, and hast made manifest unto my heart the satisfying remedy thou hast provided by Christ Jesus, offering the same freely unto me, upon condition that I would accept of the same, and would close with thee as my God in Christ, warranting and commanding me, upon my utmost peril, to accept of this offer, and to flee unto Christ Jesus: yea, to my apprehension, now thou hast sovereignly determined my heart, and formed it for Christ Jesus; leading it out after him in the offers of the gospel, causing me to approach unto the living God, to close so with him, and to acquiesce in his offer, without any known guile. And that I may come up to that establishment of spirit in this matter, which should be to my comfort, and the praise of thy glorious grace; therefore, I am here this day to put that matter out of question by express words before thee, according to thy will. And now I, unworthy as I am, do declare, that I believe that Christ Jesus, who was slain at Jerusalem, was the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world; I do believe that record, that there is life eternal for men in him, and in him only; I do this day in my heart express myself pleased with, and acquiesce in that method of saving sinners by him, and do entrust my soul unto him: I do accept of reconciliation with God through him, and do close with thee as my God in him; I choose him in all that he is, and all that may follow him, and do resign up myself, and what I am, or have, unto thee; desiring to be divorced from every thing hateful unto thee, and that without exception, or reservation, or any thing consistent within my knowledge, or intended reversion. Here I give the hand to thee, and do take all things about me witnesses, that I, whatever I be, or have hitherto been, do accept of God’s offer of peace, through Christ; and do make a sure covenant with thee this day, never to be reversed, hoping that thou wilt make all things forthcoming, both on thy part and mine, seriously begging, as I desire to be saved, that my corruptions may be subdued, and my neck brought under thy sweet yoke in all things, and my heart made cheerfully to acquiesce in whatsoever thou doss unto me, or with me, in order to these ends. Now, glory be unto thee, O Father, who devised such a salvation, and gave the Son to accomplish it: glory be to Christ Jesus, who, at so clear a rate, did purchase the out-letting of that love from the Father’s bosom, and through whom alone this access is granted, and in whom I am reconciled unto God, and honourably united unto him, and am no more an enemy or stranger: glory to the Holy Ghost, who did alarm me when I was destroying myself, and who did not only convince me of my danger, but did also open my eyes to behold the remedy provided in Christ; yea, and did persuade and determine my wicked heart to fall in love with Christ, as the enriching treasure; and this day doth teach me how to covenant with God, and how to appropriate to myself all the sure mercies of David, and blessings of Abraham, and to secure to myself the favour and friendship of God for ever. Now, with my soul, heart, head, and whole man, as I can, I do acquiesce in my choice this day, henceforth resolving not to be my own, but thine; and that the care of whatever concerns me shall be on thee, as my Head and Lord: protesting humbly, that failings on my part (against which I resolve, thou knowest) shall not make void this covenant; for so hast thou said, which I intend not to abuse, but so much the more to cleave close unto thee: and I must have liberty to renew, ratify, and draw extracts of this transaction, as often as shall be needful. Now, I know thy consent to this bargain stands recorded in Scripture, so that I need no new signification of it; and I, having accepted thy offer upon thy own terms, will henceforth wait for what is good, and for thy salvation in the end. As thou art faithful, pardon what is amiss in my way of doing the thing, and accept me, in my sweet Lord Jesus, in whom I only desire pardon. And in testimony hereof, I set to my seal that God is true, in declaring him a competent Saviour.”

Let people covenant with God in fewer or more words, as the Lord shall dispose them: for we intend no form of words for any person; only it were proper that men should, before the Lord, acknowledge their lost state in themselves, and the relief that is by Christ; and that they do declare that they accept of the same as it is offered in the gospel, and do thankfully rest satisfied with it, entrusting themselves henceforth wholly unto God, to be saved his way, for which they wait according to his faithfulness.

If men would heartily and sincerely do this, it might, through the Lord’s blessing, help to establish them against many fears and jealousies; and they might date some good thing from this day and hour, which might prove comfortable to them when they fall in the dark afterwards, and even when many failings do stare them in the face, perhaps at the hour of death: “These be the last words of David–Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation; and all my desire.” It is much if a man can appeal unto God, and say, Thou knowest there was a day and an hour when in such a place I did accept of peace through Christ, and did deliver up my heart to thee, to write on it thy whole law without exception; heaven and earth are witnesses of it. “Remember the word unto thy servant upon which thou hast caused me to hope.”

Object. I dare not venture to speak such words unto God, because I do not find my heart coming up full length in affection and seriousness; so that I should but lie unto God in transacting so with him.

Answ. It is to be regretted that man’s heart does not, with much intensity of desire and affection, embrace and welcome that blessed offer and portion. Yet, for answer to the objection, remember,

1. That in those to whom the Lord gives the new heart, forming Christ in them, the whole heart is not renewed; there is “flesh and spirit lusting against each other, the one contrary to the other, so that a man can neither do the good or evil he would do” with full strength. It is well if there be a good part of the heart going out after Christ, desiring to close with him on his own terms.

2. That there is often a rational love in the heart to Christ Jesus, expressing itself by a respect to his commandments: “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” When there is not a sensible prevailing love which maketh the soul sick; “I am sick of love;” men must not always expect to find this. I say then, although somewhat in your heart draw back, yet if you can say that you are convinced of your lost state without him, that you want a righteousness to cover your guilt, and that you want strength to stand out against sin, or to de what is pleasing before God, and that you also see fulness in him; in both these respects, if you dare say, that somewhat within your heart anxiously desires him upon his own terms, and would have both righteousness for justification, and strength in order to sanctification; and that what is within you contradicting this, is, in some measure, your burden and your bondage: if it be so, your heart is brought up a tolerable length; go on to the business, and determine the matter by covenanting with God, and say with your mouth, “That you have both righteousness and strength in the Lord,” as he hath sworn you shall do–“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.” It is according to Scripture to say unto God, I believe, when much unbelief is in me, and the heart divided in the case: “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief:” Withal, make known unto God how matters are in your heart, that so you may be without guile before him, concealing nothing from him; and put your heart as it is in his hand, to write his law on it, according to the covenant: for that is the thing he seeks of men that they deliver up their heart to him, that he may stamp it with his whole will, without exception; and if you can heartily consent to that, judging Christ’s blood a sufficient ransom and satisfaction for man’s transgression, you may go and expressly strike a covenant with God, for your heart and affection are already engaged.

Object. I dare not so covenant with God, lest I break with him; yea, I persuade myself, that if such a temptation did offer, so and so circumstantiated, I would fall before it and acquiesce: therefore, to transact so with God whilst I foresee such a thing, were but to aggravate my condemnation.

Answ. 1. You have already entered into covenant with God, as you are a member of his visible church; and what is now pressed upon you is, that you more heartily, sincerely, particularly, and more expressly, covenant and close with him: you are already obliged heartily to close with God in Christ, and if you do it in heart, I hope the hazard is no greater by saying that you do so, or have done so.

2. What will you do if you decline closing sincerely with God in Christ, and do not accept of his peace as it is offered? You have no other means of salvation; either you must do this or perish for ever: and if you do it with your heart, you may also say it with your tongue.

3. If people may be afraid at covenanting with God, because they will afterwards transgress, then not one man should covenant with God; for surely every one will transgress afterwards, if they live any length of time after the transaction; and we know no way like this to secure men from falling; for if you covenant honestly with him, he engages beside the new heart, to put his fear and law therein, to give his Spirit to cause you walk in his way. And when you covenant with God, you deliver up yourself to bin, to be sanctified and made conformable to his will. It is rather a giving up of yourself to be led in his way in all things, and kept from every evil way, than any formal engagement on your part to keep his way, and to avoid evil: so that you need not be afraid at the covenant, the language of which is, “Wilt thou not be made clean?” And all that shun to strike covenant with God, do thereby declare that they desire not to be made clean.

4. As it is hard for any to say confidently they will transgress, if such a temptation did offer, so and so circumstantiated, because men may think that either God will keep a temptation out of their way, or not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, or give to them a way of escape: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”–“There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” So the question is not, what I may do afterwards; but, what I now resolve to do? If my heart charge me presently with any deceit or resolution to transgress, I must lay aside that deceit before I covenant with God: but if my heart charge me with no such purpose, yea, I dare say I resolve against every transgression; and although I think I will fall before such and such a temptation, yet that thought floweth not from any allowed and approved resolution to do so, but from knowledge of my own corruption, and of what I have done to provoke God to desert me, but the Lord knows I resolve not to transgress, nor do I approve any secret inclination of my heart to such a sin, but would reckon it my singular mercy to be kept from sin in such a case; and I judge myself a wretched man, because of such a body of death within me, which threatens to make me transgress. In that case, I say, “my heart doth not condemn me, therefore I may and ought to have confidence before God:” if this then be the case, I say to thee, although thou shouldst afterwards fail many ways and so, perhaps, thereby draw upon thyself sad temporal strokes, and lose for a season many expressions of his love; yet “there is an Advocate with the Father to plead thy pardon,” who hath satisfied for our breaches: “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And for his sake, God resolves to hold fast the covenant with men after their transgression: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;–Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness.”–Else how could he be said “to betroth us unto himself for ever?” And how could the covenant be called “everlasting, ordered in all things and sure,” if there were not ground of comfort in it, even when our house is not so and so with God?

Yea, it were no better than the covenant of works, if those who enter it with God could so depart from him again, as to make it void unto themselves, and to put themselves into a worse condition than they were in before they made it: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good”–compared with Heb. viii. 6. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much more also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”–“The Lord hateth putting away.” No honest heart will stumble on this, but will rather be strengthened thereby in duty: “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him.–Who is wise, and, he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them.” For other ties and bonds, beside the fear of divorce, and punishment by death, oblige the ingenuous wife to duty; so here men will “fear the Lord and his goodness.”

Object. I have, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and at some other occasions, covenanted expressly and verbally with God; but my fruitlessness in his ways, and the renewed jealousies of my gracious state, make me question if ever I transacted with God in sincerity; and I think I can do it no otherwise than I have done it.

Answ. 1. Men are not to expect fruitfulness according to their desire, nor full assurance of God’s favour immediately after they have fled to Christ, and expressly transacted with God in him: these things will keep a man in work all his days. The saints had their failings and shortcomings, yea, and backslidings, with many fits of dangerous unbelief, after they had very seriously, and sincerely, and expressly closed with God, as their God in Christ.

2. Many look for fruitfulness in their walk, and establishment of faith, from their own sincerity in transacting with God, rather than from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. They fix their hearts in their own honesty and resolutions, and not in the blessed root Christ Jesus, without whom we can do nothing, and are vanity altogether in our best estate. Men should remember, that one piece of grace cannot produce any degree of grace; further, nothing can work grace but the arm of Jehovah: and if men would incline to Christ, and covenant with him as their duty absolutely, whatsoever may be the consequence, at least, looking only to him for the suitable fruit, it should fare better with them. God pleaseth not that men should betake themselves to Christ, and covenant with him for a season, until they see if such fruit and establishment shall follow, purposing to disclaim their interest in him and the covenant, if such and such fruit doth not appear within such a length of time. This is to put the ways of God to trial, and is very displeasing to him. Men must absolutely close with Christ, and covenant with him, resolving to maintain these things as their duty, and a ready way to reach fruit, whatsoever shall follow thereupon; they having a testimony within them, that they seriously design conformity to his revealed will in all things; and that they have closed covenant with him for the same end, as well as to be saved thereby.

3. Men should be sparing to bring in question their sincerity in transacting with God, unless they can prove the same, or have great presumptions for it. If you can discover any deceit or guile in your transacting with him, you are obliged to disclaim and rectify it, and to transact with God honestly, and without guile: but, if you know nothing of your deceit or guile in the day you did transact with him; yea, if you can say, that you did appeal unto God in that day, that you dealt honestly with him, and intended not to deceive: and did entreat him, according to his faithfulness, to search and try if there was any crookedness in your way, and to discover it unto you, and heal it–“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting:” and that afterwards you “came to the light, that your deeds might be manifest:” and if you can say, that God’s answers from his words to you, in so far as you could understand, were answers of peace, and confirmations of your sincerity; yea, further, if you dare say, that if upon life and death you were again to transact with him, you can do it no other way, nor intend more sincerity and seriousness than before;–then I dare say unto thee, in the Lord’s name, thou ought not to question thy sincerity in transacting with God, but to “have confidence before God, since thy heart doth not condemn thee:” and thou art bound to believe that “God dealeth uprightly with the upright man, and with the pure doth show himself pure.” If a man intend honesty, God will not suffer him to beguile himself; yea, the Lord suffereth no man to. deceive himself, unless the man intend to deceive both God and men.

4. Therefore impute your unfruitfulness to your unwatchfulness and your unbelief, and impute your want of full assurance unto an evil heart of unbelief, helped by Satan to act against the glorious free grace of God; and charge not these things to the want of sincerity in your closing with Christ. And resolve henceforth to abide close by the root, and you shall bring forth much fruit; and by much fruit, you lay yourselves open to the witness of God’s Spirit, which will testify with your spirit that you have sincerely and honestly closed with God, and that the rest of your works are wrought in God, and approven of him; and so the witness of the Spirit and the water joining with the blood, upon which you are to lay the weight of your soul and conscience, and where alone you are to sink the curses of the law due to you for all your sins, and failings in your best things. These three do agree in one, namely, that, this is the way of life and peace, and that you have interest therein, and so you come to quietness, and full assurance: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.”–“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that, loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will, love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” “There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.”

O blessed bargain of the new covenant, and thrice blessed Mediator of the same! Let him ride prosperously, and subdue nations and languages, and gather in all his jewels, that honourable company of the first-born, that stately troop of kings and priests, whose glory it shall be to have washed their garments in the blood of that spotless Lamb, and whose happiness shall continually flourish in following him whithersoever he goeth, and in being in the immediate company of the Ancient of days, one sight of whose face shall make them in a manner forget that ever they were in the earth. Oh if I could persuade men to believe that these things are not yea and nay, and to make haste towards him who hasteth to judge the world, and to call men to an account, especially concerning their improvement of this gospel? “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”

CONCLUSION

The whole Treatise resumed in a few Questions and Answers.

Q. WHAT is the great business a man hath to do in the world?

                A. To make sure a saving interest in Christ Jesus, and to walk suitably thereto.

Q. 2. Have not all the members of the visible church a saving interest in Christ?

                A. No verily; yea, but a very few of them have it.

Q. 3. How shall I know if I have a saving interest in him?

A. Ordinarily the Lord prepareth his own way in the soul by a work of humiliation, and discovereth a man’s sin and misery to him, and exerciseth him so therewith, that he longs for the physician Christ Jesus.

Q. 4. How shall I know if I have got a competent discovery of my sin and misery?

A. A competent sight of it makes a man take salvation to heart above any thing in this world it maketh him disclaim all relief in himself, even in his best things: it maketh Christ, who is the Redeemer, very precious to the soul: it makes a man stand in awe to sin afterwards, and makes him content to be saved upon any terms God pleases.

Q. 5. By what other ways may I discern a saving interest in him?

A. By the going out of my heart seriously and affectionately towards him, as be is held out in the gospel; and this is faith or believing.

Q. 6. How shall I know if ray heart goes out after him aright, and that my faith is true saving faith?

A. Where the heart goes out aright after him in true and saving faith, the soul is pleased with Christ alone above all things, and is pleased with him in all his three offices, to rule and instruct as well as to save; and is content to cleave unto him, whatever inconveniences may follow.

Q. 7. What other mark of a saving interest in Christ can you give me?

A. He that is in Christ savingly is a new creature, he is graciously changed and renewed, in some measure, in the whole man, and in all his ways pointing towards all the known commands of God.

Q. 8. What if I find sin now and then prevailing over me?

A. Although every sin deserves everlasting vengeance, yet if you be afflicted for your failings, confess them with shame of face unto God, resolving to strive against them honestly henceforth, and flee unto Christ for pardon, you shall obtain mercy, and your interest stands sure.

Q. 9. What shall the man do who cannot lay claim to Christ Jesus, nor any of those marks spoken of?

A. Let him not take rest until he make sure to himself a saving interest in Christ.

Q. 10. In what way can a man make sure an interest in. Christ, who never had a saving interest in him hitherto?

A. He must take his sins to heart, and his great hazard thereby, and he must take to heart God’s offer of pardon and peace through Christ Jesus, and heartily close with God’s offer, by betaking himself unto Christ the blessed refuge.

Q. 11. What if my sins be singularly heinous, and great beyond ordinary?

A. Whatever thy sins be, if thou wilt close with Christ Jesus by faith, thou shalt never enter into condemnation.

Q. 12. Is faith in Christ only required of men?

A. Faith is the only condition upon which God Both offer peace and pardon unto men; but be assured, faith, if it be true and saving, will not be alone in the soul, but will be attended with true repentance, and a thankful study of conformity to God’s image.

Q. 13. How shall I be sure that my heart doth accept of God’s offer, and doth close with Christ Jesus?

A. Go make a covenant expressly, and by word speak the thing unto God.

Q. 14. What way shall I do that?

A. Set apart some portion of time, and, having considered your own lost estate, and the remedy offered by Christ Jesus, work up your heart to be pleased with, and close with that offer, and say unto God expressly, that you do accept of that offer, and of him to be your God in Christ; and do give up yourself to him to be saved in his way, without reservation or exception in any case: and that you henceforth will wait for salvation in the way he hath appointed.

Q. 15. What if I break with God afterwards?

A. You must resolve in his strength not to break, and watch over your own way, and put your heart in his hand to keep it: and if you break, you must confess it unto God, and judge yourself for it, and flee to the Advocate for pardon, and resolve to do no more so: and this you must do as often as you fail.

Q. 16. How shall I come to full assurance of my interest in Christ, so that it may be above controversy?

A. Learn to lay your weight upon the blood of Christ, and study purity and holiness in all manner of conversation; and pray for the witness of God’s Spirit to join with the blood and the water; and his testimony added to these will establish you in the faith of an interest in Christ.

Q. 17. What is the consequence of such closing with God in Christ by heart and mouth?

A. Union and communion with God, all good here, and his blessed fellowship in heaven for ever afterwards.

Q. 18. What if I slight all these things, and do not lay them to heart to put them in practice?

A. The Lord cometh with his angels, in flaming fire, to render vengeance to them who obey not this gospel; and thy judgment shall be greater than the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah; and so much the greater that thou hast read this Treatise, for it shall be a witness against thee in that day.

 

FINIS.

Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843): Consider The Apostle And High Priest Of Our Profession

Consider The Apostle And High Priest

Of

Our Profession
By
Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon II

Consider The Apostle And High Priest Of Our Profession

“Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” HEB. 3:1.

WHEN a traveller passes very rapidly through a country, the eye has no time to rest upon the different objects in it, so that, when he comes to the end of his journey, no distinct impressions have been made upon his mind,—he has only a confused notion of the country through which he has travelled.

This explains how it is that death, judgment, eternity, make so little impression upon most men’s minds. Most people never stop to think, but hurry on through life, and find themselves in eternity before they have once put the question, “What must I do to be saved?” More souls are lost through want of consideration than in any other way.

The reason why men are not awakened and made anxious for their souls is, that the devil never gives them time to consider. Therefore God cries, Stop, poor sinner, stop and think. Consider your ways. “Oh that you were wise, that you understood this, that you considered your latter end!” And, again He cries, “Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”

In the same way does the devil try to make the children of God doubt if there be a Providence. He hurries them away to the shop and market. Lose no time, he says, but make money. Therefore God cries, Stop, poor sinner, stop and think; and Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; consider the ravens, which have neither storehouse nor barn.”

In the same way does the devil try to make the children of God live uncomfortable and unholy lives. He beguiles them away from simply looking to Jesus: he hurries them away to look at a thousand other things, as he led Peter, walking on the sea, to look round at the waves. But God says, Look here, consider the Apostle and High Priest of your profession; look unto me and be ye saved; run your race, looking unto Jesus; consider Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

I. Believers should live in daily consideration of the greatness and glory of Christ

(1.) There was once a time when time was not,—when there was no earth, neither sun, nor moon, nor star; a time when you might have wandered through all space, and never found a resting-place to the sole of your foot,—when you would have found no creatures anywhere, but God everywhere,—when there were no angels with golden harps hymning celestial praises, but God alone was all in all.

Ques.—Where was Jesus then? Ans.—He was with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” He was near to God, and in perfect happiness there. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. Then I was by Him as one brought up with Him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before Him.” He was in the bosom of God: “The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.” He was in perfect glory there: “O Father, glorify Thou me with thyself, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was!”

Ques.—What was Jesus then? Ans.—He was God. The Word was with God, and “was God.” He was equal with the Father. “He thought it no robbery to be equal with God.” He was rich. “He was the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.”

Now, brethren, could I lift you away to that time when God was alone from all eternity; could I have shown you the glory of Jesus then,—how He dwelt in the bosom of the Father, and was daily his delight; and could I have told you, “That is the glorious Being who is to undertake the cause of poor lost sinners,—that is He who is going to put himself in their room and stead, to suffer all they should suffer, and obey all they should obey,—consider Jesus, look long and earnestly, weigh every consideration in the balance of the soundest judgment,—consider his rank, his nearness, his dearness to God the Father,—consider his power, his glory, his equality to God the Father in everything,—consider, and say do you think you would entrust your case to Him? do you think He would be a sufficient Saviour?”—oh, brethren, would not every soul cry out, He is enough—I want no other Saviour?

(2.) Again, there was a time when this world sprang into being,—when the sun began to shine, and earth and seas began to smile. There was a time when myriads of happy angels springing into being, first spread their wings, doing his commandments,—when the morning stare sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Ques.—What was Jesus doing then? Ans.—“Without Him was not anything made that was made.” “By Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” Oh, brethren, could I lift you away back to that wonderful day, and show you Jesus calling all the angels into being, hanging the earth upon nothing;—could you have heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Let there be light, and there was light;”—and could I have told you, “That is He who is yet to undertake for sinners; consider Him, and see if you think He will be a sufficient Saviour; look long and earnestly;”—good news, good news for sinners, if this mighty Being undertake for us!—I can as little doubt the sureness and completeness of my salvation as I can doubt the sureness of the solid earth beneath my feet.

(3.) But the work of creation is long since passed. Jesus has been upon our earth. And now He is not here—He is risen. Eighteen hundred years and more have passed since Christ was upon the earth.

Ques.—Where is Jesus now? Ans.—“He is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He is upon the throne with God in his glorified body, and his throne is for ever. A sceptre is put into his hand—a sceptre of righteousness, and the oil of gladness is poured over Him. All power is given to Him in heaven and on earth.

Oh, brethren, could you and I pass this day through these heavens, and see what is now going on in the sanctuary above,—could you see what the child of God now sees who died last night,—could you see the Lamb with the scars of his five deep wounds in the very midst of the throne, surrounded by all the redeemed, every one having harps and golden vials full of odours,—could you see the many angels round about the throne, whose number is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, all singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,”—and were one of these angels to tell you, “This is He that undertook the cause of lost sinners; He undertook to bear their curse and to do their obedience; He undertook to be the second Adam,—the man in their stead; and lo! there He is upon the throne of heaven;—consider Him,—look long and earnestly upon his wounds—upon his glory,—and tell me, do you think it would be safe to trust Him? do you think his sufferings and obedience will have been enough?”—Yes, yes, every soul exclaims, Lord, it is enough! Lord, stay thy hand! Show me no more, for I can bear no more. Oh, rather let me ever stand and gaze upon the almighty, all-worthy, all-divine Saviour, till my soul drink in complete assurance that his work undertaken for sinners is a finished work! Yes, though the sins of all the world were on my one wicked head, still I could not doubt that his work is complete, and that I am quite safe when I believe in Him.

I would now plead with believers.—Some of you have really been brought by God to believe in Jesus. Yet you have no abiding peace, and very little growing in holiness. Why is this? It is because your eye is fixed anywhere but on Christ. You are so busy looking at books, or looking at men, or looking at the world, that you have no time, no heart, for looking at Christ.

No wonder you have little peace and joy in believing. No wonder you live so inconsistent and unholy a life. Change your plan. Consider the greatness and glory of Christ, who has undertaken all in the stead of sinners, and you would find it quite impossible to walk in darkness, or to walk in sin. Oh what mean, despicable thoughts you have of the glorious Immanuel! Lift your eyes from your own bosom, downcast believer,—look upon Jesus. It is good to consider your ways, but it is far better to consider Christ.

I would now invite anxious souls.—Anxious soul! have you understood all the glory of Christ? Have you understood that He undertook for guilty sinners? And do you doubt if He be a sufficient Saviour? Oh, what mean views you have of Christ if you dare not risk your soul upon Him!

Objection.—I do not doubt that Christ has suffered and done quite enough, but I fear it was for others, and not for me. If I were sure it was for me, I would be quite happy. Ans.—It is nowhere said in the Bible that Christ died for this sinner or that sinner. If you are waiting till you find your own name in the Bible, you will wait for ever. But it is said a few verses before that, “He tasted death for every man;” and again, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” Not that all men are saved by Him. Ah! no; the most never come to Jesus, and are lost; but this shows that any sinner may come, even the chief of sinners, and take Christ as his own Saviour. Come you then, anxious soul; say you, He is my refuge and my fortress; and then, be anxious, if you can.

II. Consider Christ as the Apostle or Messenger of God The word apostle means messenger,—one ordained and sent on a particular embassy. Now Christ is an Apostle, for God ordained mid sent Him into the world.

In the Old Testament, the name by which He is oftenest called is the Angel of the Lord, or the Messenger of the Covenant. He is called God’s Elect, chosen for the work; He is called God’s Servant; He is called the Messiah, or the Christ, or the Anointed, because God anointed Him and sent Him to the work. In the New Testament, over and over again Christ calls himself the Sent of God. “As Thou hast sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world, that the world may know that Thou hast sent me.” “And these have known that Thou hast sent me.” All this shows plainly that it is not the Son alone who is interested in the saving of poor sinners, but the Father also. “The Father sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Objection.—True, Christ is a great and glorious Saviour, and able to accomplish anything to save poor sinners; but perhaps God the Father may not agree to pour out his wrath upon his Son, or to accept of his Son as a surety in our stead. Ans.—Look here, Christ is the Apostle of God. It is as much God the Father’s work, as it is Christ’s work. It occupied as much of the heart of God as ever it did of the heart of Christ. God loved the world as much and truly as ever Christ loved the world. God gave his Son, as much as Christ gave himself for us. So God the Holy Spirit is as much interested in it as the Father and Son. God gave his Son,—the Spirit anointed Him and dwelt in Him without measure. At his baptism God acknowledged Him for his beloved Son,—the Holy Spirit came on Him like a dove.

Oh! brethren, could I lift you away to the eternity that is past,—could I bring you into the council of the Eternal Three; and as it was once said, “Let us make man,” could I let you hear the word, “Let us save man,”—could I show you how God from all eternity designed his Son to undertake for poor sinners; how it was the very plan and the bottommost desire of the heart of the Father that Jesus should come into the world, and do and die in the stead of sinners; how the Holy Spirit breathed sweetest incense, and dropped like holiest oil upon the head of the descending Saviour,—could I show you the intense interest with which the eye of God followed Jesus through his whole course of sorrow and suffering and death,—could I show you the anxious haste with which God rolled away the stone from the sepulchre while it was yet dark, for He would not leave his soul in hell, neither suffer his Holy One to see corruption,—could I show you the ecstasies of love and joy that beat in the bosom of the infinite God when Jesus ascended to his Father and our Father; how He welcomed Him with a fulness of kindness and grace which God alone could give, and God alone could receive, saying, “Thou art my Son, this day have I ‘begotten Thee; Thou art indeed worthy to be called my Son; never till this day wast Thou so worthy to be called mine; thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; sit Thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool;”—O sinner, will you ever doubt any more whether God the Father be seeking thy salvation,—whether the heart of Christ and of his Father be the same in this one grand controversy? O believer, consider this apostle of God,—meditate on these things,—look and look again, until your peace be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea,—till the breathing of your soul be, Abba, Father!

III. Consider Christ as the High Priest of our profession

The duty of the high priest was twofold: 1st, to make Atonement; 2nd, to make Intercession.

When the high priest slew the goat at the altar of burnt offerings, he did it in presence of all the people, to make atonement for them. They all stood around, gazing and considering their high priest; and when he gathered the blood into the golden basin, and put on the white garments, and passed away from their sight within the veil, their eye followed him, till the mysterious curtain hid him from their sight. But even then the heart of the believing Jew followed him still. Now he is drawing near to God for us; now he is sprinkling the blood seven times before the mercy-seat, saying, Let this blood be instead of our blood; now he is praying for us.

Brethren, let us also consider our great High Priest.

(1.) Consider Him making Atonement.—You cannot look at Him on the cross as the disciples did; you cannot see the blood streaming from his five deep wounds; you cannot see Him shedding his blood that the blood of sinners might not be shed. Yet still, if God spare us, you may see bread broken and wine poured out,—a living picture of the dying Saviour. Now, brethren, the atonement has been made, Christ has died, his sufferings are all past. And how is it that you do not enjoy peace?

It is because you do not consider. “Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Consider,—has Jesus died in the stead of guilty sinners, and do you heartily consent to take Jesus to be the man in your stead? then, you do not need to die. Oh, happy believer, rejoice evermore! Live within sight of Calvary, and you will live within sight of glory; and, oh, rejoice in the happy ordinance that sets a broken Saviour so plainly before you!

(2.) Consider Christ as making Intercession.—When Christ ascended from the Mount of Olives, and passed through these heavens, carrying his bloody wounds into the presence of God,—and when his disciples had gazed after Him, till a cloud received Him out of their sight,—we are told that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. What! are they joyful at parting with their blessed Master? When He told them He was to leave them, sorrow filled their hearts, and He had to argue with them and comfort them, saying, “Let not your heart be troubled; it is expedient for you that I go away.” How, then, are they changed? Jesus has left them, and they are filled with joy. Oh! here is the secret,—they knew that Christ was now going into the presence of God for them, that their great High Priest was now entering within the veil to make intercession for them.

Now, believer, would you share in the great joy of the disciples? Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. He is above yon clouds, and above yon sky. Oh that you would stand gazing up into heaven, not with the bodily eye, but with the eye of faith! Oh, what a wonderful thing the eye of faith is! It sees beyond the stars, it pierces to the throne of God, and there it looks on the face of Jesus making intercession for us, whom having not seen we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Oh! if you would live thus, what sweet peace would fill your bosom! And how many droppings of the Spirit would come down on you in answer to the Saviour’s prayer! Oh! how your face would shine like Stephen; and the poor blind world would see that there is a joy which the world cannot give, and the world cannot take away,—a heaven upon earth!

DUNDEE, 1836.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): Kept by the Power of God

Kept by the Power of God
By
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Kept by the power of God

1 Peter 1: 5

ARE there any believers here who are afraid that they will some day bring disgrace on their profession? Let them study these words. ‘Kept’ is the whole history of a believer’s life. It tells us we are very weak, for we need to be kept; but, at the same time, it is a most comforting word, for it tells us we are worth keeping. God counts us a treasure worth keeping. It has wonderful power to give energy to believers. Rightly viewed, it bears on the interests of holiness in a wonderful manner. There may be ups and downs in the degrees of our faith and of our love, but we cannot be lost, for we are ‘kept by the power of God.’ The word throws emphasis on the mighty power that grasps us and keeps us; it is ‘garrisoned by the power of God.’ It is God’s own power that encompasses us. None shall pluck us out of His hand.

What from Christ the soul can sever,

Bound by everlasting bands?

Once in Him, in Him for ever,

Thus the eternal covenant stands.

None can pluck us from the Strength of Israel’s hands.

I. We are kept by the power of God.

We are in the arms of omniscience and omnipotence, for it is literally ‘kept in the power of God.’ We are lying upon that power, and we need it all. The power of the devil is tremendous, the power of the world is tremendous. Its current often carries us away. No wonder if we sometimes say, ‘I shall one day perish.’ We are ‘kept by the power of God.’ If you want to know the workings of that power, read Eph. 1:19-23. What a defence! better than ten legions of angels; and yet we have that too. But Jude says, ‘Keep yourselves.’ We are to keep ourselves, but how? ‘By faith.’ God keeps us by making us keep ourselves ‘by faith.’

II. We are kept by faith.

God’s part is to put forth His power; our part is to put forth faith. God enables us to have faith, and He keeps it in us continually, and not all the power of hell can pluck that faith out of our heart. It never decays. We get power continually from God to go on believing from day to day. Our faith will not vanish. It may grow weaker, but it will not disappear. If we give way to unbelief we are letting go our hold of the chain that fastens us to the omnipotent arm. Faith implies that our eye is daily looking to the Cross of Christ – not looking to our feet, not looking about at what might terrify us, but ‘looking unto Jesus.’ We think of the righteousness He gives us, every day. We think of the blood shed to put away our sin, every day. We think of the new and living way opened to us by Christ, every day. Faith is always looking, not only to the work of Christ, but to His Person. ‘He ever liveth to make intercession for us.’ He lives to keep His vine and water it every moment. All the way along we may say–

‘There is life for a look at the Crucified One’ – new life, every day. We are on the battlefield still, but we may sing ‘God is our refuge and our strength.’

When sickness comes we may feel ready to fail, but He will keep us. When death comes we may not be able to think at all, but it does not matter. He will keep us. Preparation for death is almost an imagination. A believer does not prepare for death at all. Christ does it for him. The believer prepares for life. Beware only of slipping back. If you begin to think about yourself, about your frame of mind, about your cares, you may slip; but you will not fall. He who restored Peter will restore you. The fishermen in Brittany have a prayer they use when their boats are going out: ‘O our God, keep us, for our boat is very small, and the ocean is very wide.’ We shall be ‘kept’ till the salvation is revealed, and that may be at any moment. It is all ready – like a statue all complete, only waiting to be unveiled. God will keep us till then for our inheritance. He will not have an unlet house in New Jerusalem, no mansion where the grass grows before the door. Each mansion is reserved for some one. Our inheritance is ‘reserved in heaven for us.