AW Pink (1886-1952): The Service of Christ

The Service of Christ
By
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch.  Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

The Service of Christ

(from Studies in the Scriptures)

“For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

As pointed out earlier, the “yoke,” when employed figuratively, is the symbol of service, for it is by means of such an instrument oxen are united together in the plow or wagon, that they may work for their master and perform his will. Here in our text it is the service of Christ which is brought before us, in contrast from the service of sin and Satan. The Devil promises his subjects a grand time of it if they will follow his promptings, but he is a liar, and sooner or later they discover that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). Sin deceives. Its deluded victims imagine they are enjoying liberty while indulging the lusts of the flesh, but when failing health or the dictates of prudence suggest they had better change their ways, they discover they are bound fast by habits they cannot break. Sin is a more cruel taskmaster than ever were the Egyptians to the Hebrews, and the service of Satan imposes far heavier burdens than ever Pharaoh placed upon his slaves. But “My yoke is easy,” says Christ, “and My burden is light.”

This declaration of the Saviour’s may also be regarded as the sequel to His opening words in this passage. There He is inviting to Himself those who were labouring (weary) and heavy laden, which may be understood in a twofold sense: those who are sick of sin and bowed down by a sense of its guilt, and those who are labouring to meet the requirements of Divine holiness and are cast down by their inability to do so. Those who, in a servile spirit, seek to fulfill the letter of God’s Law, so far from finding it “easy,” discover it to be very hard; while those who earnestly endeavour to work out a righteousness of their own in order to gain God’s esteem, prove it to be a heavy task and not a “light burden.” And there is no relief for such until they come to Christ and put their trust in His finished work. Coming to Christ requires us not only to turn our backs upon the world, but also to repudiate all our own merits and works.

“For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Exactly what is the relation between this verse and the one preceding? To which of the previous clauses is it more immediately connected? We cannot discover that any of the commentators have made any special attempt to answer this question. Personally we deem it wise to link these closing remarks of the Redeemer with each of the earlier utterances. Thus, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” There is encouragement for us to come and prove that He will give us rest. “Take My yoke upon you”: you need not fear to do so, “for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” “And learn of Me,” for not only am I, “meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls,” but “for My yoke is easy.”

“For My yoke is easy”: the Greek word is variously rendered—“good,” “kind,” “gracious.” There is nothing about it to chafe or hurt, rather is it pleasant and delightful to wear. The question has been raised, Is Christ here speaking absolutely or relatively? That is, is He describing what the yoke is in itself, or how that yoke appears unto His people? We believe that both senses are included. Most assuredly, Christ’s “yoke” or service is a light or gracious one in itself, for all His Commandments are framed by infinite wisdom and love, and are designed for the good of those who receive them. So far from being a harsh Tyrant who imposes hard duties for the mere sake of exerting His authority, or satisfying an arbitrary caprice, Christ is a kind and gracious Master who ever has in mind the welfare, the highest interests of His subjects. His Commandments ‘are not grievous” in themselves, but beneficial and gracious. It is the father of lies who proclaims Christ’s yoke to be difficult and heavy.

But not only is the yoke of Christ “easy” in itself, but it should be so, it may be so, in the sense and apprehension of His people; yea, it will be so, if they do as He here bids them. It is indeed the case that the unregenerate find the yoke of Christ irksome and heavy, for it makes against the motions and the carnal nature. The service of Christ is veritable drudgery to those who are in love with the world and find their delight in gratifying their fleshly lusts—but to those whose heart has been, by His grace, captivated by the excellence of Christ—to be under His yoke is indeed pleasant—if we come to Christ daily to be renewed by His grace to yield ourselves afresh to His rules. If we sit at His feet to be taught of Him the loveliness of meekness and lowliness. If we enjoy spiritual communion with Him and partake of His rest. Then whatsoever He commands is delightful to us, and we prove for ourselves that, “Wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). Such an one can bear testimony that Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Herein the Christian may discover the best and most conclusive evidence that a good work of grace has begun in his heart. How many poor souls are deeply exercised and sorely distressed over this very point, continually asking themselves the question, Have I been genuinely converted, or am I yet in a state of nature? Thus they keep themselves in needless suspense because they fail to apply the Scriptural methods of confirmation. Instead of measuring themselves by the rules laid down in the Word, they await some extraordinary sensation in their heart or some verse of Scripture being powerfully impressed on their minds. But not only have many been deceived at this point—for Satan can produce happy sensations in the heart and deep impressions on the mind—but even where the Holy Spirit is the Author of such impressions, the effect is only transient and soon fades. How much better, then, is the testimony of an enlightened conscience, which, judging by the Word of God, perceives that I have been enabled to take upon me the yoke of Christ and that I find it to be “easy” and “light”!?

But this principle works both ways. If I find by experience that Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light and that such an experience evidences I am one of His disciples indeed, then what must be said of that vast number of professing Christians who, by their own conduct and often by their confession avow that the Lord’s service is wearisome and burdensome? Though members of evangelical churches and assemblies, must we not conclude they are of that class who have a name that they live, and yet are dead (Revelation 3:1)? Certainly we cannot allow for a moment that Christ here made a false predication of His yoke. Then only one alternative is left: we are obliged to regard as strangers to vital godliness those who account a life of communion with the Lord and entire devotedness of His service, dull and irksome. Unspeakably solemn is this, for it makes evident what a high percentage of lifeless professors there are among us, who go through the outward forms of religion but find no joy and satisfaction therein.

Let us not be misunderstood at this point. We are far from affirming that the Christian life is nothing but a bed of roses, or that once a person truly comes to Christ and takes His yoke upon him, that his troubles are then at an end. Not so. Instead, there is a very real sense in which his troubles only then really begin. It is written, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Wearing the yoke of Christ unites us to Him, and union with Him brings us into “fellowship with His sufferings” now, as it also guarantees fellowship with His glory in the future. The members of Christ’s body share, in their measure, the experience of their Head. The world hated Him, and it hates those who bear His image. The world persecuted Him, and sufficient for the disciple to be as his Master. The more closely we walk with Christ, the more shall we bring down upon our heads the hostility of and opposition of Satan, for his rage is stirred up when he finds he has lost another of his captives.

Not only does the one who truly comes to Christ and takes upon him His yoke evoke the hatred and persecution of Satan and of a world which despises and rejects God’s Son, but he is now the subject of inward conflicts and trials to which he was hitherto a stranger. That corrupt nature which was his when born into this world, is neither removed nor refined when he becomes a Christian. It remains within him, unchanged. Not only so, but he is now made more conscious of its presence and its vileness. Increasing light from God discovers what a mass of corruption indwells him. Moreover, that evil nature opposes every movement of the holy nature he received at the new birth: “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other” (Galatians 5:17). Now this discovery of the plague of his own heart and the consciousness that there is that within which is ever opposing all holy aspirations, preventing him from living as he would, is a source of deep anguish unto the child of God, so that he often finds himself crying, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

But again we would say: let us not be misunderstood at this point. While we cannot affirm that the Christian’s life in this world is one of unclouded sunshine and unalloyed bliss, yet we must be careful lest we convey the impression that the believer’s lot is far from being an envious one and that for the present he is worse off than the unbeliever. Far, very far from it. If the Christian is using diligently the means of God’s appointing, if he draws upon the fullness which there is in Christ for him, if he cultivates daily communion with Him, if he walks in the path of His Commandments he will possess a peace which passes all understanding and experience such joys as the worldling knows nothing about. The world may frown upon and the Devil rage against him, but a conscience approving instead of condemning, the felt smile of God upon him, the sweet communion enjoyed with fellow believers, and the assurance of an eternity of bliss in the presence of his Beloved are ample compensations so that he would not, if he could, change places with a millionaire in his mansion or a king in his palace who was a stranger to Christ.

Let us now inquire, What is there in the yoke of Christ which makes such amends for the enmity it evokes and the suffering it entails, so that taking everything into consideration the believer will set to his seal that it is an “easy” one? In seeking to answer this question we shall again avail ourselves of the help furnished by John Newton’s sermons, adopting his outline at least. First, those who wear the yoke of Christ act from a principle which makes all things easy. This is love. Any yoke will chafe when resisted, but even a cast-iron one would be pleasant if it were lined with felt and well padded with cotton-wool. And this it is which renders the yoke of Christ easy unto His people: it is lined with love—His to them, and theirs to Him. Whenever the shoulder becomes sore, look to the lining! Keep the lining right and the yoke will be no more a burden to us than wings are to a bird, or her wedding ring is to a bride.

We are told in Scripture that when Jacob served a hard master seven years for Rachel, that they seemed but a few days to him, “for the love he had to her” (Genesis 29:20). What a difference it makes when we perform a difficult task whether it be done for a stranger or a dear friend, an exacting employer or a close relative. Affection makes the hardest job easy. But there is no love like unto that which a redeemed sinner bears to Him who bled and died in his place. We are willing to do and suffer much in order to gain the affection of one whom we highly esteem, even though we are not sure of success; but when we know the affection is reciprocal, it gives added strength for the endeavour. And the believer does not love with uncertainty: he knows that Christ loved him before he had any love for the Saviour, yea, loved him even when his own heart was filled with enmity against Him. This love, therefore, supplies two sweet and effectual motives in service.

A desire to please. This is the question it is ever asking: What can I do to gratify, to make happy the object of my affection? Love is ever ready to do whatever it can, and regrets that it cannot do more. Neither time, difficulties nor expense concern the one whose heart is warmly engaged. But the world is not in the secret: they neither know nor appreciate the principles which motivate and actuate the people of God. Not only are they at a loss to understand why the Christian is no longer willing to join with them in the pleasures of sin, but they quite fail to see what satisfaction he can find in reading the Scriptures, secret prayer, or public worship. They suppose that some mental derangement is responsible, and advise him to leave such gloomy exercises to those who are on the verge of the grave. But the believer can give them a short answer: “the love of Christ constraineth me”: I want to learn more of His wondrous love for me, and how I can more fully please and honour Him.

A pleasant assurance of acceptance. What a difference it makes when we are able to ascertain whether that which we do will be favourably received or not. If we have reason to fear that the one for whom we are working appreciates not our efforts, we find little delight in the task and are tempted to spare ourselves all we can. But if we have good reason to believe that our labours will meet with a smile of approval, how much easier is the labour and how much more readily will we do it with all our might. And it is this encouragement which stimulates Christ’s disciples. They know that He will not overlook the smallest service undertaken in His name or the slightest suffering endured for His sake, for even a cup of cold water which is given on His account is accepted and acknowledged as though proffered immediately to Himself (Mark 9:41).

Second, service is made still easier and lighter if it is agreeable to our inclinations. Esau would probably have done anything to please his father in order to obtain the blessing, but no commandment could have been more agreeable to him than to be sent for venison, because he was a hunter and his pleasure lay in that direction (Genesis 25:27). Now the Christian has received from God a new nature, yea, he has been made “a partaker of the Divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and just as the magnetic needle ever points to the north star, so does this spiritual principle ever turn unto its Author. Consequently, God’s Word is its food, communion with Him its desire, His Law its delight. True, he still groans under inward corruption, but these are part of sin’s burden and no part of Christ’s yoke, and he groans because he cannot serve Him better. But just so far as faith is in exercise, he rejoices in every part of Christ’s yoke: the profession of His name is esteemed a holy privilege, His precepts are the subject of profitable meditation, suffering for Christ’s sake is counted a high honour.

Third, the burden of Christ is found light because sustaining grace is vouchsafed to its wearer. Service to a loved one would be impracticable or impossible if you were yourself infirm and incapacitated. You could not take a long journey to minister unto a friend, no matter how dear he were to you, if you were crippled. But the yoke of Christ is easy in this respect, too, that He supplies sufficiency of strength to the bearer. What is hard to flesh and blood is easy to faith and grace. It is true that apart from Christ the believer “can do nothing” (John 15:5), but it is equally true that he “can do all things” through Christ strengthening him (Philippians 4:13). It is true that “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,” yet we are Divinely assured that “they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30, 31). What more can we ask? It is entirely our own fault if we are not “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

Whatever the Lord may call upon us to do, if we depend upon Him in the use of appointed means, He will most certainly qualify and equip us for it. He is no Pharaoh, requiring us to make bricks and providing no straw for the same. So far from it, He promises, “as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25). Moses may complain, “I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue,” but the Lord assures him, “I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Exodus 4:10, 12). Paul acknowledged, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves”; yet he at once added, “but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). So, too, whatever sufferings the Lord calls upon His people to endure for His sake, He will assuredly grant sustaining grace. “All power in Heaven and in earth” belongs unto Christ and therefore is He able to make our enemies flee before us and deliver from the mouth of the lion. Even though He permits His servants to be beaten and cast into prison, yet songs of praise are put into their mouths (Acts 16).

Finally, the easiness of Christ’s yoke appears in the rich compensations accompanying it. Under sin’s yoke we spent our strength for that which satisfies not, but when wearing Christ’s yoke, we find rest unto our souls. If we live the life of pleasing self and seeking our honour, then we reap misery and woe—but when self is denied and Christ is glorified—peace and joy is our portion. No man serves Christ for nought: in the keeping of His Commandments there is “great reward” (Psalm 19:11)—not of debt, but of grace. This is not sufficiently dwelt upon. There is a reward here and a reward hereafter. The Christian may have much to cast him down, but he has far more to cheer him up and send him on his way rejoicing. He has free access to the Throne of Grace, precious promises to rest upon, and the consolations of the Holy Spirit to comfort his soul. He has a Friend who sticks closer than a brother, a loving Father who supplies his every need, and the blessed assurance that when the appointed hour arrives he shall be removed to another world where there is no sin or sorrow, but “fullness of joy” and “pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).

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AW Pink (1886-1952): The Example of Christ

The Example of Christ
By
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

External links are for reader convenience only, neither the linked web sites, its advertising content or its comments are endorsed by Late Night Watch.  Be Berean (Acts 17:11) – Use the Internet with discernment.

The Example of Christ

(from Studies in the Scriptures)

“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” (Matthew 11:28-29).

It has been pointed out in the preceding months upon this passage that the Lord Jesus began by uttering a gracious invitation which is accompanied by a precious promise, and then He proceeded to make known the conditions on which that promise is made good. To those whose consciences are weighted down by a felt and intolerable burden of guilt and are anxious for relief, He says, “Come unto Me and I will give you rest.” He and He alone is the Giver of spiritual and saving rest. But His rest can only be obtained as we meet His requirements: these are that we take His “yoke “ upon us, and that we “learn” of Him. It was shown last month that this taking of Christ’s yoke upon us consists of surrendering our wills to Him, submitting unto His authority, and consenting to be ruled by Him. We would now consider at more length what it means to “learn” of Him.

“Learn of Me.” Christ is the antitypical Prophet, to whom all the Old Testament Prophets pointed [LNW: see Luke 24:44], for He alone was personally qualified to fully make known the will of God: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers, by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1, 2). Christ is the grand Teacher of His Church, all others being subordinate to and appointed by Him: “He gave some Apostles, and some Prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12). Christ is the chief Shepherd and Feeder of His flock, His under-shepherds learning of and receiving from Him. Christ is the personal Word in whom and through whom the Divine perfections are most illustriously displayed: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). Thus it is to Christ we must come in order to be instructed in the Heavenly doctrine and be built up in our most holy faith.

“Learn of Me.” Christ is not only the final Spokesman of God, the One by whom the Divine will is fully uttered, but He is also the grand Exemplar set before His people. Christ did more than proclaim the Truth, He was Himself the living embodiment of it. He did more than utter the will of God: He was the personal exemplification of it. The Divine requirements were perfectly set forth in the very character and conduct of the Lord Jesus. And therein He differed radically, essentially, from all who went before Him and all who come after Him. In the lives of the Old Testament Prophets and in the New Testament Apostles we behold broken and scattered rays of light, but they were merely reflections and refractions of the Light—Christ is in His own blessed and peerless Person—“the Sun of righteousness.” Therefore is He fully qualified to say, “learn of Me.” Not only was there no error whatever in His teaching, but there was not the slightest blemish in His character or flaw in His conduct. Thus, the very life that He lived presents to us a perfect standard of holiness—a perfect pattern for us to follow.

When His enemies asked Him, “Who art Thou?” He answered, “even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (John 8:25). The force of that remarkable utterance (as expressed in the Greek) is brought out yet more plainly in Bagster’s Interlinear and the margin of the American R.V.—“Altogether that which I also spoke unto thee.” In replying to their interrogation, the incarnate Son of God affirmed that He was essentially and absolutely that which He declared Himself to be. I have spoken of “light”: I am that Light. I have spoken of “Truth”: I am that Truth—the very incarnation, personification and exemplification thereof. Wondrous declaration was that. None but He could really say I am Myself that of which I am speaking to you. The child of God may speak the Truth and walk in the Truth, but He is not the Truth itself—Christ is! A Christian may let his light “shine,” but he is not the light itself. Christ is, and therein we perceive His exalted uniqueness. “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us all understanding that we may know Him that is true” (1 John 5:20): not “Him who taught the truth,” but “Him that is true.”

Now it is just because the Lord Jesus could make this claim, “I am altogether that which I spoke unto thee”: I am the living embodiment, the personal exemplification of all which I teach, that he is a perfect Pattern for us to follow, that He can say “Learn of Me.” “He has left us an example, that we should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). As we bear His name (being called Christians) it is meet that we should imitate His holiness. “Be ye followers of me (said the Apostle), as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). The best of men are but men at the best: they have their errors and defects, which they freely acknowledge, and therefore wherein they differ from Christ, it is our duty to differ from them. No mere man, however wise or holy he may be, is a perfect rule for other men. The standard of perfection is found in Christ alone: He is the rule of every Christian’s way and walk. “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12). Though we fall far short of reaching such a standard in this life, yet nothing short thereof must be our aim.

“He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Many reasons might be given in proof of that “ought.” It is utterly vain for any man to profess he is a Christian unless he furnishes evidence that it is both his desire and endeavour to follow the example which Christ has left His people. As one of the Puritans put it, “let him either put on the life of Christ, or put off the name of Christ; let him show the hand of a Christian in works of holiness and obedience, or else the tongue and language of a Christian must gain no belief or credit.” God has predestinated His people “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29): a work which is begun here and perfected after death, but that work is not consummated in Heaven unless it is commenced on earth—“we may as well hope to be saved without Christ, as to be saved without conformity to Christ” (J. Flavell).

This experimental and practical conformity between God’s Son and His sons is rendered indispensably necessary by their relation in grace: this relation is that which obtains between body and head. Believers are made members of a living organism of which Christ is the Head. Of the members we read, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13); of Christ we are told, “and (God) gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:22, 23). The two together— members and Head—form Christ-mystical. Now as Christ, the Head, is pure and holy, so also must be the members. An animal with a human head would be a monstrosity. For the sensual and godless to claim oneness to Christ is to misrepresent Him before the world, as though His mystical Body were like unto the image of Nebuchadnezzar, with the head of fine gold and the feet of iron and clay (Daniel 2:32-33, etc.). This resemblance and conformity to Christ appears necessary from the communion which all believers have with Him in the same Spirit of grace and holiness. Not only is Christ the “Firstborn among many brethren,” but it is also said of Him that God anointed Him, “with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (Psalm 45:7). That “oil of gladness” is an emblem of the Holy Spirit, and God gives the same unto each of the “fellows” or partners which He more abundantly communicated to Christ. Now where the same Spirit and principle are, there the same fruits and works must be produced, according to the proportions and measures of the Spirit of grace bestowed. This is the very design for which the Holy Spirit is given to believers: as it is written, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

To name but one other reason: the very honour of Christ demands the conformity of Christians to His example. In what other way can they close the mouths of those who despise and reject their Master and vindicate His blessed name from the vile reproaches of the world? How can Wisdom be justified of her children except in this way? By what means shall we cut off occasion from those who desire occasion, but by regulating our lives by His example? The wicked will not read the inspired record of His life in the Scriptures, and therefore is there all the more need that they should have His excellencies set before them in the lives of His people. The world has eyes to see what we practice, as well as ears to hear what we profess. Unless we evince consistency between our profession and practice we cannot glorify Christ before a world which has cast Him out.

Let us next point out that there must be an inward conformity to Christ before there can be any resemblance without: there must be an experimental oneness before there can be a practical likeness. How can I possibly be conformed to Him in external acts of obedience unless there is a conformity to Him in those springs from which such actions proceed? We must live in the Spirit ere we can walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). “Let this mind be in you,” says the Apostle, “which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), for it is the mind which should regulate all our other faculties, and therefore are we told, “for to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). And what was “the mind which was in Christ Jesus?” The verses that follow tell us: it was that of self-abnegation and devotedness unto the Father. That we must begin with inward conformity to Christ is evident from our text, for after saying “learn of Me,” He at once added, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.”

Last month we emphasized the need of attending closely to our Lord’s order in this passage, insisting that we cannot possibly “learn” of Him (in the sense meant here) unless and until we have taken His “yoke” upon us, that is, until we surrender ourselves to Him and submit to be ruled by Him. It is not merely to all intellectual learning of Him which Christ here calls us, but to all experimental, effectual, and transforming learning; and in order to that we must be completely subject to Him. John Newton suggested in his sermons on this passage that there is another relation between these two things: that not only is our taking of Christ’s yoke upon us an indispensable requirement for our learning of Him, but that our learning of Him is His only appointed means for enabling us to wear His yoke. We believe that both these things are included, so we will now work out Mr. Newton’s suggestion:

“Learn of Me.” Be not afraid to come to Me for help and instruction, “for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Here is encouragement indeed. You need not hesitate to apply unto such an One, Maker of Heaven and earth, King of kings and Lord of lords though He be. O what a wondrous Person is the Christ of God! What varied excellencies meet in Him: both God and man in one Person. The Lion of the tribe of Judah, yet at the same time the gentle Lamb. The One before whom the Roman soldiers fainted (John 18:6), yet the One who took into His arms little children and blessed them. The One before whom all the angels of Heaven prostrate themselves in adoring homage, yet the One who is the Friend of sinners. Because He is God, possessed of omniscience and omnipotence, therefore is He able to solve our every problem and supply strength for the weakest; because He is Man, possessed of human sensibilities, therefore is He capable of being “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” How gladly, then, should we turn unto such an One!

“Learn of Me.” I know the cause why these things appear so hard. It is owing to the pride and impatience of your hearts. To remedy this, take Me for your example; I require nothing of you but what I have performed before you, and on your account: in the path I mark out for you, you may perceive My own footsteps all the way. This is a powerful argument, a sweet recommendation, of the yoke of Christ, to those who love Him, that He bore it Himself. He is not like the Pharisees, whom He censured (Matthew 23:4) on this very account: who bound heavy burdens, and grievous, to be borne, and laid them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves would not move them with one of their fingers.

1. Are you terrified with the difficulties attending your profession: disheartened by hard usage, or too ready to show resentment against those who oppose you? Learn of Jesus, admire and imitate His constancy: “Consider Him who endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:3). Make a comparison (so the word imports) between yourself and Him, between the contradiction which He endured, and that which you are called to struggle with; then surely you will be ashamed to complain. Admire and imitate His meekness: when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; He wept for His enemies, and prayed for His murderers. Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

2. Do you find it hard to walk steadfastly in His precepts, especially in some particular instances, when the maxims of worldly prudence and the pleadings of flesh and blood, are strongly against you? Learn of Jesus. He pleased not Himself (Rom. 15:3): He considered not what was safe and easy, but what was the will of His heavenly Father. Entreat Him to strengthen you with strength in your soul, that as you bear the name of His disciples, you may resemble Him in every part of your conduct, and shine as lights in a dark and selfish world, to the glory of His grace.

3. Are you tempted to repine at the dispensations of Divine providence? Take Jesus for your pattern. Did He say, when the unspeakable sufferings He was to endure for sinners were just coming upon Him, ‘The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?’ (John 18:11); and shall we presume to have a will of our own? especially when we further reflect that as His sufferings were wholly on our account, so all our sufferings are by His appointment, and all designed by Him to promote our best, that is our spiritual and eternal welfare?” (John Newton). “Learn of Me.” Christ, then, teaches His disciples not only by precept but by example, not only by word of mouth but chiefly by His own perfect life of obedience and submission to the Father’s will. When He uttered these words of Matthew 11:29, He was Himself wearing the “yoke” and giving a personal exemplification of meekness and lowliness. O what a perfect Teacher, showing us in His own utter selflessness what these lovely graces really are! Meekness and lowliness discovered themselves in all that the Redeemer said and did. He associated not with the noble and mighty, the rich and influential, but made fishermen His ambassadors and sought those most despised, so that He was dubbed “a Friend of publicans and sinners.” We read of but one triumph in all His earthly life, when He entered Jerusalem to the acclaiming Hosannas of the people: yet observe how He then carried Himself: “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass” (Matthew 21:5)!

“And learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Those heavenly graces, which are the roots from which all other spiritual excellencies spring, can only be learned from Christ. The colleges and seminaries cannot impart them, preachers and churches cannot bestow them, no self-culture can attain unto them. They can only be learned experimentally and vitally at the feet of Christ, as we take our proper place in the dust before Him. They can only be learned as we take His yoke upon us. They can only be learned as we commune with Him day by day and drink more deeply of His spirit. They can only be learned as we ponder the details of His recorded life and then follow the example which He has left us. They can only be learned as we turn those ponderings into earnest prayers that we may be more fully conformed unto His holy image. They can only be learned as we definitely and trustfully seek the enablement of His Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body.

What cause have we to mourn that there is so little meekness and lowliness in us! How we need to confess unto God our lamentable deficiency. Though it is much to be thankful for if we are conscious of and humbled over our sad lack, yet merely mourning over it will not improve matters. We must go back to the root of our folly, and judge it. Why have I failed to learn of Christ these heavenly graces? Ah, has it not to be said of me, as of Israel of old, “Ephraim is a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke”? If so, how I need to cry unto Christ with all my might and beg Him to give me a heart for His yoke. Not until my proud spirit is broken and my will is completely surrendered to Christ, can I truly “learn of Him.” Only then shall I take pleasure in pondering the Psalms and the Gospels wherein I may discover the recorded manifestations of His meekness and lowliness. Only then shall I delight in making Christ the Object of my heart and the pattern of my character and conduct.

And this taking of Christ’s yoke upon us and learning of Him is to be a daily thing, the chief business of my life. Christianity is far more than an orthodox creed and ethical code: it is a being practically conformed to the image of God’s Son. It is a learning to be nothing, that He may be all in all. So many make the great mistake of supposing that coming to Christ and taking His yoke upon them is a single act, which may be done once and for all. Not so: it is to be a continuous and daily act, “To whom coming, (again and again) as unto a living Stone” (1 Peter 2:4). We need to continue as we began. The most matured Christian who has been fifty years in the way needs Christ as truly and urgently now as he did the first moment he was convicted of his lost condition—needs His cleansing blood, His quickening power, His healing virtue—needs to come as an empty-handed beggar to receive of His grace. In like manner he needs to daily take His yoke upon him and learn of Him.

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.

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.

AW Pink (1886-1952): The Narrow Way

The Narrow Way
By
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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The Narrow Way

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat 7:13-14). The second half of Matthew 7 forms the applicatory part of that most important discourse of our Lord’s, known as “the Sermon on the Mount.” One leading design of that Sermon was to show the spiritual nature and wide extent of that obedience which characterizes the true subjects of Christ’s kingdom, and which obedience is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of that ultimate state of blessedness which divine grace has provided for them. As the Prophet of God, Christ made known that the righteousness which obtains in His kingdom greatly exceeds the “righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.”

Now, the Jews imagined that they were all of them the subjects of the Messiah’s kingdom—that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, they were the rightful heirs of it—that the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (that system of religious and moral duty taught by them) met all the requirements of God’s law. But this delusion the Lord Jesus here exposed. Fleshly descent from Abraham could not give title unto a spiritual kingdom. That which was merely natural was no qualification for the supernatural realm. Only they were accounted the true children of Abraham who had his faith (Rom 4:16), who did his works (Joh 8:39), and who were united to Christ (Gal 3:29).

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord delineated the inward state of these who belonged to His spiritual kingdom (Mat 5:4-11), described the outward conduct by which they might be identified (Mat 5:13-16), expounded the personal righteousness which God’s justice demanded (Mat 5:17-28), and defined that utter repudiation of sin which He required from His people (Mat 5:29-30). So high are the demands of the thrice holy One, so uncompromising are the requirements of His ineffable character, that none can dwell with Him eternally who do not, in time, loathe, resist, and turn from all that is repulsive to His pure eye. Nothing short of the complete denying of self, the abandoning of the dearest idol, the forsaking of the most cherished sinful course—figuratively represented under the cutting off of a right hand and the plucking out of a right eye—is what He claims from every one who would have communion with Himself.

Such plain and pointed declarations of Christ must have seemed “hard sayings” to the multitudes who listened to Him. Such piercing and flesh-withering demands would probably cause many of His Jewish hearers to think within themselves, “Who then can be saved? This is indeed a strait gate and a narrow way.” Anticipating their secret objections, the Lord plainly declared that the gate unto salvation is “strait” and the way which leadeth unto life is “narrow.” Yet, He went on to point out, it is your wisdom, your interest, your duty to enter that “gate” and walk that “way.” He acknowledged and faithfully warned them that there was a “wide gate” soliciting their entrance, and a “broad road” inviting them to walk therein, but that gate leads to perdition, that road ends in Hell.

The “strait gate” is the only gate to “life,” the “narrow way” is the only one which conducts to heaven. Few indeed find it. Few have the least inclination for it. But that very fact ought only to provide an additional incentive to my giving all diligence to enter therein. In the verses which are now to be before us, Christ defined and described the Way of Salvation, though we (sorrowfully) admit that modern evangelists (?) rarely expound it. What we shall now endeavor to set forth is very different from what most have been taught, but you reject it at your peril. We repeat, that in the passage we are about to consider, He who was the Truth incarnate made known the only way of escaping perdition and securing heaven, namely, by entering the “strait gate” and treading the “narrow way.”

I. The Strait Gate

The Greek word for “strait” signifies restrained or “narrow” and is so rendered in the Revised Version. Now a “gate” serves two purposes—it lets in and it shuts out. All who enter this narrow gate gain admittance to that “way” which “leadeth unto life.” But all who enter not by this narrow gate are eternally barred from God’s presence. The second use of this gate is solemnly illustrated at the close of the parable of the virgins. There, our Lord pictures the foolish ones as being without the necessary “oil” (the work of the Spirit in the heart), and while they went to buy it, the Bridegroom came, and “the door was shut” (Mat 25:10). And though they then besought Him to open it to them, He answered, “I know you not.”

1. What is denoted by this figure of the “narrow gate”? We believe the reference is to the searching and solemn teaching of Him who is Truth incarnate. It is only as the heart bows to the righteousness of God’s claims and demands upon us, as set forth by His Son, that any soul can enter that path which alone leads to Him. While the heart is rebellious against Him, there can be no approach to Him, for “can two walk together except they be agreed”? It is true, blessedly and gloriously true, that Christ Himself is “the Door” (Joh 10:9), and He is so in a threefold way, according to the three principal functions of His mediatorial office. He is “the Door” into God’s presence as the Prophet, the Priest, and the King.

Now, it is only as Christ is truly received as God’s authoritative Prophet, only as His holy teachings are really accepted by a contrite heart, that any one is prepared to savingly welcome Him as Priest. Christ is the “way” and “the truth” before He is the “life” (Joh 14:6), as He is “first King of righteousness, and after that, also King of peace” (Heb 7:2). In other words, His cleansing blood is only available for those who are willing to throw down the weapons of their warfare against God, and surrender themselves to His holy rule. The wicked must forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, if he is to be pardoned by God (Isa 55:7). And this is only another way of saying that Christ must be received as Prophet, before He is embraced as Priest.

2. Why is this gate a “narrow” one? For at least three reasons. First, because of sin. “The wicked shall be turned into Hell, all the nations that forget God” (Psa 9:17)—the gate of heaven is far too narrow to admit such characters. The New Testament plainly affirms the same fact, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them” (Eph 5:5-7). Second, because of the Law. There are two principal errors about the Law, and I know not which is the more dangerous and disastrous. That one can earn heaven by obeying it. That one may enter heaven without that personal and practical godliness which the Law requires. “Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). Where there is not this personal conformity to the will of God, the strong hand of the Law will close the door of heaven. Third, because none can take the world along with him. This gate is far too “narrow” to admit those who love the world.

3. What is meant by “entering” this narrow gate? First, the acceptance of those teachings of truth, of duty, of happiness, which were unfolded by Christ. The honest and actual receiving into the heart of His holy, searching, flesh-withering instructions. Such acceptance is here figuratively represented as a person, with great difficulty, forcing his way through a circumscribed entrance. I say, “with great difficulty,” for Christ’s precepts and commandments are, to the last degree, unpalatable to an unrenewed heart, and cannot be willingly and gladly received without a rigid denial of self and relinquishment of sinful pleasures, pursuits, and interests. Christ has plainly warned us that it is impossible for a man to serve two masters. Self must be repudiated and Christ received as “the Lord” (Col 2:6), or He will not save us.

What is meant by “entering” this narrow gate? Second, a deliberate abandoning of the broad road, or the flesh-pleasing mode of life. Until this has been done, there is no salvation possible for any sinner. Christ Himself taught this plainly in Luke 15—the “prodigal” must leave the “far country” before he could journey to the Father’s house! The same pointed truth is taught again in James 4:8-10, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

Ah, my friend, to really and actually enter this “narrow gate” is no easy matter. For that reason, the Lord bade the people, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” (Joh 6:27). Those words do not picture salvation as a thing of simple and easy attainment. Ponder also Christ’s emphatic exhortation in Luke 13:24, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” That He should utter such a word clearly implies the great idleness and sloth which characterizes nominal professors, as it also intimates there are formidable difficulties and obstacles to be overcome. Let it be carefully noted that the Greek word for “strive” (viz., “agonizomai”) in Luke 13:24 is the same one that is used in 1 Corinthians 9:25, “And every one that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” And it is also rendered, “labouring fervently” in Colossians 4:12, and “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12!

And how are we to “strive” so as to “enter” the narrow gate? The general answer is, “lawfully” (2Ti 2:5). But to particularize, we are to strive by prayer and supplication, diligently seeking deliverance from those things which would bar our entrance. We are to earnestly cry to Christ for help from those foes which are seeking to overcome us. We are to come constantly to the Throne of Grace, that we may there find grace to help us repudiate and turn away with loathing from everything which is abhorred by God, even though it involves our cutting off of a right hand and plucking out of a right eye, and grace to help us do those things which He has commanded. We must be “temperate in all things,” especially those things which the flesh craves and the world loves.

But why is such “striving” necessary? First, because Satan is striving to destroy thy soul. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pe 5:8), therefore, must be resisted “steadfast in the faith.” Second, because natural appetites are striving to destroy thee, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1Pe 2:11). Third, because the whole world is arrayed against thee, and if it cannot burn, it will seek to turn thee by alluring promises, Delilah-like guiles, fatal enticements. Unless you overcome the world, the world will overcome you to the eternal destruction of thy soul.

From what has been before us, we may plainly discover why it is that the vast majority of our fellow-men and women, yea, and of professing Christians also, will fail to reach heaven. It is because they prefer sin to holiness, indulging the lusts of the flesh to walking according to the Scriptures, self to Christ, the world to God. It is as the Lord Jesus declared, “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Joh 3:19). Men refuse to deny self, abandon their idols, and submit to Christ as Lord, and without this, none can take the first step toward heaven!

II. The Narrow Way

Just as entering the “narrow gate” signifies the heart’s acceptance of Christ’s holy teaching, so to walk along the “narrow way” means for the heart and life to be constantly regulated thereby. Walking along the narrow way denotes a steady perseverance in faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus, overcoming all opposition, and rejecting every temptation to forsake the path of fidelity to Him. It is called the “narrow way” because all self-pleasing and self-seeking is shut out. In Genesis 18:19, it is called “the way”; in 1 Samuel 12:23, “the good and right way”; in Psalms 25:9, “his way”; in Proverbs 4:11, “the way of life”; in Isaiah 35:8, “the way of holiness”; in Jeremiah 6:16, “the good way”; in 2 Peter 2:2, “the way of truth”; and in 2 Peter 2:15, “the right way.”

The narrow way must be followed, no matter how much it may militate against my worldly interests. It is right here that the testing point is reached. It is much easier (unto the natural man) and far pleasanter to indulge the flesh and follow our worldly propensities. The broad road, where the flesh is allowed “liberty”—under the pretense of the Christian’s not “being under the law”—is easy, smooth, and attractive, but it ends in “destruction”! Though the “narrow way” leads to life, only FEW tread it. Multitudes make a profession and claim to be saved, but their lives give no evidence that they are “strangers and pilgrims” here, with their “treasure” elsewhere. They are afraid of being thought narrow and peculiar, strict and puritanic. Satan has deceived them. They imagine that they can get to heaven by an easier route than by denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following Christ!

There are multitudes of religionists who are attempting to combine the two “ways,” making the best of both worlds and serving two masters. They wish to gratify self in time and enjoy the happiness of heaven in eternity. Crowds of nominal Christians are deluding themselves into believing that they can do so, but they are terribly deceived. A profession which is not verified by mortifying the deeds of the body in the power of the Spirit (Rom 8:13) is vain. A faith which is not evidenced by complete submission to Christ is only the faith of demons. A love which does not keep Christ’s commandments is an imposition (Joh 14:23). A claim to being a Christian, where there is no real yieldedness to the will of God, is daring presumption. The reason why so few will enter life is because the multitudes are not seeking it in the way of God’s appointing. None seek it aright save those who pass through the narrow gate, and who, despite many discouragements and falls, continue to press forward along the narrow way.

Now notice, carefully, the very next thing which immediately follows our Lord’s reference to the two ways in Matthew 7, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat 7:15). Why does this come in next? Who are the “false prophets” against which a serious soul needs to be on his guard? They are those who teach that heaven may be reached without treading the narrow way! They are those who loudly insist that eternal life may be obtained on much easier terms. They come in “sheep’s clothing.” They appear (to undiscerning souls) to exalt Christ, to emphasize His precious blood, to magnify God’s grace. BUT, they do not insist upon repentance. They fail to tell their hearers that nothing but a broken heart which hates sin can truly believe in Christ. They declare not that a saving faith is a living one which purifies the heart (Act 15:9) and overcomes the world (1Jo 5:4).

These “false prophets” are known by their “fruits,” the primary reference being to their “converts”—the fruits of their fleshly labours. Their “converts” are on the broad road, which is not the path of open wickedness and vice, but of a religion which pleases the flesh. It is that “way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro 14:12). Those who are on this broad road (this way which “seemeth right” to so many), have a head-knowledge of the truth, but they walk not in it. The “narrow way” is bounded by the commandments and precepts of Scripture. The broad road is that path which has broken out beyond the bounds of Scripture. Titus 2:12-13 supplies the test as to which “way” we are in, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.”

Ere closing, let us anticipate and seek to remove an objection. Probably many of you are saying, “I thought Christ was the way to the Father (Joh 14:6). So He is, but how? First, in that He has removed every legal obstacle, and thereby opened a way to heaven for His people. Second, in that He has “left us an example that we should follow HIS steps.” The mere opening of a door does not give me entrance into a house. I must tread the path leading to it, and mount the steps. Christ has, by His life of unreserved obedience to God, shown us the way which leads to heaven, “When he putteth forth his own sheep, HE goeth before them, and the sheep follow him” (Joh 10:4). Third, in that He is willing and ready to bestow grace and strength to walk therein.

Christ did not come here and die in order to make it un-necessary for me to please and obey God. No, indeed! “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them” (2Co 5:15). “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Ti 2:14). Christ came here to “save his people from their sins” (Mat 1:21), and if you are not now delivered from the power of sin, from the deceptions of Satan, from the love of the world, and from the pleasing of self, then you are NOT saved.

May it please the God of all grace to add His blessing.

(The above is an address delivered by A. W. Pink in Glenolden (a suburb of Philadelphia) on September 28, 1931.)

John Calvin (1509-1564): Fifth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (07/36)

Fifth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (07/36)
By
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Fifth Sermon on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.Mat 27:11-26

We have already seen by the preceding verses that our Lord Jesus so offered Himself of His own will as a sacrifice to make reparation for all our iniquities by His obedience and He was willing to be condemned to wipe them out. That is why it is said that He did not answer at all the accusations that were raised against Him. He had enough wherewith to answer, but He was silent, as is also mentioned by the Prophet Isaiah. That was not only to show his patience, but in order to acquire for us liberty to be able today to glory in being righteous and innocent before God (indeed, notwithstanding that our conscience accuses us and condemns us), knowing that God has received us in mercy, and that all our faults are abolished by the perfection which was found in our Lord Jesus Christ. That, then, is how the Son of God acquired for us the liberty to be able to glory boldly that we are the children of God and reputed righteous before Him, that is, when He willed to offer no reply to show His integrity. Besides, one might at first find it strange that He is thus captured and nevertheless responds that He is King of the Jews. For these things seem contradictory; but Saint John proceeds still further, and says that He declared that His Kingdom was not of this world, and then He declared also that He was Son of God, indeed, He protested that He had come into the world to maintain the truth. But all this agrees easily. For our Lord Jesus surely had to declare Himself to be King of the Jews, unless He wished to reject the Prophecies. Also He had to be declared Son of God. But that did not lead to His absolution. It was rather that there might not be a long drawn-out trial, but that He might be condemned. Let us note well, then, when the silence of Jesus Christ is spoken of, that it was inasmuch as He did not wish to offer any excuse. As for His person, He kept His mouth closed. However, He did not cease to make such confession as He had to make. That is also why Saint Paul says that He made a good confession before Pontius Pilate (1Ti 6:13). For if it had been a matter of Jesus Christ’s entering into His own self-defense, already the judge was persuaded of His integrity. He could, then, easily have won His case by speaking. That is what amazes Pilate. Yet our Lord Jesus Christ did not cease to render such testimony as God had committed to Him — not tending to instruct (for this was not the place) but to confirm and ratify the doctrine to which He had previously borne witness.

However, we have to note on the one hand that the crime which troubled the Jews most was that He had stirred up trouble and prevented them from paying tributes to the Emperor of Rome. That also was to irritate the Governor, a pagan man who was sent there by the Emperor. Now it is very certain that our Lord Jesus had declared Himself to be King, but not an earthly king. As, in fact, we see that when the Jews wish to crown Him, He withdraws Himself and hides on the mountain. Still further He dulls the edge of that calumny, because it would have been a slander against the Gospel, if He had perverted the order and law-enforcement of the world. For He Who has come to call us all to the heavenly Kingdom and to make us sharers in it did not wish to abolish earthly kingdoms, since even they are sustained by Him and in His power. The Gospel, then, need not be blamed, saving that Jesus Christ had come to usurp any power or worldly authority. That is why He said to Pilate especially that His kingdom is not of this place.

In fact, what would happen if the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ were earthly? What would we gain by hoping in Him, since our condition is so miserable in the world? Unbelievers have a much better lot than we, concerning the afflictions which we must endure. True it is that the chastisements of God have effect everywhere and that those who wish it as much as they possibly can do not cease to be subject to many miseries and afflictions. But all the same let us always be ready for more rigid discipline. For God must begin His chastisements in His house and in His Church. If, then, our Lord Jesus were an earthly King, it would seem that we might be entirely alienated from Him. Further, suppose we had everything easy in this world and that by means of the Son of God we had here, as it were, a paradise, yet our life is only a shadow. Our happiness, then, would be very brief and frail. So we must surely know and be entirely persuaded that the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus is heavenly, in order that we may reach the life everlasting to which we are called. That, then, is how the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is perpetual, because it does not consist in anything which is of this world, here where everything is corruptible.

Let us learn, then, to bear patiently our adversities, knowing that they neither diminish nor impair at all the grace which was acquired for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. For indeed, these are aids to our salvation, as St. Paul shows in Rom 8:28. When we are despised and mocked by the world, that we have to suffer many reproaches, that we are hungry and thirsty, that our wings are clipped, that we are harassed from all sides; we must consider “So it is that God accepts us.” That is as if He said to us. “Look on high. Do not set your minds on what is in this world.” That, in summary, is what we have to observe. In fact, it is not without cause that our Lord Jesus wished to add as a confirmation that He was born and came into the world to speak the truth. Whoever has clearly heard it stops at the sound of His voice. By this we see that it is a doctrine of importance to know that the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is not from this world. For if it had been a trivial sentence, He might have passed it quickly. But when He pronounced that He had come into the world to speak the truth, it is as if He wished to render us attentive, and that each one should meditate in his heart, and apply well his study to this doctrine. That is, that we be withdrawn from the world and from all creatures, in order to come to this heavenly King, and to seek in Him the spiritual benefits which are here communicated to us, in order that we might enjoy them according to the measure which He knows to be useful to us for our salvation. Indeed in all that we see to be of the summary of the Gospel, let us note particularly this word: that Jesus Christ came into the world to speak the truth, in order that we may come to the conviction from it, when we are attentive to His doctrine that we shall not be at all disappointed, since it is an entirely sure and certain thing that what He has promised He will bring to pass. When David wishes to be assured against all temptations, he says that the Word of God is as silver purified seven times and which has been well tried by fire. So as often as we shall enter into doubt about the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we shall be troubled and molested (as the devil also uses such craftiness in order to dishearten us and to make us lose courage), let us return to this testimony, that in any case our Lord Jesus appeared in the world in order to be to us a faithful witness. Let us wait today for Him to show in effect that it is not in vain that He gave us all these promises, because they are infallible. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember.

Besides, when Pilate says, “What is truth?” let us note that it was not, as it were, through a desire to learn that he asked such a question, but it was, as it were, through spite and in mockery, as today this vice is seen in many. When we speak of the truth of God, we mean the doctrine of the Gospel. Saint Paul (in Ephesians 1) attributes to it this title in order that we may be able to distinguish it from all other knowledge. To be sure, if someone gives us all account of something which has happened, it is truth; but when God calls us to Himself, and He wishes to withdraw us from this world in order that we may arrive at the heavenly life, that is a truth which ought to be put in sovereign position and by comparison all the rest should be nothing. Now let us notice how the world bears reverence toward the doctrine of the Gospel. The wisest men in the world (who are considered to be such) are so blinded by presumption that when it is spoken of to them, “How now?” they say, “Have we lived such a long time in the world, and we should know the Gospel only and nothing else that exists. All of them, then, will be scandalized when it is said to them that the truth of God has been buried and that it is now necessary to guard it more closely. We hear how they scoff at that idea. So it was with Pilate. For inasmuch as he was sent by the Emperor to be his lieutenant in the country of Judea, it seemed to him that a great wrong was done to him when a truth was spoken of which was unknown to him. “And how so? Must we, then, act like idiots? Is there nothing but lies in us? Can we not discern between good and evil? And I who am appointed to office, who take the place of the Emperor, representing his person, must you reproach me just because I have not known what truth is?” This, then, is the intention of Pilate. He is inflated with pride like a frog and he does not wish to have the reputation of not knowing the difference between good and evil. In fact, we do not see that he waits for the answer of our Lord Jesus, but he throws in this word as if in spite, and leaves the place. Since it is so, then, let us be advised. If today there are many Pilates who refuse to be taught in the school of God and become teachable, as if they were already wise enough, may we not be hindered from placing ourselves under the obedience of faith, in order to accept what our Lord shows and proposes to us; that is, knowing that the truth does not grow in our minds, inasmuch as there is only vanity and falsehood there and we are plunged in darkness until our Lord draws us out of it. Let us recognize, then, that the truth surpasses all our senses and faculties and God must surely be our Master to keep us in it; also that we are little to receive what He shows us. May we hold this truth so precious that, when we shall have circled the heaven and the earth, and it seems that we have learned everything, we may know that it is only smoke and that it will prove ephemeral until we are founded upon this Word, Who is certain and immutable. That, then, in summary, is what we have to remember.

Now it is said, “As Pilate was seated upon his throne his wife commanded him not to condemn Jesus Christ, because she had been tormented by many dreams.” There is no doubt that God wished to testify to the innocence of Jesus Christ in many ways; as even by the mouth of Pilate (as already we have mentioned and as we shall see still more fully), not that God had not already concluded what ought to be done by His Only Son. So, since He willed that He be the Sacrifice to wipe out the sins of the world, Scripture had to be fulfilled. Yet our Lord Jesus also had to be proved righteous and innocent, in order that we might know all the better that He suffered the condemnation which was due to us and which we deserved, and that we might always look at our faults and sins in everything that is here told us of the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whereupon it is said, “Pilate desires to be able to acquit our Lord Jesus.” For although he had sovereign authority beyond appeal, still he was in a foreign country and with a mutinous people, though he had a garrison in the city, the sedition troubled him. That is why he wished to proceed by subtle and amiable means, in order that the people might be appeased. It is then said that he presents what was his custom, “At the feast of the Passover he released a prisoner whom the people willed.” He allows them to choose either Jesus Christ or Barabbas, who was (as says Saint John) a robber. The other Gospel-writers say that he was a well-known malefactor, who had even been a murderer, and had stirred up sedition and trouble in the city. He is a pest who should be detestable to everyone. Yet, nevertheless, the people cry, “Let us have Barabbas, and let him be pardoned, and let Jesus Christ be crucified.”

As for this custom of releasing a prisoner at the Passover, we see where men are led by their foolish devotions. For it surely seemed that the feast was so much better kept by delivering a prisoner, and that it was a service of God. Nevertheless, all that was only an abomination. For it is said that he who justifies the malefactor is just as blameworthy before God as he who punishes the innocent. There must, then, be a sense of equity in those whom God sent and established upon the throne of justice. For in arming them with His sword, He has not said to them, “Do what seems good to you.” He surely wishes that they have a fatherly care over the people and that they guard well against rising in cruelty to do wrong to others by abusing their credit and authority, but rather that they be humane and pitiful. However, evil-doers must be chastised, and so God commands it. But what do men do? They imagine they are keeping the feast of the Passover, when they are offending God and they are transgressing openly His Word. By that we ought to be admonished not to follow our fancies when it is a matter of honoring God, but to please His will in everything and by everything. So then, let us not conjure up any devotion according to what seems good to us, but let us be satisfied to do what God orders us to do and what He approves. We even see what this custom is, which men make law today, that everything that is received as a common statute seems to be lawful. Though that may be, God does not fail to condemn it. We see the abuse that took place, that this corruption brought about — that Barabbas was preferred to the Son of God.

Also at first, one might find it strange that our Lord Jesus is thus cried down and that a robber and murderer is more privileged than He, that he finds more favor among men, and that Jesus Christ has received such shame and disgrace. For was it not enough that the Son of God be crucified and that He endured a kind of death full of opprobrium and that furthermore there were great torments? For death by the cross was, as it were, the punishment of robbers. It was not only like the gallows would be today, but like the wheel. Would it not have been enough, then, that Jesus Christ, after having been whipped and spat upon in the face, should be plunged into the depths, with its being necessary by comparison to show Him to be execrable to all the world? For if we judge by our senses and we do not look beyond what appears, surely we shall be confounded, but we must raise our eyes higher by faith and come to what we have previously mentioned: namely, that God governs all this by His counsel. Let us not stop then with what the people did with Pilate, but let us contemplate this immutable decree of God: that to better humble us He willed that His Son be plunged into complete confusion and that He be put even below all the malefactors of the world, as He was crucified between two robbers, as we shall see later. That, then, is what we have to observe when it is here said that Barabbas had to be set free and Jesus Christ put there, as it were, the most detestable man in the world.

Pilate, even after all that, tries to make our Lord Jesus escape, but by a devilish means: namely, he whips Him (what was then called “chastise”) and wished to release Him after having thus chastised Him, as one who had committed some fault. For by that he pretended to quiet the people. Now if our Lord Jesus had thus escaped, what would have become of the Gospel, what would have become of the salvation of the world? For this “correction” as Pilate called it, might forever have been a mark of shame, as if the Gospel had been a wicked doctrine, since the judge of the country condemned it, and our Lord Jesus in His person would have been entirely rejected. Meanwhile we would have perished, since there was no other means to reconcile us to God, except by the death of His only Son. This, then, is the overture of life — the death of our Lord Jesus. So we see that the devil exerted himself very greatly that our Lord Jesus might not die at all. Yet who drove the Priests and their kind to pursue Jesus Christ to death, unless the devil? It is true, for he works, as it were, like a madman. According as we see that God sends a spirit of disturbance and of frenzy upon all wicked men so that they contradict themselves and are like waves of the sea which beat upon one another, so the devil was carried away when he tried to abolish the memory of our Lord Jesus on the one hand and then, however, wished to prevent the redemption of mankind. But God so worked that He willed that the innocence of His Son might have witness through the very mouth of the judge; however, He also willed nevertheless that He should die in order to make the sacrifice for our salvation and redemption. God has only a single and simple will, but it is admirable to us, and He has such strange ways of proceeding that we must bow our heads in awe and yet recognize that our Lord Jesus suffered, not at all according to the desire of men, but because we had to have such a gage of the infinite love of our God, and Jesus Christ had to declare it to us to show how precious our souls are to Him and how dear is the salvation of them to Him. Let us, then, consider all these things.

Besides, it is said at the end by St. John, although Jesus Christ had been whipped, the people strive still more by crying that He be put to death. Then Pilate questions Him again; indeed, because he heard that Jesus made Himself the Son of God, and this word touches him, and he is more frightened by it than before. That is why he asks Him, “Where are You from?” When Jesus Christ does not answer at all, “Do You not know says he, that I have power to release You or power to condemn You?” Now here we see why the Jews bring such an accusation against our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that the crime which could better move the Governor of the country was having attributed to Himself kingdom and dominion; but when they see that their malice is discovered, and that Pilate well understands that they are only trumped-up lies, thereupon they say, “We have the law by which He ought to die.” For that privilege had been reserved for them, in order that they might not have any religious disputes. For the Romans, who were profane people and who served their idols only through ceremony, wished to maintain their empire by means of letting each one do according to his religion.

Whereupon they say, “He made Himself the Son of God and thereby He blasphemed.” It is true that, if our Lord Jesus had not been the Redeemer of the world, it would have rendered Him subject to the death penalty to make Himself the only Son of God. For we are all children of God when He has adopted us through His grace. That is the common manner of speaking of it in Holy Scripture. Those who have received some special grace are called “Sons of God” in still another manner, as Princes and Magistrates. With greater reason, then, Jesus Christ, Who was supremely anointed with graces and powers by the Holy Spirit, might well be called “Son of God.” But if He had not been Redeemer of the world at all and called Himself “Only Son of God” par excellence, that would truly have been a mortal crime. But how is it that the Jews accuse Him of that? It is first of all by ignorance of the Scripture, inasmuch as they do not know that He Who should be the Redeemer should be the living God manifest. Since, then, they did not have the real understanding of Scripture, and they were not trained in it, but they were made brutish by their indifference, that is why they are so bold to condemn Jesus Christ. Now we see a like temerity in all ignorant people. Today when they cry “Heretic” it is not that the proofs are on hand, but the most block-headed people are driven by such a rage that they wish to be zealots to honor God, and they know neither why nor how. Further, it was necessary to investigate whether Jesus was Christ the Messiah or not. But the Jews rejected Him without making any inquiry. Let us learn by that, if we wish to have a zeal which God approves, we must be ruled by true knowledge and be taught by His Word. For we may be able to skim the surface, but it will be only by wild arguments of Satan, if we do not speak as scholars of God’s truth; because He is the only competent Judge, and He reserves to Himself the office of showing us what is His will. Since it is so, then, let us follow the Word of God with simplicity, and also let us be peaceable. Then may our zeal be ruled by that. That is what we must observe in the first place.

But when it is said that Pilate feared more than ever to hear the Son of God spoken of, here we see in the person of a poor Pagan some semblance of religion which moves him, and stings him, and speaks to his conscience, so that he does not know which way to turn. There stands Jesus Christ entirely disfigured and with the marks of the whipping still upon Him. He had previously suffered so much reproach and ignominy, so many drops of spit, so many blows on the head which had been given to Him in the house of Caiaphas. Briefly, here is a man who is despised and rejected by everyone. Yet, nevertheless, the name of God moves Pontius Pilate and arouses in him fright and astonishment. What of us, then, when we behave like savage beasts? And when one wishes to speak to us of God, if we are not held in check at all, must not the example of Pilate condemn us even to the last day? We see today mockers, people full of the devil. If one proposes to them, “Look what God shows us,” if one declares to them His Word, if one wishes to prove what they reject; one thing is as good as another to them. They stop up their ears, they bind up their eyes, they are entirely preoccupied in their natural senses, and they are so proud that they would not even consider giving any audience. For they are satisfied as they are. “We have ordained it,” they say, “and so it must be done.” Indeed? However, here is Pilate who had never heard a single word of the doctrine of God, even the Law was to him in disdain, so that everything that the Jews do he considers to be something trumped-up, and he adores his idols. Yet the name “God” affects him, and he is held back when it is spoken of. Is it on account of some majesty or some pomp which he sees in Jesus Christ? Not at all. It is only the name “God” which draws him to reverence. How much, then, some people will be condemned by this fear of Pilate, when they follow their beaten path and no progress can be made among them, although the name “God” is spoken of to them, and not only as a word in passing, but offering to teach them and to show them with the finger the testimonies of Scripture! If they condescend neither to think about nor to apply themselves with any diligence, must not the devil possess them entirely? Must they not know that they are as it were monsters, who have abolished every germ of religion, inasmuch as they have made themselves obstinate against God, as it were, defying all nature? That, then, is what we have to remember.

Though that may be, on the contrary we also see that all the fears which men have, and all sentiment and apprehension they have to honor God, will be, as it were, only a flash of lightning which passes before their eyes and immediately vanishes. For how did Pilate fear God? We see that it does not grip him at all, that he only shows such a great pride, that it seems to him that God is no longer anything. That, then, is how all those who are not governed by the Spirit of God will have on the one hand some fears by which they are seized, so that they will humble themselves for a time before God, but they do not cease to raise their horns, then to forget, and to dull their consciences to do evil. As we see in Pharaoh that sometimes he is quite astonished. “And pray to God for me,.” he says. And when he sees the power of God so apparent, “Oh, it is the finger of God,” he says, “one must be subject to Him.” But soon after he is worse than ever. Thus, then, it was with Pilate. This admonishes us not to have any fears of God like gusts of wind, but to have a good root which remains firm in our hearts. For how is it that Pilate feared God? It is only to render him more inexcusable. That is why God awakens the sleeping consciences, which wish to reject every yoke, and He brings them back and incites them to think of themselves more closely, so that in spite of themselves they must recognize their poverty and feel their vices, although they wish to sleep in them. All the scruples, then, which condemners of God and all wicked men have — these are to be regarded as summonses which God issues to take away from them every excuse of ignorance. But then they slacken the reins, they throw themselves with abandon, and so they are in no wise held back — as we see in Pilate. At the beginning he is quite astonished, but soon afterwards he goes back to his natural self. “And do you not know,” he says to Jesus Christ, “that I have power to release you or to condemn you.” Here let us note first of all, if He had been a robber, nevertheless, he would not have been able to move a finger unless God had given him the power. How is it, then, that Pilate dares to assume such unbounded license as to condemn and to set free according to his desire and by virtue of his position? For it would be better that the check be released from all robbers and that they had liberty to exercise their cruelty in the forests than for people to sit on such an honorable throne — people who take pleasure in power without thinking of their consciences and meanwhile throwing the world into entire confusion. Here we see (as I have shown) that there was no living root in Pilate, but only a gust of wind. So then, let us learn to so fear God that there may be a firm constancy in us to walk in His obedience, and that we may fight virtuously against everything that could turn us aside, and that always this check may hold us back: that it is not fitting to provoke the wrath of Him Who has all power over us. That, in summary, is what we have to remember.

However, also there is to consider how the glory which Pilate attributes to himself is nevertheless a great shame upon him. For his enemies could have reproached him no worse than this: namely, that he wishes to he held and reputed to have no discrimination between good and evil. Nevertheless he boasts of it. We see, then, inasmuch as the despisers of God imagine themselves to be raised, they must always feel themselves to be further cast down in confusion. God puts in them such a sense of disapproval that they boast of their iniquities in order to render themselves detestable both in heaven and on earth. What, then, is to be done? Let us learn to glory in the good, and let us consider what is lawful for us. For those who glory in their greatness, it is certain that they provoke God, inasmuch as they have often acquired their riches and their credit by unlawful means, by excess, by cruelty, and all kinds of extortion’s. When, then, they glory in that, it is, as it were, by defying God. He who has plundered from all parts will say, “I have done well.” And there is the blood of poor people which he has sucked. He will say, “I have acquired it.” And how? By frauds, wicked practices, pillaging one, gobbling up another, and having perverted all order. The other through ambition and unlawful means will have arrived at some dignity. Whereupon he wishes to be held in awe. This is manifestly to defy God.

Let us learn, then, (as I have already said) to glory in what God approves. It is true that although there might be some good in us, it is not lawful to usurp the praise which God reserves to Himself, and on account of which we must pay Him homage, inasmuch as He has given us everything. It is not proper, then, here to glory in ourselves, as if what God gives us belonged to us. But I say we must glory only in that it pleased God to adopt us for His children, and inasmuch as He gives us grace to walk in fear of Him, inasmuch as He gives us power to abstain from evil. In that we must glory. Then, if we are little and contemptible according to the world, let us pray that He may give us patience, and that we may prefer to be in such an estate than to be raised and meanwhile to enjoy ourselves like worldly people do, who make merry in such a way that nothing can restrain them. This, in summary, is how we have to glory, that is, that we may not wish to be more than God allows us, and that we may despise everything He disapproves of, although the world may applaud those who exercise tyranny and who practice every evil to excess. Let us leave, then, easily and willingly all such glories, not seeking anything else except to be recognized and confessed before God as His children. That, in summary, is what we still have to remember.

In conclusion it is said, “Pilate, seeing that he was gaining nothing and that the tumult among the people was increasing, washes his hands and says, ‘I am innocent of the blood of this man.’” We have already declared that the innocence of our Lord Jesus had to be proved and it was testified to through the mouth of the judge himself. For when it is said that Jesus Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate and that He was condemned, it is not enough to have heard the account, but we must be fully aware that Jesus Christ not only is innocent, but that He is the fountain of all holiness and perfection. Why, then, is He condemned? There are here two different things, it seems. It is said that He is the Lamb of God without spot. Since He is the Lamb of God, He must be condemned for the sacrifice. The word “Lamb” implies that He is to be offered. And what does the Law pronounce of sacrifices? That they stand for sins and curses. That is why it is said that our Lord Jesus was accursed for our sakes, that is, that He received the curse which was due to our sins. This, then, is the quality and condition under which He is condemned, since God appointed Him as a lamb which must be offered in sacrifice. But also He had to be known without any blemish, and His purity had to come before our eyes, in order that we might understand our sins, as far as we have known that Jesus Christ is the mirror of all perfection; and that we might enter into examination of our faults to be displeased with them and to pass condemnation, which was prepared for us unless we had been delivered by Him. Now when Pilate took the basin and the water to wash his hands, it was far too frivolous a ceremony, as if he could be acquitted before God by that. But it was not to make his excuse before God when he tried to appease the fury of the people. For he did not protest before God that he was innocent, but he only said to the people, “Look to yourselves. As for me, I am innocent.” As if he said, “You force me to this.” But all that (as I have said) is not to excuse him. Also he is not performing at all the office of judge. For he ought sooner to die a hundred times than to swerve from his office. When he saw all the troubles of the world, he ought to have this magnanimity to do what he knew to be good and just. But when he sees the people to be so inflamed, he lets himself be carried away. However, it had to be, cursed as it was, that he testifies to the innocence of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that from his own mouth he justifies Him. Nevertheless, that does not excuse him from condemnation, but in that rests our consolation. For we know that if we should be brought before God today to appear before His throne, it would not be to receive condemnation; but since the fact that the blood of our Lord Jesus was spilled is the true purging of our souls, He receives us as pure and clean.

There, then, is where we. must have our recourse. However, we see the word which is pronounced by the Jews. For they are flung headlong in such a way by Satan that they say, “His blood be upon us and upon all our children.” Now they were the heritage of God, the people elected and chosen from among all the nations of the earth. Yet they renounce this dignity, and all the promises of salvation, this sacred alliance which God had established with their line. They are, then, deprived of all the benefits that God had previously distributed to them, inasmuch as they were descended from the race of Abraham. And the blood of our Lord Jesus had to fall upon them, indeed, to the confounding of them and all their descendants. As also He had previously declared to them,

“Your iniquity must come to the full, and the blood of the Martyrs, from Abel the righteous even to Zacharias son of Barachias, who was murdered not long ago, must be brought upon you, and you must see that you were always murderers of the Prophets, and by this means you have fought against God and against His Word.” (Mat 23:34-36, Luk 11:49-51, 2Ch 36:15-16.) That, then, is how the blood of our Lord Jesus, which ought to be the salvation of all the world, and indeed especially of the Jews, since the birthright belonged to them, cried vengeance against them. But now let us learn to look deep inside ourselves, and to pray to God that it may come upon us in another manner, both upon us and, in particular, upon our children; namely, may we be washed and cleansed, seeing that we are abominable before God on account of our sins until we are washed and we suffer that the blood which was once poured out for our Redemption come upon us and that thereby we are sprinkled by the power of the Holy Spirit (1Pe 1:2) (so says Saint Peter in his Canonical letter) and may we be careful not to reject the grace which is offered to us by God, of which the Jews have been deprived because of their ingratitude, and have done nothing but provoke more and more His vengeance. May we, then, today be disposed to receive the purging of our Lord Jesus Christ, which cannot be apprehended except by faith. May we pray to God that we may not have received this washing in vain, but from day to day may we be purified from all our blemishes. May it please our God to make the most of this purity which was acquired by our Lord Jesus Christ until we have arrived in His Kingdom, where we shall be freed from all corruption’s of our vices.

Now we shall bow in humble reverence before the majesty of our God.