John Calvin (1509-1564): How God Works In The Heart of Men

Institutes of the Christian Religion:

How God Works In The Heart of Men
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright: Public Domain




The leading points discussed in this chapter are, I. Whether in bad actions anything is to be attributed to God; if anything, how much. Also, what is to be attributed to the devil and to man, sec. 1–5. II. In indifferent matters, how much is to be attributed to God, and how much is left to man, sec. 6. III. Two objections refuted, sec. 7, 8.


1. Connection of this chapter with the preceding. Augustine’s similitude of a good and bad rider. Question answered in respect to the devil.

2. Question answered in respect to God and man. Example from the history of Job. The works of God distinguished from the works of Satan and wicked men. 1. By the design or end of acting. How Satan acts in the reprobate. 2. How God acts in them.

3. Old Objection, that the agency of God in such cases is referable to prescience or permission, not actual operation. Answer, showing that God blinds and hardens the reprobate, and this in two ways; 1. By deserting them; 2. By delivering them over to Satan.

4. Striking passages of Scripture, proving that God acts in both ways, and disposing of the objection with regard to prescience. Confirmation from Augustine.

5. A modification of the former answer, proving that God employs Satan to instigate the reprobate, but, at the same time, is free from all taint.

6. How God works in the hearts of men in indifferent matters. Our will in such matters not so free as to be exempt from the overruling providence of God. This confirmed by various examples.

7. Objection, that these examples do not form the rule. An answer, fortified by the testimony of universal experience, by Scripture, and a passage of Augustine.

8. Some, in arguing against the error of free will, draw an argument from the event. How this is to be understood.

1. That man is so enslaved by the yoke of sin, that he cannot of his own nature aim at good either in wish or actual pursuit, has, I think, been sufficiently proved. Moreover, a distinction has been drawn between compulsion and necessity, making it clear that man, though he sins necessarily, nevertheless sins voluntarily. But since, from his being brought into bondage to the devil, it would seem that he is actuated more by the devil’s will than his own, it is necessary, first, to explain what the agency of each is, and then solve the question,31 Whether in bad actions anything is to be attributed to God, Scripture intimating that there is some way in which he interferes? Augustine (in Psalm 31 and 33) compares the human will to a horse preparing to start, and God and the devil to riders. “If God mounts, he, like a temperate and skilful rider, guides it calmly, urges it when too slow, reins it in when too fast, curbs its forwardness and over-action, checks its bad temper, and keeps it on the proper course; but if the devil has seized the saddle, like an ignorant and rash rider, he hurries it over broken ground, drives it into ditches, dashes it over precipices, spurs it into obstinacy or fury.” With this simile, since a better does not occur, we shall for the present be contented. When it is said, then, that the will of the natural man is subject to the power of the devil, and is actuated by him, the meaning is not that the wills while reluctant and resisting, is forced to submit (as masters oblige unwilling slaves to execute their orders), but that, fascinated by the impostures of Satan, it necessarily yields to his guidance, and does him homage. Those whom the Lord favours not with the direction of his Spirit, he, by a righteous judgment, consigns to the agency of Satan. Wherefore, the Apostle says, that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them.” And, in another passage, he describes the devil as “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” (Eph. 2:2). The blinding of the wicked, and all the iniquities consequent upon it, are called the works of Satan; works the cause of which is not to be Sought in anything external to the will of man, in which the root of the evil lies, and in which the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, in other words, sin, is fixed.

2. The nature of the divine agency in such cases is very different. For the purpose of illustration, let us refer to the calamities brought upon holy Job by the Chaldeans. They having slain his shepherds, carry off his flocks. The wickedness of their deed is manifest,32 as is also the hand of Satan, who, as the history informs us, was the instigator of the whole. Job, however, recognises it as the work of God, saying, that what the Chaldeans had plundered, “the Lord” had “taken away.” How can we attribute the same work to God, to Satan, and to man, without either excusing Satan by the interference of God, or making God the author of the crime? This is easily done, if we look first to the end, and then to the mode of acting. The Lord designs to exercise the patience of his servant by adversity; Satan’s plan is to drive him to despair; while the Chaldeans are bent on making unlawful gain by plunder. Such diversity of purpose makes a wide distinction in the act. In the mode there is not less difference. The Lord permits Satan to afflict his servant; and the Chaldeans, who had been chosen as the ministers to execute the deed, he hands over to the impulses of Satan, who, pricking on the already depraved Chaldeans with his poisoned darts, instigates them to commit the crime. They rush furiously on to the unrighteous deed, and become its guilty perpetrators. Here Satan is properly said to act in the reprobate, over whom he exercises his sway, which is that of wickedness. God also is said to act in his own way; because even Satan when he is the instrument of divine wrath, is completely under the command of God, who turns him as he will in the execution of his just judgments. I say nothing here of the universal agency of God, which, as it sustains all the creatures, also gives them all their power of acting. I am now speaking only of that special agency which is apparent in every act. We thus see that there is no inconsistency in attributing the same act to God, to Satan, and to man, while, from the difference in the end and mode of action, the spotless righteousness of God shines forth at the same time that the iniquity of Satan and of man is manifested in all its deformity.

3. Ancient writers sometimes manifest a superstitious dread of making a simple confession of the truth in this matter, from a fear of furnishing impiety with a handle for speaking irreverently of the works of God. While I embrace such soberness with all my heart, I cannot see the least danger in simply holding what Scripture delivers. when Augustine was not always free from this superstition, as when he says, that blinding and hardening have respect not to the operation of God, but to prescience (Lib. de Predestina. et Gratia). But this subtilty is repudiated by many passages of Scriptures which clearly show that the divine interference amounts to something more than prescience. And Augustine himself, in his book against Julian,33 contends at length that sins are manifestations not merely of divine permission or patience, but also of divine power, that thus former sins may be punished. In like manner, what is said of permission is too weak to stand. God is very often said to blind and harden the reprobate, to turn their hearts, to incline and impel them, as I have elsewhere fully explained (Book 1 c. 18). The extent of this agency can never be explained by having recourse to prescience or permission. We, therefore, hold that there are two methods in which God may so act. When his light is taken away, nothing remains but blindness and darkness: when his Spirit is taken away, our hearts become hard as stones: when his guidance is withdrawn, we immediately turn from the right path: and hence he is properly said to incline, harden, and blind those whom he deprives of the faculty of seeing, obeying, and rightly executing. The second method, which comes much nearer to the exact meaning of the words, is when executing his judgments by Satan as the minister of his anger, God both directs men’s counsels, and excites their wills, and regulates their efforts as he pleases. Thus when Moses relates that Simon, king of the Amorites, did not give the Israelites a passage, because the Lord “had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” he immediately adds the purpose which God had in view—viz. that he might deliver him into their hand (Deut. 2:30). As God had resolved to destroy him, the hardening of his heart was the divine preparation for his ruin.

4. In accordance with the former methods it seems to be said,34 “The law shall perish from the priests and counsel from the ancients.” “He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.” Again “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?” These passages rather indicate what men become when God deserts them, than what the nature of his agency is when he works in them. But there are other passages which go farther, such as those concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” The same thing is afterwards repeated in stronger terms. Did he harden his heart by not softening it? This is, indeed, true; but he did something more: he gave it in charge to Satan to confirm him in his obstinacy. Hence he had previously said, “I am sure he will not let you go.” The people come out of Egypt, and the inhabitants of a hostile region come forth against them. How were they instigated? Moses certainly declares of Sihon, that it was the Lord who “had hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate,” (Deut. 2:30). The  Psalmists relating the same history says, “He turned their hearts to hate his people,” (Psalm 105:25). You cannot now say that they stumbled merely because they were deprived of divine counsel. For if they are hardened and turned, they are purposely bent to the very end in view. Moreover, whenever God saw it meet to punish the people for their transgression, in what way did he accomplish his purpose by the reprobate? In such a way as shows that the efficacy of the action was in him, and that they were only ministers. At one time he declares, “that he will lift an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth;” at another, that he will take a net to ensnare them; and at another, that he will be like a hammer to strike them. But he specially declared that he was not inactive among theme when he called Sennacherib an axe, which was formed and destined to be wielded by his own hand.35 Augustine is not far from the mark when he states the matter thus, That men sin, is attributable to themselves: that in sinning they produce this or that result, is owing to the mighty power of God, who divides the darkness as he pleases (August. De Prædest. Sanct).

5. Moreover, that the ministry of Satan is employed to instigate the reprobate, whenever the Lord, in the course of his providence, has any purpose to accomplish in them, will sufficiently appear from a single passage. It is repeatedly said in the First Book of Samuel, that an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, and troubled him (1 Sam. 16:14; 18:10; 19:9). It were impious to apply this to the Holy Spirit. An impure spirit must therefore be called a spirit from the Lord, because completely subservient to his purpose, being more an instrument in acting than a proper agent. We should also add what Paul says, “God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth,” (2 Thess. 2:11, 12). But in the same transaction there is always a wide difference between what the Lord does, and what Satan and the ungodly design to do. The wicked instruments which he has under his hand and can turn as he pleases, he makes subservient to his own justice. They, as they are wicked, give effect to the iniquity conceived in their wicked minds. Every thing necessary to vindicate the majesty of God from calumny, and cut off any subterfuge on the part of the ungodly, has already been expounded in the Chapters on Providence (Book 1 Chapter 16–18). Here I only meant to show, in a few words, how Satan reigns in the reprobate, and how God works in both.

6. In those actions, which in themselves are neither good nor bad, and concern the corporeal rather than the spiritual life, the liberty which man possesses, although we have above touched upon it (supra, Chap. 2 sect. 13–17), has not yet been explained. Some have conceded a free choice to man in such actions; more, I suppose, because they were unwilling to debate a matter of no great moment, than because they wished positively to assert what they were prepared to concede. While I admit that those who hold that man has no ability in himself to do righteousness, hold what is most necessary to be known for salvation, I think it ought not to be overlooked that we owe it to the special grace of God, whenever, on the one hand, we choose what is for our advantage, and whenever our will inclines in that direction; and on the other, whenever with heart and soul we shun what would otherwise do us harm. And the interference of Divine Providence goes to the extent not only of making events turn out as was foreseen to be expedient, but of giving the wills of men the same direction. If we look at the administration of human affairs with the eye of sense, we will have no doubt that, so far, they are placed at man’s disposal; but if we lend an ear to the many passages of Scripture which proclaim that even in these matters the minds of men are ruled by God, they will compel us to place human choice in subordination to his special influence. Who gave the Israelites such favour in the eyes of the Egyptians, that they lent them all their most valuable commodities? (Exod. 11:3). They never would have been so inclined of their own accord. Their inclinations, therefore, were more overruled by God than regulated by themselves. And surely, had not Jacob been persuaded that God inspires men with divers affections as seemeth to him good, he would not have said of his son Joseph (whom he thought to be some heathen Egyptian), “God Almighty give you mercy before the man,” (Gen. 43:14). In like manner, the whole Church confesses that when the Lord was pleased to pity his people, he made them also to be pitied of all them that carried them captives (Ps. 106:46). In like manner, when his anger was kindled against Saul, so that he prepared himself for battle, the cause is stated to have been, that a spirit from God fell upon him (1 Sam. 11:6). who dissuaded Absalom from adopting the counsel of Ahithophel, which was wont to be regarded as an oracle? (2 Sam. 17:14). Who disposed Rehoboam to adopt the counsel of the young men? (1 Kings 12:10). Who caused the approach of the Israelites to strike terror into nations formerly distinguished for valour? Even the harlot Rahab recognised the hand of the Lord. Who, on the other hand, filled the hearts of the Israelites with fear and dread (Lev. 26:36), but He who threatened in the Law that he would give them a “trembling heart”? (Deut. 28:65).

7. It may be objected, that these are special examples which cannot be regarded as a general rule. They are sufficient, at all events, to prove the point for which I contend—viz. that whenever God is pleased to make way for his providence, he even in external matters so turns and bends the wills of men, that whatever the freedom of their choice may be, it is still subject to the disposal of God. That your mind depends more on the agency of God than the freedom of your own choice, daily experience teaches. Your judgment often fails, and in matters of no great difficulty, your courage flags; at other times, in matters of the greatest obscurity, the mode of explicating them at once suggests itself, while in matters of moment and danger, your mind rises superior to every difficulty.36 In this way, I interpret the words of Solomon, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them,” (Prov. 20:12). For they seem to me to refer not to their creation, but to peculiar grace in the use of them, when he says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will,” (Prov. 21:1), he comprehends the whole race under one particular class. If any will is free from subjection, it must be that of one possessed of regal power, and in a manner exercising dominion over other wills. But if it is under the hand of God, ours surely cannot be exempt from it. On this subject there is an admirable sentiment of Augustine, “Scripture, if it be carefully examined, will show not only that the good wills of men are made good by God out of evil, and when so made, are directed to good acts, even to eternal life, but those which retain the elements of the world are in the power of God, to turn them whither he pleases, and when he pleases, either to perform acts of kindness, or by a hidden, indeed, but, at the same time, most just judgment to inflict punishment,” (August. De Gratia et Lib. Arb. ad Valent. cap. 20).

8. Let the reader here remember, that the power of the human will is not to be estimated by the event, as some unskilful persons are absurdly wont to do. They think it an elegant and ingenious proof of the bondage of the human will, that even the greatest monarchs are sometimes thwarted in their wishes. But the ability of which we speak must be considered as within the man, not measured by outward success. In discussing the subject of free will, the question is not, whether external obstacles will permit a man to execute what he has internally resolved, but whether, in any matter whatever, he has a free power of judging and of willing. If men possess both of these, Attilius Regulus, shut up in a barrel studded with sharp nails, will have a will no less free than Augustus Caesar ruling with imperial sway over a large portion of the globe.37

31 The French adds, “dont on doute communement;” on which doubts are commonly entertained.

32 The French adds, “Car quand nous voyons des voleurs, qui ont commis quelque meurtre ou larrecin, nous ne doutons point de leur imputer la faute, et de les condamner.”—For when we see robbers who have committed some murder or robbery, we hesitate not to impute the blame to them, and condemn them.

33 The French adds, “se retractant de l’autre sentence;” retracting the other sentiment.

34 Ezek. 7:26; Psalm 107:40; Job 12:20, 24; Isiah 63:17; Exod. 4:21; 7:3; 10:1; 3:19.

35 Isa. 5:26; 7:18; Ezek. 12:13; 17:20; Jer. 2:.23; Isa. 10:15.

36 The French adds, “D’où procede cela sinon que Dieu besongne tant d’une part que d’autre?”—Whence this, but that God interferes thus far in either case?

37 The French is simply, “Car si cela pouvoit etre en l’homme, il ne seroit par moins libre enfermé en un prison que dominant par toute la terre.” If that could be in man, he would be no less free shut up in a prison than ruling all the earth.


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

Consider The Apostle And High Priest


Our Profession
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.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Galatians Ch 1-3

Commentary on Galatians


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

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Book Summary

An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians

This epistle of Paul is directed not to the church or churches of a single city, as some others are, but of a country or province, for so Galatia was. It is very probable that these Galatians were first converted to the Christian faith by his ministry; or, if he was not the instrument of planting, yet at least he had been employed in watering these churches, as is evident from this epistle itself, and also from Act 18:23, where we find him going over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. While he was with them, they had expressed the greatest esteem and affection both for his person and ministry; but he had not been long absent from them before some judaizing teachers got in among them, by whose arts and insinuations they were soon drawn into a meaner opinion both of the one and of the other. That which these false teachers chiefly aimed at was to draw them off from the truth as it is in Jesus, particularly in the great doctrine of justification, which they grossly perverted, by asserting the necessity of joining the observance of the law of Moses with faith in Christ in order to it: and, the better to accomplish this their design, they did all they could to lessen the character and reputation of the apostle, and to raise up their own on the ruins of his, representing him as one who, if he was to be owned as an apostle, yet was much inferior to others, and particularly who deserved not such a regard as Peter, James, and John, whose followers, it is likely, they pretended to be: and in both these attempts they had but too great success. This was the occasion of his writing this epistle, wherein he expresses his great concern that they had suffered themselves to be so soon turned aside from the faith of the gospel, vindicates his own character and authority as an apostle against the aspersions of his enemies, showing that his mission and doctrine were both divine, and that he was not, upon any account, behind the very chief of the apostles, 2Co 11:5. He then sets himself to assert and maintain the great gospel doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, and to obviate some difficulties that might be apt to arise in their minds concerning it: and, having established this important doctrine, he exhorts them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, cautions them against the abuse of this liberty, gives them several very needful counsels and directions and then concludes the epistle by giving them a just description of those false teachers by whom they had been ensnared, and, on the contrary, of his own temper and behaviour. In all this his great scope and design were to recover those who had been perverted, to settle those who might be wavering, and to confirm such among them as had kept their integrity.


In this chapter, after the preface or introduction (Gal 1:1-5), the apostle severely reproves these churches for their defection from the faith (Gal 1:6-9), and then proves his own apostleship, which his enemies had brought them to question, I. From his end and design in preaching the gospel (Gal 1:10). II. From his having received it by immediate revelation (Gal 1:11, Gal 1:12). For the proof of which he acquaints them, 1. What his former conversation was (Gal 1:13, Gal 1:14). 2. How he was converted, and called to the apostleship (Gal 1:15, Gal 1:16). 3. How he behaved himself afterwards (Gal 1:16 to the end).



In these verses we have the preface or introduction to the epistle, where observe,

I. The person or persons from whom this epistle is sent – from Paul an apostle, etc., and all the brethren that were with him. 1. The epistle is sent from Paul; he only was the penman of it. And, because there were some among the Galatians who endeavoured to lessen his character and authority, in the front of it he gives a general account both of his office and of the manner in which he was called to it, which afterwards, in this and the following chapter, he enlarges more upon. As to his office, he was an apostle. He is not afraid to style himself so, though his enemies would scarcely allow him this title: and, to let them see that he did not assume this character without just ground, he acquaints them how he was called to this dignity and office, and assures them that his commission to it was wholly divine, for he was an apostle, not of man, neither by man; he had not the common call of an ordinary minister, but an extraordinary call from heaven to this office. He neither received his qualification for it, nor his designation to it, by the mediation of men, but had both the one and the other directly from above; for he was an apostle by Jesus Christ, he had his instructions and commission immediately from him, and consequently from God the Father, who was one with him in respect of his divine nature, and who had appointed him, as Mediator, to be the apostle and high priest of our profession, and as such to authorize others to this office. He adds, Who raised him from the dead, both to acquaint us that herein God the Father gave a public testimony to Christ’s being his Son and the promised Messiah, and also that, as his call to the apostleship was immediately from Christ, so it was after his resurrection from the dead, and when he had entered upon his exalted state; so that he had reason to look upon himself, not only as standing upon a level with the other apostles, but as in some sort preferred above them; for, whereas they were called by him when on earth, he had his call from him when in heaven. Thus does the apostle, being constrained to it by his adversaries, magnify his office, which shows that though men should by no means be proud of any authority they are possessed of, yet at certain times and upon certain occasions it may become needful to assert it. But, 2. He joins all the brethren that were with him in the inscription of the epistle, and writes in their name as well as his own. By the brethren that were with him may be understood either the Christians in common of that place where he now was, or such as were employed as ministers of the gospel. These, notwithstanding his own superior character and attainments, he is ready to own as his brethren; and, though he alone wrote the epistle, yet he joins them with himself in the inscription of it. Herein, as he shows his own great modesty and humility, and how remote he was from an assuming temper, so he might do this to dispose these churches to a greater regard to what he wrote, since hereby it would appear that he had their concurrence with him in the doctrine which he had preached, and was now about to confirm, and that it was no other than what was both published and professed by others as well as himself.

II. To whom this epistle is sent – to the churches of Galatia. There were several churches at that time in this country, and it should seem that all of them were more or less corrupted through the arts of those seducers who had crept in among them; and therefore Paul, on whom came daily the care of all the churches, being deeply affected with their state, and concerned for their recovery to the faith and establishment in it, writes this epistle to them. He directs it to all of them, as being all more or less concerned in the matter of it; and he gives them the name of churches, though they had done enough to forfeit it, for corrupt churches are never allowed to be churches: no doubt there were some among them who still continued in the faith, and he was not without hope that others might be recovered to it.

III. The apostolical benediction, Gal 1:3. Herein the apostle, and the brethren who were with him, wish these churches grace and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the usual blessing wherewith he blesses the churches in the name of the Lord – grace and peace. Grace includes God’s good-will towards us and his good work upon us; and peace implies in it all that inward comfort, or outward prosperity, which is really needful for us; and they come from God the Father as the fountain, through Jesus Christ as the channel of conveyance. Both these the apostle wishes for these Christians. But we may observe, First grace, and then peace, for there can be no true peace without grace. Having mentioned the Lord Jesus Christ, he cannot pass without enlarging upon his love; and therefore adds (Gal 1:4), Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver, etc. Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins, as a great sacrifice to make atonement for us; this the justice of God required, and to this he freely submitted for our sakes. One great end hereof was to deliver us from this present evil world; not only to redeem us from the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, but also to recover us from the corruption that is in the world through lust, and to rescue us from the vicious practices and customs of it, unto which we are naturally enslaved; and possibly also to set us free from the Mosaic constitution, for so aiōn houtos is used, 1Co 2:6, 1Co 2:8. From this we may note, 1. This present world is an evil world: it has become so by the sin of man, and it is so on account of the sin and sorrow with which it abounds and the many snares and temptations to which we are exposed as long as we continue in it. But, 2. Jesus Christ has died to deliver us from this present evil world, not presently to remove his people out of it, but to rescue them from the power of it, to keep them from the evil of it, and in due time to possess them of another and better world. This, the apostle informs us, he has done according to the will of God and our Father. In offering up himself a sacrifice for this end and purpose, he acted by the appointment of the Father, as well as with his own free consent; and therefore we have the greatest reason to depend upon the efficacy and acceptableness of what he has done and suffered for us; yea, hence we have encouragement to look upon God as our Father, for thus the apostle here represents him: as he is the Father of our Lord Jesus, so in and through him he is also the Father of all true believers, as our blessed Saviour himself acquaints us (Joh 20:17), when he tells his disciples that he was ascending to his Father and their Father.

The apostle, having thus taken notice of the great love wherewith Christ hath loved us, concludes this preface with a solemn ascription of praise and glory to him (Gal 1:5): To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Intimating that on this account he is justly entitled to our highest esteem and regard. Or this doxology may be considered as referring both to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom he had just before been wishing grace and peace. They are both the proper objects of our worship and adoration, and all honour and glory are perpetually due to them, both on account of their own infinite excellences, and also on account of the blessings we receive from them.


Here the apostle comes to the body of the epistle; and he begins it with a more general reproof of these churches for their unsteadiness in the faith, which he afterwards, in some following parts of it, enlarges more upon. Here we may observe,

I. How much he was concerned at their defection: I marvel, etc. It filled him at once with the greatest surprise and sorrow. Their sin and folly were that they did not hold fast the doctrine of Christianity as it had been preached to them, but suffered themselves to be removed from the purity and simplicity of it. And there were several things by which their defection was greatly aggravated; as, 1. That they were removed from him that had called them; not only from the apostle, who had been the instrument of calling them into the fellowship of the gospel, but from God himself, by whose order and direction the gospel was preached to them, and they were invited to a participation of the privileges of it: so that herein they had been guilty of a great abuse of his kindness and mercy towards them. 2. That they had been called into the grace of Christ. As the gospel which had been preached to them was the most glorious discovery of divine grace and mercy in Christ Jesus; so thereby they had been called to partake of the greatest blessings and benefits, such as justification, and reconciliation with God here, and eternal life and happiness hereafter. These our Lord Jesus has purchased for us at the expense of his precious blood, and freely bestows upon all who sincerely accept of him: and therefore, in proportion to the greatness of the privilege they enjoyed, such were their sin and folly in deserting it and suffering themselves to be drawn off from the established way of obtaining these blessings. 3. That they were so soon removed. In a very little time they lost that relish and esteem of this grace of Christ which they seemed to have, and too easily fell in with those who taught justification by the works of the law, as many did, who had been bred up in the opinions and notions of the Pharisees, which they mingled with the doctrine of Christ, and so corrupted it; and this, as it was an instance of their weakness, so it was a further aggravation of their guilt. 4. That they were removed to another gospel, which yet was not another. Thus the apostle represents the doctrine of these judaizing teachers; he calls it another gospel, because it opened a different way of justification and salvation from that which was revealed in the gospel, namely, by works, and not by faith in Christ. And yet he adds, “Which is not another – you will find it to be no gospel at all – not really another gospel, but the perverting of the gospel of Christ, and the overturning of the foundations of that” – whereby he intimates that those who go about to establish any other way to heaven than what the gospel of Christ has revealed are guilty of a gross perversion of it, and in the issue will find themselves wretchedly mistaken. Thus the apostle endeavours to impress upon these Galatians a due sense of their guilt in forsaking the gospel way of justification; and yet at the same time he tempers his reproof with mildness and tenderness towards them, and represents them as rather drawn into it by the arts and industry of some that troubled them than as coming into it of their own accord, which, though it did not excuse them, yet was some extenuation of their fault. And hereby he teaches us that, in reproving others, as we should be faithful, so we should also be gentle, and endeavour to restore them in the spirit of meekness, Gal 6:1.

II. How confident he was that the gospel he had preached to them was the only true gospel. He was so fully persuaded of this that he pronounced an anathema upon those who pretended to preach any other gospel (Gal 1:8), and, to let them see that this did not proceed from any rashness or intemperate zeal in him, he repeated it, Gal 1:9. This will not justify our thundering out anathemas against those who differ from us in minor things. It is only against those who forge a new gospel, who overturn the foundation of the covenant of grace, by setting up the works of the law in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and corrupting Christianity with Judaism, that Paul denounces this. He puts the case: “Suppose we should preach any other gospel; nay, suppose an angel from heaven should:” not as if it were possible for an angel from heaven to be the messenger of a lie; but it is expressed so the more to strengthen what he was about to say. “If you have any other gospel preached to you by any other person, under our name, or under colour of having it from an angel himself, you must conclude that you are imposed upon: and whoever preaches another gospel lays himself under a curse, and is in danger of laying you under it too.”


What Paul had said more generally, in the preface of this epistle, he now proceeds more particularly to enlarge upon. There he had declared himself to be an apostle of Christ; and here he comes more directly to support his claim to that character and office. There were some in the churches of Galatia who were prevailed with to call this in question; for those who preached up the ceremonial law did all they could to lessen Paul’s reputation, who preached the pure gospel of Christ to the Gentiles: and therefore he here sets himself to prove the divinity both of his mission and doctrine, that thereby he might wipe off the aspersions which his enemies had cast upon him, and recover these Christians into a better opinion of the gospel he had preached to them. This he gives sufficient evidence of,

I. From the scope and design of his ministry, which was not to persuade men, but God, etc. The meaning of this may be either that in his preaching the gospel he did not act in obedience to men, but God, who had called him to this work and office; or that his aim therein was to bring persons to the obedience, not of men, but of God. As he professed to act by a commission from God; so that which he chiefly aimed at was to promote his glory, by recovering sinners into a state of subjection to him. And as this was the great end he was pursuing, so, agreeably hereunto, he did not seek to please men. He did not, in his doctrine, accommodate himself to the humours of persons, either to gain their affection or to avoid their resentment; but his great care was to approve himself to God. The judaizing teachers, by whom these churches were corrupted, had discovered a very different temper; they mixed works with faith, and the law with the gospel, only to please the Jews, whom they were willing to court and keep in with, that they might escape persecution. But Paul was a man of another spirit; he was not so solicitous to please them, nor to mitigate their rage against him, as to alter the doctrine of Christ either to gain their favour or to avoid their fury. And he gives this very good reason for it, that, if he yet pleased men, he would not be the servant of Christ. These he knew were utterly inconsistent, and that no man could serve two such masters; and therefore, though he would not needlessly displease any, yet he dared not allow himself to gratify men at the expense of his faithfulness to Christ. Thus, from the sincerity of his aims and intentions in the discharge of his office, he proves that he was truly an apostle of Christ. And from this his temper and behaviour we may note, 1. That the great end which ministers of the gospel should aim at is to bring men to God. 2. That those who are faithful will not seek to please men, but to approve themselves to God. 3. That they must not be solicitous to please men, if they would approve themselves faithful servants to Christ. But, if this argument should not be thought sufficient, he goes on to prove his apostleship,

II. From the manner wherein he received the gospel which he preached to them, concerning which he assures them (Gal 1:11, Gal 1:12) that he had it not by information from others, but by revelation from heaven. One thing peculiar in the character of an apostle was that he had been called to, and instructed for, this office immediately by Christ himself. And in this he here shows that he was by no means defective, whatever his enemies might suggest to the contrary. Ordinary ministers, as they receive their call to preach the gospel by the mediation of others, so it is by means of the instruction and assistance of others that they are brought to the knowledge of it. But Paul acquaints them that he had his knowledge of the gospel, as well as his authority to preach it, directly from the Lord Jesus: the gospel which he preached was not after man; he neither received it of man, nor was he taught it by man, but by immediate inspiration, or revelation from Christ himself. This he was concerned to make out, to prove himself an apostle: and to this purpose,

1. He tells them what his education was, and what, accordingly, his conversation in time past had been, Gal 1:13, Gal 1:14. Particularly, he acquaints them that he had been brought up in the Jewish religion, and that he had profited in it above many his equals of his own nation – that he had been exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the elders, such doctrines and customs as had been invented by their fathers, and conveyed down from one generation to another; yea, to such a degree that, in his zeal for them, he had beyond measure persecuted the church of God, and wasted it. He had not only been a rejecter of the Christian religion, notwithstanding the many evident proofs that were given of its divine origin; but he had been a persecutor of it too, and had applied himself with the utmost violence and rage to destroy the professors of it. This Paul often takes notice of, for the magnifying of that free and rich grace which had wrought so wonderful a change in him, whereby of so great a sinner he was made a sincere penitent, and from a persecutor had become an apostle. And it was very fit to mention it here; for it would hence appear that he was not led to Christianity, as many others are, purely by education, since he had been bred up in an enmity and opposition to it; and they might reasonably suppose that it must be something very extraordinary which had made so great a change in him, which had conquered the prejudices of his education, and brought him not only to profess, but to preach, that doctrine, which he had before so vehemently opposed.

2. In how wonderful a manner he was turned from the error of his ways, brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ, and appointed to the office of an apostle, Gal 1:15, Gal 1:16. This was not done in an ordinary way, nor by ordinary means, but in an extraordinary manner; for, (1.) God had separated him hereunto from his mother’s womb: the change that was wrought in him was in pursuance of a divine purpose concerning him, whereby he was appointed to be a Christian and an apostle, before he came into the world, or had done either good or evil. (2.) he was called by his grace. All who are savingly converted are called by the grace of God; their conversion is the effect of his good pleasure concerning them, and is effected by his power and grace in them. But there was something peculiar in the case of Paul, both in the suddenness and in the greatness of the change wrought in him, and also in the manner wherein it was effected, which was not by the mediation of others, as the instruments of it, but by Christ’s personal appearance to him, and immediate operation upon him, whereby it was rendered a more special and extraordinary instance of divine power and favour. (3.) He had Christ revealed in him. He was not only revealed to him, but in him. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us if he is not also revealed in us; but this was not the case of Paul. It pleased God to reveal his Son in him, to bring him to the knowledge of Christ and his gospel by special and immediate revelation. And, (4.) It was with this design, that he should preach him among the heathen; not only that he should embrace him himself, but preach him to others; so that he was both a Christian and an apostle by revelation.

3. He acquaints them how he behaved himself hereupon, from Gal 1:16, to the end. Being thus called to his work and office, he conferred not with flesh and blood. This may be taken more generally, and so we may learn from it that, when God calls us by his grace, we must not consult flesh and blood. But the meaning of it here is that he did not consult men; he did not apply to any others for their advice and direction; neither did he go up to Jerusalem, to those that were apostles before him, as though he needed to be approved by them, or to receive any further instructions or authority from them: but, instead of that, he steered another course, and went into Arabia, either as a place of retirement proper for receiving further divine revelations, or in order to preach the gospel there among the Gentiles, being appointed to be the apostle of the Gentiles; and thence he returned again to Damascus, where he had first begun his ministry, and whence he had with difficulty escaped the rage of his enemies, Acts 9. It was not till three years after his conversion that he went up to Jerusalem, to see Peter; and when he did so he made but a very short stay with him, no more than fifteen days; nor, while he was there, did he go much into conversation; for others of the apostles he saw none, but James, the Lord’s brother. So that it could not well be pretended that he was indebted to any other either for his knowledge of the gospel or his authority to preach it; but it appeared that both his qualifications for, and his call to, the apostolic office were extraordinary and divine. This account being of importance, to establish his claim to this office, to remove the unjust censures of his adversaries, and to recover the Galatians from the impressions they had received to his prejudice, he confirms it by a solemn oath (Gal 1:20), declaring, as in the presence of God, that what he had said was strictly true, and that he had not in the least falsified in what he had related, which, though it will not justify us in solemn appeals to God upon every occasion, yet shows that, in matters of weight and moment, this may sometimes not only be lawful, but duty. After this he acquaints them that he came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia: having made this short visit to Peter, he returns to his work again. He had no communication at that time with the churches of Christ in Judea, they had not so much as seen his face; but, having heard that he who persecuted them in times past now preached the faith which he once destroyed, they glorified God because of him; thanksgivings were rendered by many unto God on that behalf; the very report of this mighty change in him, as it filled them with joy, so it excited them to give glory to God on the account of it.


The apostle, in this chapter, continues the relation of his past life and conduct, which he had begun in the former; and, by some further instances of what had passed between him and the other apostles, makes it appear that he was not beholden to them either for his knowledge of the gospel or his authority as an apostle, as his adversaries would insinuate; but, on the contrary, that he was owned and approved even by them, as having an equal commission with them to this office. I. He particularly informs them of another journey which he took to Jerusalem many years after the former, and how he behaved himself at that time (Gal 2:1-10). And, II. Gives them an account of another interview he had with the apostle Peter at Antioch, and how he was obliged to behave himself towards him there. From the subject-matter of that conversation, he proceeds to discourse on the great doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, without the works of the law, which it was the main design of this epistle to establish, and which he enlarges more upon in the two following chapters.



It should seem, by the account Paul gives of himself in this chapter, that, from the very first preaching and planting of Christianity, there was a difference of apprehension between those Christians who had first been Jews and those who had first been Gentiles. Many of those who had first been Jews retained a regard to the ceremonial law, and strove to keep up the reputation of that; but those who had first been Gentiles had no regard to the law of Moses, but took pure Christianity as perfective of natural religion, and resolved to adhere to that. Peter was the apostle to them; and the ceremonial law, though dead with Christ, yet not being as yet buried, he connived at the respect kept up for it. But Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles; and, though he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, yet he adhered to pure Christianity. Now in this chapter he tells us what passed between him and the other apostles, and particularly between him and Peter hereupon.

In these verses he informs us of another journey which he took to Jerusalem, and of what passed between him and the other apostles there, Gal 2:1-10. Here he acquaints us,

I. With some circumstances relating to this his journey thither. As particularly, 1. With the time of it: that it was not till fourteen years after the former (mentioned Gal 1:18), or, as others choose to understand it, from his conversion, or from the death of Christ. It was an instance of the great goodness of God that so useful a person was for so many years preserved in his work. And it was some evidence that he had no dependence upon the other apostles, but had an equal authority with them, that he had been so long absent from them, and was all the while employed in preaching and propagating pure Christianity, without being called into question by them for it, which it may be thought he would have been, had he been inferior to them, and his doctrine disapproved by them. 2. With his companions in it: he went up with Barnabas, and took with him Titus also. If the journey here spoken of was the same with that recorded Acts 15 (as many think), then we have a plain reason why Barnabas went along with him; for he was chosen by the Christians at Antioch to be his companion and associate in the affair he went about. But, as it does not appear that Titus was put into the same commission with him, so the chief reason of his taking him along with him seems to have been to let those at Jerusalem see that he was neither ashamed nor afraid to own the doctrine which he had constantly preached; for though Titus had now become not only a convert to the Christian faith, but a preacher of it too, yet he was by birth a Gentile and uncircumcised, and therefore, by making him his companion, it appeared that their doctrine and practice were of a piece, and that as he had preached the non-necessity of circumcision, and observing the law of Moses, so he was ready to own and converse with those who were uncircumcised. 3. With the reason of it, which was a divine revelation he had concerning it: he went up be revelation; not of his own head, much less as being summoned to appear there, but by special order and direction from Heaven. It was a privilege with which this apostle was often favoured to be under a special divine direction in his motions and undertakings; and, though this is what we have no reason to expect, yet it should teach us, in every thing of moment we go about, to endeavour, as far as we are capable, to see our way made plain before us, and to commit ourselves to the guidance of Providence.

II. He gives us an account of his behaviour while he was at Jerusalem, which was such as made it appear that he was not in the least inferior to the other apostles, but that both his authority and qualifications were every way equal to theirs. He particularly acquaints us,

1. That he there communicated the gospel to them, which he preached among the Gentiles, but privately, etc. Here we may observe both the faithfulness and prudence of our great apostle. (1.) His faithfulness in giving them a free and fair account of the doctrine which he had all along preached among the Gentiles, and was still resolved to preach – that of pure Christianity, free from all mixtures of Judaism. This he knew was a doctrine that would be ungrateful to many there, and yet he was not afraid to own it, but in a free and friendly manner lays it open before them and leaves them to judge whether or no it was not the true gospel of Christ. And yet, (2.) He uses prudence and caution herein, for fear of giving offence. He chooses rather to do it in a more private than in a public way, and to those that were of reputation, that is, to the apostles themselves, or to the chief among the Jewish Christians, rather than more openly and promiscuously to all, because, when he came to Jerusalem, there were multitudes that believed, and yet continued zealous for the law, Act 21:20. And the reason of this his caution was lest he should run, or had run, in vain, lest he should stir up opposition against himself and thereby either the success of his past labours should be lessened, or his future usefulness be obstructed; for nothing more hinders the progress of the gospel than differences of opinion about the doctrines of it, especially when they occasion quarrels and contentions among the professors of it, as they too usually do. It was enough to his purpose to have his doctrine owned by those who were of greatest authority, whether it was approved by others or not. And therefore, to avoid offence, he judges it safest to communicate it privately to them, and not in public to the whole church. This conduct of the apostle may teach all, and especially ministers, how much need they have of prudence, and how careful they should be to use it upon all occasions, as far as is consistent with their faithfulness.

2. That in his practice he firmly adhered to the doctrine which he had preached. Paul was a man of resolution, and would adhere to his principles; and therefore, though he had Titus with him, who was a Greek, yet he would not suffer him to be circumcised, because he would not betray the doctrine of Christ, as he had preached it to the Gentiles. It does not appear that the apostles at all insisted upon this; for, though they connived at the use of circumcision among the Jewish converts, yet they were not for imposing it upon the Gentiles. But there were others who did, whom the apostle here calls false brethren, and concerning whom he informs us that they were unawares brought in, that is, into the church, or into their company, and that they came only to spy out their liberty which they had in Christ Jesus, or to see whether Paul would stand up in defence of that freedom from the ceremonial law which he had taught as the doctrine of the gospel, and represented as the privilege of those who embraced the Christian religion. Their design herein was to bring them into bondage, which they would have effected could they have gained the point they aimed at; for, had they prevailed with Paul and the other apostles to have circumcised Titus, they would easily have imposed circumcision upon other Gentiles, and so have brought them under the bondage of the law of Moses. But Paul, seeing their design, would by no means yield to them; he would not give place by subjection, no, not for an hour, not in this one single instance; and the reason of it was that the truth of the gospel might continue with them – that the Gentile Christians, and particularly the Galatians, might have it preserved to them pure and entire, and not corrupted with the mixtures of Judaism, as it would have been had he yielded in this matter. Circumcision was at that time a thing indifferent, and what in some cases might be complied with without sin; and accordingly we find even Paul himself sometimes giving way to it, as in the case of Timothy, Act 16:3. But when it is insisted on as necessary, and his consenting to it, though only in a single instance, is likely to be improved as giving countenance to such an imposition, he has too great a concern for the purity and liberty of the gospel, to submit to it; he would not yield to those who were for the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, but would stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, which conduct of his may give us occasion to observe that what under some circumstances may lawfully be complied with, yet, when that cannot be done without betraying the truth, or giving up the liberty, of the gospel, it ought to be refused.

3. That, though he conversed with the other apostles, yet he did not receive any addition to his knowledge or authority from them, Gal 2:6. By those who seemed to be somewhat he means the other apostles, particularly James, Peter, and John, whom he afterwards mentions by name, Gal 2:9. And concerning these he grants that they were deservedly had in reputation by all, that they were looked upon (and justly too) as pillars of the church, who were set not only for its ornament, but for its support, and that on some accounts they might seem to have the advantage of him, in that they had seen Christ in the flesh, which he had not, and were apostles before him, yea, even while he continued a persecutor. But yet, whatever they were, it was no matter to him. This was no prejudice to his being equally an apostle with them; for God does not accept the persons of men on the account of any such outward advantages. As he had called them to this office, so he was at liberty to qualify others for it, and to employ them in it. And it was evident in this case that he had done so; for in conference they added nothing to him, they told him nothing but what he before knew by revelation, nor could they except against the doctrine which he communicated to them, whence it appeared that he was not at all inferior to them, but was as much called and qualified to be an apostle as they themselves were.

4. That the issue of this conversation was that the other apostles were fully convinced of his divine mission and authority, and accordingly acknowledged him as their fellow-apostle,

Gal 2:7-10. They were not only satisfied with his doctrine, but they saw a divine power attending him, both in preaching it and in working miracles for the confirmation of it: that he who wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in him towards the Gentiles. And hence they justly concluded that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul, as the gospel of the circumcision was to Peter. And therefore, perceiving the grace that was given to him (that he was designed to the honour and office of an apostle as well as themselves) they gave unto him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, a symbol whereby they acknowledged their equality with them, and agreed that these should go to the heathen, while they continued to preach to the circumcision, as judging it most agreeable to the mind of Christ, and most conducive to the interest of Christianity, so to divide their work. And thus this meeting ended in an entire harmony and agreement; they approved both Paul’s doctrine and conduct, they were fully satisfied in him, heartily embraced him as an apostle of Christ, and had nothing further to add, only that they would remember the poor, which of his own accord he was very forward to do. The Christians of Judea were at that time labouring under great wants and difficulties; and the apostles, out of their compassion to them and concern for them, recommend their case to Paul, that he should use his interest with the Gentile churches to procure a supply for them. This was a reasonable request; for, if the Gentiles were made partakers of their spiritual things, it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things, as Rom 15:27. And he very readily falls in with it, whereby he showed his charitable and catholic disposition, how ready he was to own the Jewish converts as brethren, though many of them could scarcely allow the like favour to the converted Gentiles, and that mere difference of opinion was no reason with him why he should not endeavour to relieve and help them. Herein he has given us an excellent pattern of Christian charity, and has taught us that we should by no means confine it to those who are just of the same sentiments with us, but be ready to extend it to all whom we have reason to look upon as the disciples of Christ.


I. From the account which Paul gives of what passed between him and the other apostles at Jerusalem, the Galatians might easily discern both the falseness of what his enemies had insinuated against him and their own folly and weakness in departing from that gospel which he had preached to them. But to give the greater weight to what he had already said, and more fully to fortify them against the insinuations of the judaizing teachers, he acquaints them with another interview which he had with the apostle Peter at Antioch, and what passed between them there, Gal 2:11-14. Antioch was one of the chief churches of the Gentile Christians, as Jerusalem was of those Christians who turned from Judaism to the faith of Christ. There is no colour of reason for the supposition that Peter was bishop of Antioch. If he had, surely Paul would not have withstood him in his own church, as we here find he did; but, on the contrary, it is here spoken of as an occasional visit which he made thither. In their other meeting, there had been good harmony and agreement. Peter and the other apostles had both acknowledged Paul’s commission and approved his doctrine, and they parted very good friends. But in this Paul finds himself obliged to oppose Peter, for he was to be blamed, a plain evidence that he was not inferior to him, and consequently of the weakness of the pope’s pretence to supremacy and infallibility, as the successor of Peter. Here we may observe,

1. Peter’s fault. When he came among the Gentile churches, he complied with them, and did eat with them, though they were not circumcised, agreeably to the instructions which were given in particular to him (Acts 10), when he was warned by the heavenly vision to call nothing common or unclean. But, when there came some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, he grew more shy of the Gentiles, only to humour those of the circumcision and for fear of giving them offence, which doubtless was to the great grief and discouragement of the Gentile churches. Then he withdrew, and separated himself. His fault herein had a bad influence upon others, for the other Jews also dissembled with him; though before they might be better disposed, yet now, from his example, they took on them to scruple eating with the Gentiles, and pretended they could not in conscience do it, because they were not circumcised. And (would you think it?) Barnabas himself, one of the apostles of the Gentiles, and one who had been instrumental in planting and watering the churches of the Gentiles, was carried away with their dissimulation. Here note, (1.) The weakness and inconstancy of the best of men, when left to themselves, and how apt they are to falter in their duty to God, out of an undue regard to the pleasing of men. And, (2.) The great force of bad examples, especially the examples of great men and good men, such as are in reputation for wisdom and honour.

2. The rebuke which Paul gave him for his fault. Notwithstanding Peter’s character, yet, when he observes him thus behaving himself to the great prejudice both of the truth of the gospel and the peace of the church, he is not afraid to reprove him for it. Paul adhered resolutely to his principles, when others faltered in theirs; he was as good a Jew as any of them (for he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews), but he would magnify his office as the apostle of the Gentiles, and therefore would not see them discouraged and trampled upon. When he saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel – that they did not live up to that principle which the gospel taught, and which they had professed to own and embrace, namely, that by the death of Christ the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile was taken down, and the observance of the law of Moses was no longer in force – when he observed this, as Peter’s offence was public, so he publicly reproved him for it: He said unto him before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? Herein one part of his conduct was a contradiction to the other; for if he, who was a Jew, could himself sometimes dispense with the use of the ceremonial law, and live after the manner of the Gentiles, this showed that he did not look upon the observance of it as still necessary, even for the Jews themselves; and therefore that he could not, consistently with his own practice, impose it upon the Gentile Christians. And yet Paul charges him with this, yea, represents him as compelling the Gentiles to live as did the Jews – not by open force and violence, but this was the tendency of what he did; for it was in effect to signify this, that the Gentiles must comply with the Jews, or else not be admitted into Christian communion.

II. Paul having thus established his character and office, and sufficiently shown that he was not inferior to any of the apostles, no, not to Peter himself, from the account of the reproof he gave him he takes occasion to speak of that great fundamental doctrine of the gospel – That justification is only by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law (though some think that all he says to the end of the chapter is what he said to Peter at Antioch), which doctrine condemned Peter for his symbolizing with the Jews. For, if it was the principle of his religion that the gospel is the instrument of our justification and not the law, then he did very ill in countenancing those who kept up the law, and were for mixing it with faith in the business of our justification. This was the doctrine which Paul had preached among the Galatians, to which he still adhered, and which it is his great business in this epistle to mention and confirm. Now concerning this Paul acquaints us,

1. With the practice of the Jewish Christians themselves: “We,” says he, “who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles (even we who have been born and bred in the Jewish religion, and not among the impure Gentiles), knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law. And, if we have thought it necessary to seek justification by the faith of Christ, why then should we hamper ourselves with the law? What did we believe in Christ for? Was it not that we might be justified by the faith of Christ? And, if so, is it not folly to go back to the law, and to expect to be justified either by the merit of moral works or the influence of any ceremonial sacrifices or purifications? And if it would be wrong in us who are Jews by nature to return to the law, and expect justification by it, would it not be much more so to require this of the Gentiles, who were never subject to it, since by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified?” To give the greater weight to this he adds (Gal 2:17), “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ the minister of sin? If, while we seek justification by Christ alone, and teach others to do so, we ourselves are found giving countenance or indulgence to sin, or rather are accounted sinners of the Gentiles, and such as it is not fit to have communion with, unless we also observe the law of Moses, is Christ the minister of sin? Will it not follow that he is so, if he engage us to receive a doctrine that gives liberty to sin, or by which we are so far from being justified that we remain impure sinners, and unfit to be conversed with?” This, he intimates, would be the consequence, but he rejects it with abhorrence: “God forbid,” says he, “that we should entertain such a thought of Christ, or of his doctrine, that thereby he should direct us into a way of justification that is defective and ineffectual, and leave those who embrace it still unjustified, or that would give the least encouragement to sin and sinners.” This would be very dishonourable to Christ, and it would be very injurious to them also. “For,” says he (Gal 2:18), “if I build again the things which I destroyed – if I (or any other), who have taught that the observance of the Mosaic law is not necessary to justification, should now, by word or practice, teach or intimate that it is necessary – I make myself a transgressor; I own myself to be still an impure sinner, and to remain under the guilt of sin, notwithstanding my faith in Christ; or I shall be liable to be charged with deceit and prevarication, and acting inconsistently with myself.” Thus does the apostle argue for the great doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law from the principles and practice of the Jewish Christians themselves, and from the consequences that would attend their departure from it, whence it appeared that Peter and the other Jews were much in the wrong in refusing to communicate with the Gentile Christians, and endeavouring to bring them under the bondage of the law.

2. He acquaints us what his own judgment and practice were. (1.) That he was dead to the law. Whatever account others might make of it, yet, for his part, he was dead to it. He knew that the moral law denounced a curse against all that continue not in all things written therein, to do them; and therefore he was dead to it, as to all hope of justification and salvation that way. And as for the ceremonial law, he also knew that it was now antiquated and superseded by the coming of Christ, and therefore, the substance having come, he had no longer any regard to the shadow. He was thus dead to the law, through the law itself; it discovered itself to be at an end. By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it (since none could perform a perfect obedience to it) and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and purifications of it, since they were done away in Christ, and a period was put to them by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us; and therefore, the more he looked into it the more he saw that there was no occasion for keeping up that regard to it which the Jews pleaded for. But, though he was thus dead to the law, yet he did not look upon himself as with law. He had renounced all hopes of justification by the works of it, and was unwilling any longer to continue under the bondage of it; but he was far from thinking himself discharged from his duty to God; on the contrary, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God. The doctrine of the gospel, which he had embraced, instead of weakening the bond of duty upon him, did but the more strengthen and confirm it; and therefore, though he was dead to the law, yet it was only in order to his living a new and better life to God (as Rom 7:4, Rom 7:6), such a life as would be more agreeable and acceptable to God than his observance of the Mosaic law could now be, that is, a life of faith in Christ, and, under the influence thereof, of holiness and righteousness towards God. Agreeably hereunto he acquaints us, (2.) That, as he was dead to the law, so he was alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Gal 2:20): I am crucified with Christ, etc. And here in his own person he gives us an excellent description of the mysterious life of a believer. [1.] He is crucified, and yet he lives; the old man is crucified (Rom 6:6), but the new man is living; he is dead to the world, and dead to the law, and yet alive to God and Christ; sin is mortified, and grace quickened. [2.] He lives, and yet not he. This is strange: I live, and yet not I; he lives in the exercise of grace; he has the comforts and the triumphs of grace; and yet that grace is not from himself, but from another. Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence. [3.] He is crucified with Christ, and yet Christ lives in him; this results from his mystical union with Christ, by means of which he is interested in the death of Christ, so as by virtue of that to die unto sin; and yet interested in the life of Christ, so as by virtue of that to live unto God. [4.] He lives in the flesh, and yet lives by faith; to outward appearance he lives as other people do, his natural life is supported as others are; yet he has a higher and nobler principle that supports and actuates him, that of faith in Christ, and especially as eyeing the wonders of his love in giving himself for him. Hence it is that, though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh. Note, Those who have true faith live by that faith; and the great thing which faith fastens upon is Christ’s loving us and giving himself for us. The great evidence of Christ’s loving us is his giving himself for us; and this is that which we are chiefly concerned to mix faith with, in order to our living to him.

Lastly, The apostle concludes this discourse with acquainting us that by the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, without the works of the law (which he asserted, and others opposed), he avoided two great difficulties, which the contrary opinion was loaded with: – 1. That he did not frustrate the grace of God, which the doctrine of the justification by the works of the law did; for, as he argues (Rom 11:6), If it be of works, it is no more of grace. 2. That he did not frustrate the death of Christ; whereas, if righteousness come by the law, then it must follow that Christ has died in vain; for, if we look for salvation by the law of Moses, then we render the death of Christ needless: for to what purpose should he be appointed to die, if we might have been saved without it?


The apostle in this chapter, I. Reproves the Galatians for their folly, in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the faith of the gospel, and endeavours, from several considerations, to impress them with a sense of it. II. He proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for departing from – that of justification by faith without the works of the law, 1. From the example of Abraham’s justification. 2. From the nature and tenour of the law. 3. From the express testimony of the Old Testament; and, 4. From the stability of the covenant of God with Abraham. Lest any should hereupon say, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” he answers, (1.) It was added because of transgressions. (2.) It was given to convince the world of the necessity of a Saviour. (3.) It was designed as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. And then he concludes the chapter by acquainting us with the privilege of Christians under the gospel state.


Galatians 3:1-5

The apostle is here dealing with those who, having embraced the faith of Christ, still continued to seek for justification by the works of the law; that is, who depended upon their own obedience to the moral precepts as their righteousness before God, and, wherein that was defective, had recourse to the legal sacrifices and purifications to make it up. These he first sharply reproves, and then endeavours, by the evidence of truth, to convince them. This is the right method, when we reprove any for a fault or an error, to convince them that it is an error, that it is a fault.

He reproves them, and the reproof is very close and warm: he calls them foolish Galatians, Gal 3:1. Though as Christians they were Wisdom’s children, yet as corrupt Christians they were foolish children. Yea, he asks, Who hath bewitched you? whereby he represents them as enchanted by the arts and snares of their seducing teachers, and so far deluded as to act very unlike themselves. That wherein their folly and infatuation appeared was that they did not obey the truth; that is, they did not adhere to the gospel way of justification, wherein they had been taught, and which they had professed to embrace. Note, It is not enough to know the truth, and to say we believe it, but we must obey it too; we must heartily submit to it, and stedfastly abide by it. Note, also, Those are spiritually bewitched who, when the truth as it is in Jesus is plainly set before them, will not thus obey it. Several things proved and aggravated the folly of these Christians.

1. Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth as crucified among them; that is, they had had the doctrine of the cross preached to them, and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified had been set before them. Now, it was the greatest madness that could be for those who had acquaintance with such sacred mysteries, and admittance to such great solemnities, not to obey the truth which was thus published to them, and signed and sealed in that ordinance. Note, The consideration of the honours and privileges we have been admitted to as Christians should shame us out of the folly of apostasy and backsliding.

2. He appeals to the experiences they had had of the working of the Spirit upon their souls (Gal 3:2); he puts them in mind that, upon their becoming Christians, they had received the Spirit, that many of them at least had been made partakers not only of the sanctifying influences, but of the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were eminent proofs of the truth of the Christian religion and the several doctrines of it, and especially of this, that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law, which was one of the peculiar and fundamental principles of it. To convince them of the folly of their departing from this doctrine, he desires to know how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law, that is, the preaching of the necessity of these in order to justification? This they could not say, for that doctrine had not then been preached to them, nor had they, as Gentiles, any pretence to justification in that way. Or was it by the hearing of faith, that is, the preaching of the doctrine of faith in Christ as the only way of justification? This, if they would say the truth, they were obliged to own, and therefore must be very unreasonable if they should reject a doctrine of the good effects of which they had had such experience. Note, (1.) It is usually by the ministry of the gospel that the Spirit is communicated to persons. And, (2.) Those are very unwise who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage.

3. He calls upon them to consider their past and present conduct, and thence to judge whether they were not acting very weakly and unreasonably (Gal 3:3, Gal 3:4): he tells them that they had begun in the Spirit, but now were seeking to be made perfect by the flesh; they had embraced the doctrine of the gospel, by means of which they had received the Spirit, and wherein only the true way of justification is revealed. And thus they had begun well; but now they were turning to the law, and expected to be advanced to higher degrees of perfection by adding the observance of it to faith in Christ, in order to their justification, which could end in nothing but their shame and disappointment: for this, instead of being an improvement upon the gospel, was really a perversion of it; and, while they sought to be justified in this way, they were so far from being more perfect Christians that they were more in danger of becoming no Christians at all; hereby they were pulling down with one hand what they had built with the other, and undoing what they had hitherto done in Christianity. Yea, he further puts them in mind that they had not only embraced the Christian doctrine, but suffered for it too; and therefore their folly would be the more aggravated, if now they should desert it: for in this case all that they had suffered would be in vain – it would appear that they had been foolish in suffering for what they now deserted, and their sufferings would be altogether in vain, and of no advantage to them. Note, (1.) It is the folly of apostates that they lose the benefit of all they have done in religion, or suffered for it. And, (2.) It is very sad for any to live in an age of services and sufferings, of sabbaths, sermons, and sacraments, in vain; in this case former righteousness shall not be mentioned.

4. He puts them in mind that they had had ministers among them (and particularly himself) who came with a divine seal and commission; for they had ministered the Spirit to them, and wrought miracles among them: and he appeals to them whether they did it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith, whether the doctrine that was preached by them, and confirmed by the miraculous gifts and operations of the Spirit, was that of justification by the works of the law or by the faith of Christ; they very well knew that it was not the former, but the latter; and therefore must needs be inexcusable in forsaking a doctrine which had been so signally owned and attested, and exchanging it for one that had received no such attestations.

Galatians 3:6-18

The apostle having reproved the Galatians for not obeying the truth, and endeavoured to impress them with a sense of their folly herein, in these verses he largely proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for rejecting, namely, that of justification by faith without the works of the law. This he does several ways.

I. From the example of Abraham’s justification. This argument the apostle uses, Rom. 4. Abraham believed God, and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Gal 3:6); that is, his faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man: as on this account he is represented as the father of the faithful, so the apostle would have us to know that those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Gal 3:7), not according to the flesh, but according to the promise; and, consequently, that they are justified in the same way that he was. Abraham was justified by faith, and so are they. To confirm this, the apostle acquaints us that the promise made to Abraham (Gen 12:3), In thee shall all nations be blessed, had a reference hereunto, Gal 3:8. The scripture is said to foresee, because he that indited the scripture did foresee, that God would justify the heathen world in the way of faith; and therefore in Abraham, that is, in the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also, should be blessed; not only blessed in the seed of Abraham, but blessed as Abraham was, being justified as he was. This the apostle calls preaching the gospel to Abraham; and thence infers (Gal 3:9) that those who are of faith, that is, true believers, of what nation soever they are, are blessed with faithful Abraham. They are blessed with Abraham the father of the faithful, by the promise made to him, and therefore by faith as he was. It was through faith in the promise of God that he was blessed, and it is only in the same way that others obtain this privilege.

II. He shows that we cannot be justified but by faith fastening on the gospel, because the law condemns us. If we put ourselves upon trial in that court, and stand to the sentence of it, we are certainly cast, and lost, and undone; for as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, as many as depend upon the merit of their own works as their righteousness, as plead not guilty, and insist upon their own justification, the cause will certainly go against them; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them, Gal 3:10, and Deu 27:26. The condition of life, by the law, is perfect, personal, and perpetual, obedience; the language of it is, Do this and live; or, as Gal 3:12, The man that doeth them shall live in them: and for every failure herein the law denounces a curse. Unless our obedience be universal, continuing in all things that are written in the book of the law, and unless it be perpetual too (if in any instance at any time we fail and come short), we fall under the curse of the law. The curse is wrath revealed, and ruin threatened: it is a separation unto all evil, and this is in full force, power, and virtue, against all sinners, and therefore against all men; for all have sinned and become guilty before God: and if, as transgressors of the law, we are under the curse of it, it must be a vain thing to look for justification by it. But, though this is not to be expected from the law, yet the apostle afterwards acquaints us that there is a way open to our escaping this curse, and regaining the favour of God, namely, through faith in Christ, who (as he says, Gal 3:13) hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, etc. A strange method it was which Christ took to redeem us from the curse of the law; it was by his being himself made a curse for us. Being made sin for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for the present under that infamous token of the divine displeasure upon which the law of Moses had put a particular brand, Deu 21:23. The design of this was that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ – that all who believed on Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, might become heirs of Abraham’s blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Spirit, which was peculiarly reserved for the times of the gospel. Hence it appeared that it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, that they become the people of God and heirs of the promise. Here note, 1. The misery which as sinners we are sunk into – we are under the curse and condemnation of the law. 2. The love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ towards us – he has submitted to be made a curse for us, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law. 3. The happy prospect which we now have through him, not only of escaping the curse, but of inheriting the blessing. And, 4. That it is only through faith in him that we can hope to obtain this favour.

III. To prove that justification is by faith, and not by the works of the law, the apostle alleges the express testimony of the Old Testament, Gal 3:11. The place referred to is Hab 2:4, where it is said, The just shall live by faith; it is again quoted, Rom 1:17, and Heb 10:38. The design of it is to show that those only are just or righteous who do truly live, who are freed from death and wrath, and restored into a state of life in the favour of God; and that it is only through faith that persons become righteous, and as such obtain this life and happiness – that they are accepted of God, and enabled to live to him now, and are entitled to an eternal life in the enjoyment of him hereafter. Hence the apostle says, It is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God. Whatever he may be in the account of others, yet he is not so in the sight of God; for the law is not of faith – that says nothing concerning faith in the business of justification, nor does it give life to those who believe; but the language of it is, The man that doeth them shall live in them, as Lev 18:5. It requires perfect obedience as the condition of life, and therefore now can by no means be the rule of our justification. This argument of the apostle’s may give us occasion to remark that justification by faith is no new doctrine, but what was established and taught in the church of God long before the times of the gospel. Yea, it is the only way wherein any sinners ever were, or can be, justified.

IV. To this purpose the apostle urges the stability of the covenant which God made with Abraham, which was not vacated nor disannulled by the giving of the law to Moses, Gal 3:15, etc. Faith had the precedence of the law, for Abraham was justified by faith. It was a promise that he built upon, and promises are the proper objects of faith. God entered into covenant with Abraham (Gal 3:8), and this covenant was firm and steady; even men’s covenants are so, and therefore much more his. When a deed is executed, or articles of agreement are sealed, both parties are bound, and it is too late then to settle things otherwise; and therefore it is not to be supposed that by the subsequent law the covenant of God should be vacated. The original word diathēkē signifies both a covenant and a testament. Now the promise made to Abraham was rather a testament than a covenant. When a testament has become of force by the death of the testator, it is not capable of being altered; and therefore, the promise that was given to Abraham being of the nature of a testament, it remains firm and unalterable. But, if it should be said that a grant or testament may be defeated for want of persons to claim the benefit of it (Gal 3:16), he shows that there is no danger of that in this case. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, but the covenant is made with Abraham and his seed. And he gives us a very surprising exposition of this. We should have thought it had been meant only of the people of the Jews. “Nay,” says the apostle, “it is in the singular number, and points at a single person – that seed is Christ,” So that the covenant is still in force; for Christ abideth for ever in his person, and in his spiritual seed, who are his by faith. And if it be objected that the law which was given by Moses did disannul this covenant, because that insisted so much upon works, and there was so little in it of faith or of the promised Messiah, he answers that the subsequent law could not disannul the previous covenant or promise (Gal 3:18): If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but, says he, God gave it to Abraham by promise, and therefore it would be inconsistent with his holiness, wisdom, and faithfulness, by any subsequent act to set aside the promise, and so alter the way of justification which he had thus established. If the inheritance was given to Abraham by promise, and thereby entailed upon his spiritual seed, we may be sure that God would not retract that promise; for he is not a man that he should repent.

Galatians 3:19-29

The apostle having just before been speaking of the promise made to Abraham, and representing that as the rule of our justification, and not the law, lest they should think he did too much derogate from the law, and render it altogether useless, he thence takes occasion to discourse of the design and tendency of it, and to acquaint us for what purposes it was given. It might be asked, “If that promise be sufficient for salvation, wherefore then serveth the law? Or, Why did God give the law by Moses?” To this he answers,

I. The law was added because of transgressions, Gal 3:19. It was not designed to disannul the promise, and to establish a different way of justification from that which was settled by the promise; but it was added to it, annexed on purpose to be subservient to it, and it was so because of transgressions. The Israelites, though they were chosen to be God’s peculiar people, were sinners as well as others, and therefore the law was given to convince them of their sin, and of their obnoxiousness to the divine displeasure on the account of it; for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom 3:20), and the law entered that sin might abound, Rom 5:20. And it was also intended to restrain them from the commission of sin, to put an awe upon their minds, and be a curb upon their lusts, that they should not run into that excess of riot to which they were naturally inclined; and yet at the same time it was designed to direct them to the true and only way whereby sin was to be expiated, and wherein they might obtain the pardon of it; namely, through the death and sacrifice of Christ, which was the special use for which the law of sacrifices and purifications was given.

The apostle adds that the law was given for this purpose till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; that is, either till Christ should come (the principle seed referred to in the promise, as he had before shown), or till the gospel dispensation should take place, when Jews and Gentiles, without distinction, should, upon believing, become the seed of Abraham. The law was added because of transgressions, till this fulness of time, or this complete dispensation, should come. But when the seed came, and a fuller discovery of divine grace in the promise was made, then the law, as given by Moses, was to cease; that covenant, being found faulty, was to give place to another, and a better, Heb 8:7, Heb 8:8. And though the law, considered as the law of nature, is always in force, and still continues to be of use to convince men of sin and to restrain them from it, yet we are now no longer under the bondage and terror of that legal covenant. The law then was not intended to discover another way of justification, different from that revealed by the promise, but only to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing them the sinfulness of sin, and to point them to Christ, through whom alone they could be pardoned and justified.

As a further proof that the law was not designed to vacate the promise, the apostle adds, It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. It was given to different persons, and in a different manner from the promise, and therefore for different purposes. The promise was made to Abraham, and all his spiritual seed, including believers of all nations, even of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; but the law was given to the Israelites as a peculiar people, and separated from the rest of the world. And, whereas the promise was given immediately by God himself, the law was given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator. Hence it appeared that the law could not be designed to set aside the promise; for (Gal 3:20), A mediator is not a mediator of one, of one party only; but God is one, but one party in the promise or covenant made with Abraham: and therefore it is not to be supposed that by a transaction which passed only between him and the nation of the Jews he should make void a promise which he had long before made to Abraham and all his spiritual seed, whether Jews or Gentiles. This would not have been consistent with his wisdom, nor with his truth and faithfulness. Moses was only a mediator between God and the spiritual seed of Abraham; and therefore the law that was given by him could not affect the promise made to them, much less be subversive of it.

II. The law was given to convince men of the necessity of a Saviour. The apostle asks (Gal 3:21), as what some might be willing to object, “Is the law then against the promises of God? Do they really clash and interfere with each other? Or do you not set the covenant with Abraham, and the law of Moses, at variance with one another?” To this he answers, God forbid; he was far from entertaining such a thought, nor could it be inferred from what he had said. The law is by no means inconsistent with the promise, but subservient to it, as the design of it is to discover men’s transgressions, and to show them the need they have of a better righteousness than that of the law. That consequence would much rather follow from their doctrine than from his; for, if there had been a law given that could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law, and in that case the promise would have been superseded and rendered useless. But that in our present state could not be, for the scripture hath concluded all under sin (Gal 3:22), or declared that all, both Jew and Gentile, are in a state of guilt, and therefore unable to attain to righteousness and justification by the works of the law. The law discovered their wounds, but could not afford them a remedy: it showed that they were guilty, because it appointed sacrifices and purifications, which were manifestly insufficient to take away sin: and therefore the great design of it was that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those that believe, that being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise.

III. The law was designed for a schoolmaster, to bring men to Christ, Gal 3:24. In the foregoing verse, the apostle acquaints us with the state of the Jews under the Mosaic economy, that before faith came, or before Christ appeared and the doctrine of justification by faith in him was more fully discovered, they were kept under the law, obliged, under severe penalties, to a strict observance of the various precepts of it; and at that time they were shut up, held under the terror and discipline of it, as prisoners in a state of confinement: the design of this was that hereby they might be disposed more readily to embrace the faith which should afterwards be revealed, or be persuaded to accept Christ when he came into the world, and to fall in with that better dispensation he was to introduce, whereby they were to be freed from bondage and servitude, and brought into a state of greater light and liberty. Now, in that state, he tells them, the law was their schoolmaster, to bring them to Christ, that they might be justified by faith. As it declared the mind and will of God concerning them, and at the same time denounced a curse against them for every failure in their duty, so it was proper to convince them of their lost and undone condition in themselves, and to let them see the weakness and insufficiency of their own righteousness to recommend them to God. And as it obliged them to a variety of sacrifices, etc., which, though they could not of themselves take away sin, were typical of Christ, and of the great sacrifice which he was to offer up for the expiation of it, so it directed them (though in a more dark and obscure manner) to him as their only relief and refuge. And thus it was their schoolmaster, to instruct and govern them in their state of minority, or, as the word paidagōgos most properly signifies, their servant, to lead and conduct them to Christ (as children were wont to be led to school by those servants who had the care of them); that they might be more fully instructed by him as their schoolmaster, in the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in him, and of which he was appointed to give the fullest and clearest discoveries. But lest it should be said, If the law was of this use and service under the Jewish, why may it not continue to be so under the Christian state too, the apostle adds (Gal 3:25) that after faith has come, and the gospel dispensation has taken place, under which Christ, and the way of pardon and life through faith in him, are set in the clearest light, we are no longer under a schoolmaster – we have no such need of the law to direct us to him as there was then. Thus the apostle acquaints us for what uses and purposes the law served; and, from what he says concerning this matter, we may observe,

1. The goodness of God to his people of old, in giving the law to them; for though, in comparison of the gospel state, it was a dispensation of darkness and terror, yet it furnished them with sufficient means and helps both to direct them in their duty to God and to encourage their hopes in him.

2. The great fault and folly of the Jews, in mistaking the design of the law, and abusing it to a very different purpose from that which God intended in the giving of it; for they expected to be justified by the works of it, whereas it was never designed to be the rule of their justification, but only a means of convincing them of their guilt and of their need of a Saviour, and of directing them to Christ, and faith in him, as the only way of obtaining this privilege. See Rom 9:31, Rom 9:32; Rom 10:3, Rom 10:4.

3. The great advantage of the gospel state above the legal, under which we not only enjoy a clearer discovery of divine grace and mercy than was afforded to the Jews of old, but are also freed from the state of bondage and terror under which they were held. We are not now treated as children in a state of minority, but as sons grown up to a full age, who are admitted to greater freedoms, and instated in larger privileges, than they were. This the apostle enlarges upon in the following verses. For, having shown for what intent the law was given, in the close of the chapter he acquaints us with our privilege by Christ, where he particularly declares,

(1.) That we are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, Gal 3:26. And here we may observe, [1.] The great and excellent privilege which real Christians enjoy under the gospel: They are the children of God; they are no longer accounted servants, but sons; they are not now kept at such a distance, and under such restraints, as the Jews were, but are allowed a nearer and freer access to God than was granted to them; yea, they are admitted into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of his children. [2.] How they come to obtain this privilege, and that is by faith in Christ Jesus. Having accepted him as their Lord and Saviour, and relying on him alone for justification and salvation, they are hereupon admitted into this happy relation to God, and are entitled to the privileges of it; for (Joh 1:12) as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to those that believe on his name. And this faith in Christ, whereby they became the children of God, he reminds us (Gal 3:27), was what they professed in baptism; for he adds, As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Having in baptism professed their faith in him, they were thereby devoted to him, and had, as it were, put on his livery, and declared themselves to be his servants and disciples; and having thus become the members of Christ, they were through him owned and accounted as the children of God. Here note, First, Baptism is now the solemn rite of our admission into the Christian church, as circumcision was into that of the Jews. Our Lord Jesus appointed it to be so, in the commission he gave to his apostles (Mat 28:19), and accordingly it was their practice to baptize those whom they had discipled to the Christian faith; and perhaps the apostle might take notice of their baptism here, and of their becoming the children of God through faith in Christ, professed therein, to obviate a further objection, which the false teachers might be apt to urge in favour of circumcision. They might be ready to say, “Though it should be allowed that the law, as given at mount Sinai, was abrogated by the coming of Christ the promised seed, yet why should circumcision be set aside too, when that was given to Abraham together with the promise, and long before the giving of the law by Moses?” But this difficulty is sufficiently removed when the apostle says, Those who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ; for thence it appears that under the gospel baptism comes in the room of circumcision, and that those who by baptism are devoted to Christ, and do sincerely believe in him, are to all intents and purposes as much admitted into the privileges of the Christian state as the Jews were by circumcision into those of the legal (Php 3:3), and therefore there was no reason why the use of that should still be continued. Note, Secondly, In our baptism we put on Christ; therein we profess our discipleship to him, and are obliged to behave ourselves as his faithful servants. Being baptized into Christ, we are baptized into his death, that as he died and rose again, so, in conformity thereunto, we should die unto sin, and walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3, Rom 6:4); it would be of great advantage to us did we oftener remember this.

(2.) That this privilege of being the children of God, and of being by baptism devoted to Christ, is now enjoyed in common by all real Christians. The law indeed made a difference between Jew and Greek, giving the Jews on many accounts the pre-eminence: that also made a difference between bond and free, master and servant, and between male and female, the males being circumcised. But it is not so now; they all stand on the same level, and are all one in Christ Jesus; as the one is not accepted on the account of any national or personal advantages he may enjoy above the other, so neither is the other rejected for the want of them; but all who sincerely believe on Christ, of what nation, or sex, or condition, soever they be, are accepted of him, and become the children of God through faith in him.

(3.) That, being Christ’s, we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Their judaizing teachers would have them believe that they must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, or they could not be saved: “No,” says the apostle, “there is no need of that; for if you be Christ’s, if you sincerely believe on him, who is the promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, you therefore become the true seed of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and as such are heirs according to the promise, and consequently are entitled to the great blessings and privileges of it.” And therefore upon the whole, since it appeared that justification was not to be attained by the works of the law, but only by faith in Christ, and that the law of Moses was a temporary institution and was given for such purposes as were only subservient to and not subversive of the promise, and that now, under the gospel, Christians enjoy much greater and better privileges than the Jews did under that dispensation, it must needs follow that they were very unreasonable and unwise, in hearkening to those who at once endeavoured to deprive them of the truth and liberty of the gospel.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Galatians Ch 4-6

Commentary on Galatians Chapters 4-6


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

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Book Summary

An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians

This epistle of Paul is directed not to the church or churches of a single city, as some others are, but of a country or province, for so Galatia was. It is very probable that these Galatians were first converted to the Christian faith by his ministry; or, if he was not the instrument of planting, yet at least he had been employed in watering these churches, as is evident from this epistle itself, and also from Act 18:23, where we find him going over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. While he was with them, they had expressed the greatest esteem and affection both for his person and ministry; but he had not been long absent from them before some judaizing teachers got in among them, by whose arts and insinuations they were soon drawn into a meaner opinion both of the one and of the other. That which these false teachers chiefly aimed at was to draw them off from the truth as it is in Jesus, particularly in the great doctrine of justification, which they grossly perverted, by asserting the necessity of joining the observance of the law of Moses with faith in Christ in order to it: and, the better to accomplish this their design, they did all they could to lessen the character and reputation of the apostle, and to raise up their own on the ruins of his, representing him as one who, if he was to be owned as an apostle, yet was much inferior to others, and particularly who deserved not such a regard as Peter, James, and John, whose followers, it is likely, they pretended to be: and in both these attempts they had but too great success. This was the occasion of his writing this epistle, wherein he expresses his great concern that they had suffered themselves to be so soon turned aside from the faith of the gospel, vindicates his own character and authority as an apostle against the aspersions of his enemies, showing that his mission and doctrine were both divine, and that he was not, upon any account, behind the very chief of the apostles, 2Co 11:5. He then sets himself to assert and maintain the great gospel doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, and to obviate some difficulties that might be apt to arise in their minds concerning it: and, having established this important doctrine, he exhorts them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, cautions them against the abuse of this liberty, gives them several very needful counsels and directions and then concludes the epistle by giving them a just description of those false teachers by whom they had been ensnared, and, on the contrary, of his own temper and behaviour. In all this his great scope and design were to recover those who had been perverted, to settle those who might be wavering, and to confirm such among them as had kept their integrity.


The apostle, in this chapter, is still carrying on the same general design as in the former – to recover these Christians from the impressions made upon them by the judaizing teachers, and to represent their weakness and folly in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the gospel doctrine of justification, and to be deprived of their freedom from the bondage of the law of Moses. For this purpose he makes use of various considerations; such as, I. The great excellence of the gospel state above the legal (Gal 4:1-7). II. The happy change that was made in them at their conversion (Gal 4:8-11). III. The affection they had had for him and his ministry (Gal 4:12-16). IV. The character of the false teachers by whom they had been perverted (Gal 4:17, Gal 4:18). V. The very tender affection he had for them (Gal 4:19, Gal 4:20. VI. The history of Isaac and Ishmael, by a comparison taken from which he illustrates the difference between such as rested in Christ and such as trusted in the law. And in all these, as he uses great plainness and faithfulness with them, so he expresses the tenderest concern for them.


Galatians 4:1-7

In this chapter the apostle deals plainly with those who hearkened to the judaizing teachers, who cried up the law of Moses in competition with the gospel of Christ, and endeavored to bring them under the bondage of it. To convince them of their folly, and to rectify their mistake herein, in these verses he prosecutes the comparison of a child under age, which he had touched upon in the foregoing chapter, and thence shows what great advantages we have now, under the gospel, above what they had under the law. And here.

I. He acquaints us with the state of the Old Testament church: it was like a child under age, and it was used accordingly, being kept in a state of darkness and bondage, in comparison of the greater light and liberty which we enjoy under the gospel. That was indeed a dispensation of grace, and yet it was comparatively a dispensation of darkness; for as the heir, in his minority, is under tutors and governors till the time appointed of his father, by whom he is educated and instructed in those things which at present he knows little of the meaning of, though afterwards they are likely to be of great use to him; so it was with the Old Testament church – the Mosaic economy, which they were under, was what they could not fully understand the meaning of; for, as the apostle says (2Co 3:13), They could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But to the church, when grown up to maturity, in gospel days, it becomes of great use. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage too; for they were in bondage under the elements of the world, being tied to a great number of burdensome rites and observances, by which, as by a kind of first rudiments, they were taught and instructed, and whereby they were kept in a state of subjection, like a child under tutors and governors. The church then lay more under the character of a servant, being obliged to do every thing according to the command of God, without being fully acquainted with the reason of it; but the service under the gospel appears to be more reasonable than that was. The time appointed of the Father having come, when the church was to arrive at its full age, the darkness and bondage under which it before lay are removed, and we are under a dispensation of greater light and liberty.

II. He acquaints us with the much happier state of Christians under the gospel-dispensation, Gal 4:4-7. When the fulness of time had come, the time appointed of the Father, when he would put an end to the legal dispensation, and set up another and a better in the room of it, he sent forth his Son, etc. The person who was employed to introduce this new dispensation was no other than the Son of God himself, the only-begotten of the Father, who, as he had been prophesied of and promised from the foundation of the world, so in due time he was manifested for this purpose. He, in pursuance of the great design he had undertaken, submitted to be made of a woman – there is his incarnation; and to be made under the law – there is his subjection. He who was truly God for our sakes became man; and he who was Lord of all consented to come into a state of subjection and to take upon him the form of a servant; and one great end of all this was to redeem those that were under the law – to save us from that intolerable yoke and to appoint gospel ordinances more rational and easy. He had indeed something more and greater in his view, in coming into the world, than merely to deliver us from the bondage of the ceremonial law; for he came in our nature, and consented to suffer and die for us, that hereby he might redeem us from the wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law, which, as sinners, we all lay under. But that was one end of it, and a mercy reserved to be bestowed at the time of his manifestation; then the more servile state of the church was to come to a period, and a better to succeed in the place of it; for he was sent to redeem us, that we might receive the adoption of sons – that we might no longer be accounted and treated as servants, but as sons grown up to maturity, who are allowed greater freedoms, and admitted to larger privileges, than while they were under tutors and governors. This the course of the apostle’s argument leads us to take notice of, as one thing intended by this expression, though no doubt it may also be understood as signifying that gracious adoption which the gospel so often speaks of as the privilege of those who believe in Christ. Israel was God’s son, his first-born, Rom 9:4. But now, under the gospel, particular believers receive the adoption; and, as an earnest and evidence of it, they have together therewith the Spirit of adoption, putting them upon the duty of prayer, and enabling them in prayer to eye God as a Father (Gal 4:6): Because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. And hereupon (Gal 4:7) the apostle concludes this argument by adding, Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and, if a son, then an heir of God through Christ; that is, Now, under the gospel state, we are no longer under the servitude of the law, but, upon our believing in Christ, become the sons of God; we are thereupon accepted of him, and adopted by him; and, being the sons, we are also heirs of God, and are entitled to the heavenly inheritance (as he also reasons Rom 8:17), and therefore it must needs be the greatest weakness and folly to turn back to the law, and to seek justification by the works of it. From what the apostle says in these verses, we may observe,

1. The wonders of divine love and mercy towards us, particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us, – of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much, for us, in pursuance of that design, – and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers for such gracious purposes.

2. The great and invaluable advantages which Christians enjoy under the gospel; for, (1.) We receive the adoption of sons. Whence note, It is the great privilege which believers have through Christ that they are adopted children of the God of heaven. We who by nature are children of wrath and disobedience have become by grace children of love. (2.) We receive the Spirit of adoption. Note, [1.] All who have the privilege of adoption have the Spirit of adoption – all who are received into the number partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children to resemble him. [2.] The Spirit of adoption is always the Spirit of prayer, and it is our duty in prayer to eye God as a Father. Christ has taught us in prayer to eye God as our Father in heaven. [3.] If we are his sons, then his heirs. It is not so among men, with whom the eldest son is heir; but all God’s children are heirs. Those who have the nature of sons shall have the inheritance of sons.

Galatians 4:8-11

In these verses the apostle puts them in mind of what they were before their conversion to the faith of Christ, and what a blessed change their conversion had made upon them; and thence endeavours to convince them of their great weakness in hearkening to those who would bring them under the bondage of the law of Moses.

I. He reminds them of their past state and behaviour, and what they were before the gospel was preached to them. Then they knew not God; they were grossly ignorant of the true God, and the way wherein he is to be worshipped: and at that time they were under the worst of slaveries, for they did service to those which by nature were no gods, they were employed in a great number of superstitious and idolatrous services to those who, though they were accounted gods, were yet really no gods, but mere creatures, and perhaps of their own making, and therefore were utterly unable to hear and help them. Note, 1. Those who are ignorant of the true God cannot but be inclined to false gods. Those who forsook the God who made the world, rather than be without gods, worshipped such as they themselves made. 2. Religious worship is due to none but to him who is by nature God; for, when the apostle blames the doing service to such as by nature were no gods, he plainly shows that he only who is by nature God is the proper object of our religious worship.

II. He calls upon them to consider the happy change that was made in them by the preaching of the gospel among them. Now they had known God (they were brought to the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ, whereby they were recovered out of the ignorance and bondage under which they before lay) or rather were known of God; this happy change in their state, whereby they were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was not owing to themselves, but to him; it was the effect of his free and rich grace towards them, and as such they ought to account it; and therefore hereby they were laid under the greater obligation to adhere to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. Note, All our acquaintance with God begins with him; we know him, because we are known of him.

III. Hence he infers the unreasonableness and madness of their suffering themselves to be brought again into a state of bondage. He speaks of it with surprise and deep concern of mind that such as they should do so: How turn you again, etc., says he, Gal 4:9. “How is it that you, who have been taught to worship God in the gospel way, should not be persuaded to comply with the ceremonial way of worship? that you, who have been acquainted with a dispensation of light, liberty, and love, as that of the gospel is, should now submit to a dispensation of darkness, and bondage, and terror, as that of the law is?” This they had the less reason for, since they had never been under the law of Moses, as the Jews had been; and therefore on this account they were more inexcusable than the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to have some fondness for that which had been of such long standing among them. Besides, what they suffered themselves to be brought into bondage to were but weak and beggarly elements, such things as had no power in them to cleanse the soul, nor to afford any solid satisfaction to the mind, and which were only designed for that state of pupillage under which the church had been, but which had now come to a period; and therefore their weakness and folly were the more aggravated, in submitting to them, and in symbolizing with the Jews in observing their various festivals, here signified by days, and months, and times, and years. Here note, 1. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion to be afterwards drawn into very great defections from the purity and simplicity of it, for this was the case of these Christians. And, 2. The more mercy God has shown to any, in bringing them into an acquaintance with the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater are their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them; for this the apostle lays a special stress upon, that after they had known God, or rather were known of him, they desired to be in bondage under the weak and beggarly elements of the law.

IV. Hereupon he expresses his fears concerning them, lest he had bestowed on them labour in vain. He had been at a great deal of pains about them, in preaching the gospel to them, and endeavouring to confirm them in the faith and liberty of it; but now they were giving up these, and thereby rendering his labour among them fruitless and ineffectual, and with the thoughts of this he could not but be deeply affected. Note, 1. A great deal of the labour of faithful ministers is labour in vain; and, when it is so, it cannot but be a great grief to those who desire the salvation of souls. Note, 2. The labour of ministers is in vain upon those who begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, who, though they seem to set out well, yet afterwards turn aside from the way of the gospel. Note, 3. Those will have a great deal to answer for upon whom the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ bestow labour in vain.

Galatians 4:12-16

That these Christians might be the more ashamed of their defection from the truth of the gospel which Paul had preached to them, he here reminds them of the great affection they formerly had for him and his ministry, and puts them upon considering how very unsuitable their present behaviour was to what they then professed. And here we may observe,

I. How affectionately he addresses himself to them. He styles them brethren, though he knew their hearts were in a great measure alienated from him. He desires that all resentments might be laid aside, and that they would bear the same temper of mind towards him which he did to them; he would have them to be as he was, for he was as they were, and moreover tells them that they had not injured him at all. He had no quarrel with them upon his own account. Though, in blaming their conduct, he had expressed himself with some warmth and concern of mind he assured them that it was not owing to any sense of personal injury or affront (as they might be ready to think), but proceeded wholly from a zeal for the truth and purity of the gospel, and their welfare and happiness. Thus he endeavours to mollify their spirits towards him, that so they might be the better disposed to receive the admonitions he was giving them. Hereby he teaches us that in reproving others we should take care to convince them that our reproofs do not proceed from any private pique or resentment, but from a sincere regard to the honour of God and religion and their truest welfare; for they are then likely to be most successful when they appear to be most disinterested.

II. How he magnifies their former affection to him, that hereby they might be the more ashamed of their present behaviour towards him. To this purpose, 1. He puts them in mind of the difficulty under which he laboured when he came first among them: I knew, says he, how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you at the first. What this infirmity of the flesh was, which in the following words he expresses by his temptation that was in his flesh (though, no doubt, it was well known to those Christians to whom he wrote), we can now have no certain knowledge of: some take it to have been the persecutions which he suffered for the gospel’s sake; others, to have been something in his person, or manner of speaking, which might render his ministry less grateful and acceptable, referring to 2Co 10:10, and to 2Co 12:7-10. But, whatever it was, it seems it made no impression on them to his disadvantage. For, 2. He takes notice that, notwithstanding this his infirmity (which might possibly lessen him in the esteem of some others), they did not despise nor reject him on the account of it, but, on the contrary, received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. They showed a great deal of respect to him, he was a welcome messenger to them, even as though an angel of God or Jesus Christ himself had preached to them; yea, so great was their esteem of him, that, if it would have been any advantage to him, they could have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them to him. Note, How uncertain the respects of people are, how apt they are to change their minds, and how easily they are drawn into contempt of those for whom they once had the greatest esteem and affection, so that they are ready to pluck out the eyes of those for whom they would before have plucked out their own! We should therefore labour to be accepted of God, for it is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, 1Co 4:3.

III. How earnestly he expostulates with them hereupon: Where is then, says he, the blessedness you spoke of? As if he had said, “Time was when you expressed the greatest joy and satisfaction in the glad tidings of the gospel, and were very forward in pouring out your blessings upon me as the publisher of them; whence is it that you are now so much altered, that you have so little relish of them or respect for me? You once thought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you now any reason to think otherwise?” Note, Those who have left their first love would do well to consider, Where is now the blessedness they once spoke of? What has become of that pleasure they used to take in communion with God, and in the company of his servants? The more to impress upon them a just shame of their present conduct, he again asks (Gal 4:16), “Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? How is it that I, who was heretofore your favourite, am now accounted your enemy? Can you pretend any other reason for it than that I have told you the truth, endeavoured to acquaint you with, and to confirm you in, the truth of the gospel? And, if not, how unreasonable must your disaffection be!” Note, 1. It is no uncommon thing for men to account those their enemies who are really their best friends; for so, undoubtedly, those are, whether ministers or others, who tell them the truth, and deal freely and faithfully with them in matters relating to their eternal salvation, as the apostle now did with these Christians. 2. Ministers may sometimes create enemies to themselves by the faithful discharge of their duty; for this was the case of Paul, he was accounted their enemy for telling them the truth. 3. Yet ministers must not forbear speaking the truth, for fear of offending others and drawing their displeasure upon them. 4. They may be easy in their own minds, when they are conscious to themselves that, if others have become their enemies, it is only for telling them the truth.

Galatians 4:17-18

The apostle is still carrying on the same design as in the foregoing verse, which was, to convince the Galatians of their sin and folly in departing from the truth of the gospel: having just before been expostulating with them about the change of their behaviour towards him who endeavoured to establish them in it, he here gives them the character of those false teachers who made it their business to draw them away from it, which if they would attend to, they might soon see how little reason they had to hearken to them: whatever opinion they might have of them, he tells them they were designing men, who were aiming to set up themselves, and who, under their specious pretences, were more consulting their own interest than theirs: “They zealously affect you,” says he; “they show a mighty respect for you, and pretend a great deal of affection to you, but not well; they do it not with any good design, they are not sincere and upright in it, for they would exclude you, that you might affect them. That which they are chiefly aiming at is to engage your affections to them; and, in order to this, they are doing all they can to draw off your affections from me and from the truth, that so they may engross you to themselves.” This, he assures them, was their design, and therefore they must needs be very unwise in hearkening to them. Note, 1. There may appear to be a great deal of zeal where yet there is but little truth and sincerity. 2. It is the usual way of seducers to insinuate themselves into people’s affections, and by that means to draw them into their opinions. 3. Whatever pretences such may make, they have usually more regard to their own interest than that of others, and will not stick at ruining the reputation of others, if by that means they can raise their own. On this occasion the apostle gives us that excellent rule which we have, Gal 4:18, It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. What our translation renders in a good man, and so consider the apostle as pointing to himself; this sense, they think, is favoured both by the preceding context and also by the words immediately following, and not only when I am present with you, which may be as if he had said, “Time was when you were zealously affected towards me; you once took me for a good man, and have now no reason to think otherwise of me; surely then it would become you to show the same regard to me, now that I am absent from you, which you did when I was present with you.” But, if we adhere to our own translation, the apostle here furnishes us with a very good rule to direct and regulate us in the exercise of our zeal: there are two things which to this purpose he more especially recommends to us: – (1.) That it be exercised only upon that which is good; for zeal is then only good when it is in a good thing: those who are zealously affected to that which is evil will thereby only to do so much the more hurt. And, (2.) That herein it be constant and steady: it is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, like the heat of an ague-fit, but, like the natural heat of the body, constant. Happy would it be for the church of Christ if this rule were better observed among Christians!

Galatians 4:19-20

That the apostle might the better dispose these Christians to bear with him in the reproofs which he was obliged to give them, he here expresses his great affection to them, and the very tender concern he had for their welfare: he was not like them – one thing when among them and another when absent from them. Their disaffection to him had not removed his affection from them; but he still bore the same respect to them which he had formerly done, nor was he like their false teachers, who pretended a great deal of affection to them, when at the same time they were only consulting their own interest; but he had a sincere concern for their truest advantage; he sought not theirs, but them. They were too ready to account him their enemy, but he assures them that he was their friend; nay, not only so, but that he had the bowels of a parent towards them. He calls them his children, as he justly might, since he had been the instrument of their conversion to the Christian faith; yea, he styles them his little children, which, as it denotes a greater degree of tenderness and affection to them, so it may possibly have a respect to their present behaviour, whereby they showed themselves too much like little children, who are easily wrought upon by the arts and insinuations of others. He expresses his concern for them, and earnest desire of their welfare and soul-prosperity, by the pangs of a travailing woman: He travailed in birth for them: and the great thing which he was in so much pain about, and which he was so earnestly desirous of, was not so much that they might affect him as that Christ might be formed in them, that they might become Christians indeed, and be more confirmed and established in the faith of the gospel. From this we may note, 1. The very tender affection which faithful ministers bear towards those among whom they are employed; it is like that of the most affectionate parents to their little children. 2. That the chief thing they are longing and even travailing in birth for, on their account, is that Christ may be formed in them; not so much that they may gain their affections, much less that they may make a prey of them, but that they may be renewed in the spirit of their minds, wrought into the image of Christ, and more fully settled and confirmed in the Christian faith and life: and how unreasonably must those people act who suffer themselves to be prevailed upon to desert or dislike such ministers! 3. That Christ is not fully formed in men till they are brought off from trusting in their own righteousness, and made to rely only upon him and his righteousness.

As further evidence of the affection and concern which the apostle had for these Christians, he adds (Gal 4:20) that he desired to be then present with them – that he would be glad of an opportunity of being among them, and conversing with them, and that thereupon he might find occasion to change his voice towards them; for at present he stood in doubt of them. He knew not well what to think of them. He was not so fully acquainted with their state as to know how to accommodate himself to them. He was full of fears and jealousies concerning them, which was the reason of his writing to them in such a manner as he had done; but he would be glad to find that matters were better with them than he feared, and that he might have occasion to commend them, instead of thus reproving and chiding them. Note, Though ministers too often find it necessary to reprove those they have to do with, yet this is no grateful work to them; they had much rather there were no occasion for it, and are always glad when they can see reason to change their voice towards them.

Galatians 4:21-31

In these verses the apostle illustrates the difference between believers who rested in Christ only and those judaizers who trusted in the law, by a comparison taken from the story of Isaac and Ishmael. This he introduces in such a manner as was proper to strike and impress their minds, and to convince them of their great weakness in departing from the truth, and suffering themselves to be deprived of the liberty of the gospel: Tell me, says he, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? He takes it for granted that they did hear the law, for among the Jews it was wont to be read in their public assemblies every sabbath day; and, since they were so very fond of being under it, he would have them duly to consider what is written therein (referring to what is recorded Gen. 16 and 21), for, if they would do this, they might soon see how little reason they had to trust in it. And here, 1. He sets before them the history itself (Gal 4:22, Gal 4:23): For it is written, Abraham had two sons, etc. Here he represents the different state and condition of these two sons of Abraham – that the one, Ishmael, was by a bond-maid, and the other, Isaac, by a free-woman; and that whereas the former was born after the flesh, or by the ordinary course of nature, the other was by promise, when in the course of nature there was no reason to expect that Sarah should have a son. 2. He acquaints them with the meaning and design of this history, or the use which he intended to make of it (Gal 4:24-27): These things, says he, are an allegory, wherein, besides the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God might design to signify something further to us, and that was, That these two, Agar and Sarah, are the two covenants, or were intended to typify and prefigure the two different dispensations of the covenant. The former, Agar, represented that which was given from mount Sinai, and which gendereth to bondage, which, though it was a dispensation of grace, yet, in comparison of the gospel state, was a dispensation of bondage, and became more so to the Jews, through their mistake of the design of it, and expecting to be justified by the works of it. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia (mount Sinai was then called Agar by the Arabians), and it answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; that is, it justly represents the present state of the Jews, who, continuing in their infidelity and adhering to that covenant, are still in bondage with their children. But the other, Sarah, was intended to prefigure Jerusalem which is above, or the state of Christians under the new and better dispensation of the covenant, which is free both from the curse of the moral and the bondage of the ceremonial law, and is the mother of us all – a state into which all, both Jews and Gentiles, are admitted, upon their believing in Christ. And to this greater freedom and enlargement of the church under the gospel dispensation, which was typified by Sarah the mother of the promised seed, the apostle refers that of the prophet, Isa 54:1, where it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for the desolate hath many more children than she who hath a husband. 3. He applies the history thus explained to the present case (Gal 4:28); Now we, brethren, says he, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. We Christians, who have accepted Christ, and rely upon him, and look for justification and salvation by him alone, as hereby we become the spiritual, though we are not the natural, seed of Abraham, so we are entitled to the promised inheritance and interested in the blessings of it. But lest these Christians should be stumbled at the opposition they might meet with from the Jews, who were so tenacious of their law as to be ready to persecute those who would not submit to it, he tells them that this was no more than what was pointed to in the type; for as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, they must expect it would be so now. But, for their comfort in this case, he desires them to consider what the scripture saith (Gen 21:10), Cast out the bond-woman and her son, for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman. Though the judaizers should persecute and hate them, yet the issue would be that Judaism would sink, and wither, and perish; but true Christianity should flourish and last for ever. And then, as a general inference from the whole of the sum of what he had said, he concludes (Gal 4:31), So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.


In this chapter the apostle comes to make application of his foregoing discourse. He begins it with a general caution, or exhortation (Gal 5:1), which he afterwards enforces by several considerations (Gal 5:2-12). He then presses them to serious practical godliness, which would be the best antidote against the snares of their false teachers; particularly, I. That they should not strive with one another (Gal 5:13-15). II. That they would strive against sin, where he shows, 1. That there is in every one a struggle between flesh and spirit (Gal 5:17). 2. That it is our duty and interest, in this struggle, to side with the better part (Gal 5:16, Gal 5:18). 3. He specifies the works of the flesh, which must be watched against and mortified, and the fruits of the Spirit, which must be brought forth and cherished, and shows of what importance it is that they be so (Gal 5:19-24). And then concludes the chapter with a caution against pride and envy.


Galatians 5:1-12

In the former part of this chapter the apostle cautions the Galatians to take heed of the judaizing teachers, who endeavoured to bring them back under the bondage of the law. He had been arguing against them before, and had largely shown how contrary the principles and spirit of those teachers were to the spirit of the gospel; and now this is as it were the general inference or application of all that discourse. Since it appeared by what had been said that we can be justified only by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the righteousness of the law, and that the law of Moses was no longer in force, nor Christians under any obligation to submit to it, therefore he would have them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and not to be again entangled with the yoke of bondage. Here observe, 1. Under the gospel we are enfranchised, we are brought into a state of liberty, wherein we are freed from the yoke of the ceremonial law and from the curse of the moral law; so that we are no longer tied to the observance of the one, nor tied up to the rigour of the other, which curses every one that continues not in all things written therein to do them, Gal 3:10. 2. We owe this liberty to Jesus Christ. It is he who has made us free; by his merits he has satisfied the demands of the broken law, and by his authority as a king he has discharged us from the obligation of those carnal ordinances which were imposed on the Jews. And, 3. It is therefore our duty to stand fast in this liberty, constantly and faithfully to adhere to the gospel and to the liberty of it, and not to suffer ourselves, upon any consideration, to be again entangled in the yoke of bondage, nor persuaded to return back to the law of Moses. This is the general caution or exhortation, which in the following verses the apostle enforces by several reasons or arguments. As,

I. That their submitting to circumcision, and depending on the works of the law for righteousness, were an implicit contradiction of their faith as Christians and a forfeiture of all their advantages by Jesus Christ, Gal 5:2-4. And here we may observe, 1. With what solemnity the apostle asserts and declares this: Behold, I Paul say unto you (Gal 5:2), and he repeats it (Gal 5:3), I testify unto you; as it he had said, “I, who have proved myself an apostle of Christ, and to have received my authority and instructions from him, do declare, and am ready to pawn my credit and reputation upon it, that if you be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, etc.,” wherein he shows that what he was now saying was not only a matter of great importance, but what might be most assuredly depended on. He was so far from being a preacher of circumcision (as some might report him to be) that he looked upon it as a matter of the greatest consequence that they did not submit to it. 2. What it is which he so solemnly, and with so much assurance, declares; it is that, if they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing, etc. We are not to suppose that it is mere circumcision which the apostle is here speaking of, or that it was his design to say that none who are circumcised could have any benefit by Christ; for all the Old Testament saints had been circumcised, and he himself had consented to the circumcising of Timothy. But he is to be understood as speaking of circumcision in the sense in which the judaizing teachers imposed it, who taught that except they were circumcised, and kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved, Act 15:1. That this is his meaning appears from Gal 5:4, where he expresses the same thing by their being justified by the law, or seeking justification by the works of it. Now in this case, if they submitted to circumcision in this sense, he declares that Christ would profit them nothing, that they were debtors to do the whole law, that Christ had become of no effect to them, and that they were fallen from grace. From all these expressions it appears that thereby they renounced that way of justification which God had established; yea, that they laid themselves under an impossibility of being justified in his sight, for they became debtors to do the whole law, which required such an obedience as they were not capable of performing, and denounced a curse against those who failed in it, and therefore condemned, but could not justify them; and, consequently, that having thus revolted from Christ, and built their hopes upon the law, Christ would profit them nothing, nor be of any effect to them. Thus, as by being circumcised they renounced their Christianity, so they cut themselves off from all advantage by Christ; and therefore there was the greatest reason why they should stedfastly adhere to that doctrine which they had embraced, and not suffer themselves to be brought under this yoke of bondage. Note, (1.) Though Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost, yet there are multitudes whom he will profit nothing. (2.) All those who seek to be justified by the law do thereby render Christ of no effect to them. By building their hopes on the works of the law, they forfeit all their hopes from him; for he will not be the Saviour of any who will not own and rely upon him as their only Saviour.

II. To persuade them to stedfastness in the doctrine and liberty of the gospel, he sets before them his own example, and that of other Jews who had embraced the Christian religion, and acquaints them what their hopes were, namely, That through the Spirit they were waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith. Though they were Jews by nature, and had been bred up under the law, yet being, through the Spirit, brought to the knowledge of Christ, they had renounced all dependence on the works of the law, and looked for justification and salvation only by faith in him; and therefore it must needs be the greatest folly in those who had never been under the law to suffer themselves to be brought into subjection to it, and to found their hopes upon the works of it. Here we may observe, 1. What it is that Christians are waiting for: it is the hope of righteousness, by which we are chiefly to understand the happiness of the other world. This is called the hope of Christians, as it is the great object of their hope, which they are above every thing else desiring and pursuing; and the hope of righteousness, as their hopes of it are founded on righteousness, not their own, but that of our Lord Jesus: for, though a life of righteousness is the way that leads to this happiness, yet it is the righteousness of Christ alone which has procured it for us, and on account of which we can expect to be brought to the possession of it. 2. How they hope to obtain this happiness, namely, by faith, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, not by the works of the law, or any thing they can do to deserve it, but only by faith, receiving and relying upon him as the Lord our righteousness. It is in this way only that they expect either to be entitled to it here or possessed of it hereafter. And, 3. Whence it is that they are thus waiting for the hope of righteousness: it is through the Spirit. Herein they act under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit; it is under his conduct, and by his assistance, that they are both persuaded and enabled to believe on Christ, and to look for the hope of righteousness through him. When the apostle thus represents the case of Christians, it is implied that if they expected to be justified and saved in any other way they were likely to meet with a disappointment, and therefore that they were greatly concerned to adhere to the doctrine of the gospel which they had embraced.

III. He argues from the nature and design of the Christian institution, which was to abolish the difference between Jew and Gentile, and to establish faith in Christ as the way of our acceptance with God. He tells them (Gal 5:6) that in Christ Jesus, or under the gospel dispensation, neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision. Though, while the legal state lasted, there was a difference put between Jew and Greek, between those who were and those who were not circumcised, the former being admitted to those privileges of the church of God from which the other were excluded, yet it was otherwise in the gospel state: Christ, who is the end of the law, having come, now it was neither here nor there whether a man were circumcised or uncircumcised; he was neither the better for the one nor the worse for the other, nor would either the one or the other recommend him to God; and therefore as their judaizing teachers were very unreasonable in imposing circumcision upon them, and obliging them to observe the law of Moses, so they must needs be very unwise in submitting to them herein. But, though he assures them that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision would avail to their acceptance with God, yet he informs them what would do so, and that is faith, which worketh by love: such a faith in Christ as discovers itself to be true and genuine by a sincere love to God and our neighbour. If they had this, it mattered not whether they were circumcised or uncircumcised, but without it nothing else would stand them in any stead. Note, 1. No external privileges nor profession will avail to our acceptance with God, without a sincere faith in our Lord Jesus. 2. Faith, where it is true, is a working grace: it works by love, love to God and love to our brethren; and faith, thus working by love, is all in all in our Christianity.

IV. To recover them from their backslidings, and engage them to greater stedfastness for the future, he puts them in mind of their good beginnings, and calls upon them to consider whence it was that they were so much altered from what they had been, Gal 5:7.

1. He tells them that they did run well; at their first setting out in Christianity they had behaved themselves very commendably, they had readily embraced the Christian religion, and discovered a becoming zeal in the ways and work of it; as in their baptism they were devoted to God, and had declared themselves the disciples of Christ, so their behaviour was agreeable to their character and profession. Note, (1.) The life of a Christian is a race, wherein he must run, and hold on, if he would obtain the prize. (2.) It is not enough that we run in this race, by a profession of Christianity, but we must run well, by living up to that profession. Thus these Christians had done for awhile, but they had been obstructed in their progress, and were either turned out of the way or at least made to flag and falter in it. Therefore,

2. He asks them, and calls upon them to ask themselves, Who did hinder you? How came it to pass that they did not hold on in the way wherein they had begun to run so well? He very well knew who they were, and what it was that hindered them; but he would have them to put the question to themselves, and seriously consider whether they had any good reason to hearken to those who gave them this disturbance, and whether what they offered was sufficient to justify them in their present conduct. Note, (1.) Many who set out fair in religion, and run well for awhile – run within the bounds appointed for the race, and run with zeal and alacrity too-are yet by some means or other hindered in their progress, or turned out of the way. (2.) It concerns those who have run well, but now begin either to turn out of the way or to tire in it, to enquire what it is that hinders them. Young converts must expect that Satan will be laying stumbling blocks in their way, and doing all he can to divert them from the course they are in; but, whenever they find themselves in danger of being turned out of it, they would do well to consider who it is that hinders them. Whoever they were that hindered these Christians, the apostle tells them that by hearkening to them they were kept from obeying the truth, and were thereby in danger of losing the benefit of what they had done in religion. The gospel which he had preached to them, and which they had embraced and professed, he assures them was the truth; it was therein only that the true way of justification and salvation was fully discovered, and, in order to their enjoying the advantage of it, it was necessary that they should obey it, that they should firmly adhere to it, and continue to govern their lives and hopes according to the directions of it. If therefore they should suffer themselves to be drawn away from it they must needs be guilty of the greatest weakness and folly. Note, [1.] The truth is not only to be believed, but to be obeyed, to be received not only in the light of it, but in the love and power of it. [2.] Those do not rightly obey the truth, who do not stedfastly adhere to it. [3.] There is the same reason for our obeying the truth that there was for our embracing it: and therefore those act very unreasonably who, when they have begun to run well in the Christian race, suffer themselves to be hindered, so as not to persevere in it.

V. He argues for their stedfastness in the faith and liberty of the gospel from the ill rise of that persuasion whereby they were drawn away from it (Gal 5:8): This persuasion, says he, cometh not of him that calleth you. The opinion or persuasion of which the apostle here speaks was no doubt that of the necessity of their being circumcised, and keeping the law of Moses, or of their mixing the works of the law with faith in Christ in the business of justification. This was what the judaizing teachers endeavoured to impose upon them, and what they had too easily fallen into. To convince them of their folly herein, he tells them that this persuasion did not come of him that called them, that is, either of God, by whose authority the gospel had been preached to them and they had been called into the fellowship of it, or of the apostle himself, who had been employed as the instrument of calling them hereunto. It could not come from God, for it was contrary to that way of justification and salvation which he had established; nor could they have received it from Paul himself; for, whatever some might pretend, he had all along been an opposer and not a preacher of circumcision, and, if in any instance he had submitted to it for the sake of peace, yet he had never pressed the use of it upon Christians, much less imposed it upon them as necessary to salvation. Since then this persuasion did not come of him that had called them, he leaves them to judge whence it must arise, and sufficiently intimates that it could be owing to none but Satan and his instruments, who by this means were endeavouring to overthrow their faith and obstruct the progress of the gospel, and therefore that the Galatians had every reason to reject it, and to continue stedfast in the truth which they had before embraced. Note, 1. In order to our judging aright of the different persuasions in religion which there are among Christians, it concerns us to enquire whether they come of him that calleth us, whether or no they are founded upon the authority of Christ and his apostles. 2. If, upon enquiry, they appear to have no such foundation, how forward soever others may be to impose them upon us, we should by no means submit to them, but reject them.

VI. The danger there was of the spreading of this infection, and the ill influence it might have upon others, are a further argument which the apostle urges against their complying with their false teachers in what they would impose on them. It is possible that, to extenuate their fault, they might be ready to say that there were but few of those teachers among them who endeavoured to draw them into this persuasion and practice, or that they were only some smaller matters wherein they complied with them – that though they submitted to be circumcised, and to observe some few rites of the Jewish laws, yet they had by no means renounced their Christianity and gone over to Judaism. Or, suppose their complying thus far was as faulty as he could represent it, yet perhaps they might further say that there were but few among them who had done so, and therefore he needed not be so much concerned about it. Now, to obviate such pretences as these, and to convince them that there was more danger in it than they were aware of, he tells them (Gal 5:9) that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump – that the whole lump of Christianity may be tainted and corrupted by one such erroneous principle, or that the whole lump of the Christian society may be infected by one member of it, and therefore that they were greatly concerned not to yield in this single instance, or, if any had done so, to endeavour by all proper methods to purge out the infection from among them. Note, It is dangerous for Christian churches to encourage those among them who entertain, especially who set themselves to propagate, destructive errors. This was the case here. The doctrine which the false teachers were industrious to spread, and which some in these churches had been drawn into, was subversive of Christianity itself, as the apostle had before shown; and therefore, though the number either of the one or the other of these might be but small, yet, considering the fatal tendency of it and the corruption of human nature, whereby others were too much disposed to be infected with it, he would not have them on that account to be easy and unconcerned, but remember that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. If these were indulged the contagion might soon spread further and wider; and, if they suffered themselves to be imposed upon in this instance, it might soon issue in the utter ruin of the truth and liberty of the gospel.

VII. That he might conciliate the greater regard to what he had said, he expresses the hopes he had concerning them (Gal 5:10): I have confidence in you, says he, through the Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded. Though he had many fears and doubts about them (which was the occasion of his using so much plainness and freedom with them), yet he hoped that through the blessing of God upon what he had written they might be brought to be of the same mind with him, and to own and abide by that truth and that liberty of the gospel which he had preached to them, and was now endeavouring to confirm them in. Herein he teaches us that we ought to hope the best even of those concerning whom we have cause to fear the worst. That they might be the less offended at the reproofs he had given them for their unstedfastness in the faith, he lays the blame of it more upon others than themselves; for he adds, But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. He was sensible that there were some that troubled them, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (as Gal 1:7), and possibly he may point to some one particular man who was more busy and forward than others, and might be the chief instrument of the disorder that was among them; and to this he imputes their defection or inconstancy more than to any thing in themselves. This may give us occasion to observe that, in reproving sin and error, we should always distinguish between the leaders and the led, such as set themselves to draw others thereinto and such as are drawn aside by them. Thus the apostle softens and alleviates the fault of these Christians, even while he is reproving them, that he might the better persuade them to return to, and stand fast in, the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free: but as for him or those that troubled them, whoever he or they were, he declares they should bear their judgment, he did not doubt but God would deal with them according to their deserts, and out of his just indignation against them, as enemies of Christ and his church, he wishes that they were even cut off – not cut off from Christ and all hopes of salvation by him, but cut off by the censures of the church, which ought to witness against those teachers who thus corrupted the purity of the gospel. Those, whether ministers or others, who set themselves to overthrow the faith of the gospel, and disturb the peace of Christians, do thereby forfeit the privileges of Christian communion and deserve to be cut off from them.

VIII. To dissuade these Christians from hearkening to their judaizing teachers, and to recover them from the ill impressions they had made upon them, he represents them as men who had used very base and disingenuous methods to compass their designs, for they had misrepresented him, that they might the more easily gain their ends upon them. That which they were endeavouring was to bring them to submit to circumcision, and to mix Judaism with their Christianity; and, the better to accomplish this design, they had given out among them that Paul himself was a preacher of circumcision: for when he says (

Gal 5:11), And I brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, it plainly appears that they had reported him to have done so, and that they had made use of this as an argument to prevail with the Galatians to submit to it. It is probable that they grounded this report upon his having circumcised Timothy, Act 16:3. But, though for good reasons he had yielded to circumcision in that instance, yet that he was a preacher of it, and especially in that sense wherein they imposed it, he utterly denies. To prove the injustice of that charge upon him, he offers such arguments as, if they would allow themselves to consider, could not fail to convince them of it. 1. If he would have preached circumcision, he might have avoided persecution. If I yet preach circumcision, says he, why do I yet suffer persecution? It was evident, and they could not but be sensible of it, that he was hated and persecuted by the Jews; but what account could be given of this their behaviour towards him, if he had so far symbolized with them as to preach up circumcision, and the observance of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation? This was the great point they were contending for; and, if he had fallen in with them herein, instead of being exposed to their rage he might have been received into their favour. When therefore he was suffering persecution from them, this was a plain evidence that he had not complied with them; yea, that he was so far from preaching the doctrine he was charged with, that, rather than do so, he was willing to expose himself to the greatest hazards. 2. If he had yielded to the Jews herein, then would the offence of the cross have ceased. They would not have taken so much offence against the doctrine of Christianity as they did, nor would he and others have been exposed to so much suffering on the account of it as they were. He informs us (1Co 1:23) that the preaching of the cross of Christ (or the doctrine of justification and salvation only by faith in Christ crucified) was to the Jews a stumbling-block. That which they were most offended at in Christianity was, that thereby circumcision, and the whole frame of the legal administration, were set aside, as no longer in force. This raised their greatest outcries against it, and stirred them up to oppose and persecute the professors of it. Now if Paul and others could have given into this opinion, that circumcision was still to be retained, and the observance of the law of Moses joined with faith in Christ as necessary to salvation, then their offence against it would have been in a great measure removed, and they might have avoided the sufferings they underwent for the sake of it. But though others, and particularly those who were so forward to asperse him as a preacher of this doctrine, could easily come into it, yet so could not he. He rather chose to hazard his ease and credit, yea his very life itself, than thus to corrupt the truth and give up the liberty of the gospel. Hence it was that the Jews continued to be so much offended against Christianity, and against him as the preacher of it. Thus the apostle clears himself from the unjust reproach which his enemies had cast upon him, and at the same time shows how little regard was due to those men who could treat him in such an injurious manner, and how much reason he had to wish that they were even cut off.

Galatians 5:13-26

In the latter part of this chapter the apostle comes to exhort these Christians to serious practical godliness, as the best antidote against the snares of the false teachers. Two things especially he presses upon them: –

I. That they should not strive with one another, but love one another. He tells them (Gal 5:13) that they had been called unto liberty, and he would have them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free; but yet he would have them be very careful that they did not use this liberty as an occasion to the flesh – that they did not thence take occasion to indulge themselves in any corrupt affections and practices, and particularly such as might create distance and disaffection, and be the ground of quarrels and contentions among them: but, on the contrary, he would have them by love to serve one another, to maintain that mutual love and affection which, notwithstanding any minor differences there might be among them, would dispose them to all those offices of respect and kindness to each other which the Christian religion obliged them to. Note, 1. The liberty we enjoy as Christians is not a licentious liberty: though Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet he has not freed us from the obligation of it; the gospel is a doctrine according to godliness (1Ti 6:3), and is so far from giving the least countenance to sin that it lays us under the strongest obligations to avoid and subdue it. 2. Though we ought to stand fast in our Christian liberty, yet we should not insist upon it to the breach of Christian charity; we should not use it as an occasion of strife and contention with our fellow Christians, who may be differently minded from us, but should always maintain such a temper towards each other as may dispose us by love to serve one another. To this the apostle endeavours to persuade these Christians, and there are two considerations which he sets before them for this purpose: – (1.) That all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Gal 5:14. Love is the sum of the whole law; as love to God comprises the duties of the first table, so love to our neighbour those of the second. The apostle takes notice of the latter here, because he is speaking of their behaviour towards one another; and, when he makes use of this as an argument to persuade them to mutual love, he intimates both that this would be a good evidence of their sincerity in religion and also the most likely means of rooting out those dissensions and divisions that were among them. It will appear that we are the disciples of Christ indeed when we have love one to another (Joh 13:35); and, where this temper is kept up, if it do not wholly extinguish those unhappy discords that are among Christians, yet at least it will so far accommodate them that the fatal consequences of them will be prevented. (2.) The sad and dangerous tendency of a contrary behaviour (Gal 5:15): But, says he, if instead of serving one another in love, and therein fulfilling the law of God, you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another. If, instead of acting like men and Christians, they would behave themselves more like brute beasts, in tearing and rending one another, they could expect nothing as the consequence of it, but that they would be consumed one of another; and therefore they had the greatest reason not to indulge themselves in such quarrels and animosities. Note, Mutual strifes among brethren, if persisted in, are likely to prove a common ruin; those that devour one another are in a fair way to be consumed one of another. Christian churches cannot be ruined but by their own hands; but if Christians, who should be helps to one another and a joy one to another, be as brute beasts, biting and devouring each other, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace to them, and the Spirit of love should depart from them, and that the evil spirit, who seeks the destruction of them all, should prevail?

II. That they should all strive against sin; and happy would it be for the church if Christians would let all their quarrels be swallowed up of this, even a quarrel against sin-if, instead of biting and devouring one another on account of their different opinions, they would all set themselves against sin in themselves and the places where they live. This is what we are chiefly concerned to fight against, and that which above every thing else we should make it our business to oppose and suppress. To excite Christians hereunto, and to assist them herein, the apostle shows,

1. That there is in every one a struggle between the flesh and the spirit (Gal 5:17): The flesh (the corrupt and carnal part of us) lusts (strives and struggles with strength and vigour) against the spirit: it opposes all the motions of the Spirit, and resists every thing that is spiritual. On the other hand, the spirit (the renewed part of us) strives against the flesh, and opposes the will and desire of it: and hence it comes to pass that we cannot do the things that we would. As the principle of grace in us will not suffer us to do all the evil which our corrupt nature would prompt us to, so neither can we do all the good that we would, by reason of the oppositions we meet with from that corrupt and carnal principle. Even as in a natural man there is something of this struggle (the convictions of his conscience and the corruption of his own heart strive with one another; his convictions would suppress his corruptions, and his corruptions silence his convictions), so in a renewed man, where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world.

2. That it is our duty and interest in this struggle to side with the better part, to side with our convictions against our corruptions and with our graces against our lusts. This the apostle represents as our duty, and directs us to the most effectual means of success in it. If it should be asked, What course must we take that the better interest may get the better? he gives us this one general rule, which, if duly observed, would be the most sovereign remedy against the prevalence of corruption; and that is to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16): This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. By the Spirit here may be meant either the Holy Spirit himself, who condescends to dwell in the hearts of those whom he has renewed and sanctified, to guide and assist them in the way of their duty, or that gracious principle which he implants in the souls of his people and which lusts against the flesh, as that corrupt principle which still remains in them does against it. Accordingly the duty here recommended to us is that we set ourselves to act under the guidance and influence of the blessed Spirit, and agreeably to the motions and tendency of the new nature in us; and, if this be our care in the ordinary course and tenour of our lives, we may depend upon it that, though we may not be freed from the stirrings and oppositions of our corrupt nature, we shall be kept from fulfilling it in the lusts thereof; so that though it remain in us, yet it shall not obtain a dominion over us. Note, The best antidote against the poison of sin is to walk in the Spirit, to be much in conversing with spiritual things, to mind the things of the soul, which is the spiritual part of man, more than those of the body, which is his carnal part, to commit ourselves to the guidance of the word, wherein the Holy Spirit makes known the will of God concerning us, and in the way of our duty to act in a dependence on his aids and influences. And, as this would be the best means of preserving them from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, so it would be a good evidence that they were Christians indeed; for, says the apostle (Gal 5:18), If you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. As if he had said, “You must expect a struggle between flesh and spirit as long as you are in the world, that the flesh will be lusting against the spirit as well as the spirit against the flesh; but if, in the prevailing bent and tenour of your lives, you be led by the Spirit, – if you act under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit and of that spiritual nature and disposition he has wrought in you, – if you make the word of God your rule and the grace of God your principle, – it will hence appear that you are not under the law, not under the condemning, though you are still under the commanding, power of it; for there is now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,Rom 8:1-14.

3. The apostle specifies the works of the flesh, which must be watched against and mortified, and the fruits of the Spirit, which must be cherished and brought forth (Gal 5:19, etc.); and by specifying particulars he further illustrates what he is here upon. (1.) He begins with the works of the flesh, which, as they are many, so they are manifest. It is past dispute that the things he here speaks of are the works of the flesh, or the product of corrupt and depraved nature; most of them are condemned by the light of nature itself, and all of them by the light of scripture. The particulars he specifies are of various sorts; some are sins against the seventh commandment, such as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, by which are meant not only the gross acts of these sins, but all such thoughts, and words, and actions, as have a tendency towards the great transgression. Some are sins against the first and second commandments, as idolatry and witchcraft. Others are sins against our neighbour, and contrary to the royal law of brotherly love, such as

hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, which too often occasion seditions, heresies, envyings, and sometimes break out into murders, not only of the names and reputation, but even of the very lives, of our fellow-creatures. Others are sins against ourselves, such as drunkenness and revellings; and he concludes the catalogue with an et cetera, and gives fair warning to all to take care of them, as they hope to see the face of God with comfort. Of these and such like, says he, I tell you before, as I have also told you in times past, that those who do such things, how much soever they may flatter themselves with vain hopes, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. These are sins which will undoubtedly shut men out of heaven. The world of spirits can never be comfortable to those who plunge themselves in the filth of the flesh; nor will the righteous and holy God ever admit such into his favour and presence, unless they be first washed and sanctified, and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1Co 6:11. (2.) He specifies the fruits of the Spirit, or the renewed nature, which as Christians we are concerned to bring forth, Gal 5:22, Gal 5:23. And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh, because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root: and whereas before the apostle had chiefly specified those works of the flesh which were not only hurtful to men themselves but tended to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly takes notice of those fruits of the Spirit which had a tendency to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as easy to themselves; and this was very suitable to the caution or exhortation he had before given (Gal 5:13), that they should not use their liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. He particularly recommends to us, love, to God especially, and to one another for his sake, – joy, by which may be understood cheerfulness in conversation with our friends, or rather a constant delight in God, – peace, with God and conscience, or a peaceableness of temper and behaviour towards others, – long-suffering, patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries, – gentleness, such a sweetness of temper, and especially towards our inferiors, as disposes us to be affable and courteous, and easy to be entreated when any have wronged us, – goodness (kindness, beneficence), which shows itself in a readiness to do good to all as we have opportunity, – faith, fidelity, justice, and honesty, in what we profess and promise to others, – meekness, wherewith to govern our passions and resentments, so as not to be easily provoked, and, when we are so, to be soon pacified, – and temperance, in meat and drink, and other enjoyments of life, so as not to be excessive and immoderate in the use of them. Concerning these things, or those in whom these fruits of the Spirit are found, the apostle says, There is no law against them, to condemn and punish them. Yea, hence it appears that they are not under the law, but under grace; for these fruits of the Spirit, in whomsoever they are found, plainly show that such are led by the Spirit, and consequently that they are not under the law, as Gal 5:18. And as, by specifying these works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, the apostle directs us both what we are to avoid and oppose and what we are to cherish and cultivate, so (Gal 5:24) he informs us that this is the sincere care and endeavour of all real Christians: And those that are Christ’s, says he (those who are Christians indeed, not only in show and profession, but in sincerity and truth), have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. As in their baptism they were obliged hereunto (for, being baptized into Christ, they were baptized into his death, Rom 6:3), so they are now sincerely employing themselves herein, and, in conformity to their Lord and head, are endeavouring to die unto sin, as he had died for it. They have not yet obtained a complete victory over it; they have still flesh as well as Spirit in them, and that has its affections and lusts, which continue to give them no little disturbance, but as it does not now reign in their mortal bodies, so as that they obey it in the lusts thereof (Rom 6:12), so they are seeking the utter ruin and destruction of it, and to put it to the same shameful and ignominious, though lingering death, which our Lord Jesus underwent for our sakes. Note, If we should approve ourselves to be Christ’s, such as are united to him and interested in him, we must make it our constant care and business to crucify the flesh with its corrupt affections and lusts. Christ will never own those as his who yield themselves the servants of sin. But though the apostle here only mentions the crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts, as the care and character of real Christians, yet, no doubt, it is also implied that, on the other hand, we should show forth those fruits of the Spirit which he had just before been specifying; this is no less our duty than that, nor is it less necessary to evidence our sincerity in religion. It is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. Our Christianity obliges us not only to die unto sin, but to live unto righteousness; not only to oppose the works of the flesh, but to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit too. If therefore we would make it appear that we do indeed belong to Christ, this must be our sincere care and endeavour as well as the other; and that it was the design of the apostle to represent both the one and the other of these as our duty, and as necessary to support our character as Christians, may be gathered from what follows (Gal 5:25), where he adds, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit; that is, “If we profess to have received the Spirit of Christ, or that we are renewed in the Spirit of Christ, or that we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and endued with a principle of spiritual life, let us make it appear by the proper fruits of the Spirit in our lives.” He had before told us that the Spirit of Christ is a privilege bestowed on all the children of God, Gal 4:6. “Now,” says he, “if we profess to be of this number, and as such to have obtained this privilege, let us show it by a temper and behaviour agreeable hereunto; let us evidence our good principles by good practices.” Our conversation will always be answerable to the principle which we are under the guidance and government of: as those that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, so those that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit, Rom 8:5. If therefore we would have it appear that we are Christ’s, and that we are partakers of his Spirit, it must be by our walking not after the flesh, but after the spirit. We must set ourselves in good earnest both to mortify the deeds of the body, and to walk in newness of life.

4. The apostle concludes this chapter with a caution against pride and envy, Gal 5:26. He had before been exhorting these Christians by love to serve one another (Gal 5:13), and had put them in mind of what would be the consequence if, instead of that, they did bite and devour one another, Gal 5:15. Now, as a means of engaging them to the one and preserving them from the other of these, he here cautions them against being desirous of vain-glory, or giving way to an undue affectation of the esteem and applause of men, because this, if it were indulged, would certainly lead them to provoke one another and to envy one another. As far as this temper prevails among Christians, they will be ready to slight and despise those whom they look upon as inferior to them, and to be put out of humour if they are denied that respect which they think is their due from them, and they will also be apt to envy those by whom their reputation is in any danger of being lessened: and thus a foundation is laid for those quarrels and contentions which, as they are inconsistent with that love which Christians ought to maintain towards each other, so they are greatly prejudicial to the honour and interest of religion itself. This therefore the apostle would have us by all means to watch against. Note, (1.) The glory which comes from men is vain-glory, which, instead of being desirous of, we should be dead to. (2.) An undue regard to the approbation and applause of men is one great ground of the unhappy strifes and contentions that exist among Christians.


Galatians 6

This chapter chiefly consists of two parts. In the former the apostle gives us several plain and practical directions, which more especially tend to instruct Christians in their duty to one another, and to promote the communion of saints in love (Gal 6:1-10). In the latter he revives the main design of the epistle, which was to fortify the Galatians against the arts of their judaizing teachers, and confirm them in the truth and liberty of the gospel, for which purpose he, I. Gives them the true character of these teachers, and shows them from what motives, and with what views, they acted (Gal 6:11-14). And, II. On the other hand he acquaints them with his own temper and behaviour. From both these they might easily see how little reason they had to slight him, and to fall in with them. And then he concludes the epistle with a solemn benediction.


Galatians 6:1-10

The apostle having, in the foregoing chapter, exhorted Christians by love to serve one another (Gal 6:13), and also cautioned us (Gal 6:16) against a temper which, if indulged, would hinder us from showing the mutual love and serviceableness which he had recommended, in the beginning of this chapter he proceeds to give some further directions, which, if duly observed, would both promote the one and prevent the other of these, and render our behaviour both more agreeable to our Christian profession and more useful and comfortable to one another: particularly,

I. We are here taught to deal tenderly with those who are overtaken in a fault, Gal 6:1. He puts a common case: If a man be overtaken in a fault, that is, be brought to sin by the surprise of temptation. It is one thing to overtake a fault by contrivance and deliberation, and a full resolution in sin, and another thing to be overtaken in a fault. The latter is the case here supposed, and herein the apostle shows that great tenderness should be used. Those who are spiritual, by whom is meant, not only the ministers (as if none but they were to be called spiritual persons), but other Christians too, especially those of the higher form in Christianity; these must restore such a one with the spirit of meekness. Here observe, 1. The duty we are directed to – to restore such; we should labour, by faithful reproofs, and pertinent and seasonable councils, to bring them to repentance. The original word, katartizete, signifies to set in joint, as a dislocated bone; accordingly we should endeavour to set them in joint again, to bring them to themselves, by convincing them of their sin and error, persuading them to return to their duty, comforting them in a sense of pardoning mercy thereupon, and having thus recovered them, confirming our love to them. 2. The manner wherein this is to be done: With the spirit of meekness; not in wrath and passion, as those who triumph in a brother’s falls, but with meekness, as those who rather mourn for them. Many needful reproofs lose their efficacy by being given in wrath; but when they are managed with calmness and tenderness, and appear to proceed from sincere affection and concern for the welfare of those to whom they are given, they are likely to make a due impression. 3. A very good reason why this should be done with meekness: Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. We ought to deal very tenderly with those who are overtaken in sin, because we none of us know but it may some time or other be our own case. We also may be tempted, yea, and overcome by the temptation; and therefore, if we rightly consider ourselves, this will dispose us to do by others as we desire to be done by in such a case.

II. We are here directed to bear one another’s burdens, Gal 6:2. This may be considered either as referring to what goes before, and so may teach us to exercise forbearance and compassion towards one another, in the case of those weaknesses, and follies, and infirmities, which too often attend us – that, though we should not wholly connive at them, yet we should not be severe against one another on account of them; or as a more general precept, and so it directs us to sympathize with one another under the various trials and troubles that we may meet with, and to be ready to afford each other the comfort and counsel, the help and assistance, which our circumstances may require. To excite us hereunto, the apostle adds, by way of motive, that so we shall fulfil the law of Christ. This is to act agreeably to the law of his precept, which is the law of love, and obliges us to a mutual forbearance and forgiveness, to sympathy with and compassion towards each other; and it would also be agreeable to his pattern and example, which have the force of a law to us. He bears with us under our weaknesses and follies, he is touched with a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; and therefore there is good reason why we should maintain the same temper towards one another. Note, Though as Christians we are freed from the law of Moses, yet we are under the law of Christ; and therefore, instead of laying unnecessary burdens upon others (as those who urged the observance of Moses’s law did), it much more becomes us to fulfil the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens. The apostle being aware how great a hindrance pride would be to the mutual condescension and sympathy which he had been recommending, and that a conceit of ourselves would dispose us to censure and contemn our brethren, instead of bearing with their infirmities and endeavouring to restore them when overtaken with a fault, he therefore (Gal 6:3) takes care to caution us against this; he supposes it as a very possible thing (and it would be well if it were not too common) for a man to think himself to be something – to entertain a fond opinion of his own sufficiency, to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate and prescribe to them – when in truth he is nothing, has nothing of substance or solidity in him, or that can be a ground of the confidence and superiority which he assumes. To dissuade us from giving way to this temper he tells us that such a one does but deceive himself; while he imposes upon others, by pretending to what he has not, he puts the greatest cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects of it. This will never gain him that esteem, either with God or good men, which he is ready to expect; he is neither the freer from mistakes nor will he be the more secure against temptations for the good opinion he has of his own sufficiency, but rather the more liable to fall into them, and to be overcome by them; for he that thinks he stands has need to take heed lest he fall. Instead therefore of indulging such a vain-glorious humour, which is both destructive of the love and kindness we owe to our fellow-christians and also injurious to ourselves, it would much better become us to accept the apostle’s exhortation (Php 2:3), Do nothing through strife nor vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Note, Self-conceit is but self-deceit: as it is inconsistent with that charity we owe to others (for charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 1Co 13:4), so it is a cheat upon ourselves; and there is not a more dangerous cheat in the world than self-deceit. As a means of preventing this evil,

III. We are advised every one to prove his own work, Gal 6:4. By our own work is chiefly meant our own actions or behaviour. These the apostle directs us to prove, that is seriously and impartially to examine them by the rule of God’s word, to see whether or no they are agreeable to it, and therefore such as God and conscience do approve. This he represents as the duty of every man; instead of being forward to judge and censure others, it would much more become us to search and try our own ways; our business lies more at home than abroad, with ourselves than with other men, for what have we to do to judge another man’s servant? From the connection of this exhortation with what goes before it appears that if Christians did duly employ themselves in this work they might easily discover those defects and failings in themselves which would soon convince them how little reason they have either to be conceited of themselves or severe in their censures of others; and so it gives us occasion to observe that the best way to keep us from being proud of ourselves is to prove our ownselves: the better we are acquainted with our own hearts and ways, the less liable shall we be to despise and the more disposed to compassionate and help others under their infirmities and afflictions. That we may be persuaded to this necessary and profitable duty of proving our own work, the apostle urges two considerations very proper for this purpose: –

1. This is the way to have rejoicing in ourselves alone. If we set ourselves in good earnest to prove our own work, and, upon the trial, can approve ourselves to God, as to our sincerity and uprightness towards him, then may we expect to have comfort and peace in our own souls, having the testimony of our own consciences for us (as 2Co 1:12), and this, he intimates, would be a much better ground of joy and satisfaction than to be able to rejoice in another, either in the good opinion which others may have of us or in having gained over others to our opinion, which the false teachers were wont to glory in (as we see Gal 6:13), or by comparing ourselves with others, as, it should seem, some did, who were ready to think well of themselves, because they were not so bad as some others. Too many are apt to value themselves upon such accounts as these; but the joy that results thence is nothing to that which arises from an impartial trial of ourselves by the rule of God’s word, and our being able thereupon to approve ourselves to him. Note, (1.) Though we have nothing in ourselves to boast of, yet we may have the matter of rejoicing in ourselves: our works can merit nothing at the hand of God; but, if our consciences can witness for us that they are such as he for Christ’s sake approves and accepts, we may upon good ground rejoice therein. (2.) The true way to have rejoicing in ourselves is to be much in proving our own works, in examining ourselves by the unerring rule of God’s word, and not by the false measures of what others are, or may think of us. (3.) It is much more desirable to have matter of glorying in ourselves than in another. If we have the testimony of our consciences that we are accepted of God, we need not much concern ourselves about what others think or say of us; and without this the good opinion of others will stand us in little stead.

2. The other argument which the apostle uses to press upon us this duty of proving our own work is that every man shall bear his own burden (Gal 6:5), the meaning of which is that at the great day every one shall be reckoned with according as his behaviour here has been. He supposes that there is a day coming when we must all give an account of ourselves to God; and he declares that then the judgment will proceed, and the sentence pass, not according to the sentiments of the world concerning us, or any ungrounded opinion we may have had of ourselves, or upon our having been better or worse than others, but according as our state and behaviour have really been in the sight of God. And, if there be such an awful time to be expected, when he will render to every one according to his works, surely there is the greatest reason why we should prove our own works now: if we must certainly be called to an account hereafter, surely we ought to be often calling ourselves to an account here, to see whether or no we are such as God will own and approve then: and, as this is our duty, so if it were more our practice we should entertain more becoming thoughts both of ourselves and our fellow Christians, and instead of bearing hard upon one another, on account of any mistakes or failings we may be guilty of, we should be more ready to fulfil that law of Christ by which we must be judged in bearing one another’s burdens.

IV. Christians are here exhorted to be free and liberal in maintaining their ministers (Gal 6:6): Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth, in all good things. Here we may observe, 1. The apostle speaks of it as a thing known and acknowledged, that, as there are some to be taught, so there are others who are appointed to teach them. The office of the ministry is a divine institution, which does not lie open in common to all, but is confined to those only whom God has qualified for it and called to it: even reason itself directs us to put a difference between the teachers and the taught (for, if all were teachers, there would be none to be taught), and the scriptures sufficiently declare that it is the will of God we should do so. 2. It is the word of God wherein ministers are to teach and instruct others; that which they are to preach is the word, 2Ti 4:2. That which they are to declare is the counsel of God, Act 20:27. They are not lords of our faith, but helpers of our joy, 2Co 1:24. It is the word of God which is the only rule of faith and life; this they are concerned to study, and to open, and improve, for the edification of others, but they are no further to be regarded than as they speak according to this rule. 3. It is the duty of those who are taught in the word to support those who are appointed to teach them; for they are to communicate to them in all good things, freely and cheerfully to contribute, of the good things with which God has blessed them, what is needful for their comfortable subsistence. Ministers are to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine (1Ti 4:13); they are not to entangle themselves with the affairs of this life (2Ti 2:4), and therefore it is but fit and equitable that, while they are sowing to others spiritual things, they should reap their carnal things. And this is the appointment of God himself; for as, under the law, those who ministered about holy things lived of the things of the temple, so hath the Lord ordained that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, 1Co 9:11, 1Co 9:13, 1Co 9:14.

V. Here is a caution to take heed of mocking God, or of deceiving ourselves, by imagining that he can be imposed upon by mere pretensions or professions (Gal 6:7): Be not deceived, God is not mocked. This may be considered as referring to the foregoing exhortation, and so the design of it is to convince those of their sin and folly who endeavoured by any plausible pretences to excuse themselves from doing their duty in supporting their ministers: or it may be taken in a more general view, as respecting the whole business of religion, and so as designed to take men off from entertaining any vain hopes of enjoying its rewards while they live in the neglect of its duties. The apostle here supposes that many are apt to excuse themselves from the work of religion, and especially the more self-denying and chargeable parts of it, though at the same time they may make a show and profession of it; but he assures them that this their way is their folly, for, though hereby they may possibly impose upon others, yet they do but deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who is perfectly acquainted with their hearts as well as actions, and, as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked; and therefore, to prevent this, he directs us to lay down as a rule to ourselves, That whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap; or that according as we behave ourselves now, so will our account be in the great day. Our present time is seed-time: in the other world there will be a great harvest; and, as the husbandman reaps in the harvest according as he sows in the seedness, so we shall reap then as we sow now. And he further informs us (Gal 6:8) that, as there are two sorts of seedness, sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit, so accordingly will the reckoning be hereafter: If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. If we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind. Those who live a carnal sensual life, who instead of employing themselves to the honour of God and the good of others, spend all their thoughts, and care, and time, about the flesh, must expect no other fruit of such a course than corruption – a mean and short-lived satisfaction at present, and ruin and misery at the end of it. But, on the other hand, those who sow to the Spirit, who under the guidance and influence of the Spirit do live a holy and spiritual life, a life of devotedness to God and of usefulness and serviceableness to others, may depend upon it that of the Spirit they shall reap life everlasting – they shall have the truest comfort in their present course, and an eternal life and happiness at the end of it. Note, Those who go about to mock God do but deceive themselves. Hypocrisy in religion is the greatest folly as well as wickedness, since the God we have to do with can easily see through all our disguises, and will certainly deal with us hereafter, not according to our professions, but our practices.

VI. Here is a further caution given us, not to be weary in well doing, Gal 6:9. As we should not excuse ourselves from any part of our duty, so neither should we grow weary in it. There is in all of us too great a proneness to this; we are very apt to flag and tire in duty, yea to fall off from it, particularly that part of it to which the apostle has here a special regard, that of doing good to others. This therefore he would have us carefully to watch and guard against; and he gives this very good reason for it, because in due season we shall reap, if we faint not, where he assures us that there is a recompence of reward in reserve for all who sincerely employ themselves in well doing; that this reward will certainly be bestowed on us in the proper season – if not in this world, yet undoubtedly in the next; but then that it is upon supposition that we faint not in the way of our duty; if we grow weary of it, and withdraw from it, we shall not only miss of this reward, but lose the comfort and advantage of what we have already done; but, if we hold on and hold out in well-doing, though our reward may be delayed, yet it will surely come, and will be so great as to make us an abundant recompence for all our pains and constancy. Note, Perseverance in well-doing is our wisdom and interest, as well as our duty, for to this only is the reward promised.

VII. Here is an exhortation to all Christians to do good in their places (Gal 6:10): As we have therefore an opportunity, etc. It is not enough that we be good to others, if we would approve ourselves to be Christians indeed. The duty here recommended to us is the same that is spoken of in the foregoing verses; and, as there the apostle exhorts us to sincerity and perseverance in it, so here he directs us both as to the objects and rule of it. 1. The objects of this duty are more generally all men. We are not to confine our charity and beneficence within too narrow bounds, as the Jews and judaizing Christians were apt to do, but should be ready to extend it to all who partake of the same common nature with us, as far as we are capable and they stand in need of us. But yet, in the exercise of it, we are to have a special regard to the household of faith, or to those who profess the same common faith, and are members of the same body of Christ, with us: though others are not to be excluded, yet these are to be preferred. The charity of Christians should be extensive charity: but yet therein a particular respect is to be had to good people. God does good to all, but in an especial manner he is good to his own servants; and we must in doing good be followers of God as dear children. 2. The rule which we are to observe in doing good to others is as we have opportunity, which implies, (1.) That we should be sure to do it while we have opportunity, or while our life lasts, which is the only season wherein we are capable of doing good to his own servants; and we must in doing good be followers of God as dear children. 2. The rule which we are to observe in doing good to others is as we have opportunity, which implies, (1.) That we should be sure to do it while we have opportunity, or while our life lasts, which is the only season wherein we are capable of doing good to others. If therefore we would behave ourselves aright in this matter, we must not, as too many do, neglect it in our life-time, and defer it till we come to die, under a pretence of doing something of this nature then: for, as we cannot be sure that we shall then have an opportunity for it, so neither, if we should, have we any ground to expect that what we do will be so acceptable to God, much less that we can atone for our past neglects by leaving something behind us for the good of others, when we can no longer keep it ourselves. But we should take care to do good in our life-time, yea, to make this the business of our lives. And, (2.) That we be ready to improve every opportunity for it: we should not content ourselves in having done some good already; but, whenever fresh occasions offer themselves, as far as our capacity reaches we should be ready to embrace them too, for we are directed to give a portion to seven and also to eight, Ecc 11:2. Note, [1.] As God has made it our duty to do good to others, so he takes care in his providence to furnish us with opportunities for it.

The poor we have always with us, Mat 26:11. [2.] Whenever God gives us an opportunity of being useful to others, he expects we should improve it, according to our capacity and ability. [3.] We have need of godly wisdom and discretion to direct us in the exercise of our charity or beneficence, and particularly in the choice of the proper objects of it; for, though none who stand in need of us are to be wholly overlooked, yet there is a difference to be made between some and others.

Galatians 6:11-18

The apostle, having at large established the doctrine of the gospel, and endeavoured to persuade these Christians to a behaviour agreeable to it, seems as if he intended here to have put an end to the epistle, especially when he had acquainted them that, as a particular mark of his respect for them, he had written this large letter with his own hand, and had not made use of another as his amanuensis, and only subscribed his name to it, as he was wont to do in his other epistles: but such is his affection to them such his concern to recover them from the bad impressions made upon them by their false teachers, that he cannot break off till he has once again given them the true character of those teachers, and an account of his own contrary temper and behaviour, that by comparing these together they might the more easily see how little reason they had to depart from the doctrine he had taught them and to comply with theirs.

I. He gives them the true character of those teachers who were industrious to seduce them, in several particulars. As, 1. They were men who desired to make a fair show in the flesh, Gal 6:12. They were very zealous for the externals of religion, forward to observe, and to oblige others to observe, the rites of the ceremonial law, though at the same time they had little or no regard to real piety; for, as the apostle says of them in the following verse, neither do they themselves keep the law. Proud, vain, and carnal hearts desire nothing more than to make a fair show in the flesh, and they can easily be content with so much religion as will help them to keep up such a fair show; but frequently those have least of the substance of religion who are most solicitous to make a show of it. 2. They were men who were afraid of suffering, for they constrained the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. It was not so much out of a regard to the law as to themselves; they were willing to sleep in a whole skin, and to save their worldly cargo, and cared not though they made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. That which they chiefly aimed at was to please the Jews, and to keep up their reputation among them, and so to prevent the trouble that Paul, and other faithful professors of the doctrine of Christ, lay open to. And, 3. Another part of their character was that they were men of a party spirit, and who had no further zeal for the law than as it subserved their carnal and selfish designs; for they desired to have these Christians circumcised, that they might glory in their flesh (Gal 6:13), that they might say they had gained them over to their side, and made proselytes of them, of which they carried the mark in their flesh. And thus, while they pretended to promote religion, they were the greatest enemies of it; for nothing has been more destructive to the interest of religion than men-siding and party-making.

II. He acquaints us, on the other hand, with his own temper and behaviour, or makes profession of his own faith, hope, and joy; particularly,

1. That his principle glory was in the cross of Christ: God forbid, says he, that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal 6:14. By the cross of Christ is here meant his sufferings and death on the cross, or the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. This was what the Jews stumbled at and the Greeks accounted foolishness; and the judaizing teachers themselves, though they had embraced Christianity, yet were so far ashamed of it that in compliance with the Jews, and to avoid persecution from them, they were for mixing the observance of the law of Moses with faith in Christ, as necessary to salvation. But Paul had a very different opinion of it; he was so far from being offended at the cross of Christ, or ashamed of it, or afraid to own it, that he gloried in it; yea, he desired to glory in nothing else, and rejected the thought of setting up anything in competition with it, as the object of his esteem, with the utmost abhorrence; God forbid, etc. This was the ground of all his hope as a Christian: this was the doctrine which, as an apostle, he was resolved to preach; and, whatever trials his firm adherence to it might bring upon him, he was ready, not only to submit to them, but to rejoice in them. Note, The cross of Christ is a good Christian’s chief glory, and there is the greatest reason why we should glory in it, for to it we owe all our joys and hopes.

2. That he was dead to the world. By Christ, or by the cross of Christ, the world was crucified to him, and he to the world; he had experienced the power and virtue of it in weaning him from the world, and this was one great reason of his glorying in it. The false teachers were men of a worldly temper, their chief concern was about their secular interests, and therefore they accommodated their religion thereunto. But Paul was a man of another spirit; as the world had no kindness for him, so neither had he any great regard to it; he had got above both the smiles and the frowns of it, and had become as indifferent to it as one who is dying out of it. This is a temper of mind that all Christians should be labouring after; and the best way to attain it is to converse much with the cross of Christ. The higher esteem we have of him the meaner opinion shall we have of the world, and the more we contemplate the sufferings our dear Redeemer met with from the world the less likely shall we be to be in love with it.

3. That he did not lay the stress of his religion on one side or the other of the contesting interests, but on sound Christianity, Gal 6:15. There was at that time an unhappy division among Christians; circumcision and uncircumcision had become names by which they were distinguished from each other; for (Gal 2:9, Gal 2:12) the Jewish Christians are called the circumcision, and those of the circumcision. The false teachers were very zealous for circumcision; yea, to such a degree as to represent it as necessary to salvation, and therefore they did all they could to constrain the Gentile Christians to submit to it. In this they had carried the matter much further than others did; for, though the apostles connived at the use of it among the Jewish converts, yet they were by no means for imposing it upon the Gentiles. But what they laid so great a stress upon Paul made very little account of. It was indeed of great importance to the interest of Christianity that circumcision should not be imposed on the Gentile converts, and therefore this he had set himself with the utmost vigour to oppose; but as for mere circumcision or uncircumcision, whether those who embraced the Christian religion had been Jews or Gentiles, and whether they were for or against continuing the use of circumcision, so that they did not place their religion in it – this was comparatively a matter of little moment with him; for he very well knew that in Jesus Christ, that is, in his account, or under the Christian dispensation, neither circumcision availed any thing nor uncircumcision, as to men’s acceptance with God, but a new creature. Here he instructs us both wherein real religion does not and wherein it does consist. It does not consist in circumcision or uncircumcision, in our being in this or the other denomination of Christians; but it consists in our being new creatures; not in having a new name, or putting on a new face, but in our being renewed in the spirit of our minds and having Christ formed in us: this is of the greatest account with God, and so it was with the apostle. If we compare this text with some others, we may more fully see what it is that renders us most acceptable to God, and about which we should therefore be chiefly concerned. Here we are told that it is a new creature, and in Gal 5:6 that it is faith which worketh by love, and in 1Co 7:19 that it is the keeping of the commandments of God, from all which it appears that it is a change of mind and heart, whereby we are disposed and enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus and to live a life of devotedness to God; and that where this inward, vital, practical religion is wanting, no outward professions, nor particular names, will ever stand us in any stead, or be sufficient to recommend us to him. Were Christians duly concerned to experience this in themselves, and to promote it in others, if it did not make them lay aside their distinguishing names, yet it would at least take them off from laying so great a stress upon them as they too often do. Note, Christians should take care to lay the stress of their religion where God has laid it, namely, on those things which are available to our acceptance with him; so we see the apostle did, and it is our wisdom and interest herein to follow his example. The apostle having shown what was of chief consideration in religion, and what he laid the greatest stress upon, namely, not a mere empty name or profession, but a sound and saving change, in Gal 6:16 he pronounces a blessing upon all those who walk according to this rule: And as many as walk according to this rule peace be upon them, and mercy upon the Israel of God. The rule which he here speaks of may signify more generally the whole word of God, which is the complete and perfect rule of faith and life, or that doctrine of the gospel, or way of justification and salvation, which he had laid down in this epistle, namely, by faith in Christ without the works of the law; or it may be considered as more immediately referring to the new creature, of which he had just before been speaking. The blessings which he desires for those who walk according to this rule, or which he gives them the hope and prospect of (for the words may be taken either as a prayer or a promise), are peace and mercy – peace with God and conscience, and all the comforts of this life as far as they are needful for them, and mercy, or an interest in the free love and favour of God in Christ, which are the spring and fountain of all other blessings. A foundation is laid for these in that gracious change which is wrought in them; and while they behave themselves as new creatures, and govern their lives and hopes by the rule of the gospel, they may most assuredly depend upon them. These, he declares, shall be the portion of all the Israel of God, by whom he means all sincere Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, all who are Israelites indeed, who, though they may not be the natural, yet are become the spiritual seed of Abraham; these, being heirs of his faith, are also heirs together with him of the same promise, and consequently entitled to the peace and mercy here spoken of. The Jews and judaizing teachers were for confining these blessings to such as were circumcised and kept the law of Moses; but, on the contrary, the apostle declares that they belong to all who walk according to the rule of the gospel, or of the new creature, even to all the Israel of God, intimating that those only are the true Israel of God who walk according to this rule, and not that of circumcision, which they insisted so much upon, and therefore that this was the true way to obtain peace and mercy. Note, (1.) Real Christians are such as walk by rule; not a rule of their own devising, but that which God himself has prescribed to them. (2.) Even those who walk according to this rule do yet stand in need of the mercy of God. But, (3.) All who sincerely endeavour to walk according to this rule may be assured that peace and mercy will be upon them: this is the best way to have peace with God, ourselves, and others; and hereupon, as we may be sure of the favour of God now, so we may be sure that we shall find mercy with him hereafter.

4. That he had cheerfully suffered persecution for the sake of Christ and Christianity, Gal 6:17. As the cross of Christ, or the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer, was what he chiefly gloried in, so he had been willing to run all hazards rather than he would betray this truth, or suffer it to be corrupted. The false teachers were afraid of persecution, and this was the great reason why they were zealous for circumcision, as we see, Gal 6:12. But this was the least of Paul’s concern; he was not moved at any of the afflictions he met with, nor did he count his life dear to him, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, Act 20:24. He had already suffered much in the cause of Christ, for he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars of those wounds which he had sustained from persecuting enemies, for his steady adherence to him, and that doctrine of the gospel which he had received from him. As from this it appeared that he was firmly persuaded of the truth and importance of it, and that he was far from being a favourer of circumcision, as they had falsely reported him to be, so hereupon, with a becoming warmth and vehemence, suitable to his authority as an apostle and to the deep concern of mind he was under, he insists upon it that no man should henceforth trouble him, namely by opposing his doctrine or authority, or by any such calumnies and reproaches as had been cast upon him; for as, both from what he had said and what he had suffered, they appeared to be highly unjust and injurious, so also those were very unreasonable who either raised or received them. Note, (1.) It may justly be presumed that men are fully persuaded of those truths in the defence of which they are willing to suffer. And (2.) It is very unjust to charge those things upon others which are contrary not only to their profession, but their sufferings too.

III. The apostle, having now finished what he intended to write for the conviction and recovery of the churches of Galatia, concludes the epistle with his apostolical benediction, Gal 6:18. He calls them his brethren, wherein he shows his great humility, and the tender affection he had for them, notwithstanding the ill treatment he had met with from them; and takes his leave of them with this very serious and affectionate prayer, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with their spirit. This was a usual farewell wish of the apostle’s, as we see, Rom 16:20, Rom 16:24, and 1Co 16:23. And herein he prays that they might enjoy the favour of Christ, both in its special effects and its sensible evidences, that they might receive from him all that grace which was needful to guide them in their way, to strengthen them in their work, to establish them in their Christian course, and to encourage and comfort them under all the trials of life and the prospect of death itself. This is fitly called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he is both the sole purchaser and the appointed dispenser of it; and though these churches had done enough to forfeit it, by suffering themselves to be drawn into an opinion and practice highly dishonourable to Christ, as well as dangerous to them, yet, out of his great concern for them, and knowing of what importance it was to them, he earnestly desires it on their behalf; yea, that it might be with their spirit, that they might continually experience the influences of it upon their souls, disposing and enabling them to act with sincerity and uprightness in religion. We need desire no more to make us happy than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This the apostle begs for these Christians, and therein shows us what we are chiefly concerned to obtain; and, both for their and our encouragement to hope for it, he adds his Amen.

CH Spurgeon (1834-1892): The Warning Neglected

The Warning Neglected


C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Copyright: Public Domain

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The Warning Neglected (Sermon No. 165 from Vol. IV)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 29, 1857 at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

“He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him.”—Ezekiel 33:5.

In all worldly things, men are always enough awake to understand their own interests. There is scarce a merchant who reads the paper, who does not read it in some way or other, with a view to his own personal concerns. If he finds that by the rise or fall of the markets, he will be either a gainer or loser, that part of the day’s news will be the most important to him. In politics, in everything, in fact, that concerns temporal affairs, personal interest usually leads the van. Men will always be looking out for themselves, and personal and home interests will generally engross the major part of their thoughts. But in religion, it is otherwise. In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it. You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended. If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind, or the need of a Saviour, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because, like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them. And yet, my brethren, how foolish this is. If in all other matters we like personalities—if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for, surely, every man must give an account for himself, at the day of judgment. We must die alone; we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, “Come ye blessed;” or else, he must be appalled with the thundering sentence, “Depart, ye cursed.” If there were such a thing as national salvation; if it could be possible that we could be saved in the gross and in the bulk, that so, like the sheaves of corn, the few weeds that may grow with the stubble, would be gathered in for the sake of the wheat, then, indeed, it might not be so foolish for us to neglect our own personal interests; but if the sheep must, every one of them, pass under the hand of him that telleth them, if every man must stand in his own person before God, to be tried for his own acts—by everything that is rational, by everything that conscience would dictate, and self-interest would command, let us each of us look to our own selves, that we be not deceived, and that we find not ourselves, at last, miserably cast away.

Now, this morning, by God’s help, I shall labor to be personal, and whilst I pray for the rich assistance of the Divine Spirit, I will also ask one thing of each person here present—I would ask of every Christian that he would lift up a prayer to God, that the service may be blessed; and I ask of every other person that he will please to understand that I am preaching to him, and at him; and if there be anything that is personal and pertinent to his own case, I beseech him, as for life and death, to let it have its full weight with him, and not begin to think of his neighbor, to whom perhaps it may be even more pertinent, but whose business certainly does not concern him.

The text is a solemn one—”He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning: his blood shall be upon him.” The first head is this—the warning was all that could be desired—”he heard the sound of the trumpet.” Secondly, the excuses for not attending to the startling warning are all of them both frivolous and wicked: and therefore, in the third place, the consequences of inattention must be terrible, because man’s blood must then be on his own head.

I. First, then, THE WARNING WAS ALL THAT COULD BE DESIRED. When in time of war an army is attacked in the night, and cut off and destroyed whilst asleep, if it were impossible for them to be aware of the attack, and if they had made all diligence in placing their sentinels, but nevertheless the foe were so wary as to destroy them, we should weep; we should attach no blame to any one, but should deeply regret, and should give to that host our fullest pity. But if, on the other hand, they had posted their sentinels, and the sentinels were wide awake, and gave to the sleepy soldiers every warning that could be desired, but nevertheless, the army were cut off, although we might for common humanity regret the loss thereof, yet at the same time we should be obliged to say, if they were foolish enough to sleep when the sentinels had warned them; if they folded their arms in presumptuous sloth, after they had sufficient and timely notice of the progress of their blood-thirsty enemy, then in their dying, we cannot pity them: their blood must rest upon their own heads. So, it is with you. If men perish under an unfaithful ministry, and have not been sufficiently warned to escape from the wrath to come, the Christian may pity them, yea, and methinks, even when they stand before the bar of God, although the fact of their not having been warned will not fully excuse them, yet it will go far to diminish their eternal miseries, which otherwise might have fallen upon their heads; for we know it is more tolerable for unwarned Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than it is for any city, or any nation that has had the Gospel proclaimed in its ears. My brethren, if on the other hand, we have been warned, if our ministers have been faithful, if they have aroused our conscience, and have constantly and earnestly called our attention to the fact of the wrath to come, if we have not attended to their message, if we have despised the voice of God, if we have turned a deaf ear to their earnest exhortation, if we perish, we shall die warned—die under the sound of the Gospel, and our damnation must be an unpitied one, for our blood must fall upon out own heads. Permit me then, to try, if I can, to enlarge upon this thought, that the warning has been, in the case of many of you, all that could have been needed.

In the first place, the warnings of the ministry have been to most of you warnings that have been heard—”He heard the sound of the trumpet.” In far off lands, the trumpet sound of warning is not heard. Alas! there are myriads of our fellow-creatures who have never been warned by God’s embassadors, who know not that wrath abideth on them, and who do not yet understand the only way and method of salvation. In your case it is very different. You have heard the Word of God preached to you. You cannot say, when you come before God, “Lord, I knew no better.” There is not a man or a woman within this place who will dare then to plead ignorance. And moreover, you have not only heard with your ears, but some of you have been obliged to hear it in your consciences. I have before me many of my hearers whom I have had the pleasure of seeing now for some years. It has not been once, or twice, but many a time, I have seen the tear guttering their cheeks when I have spoken earnestly, faithfully, and affectionately to you. I have seen your whole soul moved within you; and yet, to my sorrow, you are now what you were: your goodness has been as the early cloud, and as the morning dew that passeth away. You have heard the Gospel. You wept under it, and you loved the sound of it, and you came again, and wept again, and many marveled that you did weep, but the greatest marvel was, that after having wept so well, you wiped away your tears so easily. Oh, yes, God is my witness, there are some of you not an inch nearer heaven, but ye have sealed your own damnation doubly sure, unless ye repent: for ye have heard the Gospel, ye have despised prophesyings, ye have rejected the counsel of God against yourself; and, therefore, when you shall die, ye must die pitied by your friends, but at the same time with your blood on your own heads.

The trumpet was not only heard, but, more than that, its warning was understood. When the man, supposed in the text, heard the trumpet, he understood by it that the enemy was at hand, and yet he took not warning. Now, my brethren, in your case, the sound of the Gospel warning has been understood. A thousand faults your minister may have, but there is one fault from which he is entirely free and that is, he is free from all attempts to use fine language in the expression of his thoughts; ye are all my witnesses, that if there be a Saxon word, or a homely phrase, a sentence that is rough and market-like, that will tell you the truth, I always use that first. I can say solemnly, as in the sight of God, that I never went out of my pulpit, except with the firm belief, that whatever might have happened, I was perfectly understood. I had sought, at least, so to gather wise words, that no man might mistake my meaning; gnash his teeth he might, but he could not say, “The preacher was misty and cloudy, talking to me of metaphysics, beyond my comprehension; he has been obliged to say, “Well, I know what he meant, he spoke plainly enough to me.” Well, sirs, then if it be so, and if ye have heard warnings that ye could understand, so much the more guilty are ye, if ye are living this day in rejection of them. If I have preached to you in a style above comprehension, then on my head must be your blood, because I ought to have made you understand; but if I come down to men of low estate, and pick even vulgar phrases to suit common people, then if you understood the warning, and if ye then risked it, mark you, my hands are clean of your blood. If ye be damned, I am innocent of your damnation, for I have told you plainly, that except ye repent, ye must perish, and that except ye put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is for you no hope of salvation.

Again, this trumpet sound was startling. The trumpet’s sound is ever considered to be the most startling in the world. Tis that which shall be used on the resurrection morning to startle the myriads of sleepers, and make them rise from their tombs. Ay, and ye have had a startling ministry. Ye have sat, some of you, under ministers that might have made the devil himself tremble, so earnest have they been; and they have made you tremble sometimes, so much, that you could not sleep. The hair of your head was well nigh moved to stand upright. They spake as though they never might speak again: as dying men to dying men. They spoke as if they had been in hell, and knew the vengeance of the Almighty, and anon, they spoke as if they had entered into the heart of Jesus, and read his love to sinners. They had brows of brass; they knew not how to flinch. They laid your iniquity bare before your face, and with rough language that was unmistakable, they made you feel that there was a man there who told you all things that ever you did. They so declared it, that you could not help feeling under it. You always retained a veneration for that minister, because you felt that he at least was honest with you; and you have sometimes thought that you would even go and hear him again, because there at least your soul was moved, and you were made to hear the truth. Yes, you have had a startling ministry, some of you. Then, sirs, if ye have heard the cry of fire, if ye are burned in your beds, your charred ashes shall not accuse me. If I have warned you that he that believeth not must be damned, if you are damned, your miserable souls shall not accuse me. If I have startled you sometimes from your slumbers, and made your balls and your pleasure parties uneasy, because I have sometimes warned you of these things, then sirs, if after all you put away these warnings, and you reject these counsels, you will be obliged to say, “My blood is on my own head.”

In many of your cases the warning has been very frequent. If the man heard the trumpet sound once and did not regard it, possibly we might excuse him; but how many of my audience have heard the trumpet sound of the gospel very frequently. There you are, young man. You have had many years of a pious mother’s teaching, many years of a pious minister’s exhortations. Wagon loads of sermons have been exhausted upon you. You have had many sharp providences, many terrible sicknesses. Often when the death-bell has tolled for your friend, your conscience has been aroused. To you warnings are not unusual things; they are very common. Oh! my hearers, if a man should hear the gospel but once, his blood would be upon his own head for rejecting it; but of how much sorer punishment shall you be thought worthy who have heard it many and many a time. Ah! I may well creep, when I think how many sermons you have listened to, many of you, how many times you have been cut to the heart. A hundred times every year you have gone up to the house of God, and far oftener than that, and you have just added a hundred billets to the eternal pile. A hundred times the trumpet has sounded in your ears, and a hundred times you have turned away to sin again, to despise Christ, to neglect your eternal interests, and to pursue the pleasures and the concerns of this world. Oh! how mad is this, how mad! Oh, sirs, if a man had but once poured out his heart before you concerning your eternal interests, and if he had spoken to you earnestly, and you had rejected his message, then, even then, ye had been guilty. But what shall we say to you upon whom the shafts of the Almighty have been exhausted? Oh, what shall be done unto this barren ground that hath been watered with shower after shower, and that hath been quickened with sunshine after sunshine? What shall be done unto him who being often rebuked, still hardeneth his neck? Shall he not be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy, and shall it not then be said, “His blood lieth at his own door, his guilt is on his own head?”

And I would just have you recollect one thing more. This warning that you have had so often has come to you in time. “Ah,” said an infidel once, “God never regards man. If there be a God, he would never take notice of men.” Said a Christian minister, who was sitting opposite to him in the carriage, “The day may come, sir, when you will learn the truth of what you have just said. “I do not understand your allusion, sir,” said he. “Well, sir, the day may come, when you may call, and he will refuse; when you may stretch out your hands and he will not regard you, but as he has said in the book of Proverbs, so will he do, Because I called, and ye refused; because I stretched out my hands, and no man regarded, I also will mock at your calamity, I will laugh when your fear cometh.” But oh, sirs, your warning has not come too late. You are not warned on a sick bed, at the eleventh hour, when there is but a bare possibility of salvation, but you are warned in time, you are warned to-day, you have been warned for these many years that are now past. If God should send a preacher to the damned in hell, that were an unnecessary addition to their misery. Surely, if one could go and preach the gospel through the fields of Gehenna, and tell them of a Saviour they had despised, and of a gospel that is now beyond their reach, that were taunting poor souls with a vain attempt to increase their unutterable woe; but O my brethren, to preach the gospel now is to preach in a hopeful period; for “now is the accepted time: now is the day of salvation.” Warn the boatman before he enters the current, and then, if he is swept down the rapids, he destroys himself. Warn the man before he drinks the cup of poison, tell him it is deadly: and then, if he drinks it, his death lies at his own door. And so, let us warn you before you depart this life; let us preach to you while as yet your bones are full of marrow, and the sinews of your joints are not loosed. We have then warned you in time, and so much the more shall your guilt be increased, because the warning was timely; it was frequent, it was earnest, it was appropriate, it was arousing, it was continually given to you, and yet you sought not to escape from the wrath to come.

And so even this morning would I say to you, if ye perish, my skirts are white of your blood; if ye are damned, it is not for want of calling after, nor for want of praying for, nor for want of weeping over. Your blood must be on your own heads; for the warning is all that is needed.

II. And now we come to the second point. MEN MAKE EXCUSES WHY THEY DO NOT ATTEND TO THE GOSPEL WARNING, BUT THESE EXCUSES ARE ALL FRIVOLOUS AND WICKED. I will just go over one or two of the excuses that people make. Some of them say, “Well, I did not attend to the warning because I did not believe there was any necessity for it.” Ah! You were told that after death there was a judgment, and you did not believe there was any necessity that you should be prepared for that judgment. You were told that by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified, and that only through Christ can sinners be saved; and you did not think there was any necessity for Christ. Well, sir, you ought to have thought there was a necessity. You know there was a necessity in your inner consciousness. You talked very large things when you stood up as an unbeliever, a professed unbeliever: but you know there was a still small voice that while you spake belied your tongue. You are well aware that in the silent watches of the night you have often trembled; in a storm at sea you have been on your knees to pray to a God whom on the land you have laughed at; and when you have been sick nigh unto death, you have said, “Lord, have mercy upon me;” and so you have prayed, that you have believed it after all. But if you did not believe it, you ought to have believed it. There was enough in reason to have taught you that there was an hereafter; the Book of God’s revelation was plain enough to have taught it to you, and if you have rejected God’s Book, and rejected the voice of reason and of conscience, your blood is on your own head. Your excuse is idle. It is worse than that, it is profane and wicked, and still on your own head be your everlasting torment.

“But,” cries another, “I did not like the trumpet. I did not like the Gospel that was preached.” Says one, “I did not like certain doctrines in the Bible. I thought the minister preached too harsh doctrines sometimes, I did not agree with the Gospel; I thought the Gospel ought to have been altered, and not to have been just what it was.” You did not like the trumpet, did you? Well, but God made the trumpet, God made the Gospel; and inasmuch as ye did not like what God made, it is an idle excuse. What was that to you what the trumpet was, so long as it warned you? And surely, if it had been time of war, and you had heard a trumpet sounded to warn you of the coming of the enemy, you would not have sat still, and said, “now I believe that is a brass trumpet, I would like to have had it made of silver.” No, but the sound would have been enough for you, and up you would have been to escape from the danger. And so it must be now with you. It is an idle presence that you did not like it. You ought to have liked it, for God made the Gospel what it is.

But you say, “I did not like the man that blew it.” Well, if you did not like one messenger of God, there are many in this city. Could you not find one you did like? You did not like one man’s manner; it was too theatrical; you did not like another’s: it was too doctrinal; you did not like another’s: it was too practical—there are plenty of them, you may take which you do like, but if God has sent the men, and told them how to blow, and if they blow to the best of their ability, it is all in vain for you to reject their warnings, because they do not blow the way you like. Ah, my brethren, we do not find fault with the way a man speaks, if we are in a house that is on fire. If the man calls, “Fire! Fire!” we are not particular what note he takes, we do not think what a harsh voice he has got. You would think any one a fool, who should lie in his bed, to be burned, because he said he did not like the way the man cried, “Fire.” Why his business was to have been out of bed and down the stairs at once, as soon as he heard it.

But another says, “I did not like the man himself; I did not like the minister; I did not like the man that blew the trumpet; I could hear him preach very well, but I had a personal dislike to him, and so I did not take any notice of what the trumpet said.” Verily, God will say to thee at last, “Thou fool, what hadst thou to do with that man; to his own master he stands or falls; thy business was with thyself.” What would you think of a man? A man has fallen overboard from a ship, and when he is drowning, some sailor throws him a rope, and there it is. Well, he says, in the first place, “I do not like that rope; I don’t think that rope was made at the best manufactory; there is some tar on it too, I do not like it; and in the next place, I do not like that sailor that threw the rope over, I am sure he is not a kind-hearted man, I do not like the look of him at all;” and then comes a gurgle and a groan, and down he is in the bottom of the sea; and when he was drowned, they said, that it served him right, if he would not lay hold of the rope, but would be making such foolish and absurd objections, when it was a matter of life and death. Then on his own head be his blood. And so shall it be with you at last. You are so busy with criticising the minister, and his style, and his doctrine, that your own soul perishes. Remember you may get into hell by criticism, but you will never criticise your soul out of it. You may there make the most you can of it. You may be there and say, “I did not like the minister, I did not like his manner, I did not like his matter;” but all your dislikings will not get one drop of water to cool your burning tongue, nor serve to mitigate the unalleviated torments of that world of agony.

There are many other people who say, “Ah, well, I did none of those things, but I had a notion that the trumpet sound ought to be blown to everybody else, but not to me.” Ah! that is a very common notion. “All men think all men mortal, but themselves,” said a good poet; and all men think all men need the Gospel, but not themselves. Let each of us recollect that the Gospel has a message to each one of us. What saith the Gospel to thee my hearer ? What saith the Word to thee? Forget thy neighbors, and ask this question. Doth it condemn thee? or doth it assure thee of thy pardon? for recollect, all thou hast to do in the hearing of the Word, is to hear with thine own ears for thine own soul, and it will be idle for any one to say “I did not think it applied to me,” when we know that it is to be preached to every creature under heaven, and therefore there must be something in it for every creature or else it would not be preached to every creature.

Well, says another, “But I was so busy, I had so much to do, that I could not possibly attend to my soul’s concerns. What will you say of the man who had so much to do that he could not get out of the burning house, but was burnt to ashes? What will you say of the man that had so much to do, that when he was dying, he had not time to send for a physician? Why, you will say, then he ought not to have so much to do. And if any man in the world has a business which causes him to lose his own soul for want of time, let him lay this question to his heart, “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” But it is false—it is false—men have got time. It is the want of will, not want of way. You have time, sir, have you not, despite all your business, to spend in pleasure? You have time to read your newspaper—have you no time to read your Bible? You have time to sing a song—have you no time to pray a prayer? Why, you know when farmer Brown met farmer Smith in the market one day, he said to him, “Farmer Smith, I can’t think how it is you find time for hunting. Why, man, what with sowing and mowing and reaping and plowing, and all that, my time is so fully occupied on my farm, and I have no time for hunting.” “Ah,” said he, “Brown, if you liked hunting as much as I do, if you could not find time, you’d make it.” And so it is with religion, the reason why men cannot find time for it is, because they do not like it well enough. If they liked it, they would find time. And besides, what time does it want? What time does it require? Can I not pray to God over my ledger? Can I not snatch a text at my very breakfast, and think over it all day? May I not even when I am busy in the affairs of the world, be thinking of my soul, and casting myself upon a Redeemer’s blood and atonement? It wants no time. There may be some time required; some time for my private devotions, and for communion with Christ, but when I grow in grace, I shall think it right to have more and more time, the more I can possibly get, the happier I shall be, and I shall never make the excuse that I have no time.

“Well,” says another, “but I thought I had time enough, you do not want me, sir, to be religious in my youth, do you? I am a lad, and may I not have a little frolic and sow my wild oats as well as anybody else?” Well—yes, yes; but at the same time the best place for pleasure that I know of, is where a Christian lives; the finest happiness in all the world is the happiness of a child of God. You may have your pleasures—oh, yes! you shall have them doubled and trebled, if you are a Christian. You shall not have things that worldlings call pleasures, but you shall have some that are a thousand times better. But only look at that sorrowful picture. There, far away in the dark gulf of woe, lies a young man, and he cries, “Ah! I meant to have repented when I was out of my apprenticeship, and I died before my time was up.” “Ah!” says another by his side, “and I thought, whilst I was a journeyman, that when I came to be a master, I would then think of the things of Christ, but I died before I had got money enough to start for myself.” And then a merchant behind wails with bitter woe, and says, “Ah! I thought I would be religious when I had got enough to retire on, and live in the country; then I should have time to think of God, when I had got all my children married out, and my concerns settled about me, but here I am shut up in hell; and now what are all my delays worth, and what is all the time I gained for all the paltry pleasures in the world? Now I have lost my soul over them.” We experience great vexation if we are unpunctual in many places; but we cannot conceive what must be the horror and dismay of men who find themselves too late in the  next world! Ah! friends, if I knew there was one here who said, “I shall repent next Wednesday,” I would have him feel in a dreadful state till that Wednesday came; for what if he should die? Oh! what if he should die? Would his promise of a Wednesday’s repentance save him from a Tuesday damnation?

Ah, these are all idle excuses. Men make not such when their bodily life is concerned. Would God that we were wise, that we would not make such pitiful pretences to apology, when our soul, our own soul, is the matter at stake. If they take not warning, whatever their excuse, their blood must be upon their own head.

III. And now, I come most solemnly to conclude with all the power of earnestness; the warning has been sufficient, the excuse for not attending to it has been proved profane; then the last thought is “HIS BLOOD SHALL BE ON HIS OWN HEAD.” Briefly thus—he shall perish; he shall perish certainly; he shall perish inexcusably. He shall perish. And what does that mean? There is no human mind, however capacious, that can ever guess the thought of a soul eternally cast away from God. The wrath to come is as inexpressible as the glory that shall be revealed hereafter. Our Saviour labored for words with which to express the horrors of a future state of the ungodly. You remember he talked of worms that die not, and fires that are never quenched, of a pit without a bottom, of weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness.

No preacher was ever so loving as Christ, but no man ever spoke so horribly about hell; and yet even when the Saviour had said his best and said his worst, he had not told us what are the horrors of a future state. Ye have seen sicknesses, ye have heard the shrieks of men and women when their pangs have been upon them. We, at least, have stood by the bedsides even of some dear to us, and we have seen to what an extent agony may be carried in the human body, but none of us know how much the body is capable of suffering. Certainly the body will have to suffer forever—”He is able to cast both body and soul into hell.” We have heard of exquisite torments, but we have never dreamt of any like unto this. Again, we have seen something of the miseries of the soul. Have we never marked the man that we used to know in our childhood who was depressed in spirits. All that ever could be done for him never could evoke a smile from him—never did the light of cheerfulness light up his eye—he was mournfully depressed. Ay, and it was my unhappy lot to live with one who was not only depressed in spirits, but whose mind had gone so far amiss, that it did brood fancies so mournful and dismal, that the very sight of him was enough to turn the sunlight of summer into the very darkness of a dreary winter. He had nothing to say but dark, groaning words. His thoughts always had a sombre appearance about them. It was midnight in his soul—a darkness that might be felt. Have you never seen yourselves what power the mind has over us to make us full of misery? Ah, brethren and sisters, if ye could go to many of our asylums, and to our sick wards—ay, and dying beds, too, you may know what acute anguish the mind may feel. And remember that the mind, as well as the mortal frame, is to endure damnation. Yes, we must not shirk that word, the Scripture saith it, and we must use it. Oh! men and women, except we repent, except we do each of us cry for mercy to him that is able to save, we must perish. All that is meant by that word “hell” must be realized in me, except I be a believer; and so all that is meant by “Depart, ye cursed,” must be thine, unless thou dost turn unto God with full purpose of heart.

But again, he that turneth not at the rebuke of the minister shall die, and he shall die certainly. This is not a matter of perhaps or chance. The things we preach, and that are taught in Scripture, are matters of solemn certainty. It may be that death is that bourne from which no traveller returns, but it is not true that we know nothing of it. It is as certain as that there are men, and a world in which they live, that there is another world to come, and that if they die impenitent, that world will be to them one of misery. And mark you—there is no chance of escape, die without Christ, and there is no gate out of which you can escape—forever, oh, forever lost, and not one hope of mercy—cast away, and not one outlet for escape, not one solitary chance of ransom. Oh, if there were hope that in the world to come, men might escape, we need not be so earnest; but since once lost, lost for ayeonce cast away, cast away without hope, without any prospect of a hope, we must be earnest. Oh, my God, when I remember that I have to-day some here present who in all probability must be dead before next Sabbath, I must be earnest. Out of so large an assembly, the chances are that we shall not all of us be found pilgrims in this world within another seven days. It is not only possible, but probable, that someone out of this vast audience will have been launched upon a world unknown. Shall it be myself, and shall I sail to the port of bliss, or must I sail over fiery waves forever, lost, shipwrecked, stranded, on the rocks of woe? Soul, which shall it be with thee? It may be thou shalt die, my gray-headed hearer, or thou young lad, thou boy, thou mayest die—I know not which, nor can we tell—God only knoweth. Then let each one ask himself—Am I prepared, should I be called to die? Yes, you may die where you are, on the benches where you are sitting—you may now die—and whither would you go? for recollect that whither ye go, ye go forever. Oh! eternity—eternity—eternity—must I climb thy topless steeps forever, and never reach the summit, and must my path be ever misery or joy. Oh! eternity, thou depth without a bottom, thou sea without a shore, must I sail over thy boundless waves forever in one undeviating track—and must I either plough through seas of bliss, or else be driven by the stormy winds of vengeance, over gulfs of misery? “Then what am I?” “My soul awake and an impartial survey take.” Am I prepared? Am I prepared? Am I prepared? For, prepared or not, death admits of no delay, and if he is at my door, he will take me where I must go forever, prepared or not.

Now, the last thing is, the sinner will perish—he will perish certainly, but, last of all, he will perish without excuse—his blood shall be on his own head. When a man is bankrupt, if he can say, “It is not through reckless trading—it has been entirely through the dishonesty of one I trusted that I am what I am;” he takes some consolation, and he says, “I can not help it.” But oh, my hearers, if you make bankrupts of your own souls, after you have been warned, then your own eternal bankruptcy shall lie at your own door. Should never so great a misfortune come upon us, if we can trace it to the providence of God, we bear it cheerfully; but if we have inflicted it upon ourselves, then how fearful is it! And let every man remember that if he perish after having heard the Gospel, he will be his own murderer. Sinner, thou wilt drive the dagger into thine heart thyself. If thou despisest the Gospel, thou art preparing fuel for thine own bed of flames, thou art hammering out the chain for thine own everlasting binding; and when damned, thy mournful reflection will be this:—I have damned myself, I cast myself into this pit; for I rejected the Gospel; I despised the message; I trod underfoot the Son of Man; I would have none of his rebukes; I despised his Sabbaths; I would not hearken to his exhortations, and now I perish by mine own hand, the miserable suicide of my own soul.”

And now a sweet reflection strikes me. A good writer says, “There are, doubtless, spots in the world that would be barren forever, if we recollected what had happened there.” Says he, “I was once in St. Paul’s cathedral, just under the dome, and a friend just touched me gently and said, Do you see that little chisel mark? and I said ”Yes.” He said, ”That is where a man threw himself down, and there he fell, and was dashed to atoms.” The writer says, “We all started aside from that little spot, where a fellow-creature’s blood had been shed. It seemed an awful place when we remembered that.” Now, there is many a street, there is many a way-side, there is many a house of God, where men have taken the last decision, and damned their own souls. I doubt not, there are some here this morning, standing or sitting, to whom the voice of conscience says, “Decide for God,” and now Satan and the evil heart together are saying, “Reject the message; laugh it off; forget it: take a ticket for the theater to-morrow: do not let this man alarm us: it is his very profession to talk to us like this; let us go away, and laugh it off; and let us spend the rest of this day in merriment.” Yes, that is the last warning thou wilt ever have. It is so with some of you. There are some of you that will this hour decide to damn yourselves, and you will look forever throughout eternity, to that place under the gallery, and you will say, “Alas! woe was the day I heard that man, I was half impressed—almost he persuaded me to be a Christian, but I decided for hell.” And that will be a solemn spot to angels where you are standing, or where you are sitting, for angels will say to one another, “Stand aside; that is a spot where a man ruined his own soul for ever and ever. But the sweet thought is, that there are some places just the reverse.

Why, you are sitting, my friend, this morning, on a spot where some three weeks ago one sat who was converted to God; and that place where you are sitting you ought to venerate, for in that place there sat one who was one of the chiefest of sinners like yourself, and there the Gospel message met him. And far back there, behind the door, many a soul has been brought to Christ. Many a piece of good news have I heard from some in yonder upper gallery. “I could not see your face, sir, all the sermon through, but the arrow of the Lord found its way round the corner, and reached my heart notwithstanding that, and I was saved.” Ah, well, may God so bless this place, that every seat of it this day may be solemnized by his own grace, and a spot to be remembered in your future history by reason of the beginning of your blessedness, the dawn of your salvation. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved.” This is the gospel we are told to preach to every creature—”He that believeth, and is immersed, shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned.”

William Guthrie (1620-1665): The Christian’s Great Interest (Pt 1/2)

The Christian’s Great Interest


William Guthrie (1620-1665)

Copyright: Public Domain

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The Christian’s Great Interest

Part I. The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ

   Quest. I.—How shall a man know if he has a true and special interest

      in Christ, and whether he has, or may lay claim justly to, God’s favour and salvation?

   Chapter I.—Things premised for the better understanding of the trial itself

      I.—A man’s interest in Christ may be known

      II.—Importance of having an interest in Christ

      III.—We must allow our condition to be determined by Scripture

      IV.—Causes why so few attain to a distinct knowledge of their state

      V.—Some mistakes concerning an interest in Christ removed

   Chapter II.—Marks of a Saving Change

      A preparatory law work

      I.—Some called from the womb

      II.—Some called in a sovereign gospel-way

      III.—Some graciously called at the hour of death

      IV.—God’s more ordinary way of calling sinners to Himself

      V.—Objections and difficulties considered

   Chapter III.—Evidences of a Believing State

      I.—Mistakes as to what faith is

      II.—True saving faith described

      III.—Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith

      IV.—Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed

   Chapter IV.—Evidences of a Renewed State

      I.—The whole man must be to some extend renewed

      II.—He must be, to some extent, renewed in all his ways

      III.—The supposed unattainableness of such evidences considered

      IV.—The special attainments of hypocrites considered

      V.—Doubts because of prevailing sin considered

      VI.—Doubts arising out of a want of Christian experience considered

PART II.—How to Attain a Saving Interest in Christ

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 unto them?

   Chapter I.—Some Things Premised for the Information of the Ignorant

   Chapter II.—The Duty of Closing with God’s Plan of Saving Sinners by Christ Jesus

      I.—What it is to accept of, and close with, the gospel offer

      II.—This the duty of those who would be saved

      III.—What is required of those who would believe on Christ Jesus and be saved

      IV.—Some of the properties and native consequences of true believing

      V.—Some of the effects of saving faith

   Chapter III.—Objections and Difficulties Answered and Explained

      I.—The sinner’s baseness rendering it presumption to come to Christ

      II.—The singularity of his sin barring the way

      III.—Special aggravations a hindrance

      IV.—Sins not named a barrier

      V.—The sin against the Holy Ghost alleged

         I.—What it is not

         II.—What the sin against the Holy Ghost is

         III.—Conclusions bearing on the objections

      VI.—Objections from the want of power to believe answered

      VII.—Objection arising from the complaints of believers as to unfruitfulness

      VIII.—Objection from ignorance regarding covenanting with God,—The nature of that duty unfolded

      IX.—Doubts as to the inquirer’s being savingly in covenant with God answered—Certain things premised concerning personal covenanting

         I.—The thing itself is warrantable

         II.—The preparation needed

         III.—How the duty of covenanting is to be performed

         IV.—What should follow this solemn act

      X.—A want of proper feeling considered as an obstacle in the way of covenanting

      XI.—The fear of backsliding a hindrance

      XII.—Objection arising from past fruitlessness considered

   Conclusion—The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers


The Christian’s Great Interest was first published in 1668, and many editions have appeared since. As it is now almost unobtainable, it is reprinted by the Publications Committee of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with the fervent hope that it will have a further wide circulation, and prove a continued blessing to many.

Dr. Owen said, “I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in it (The Christian’s Great Interest) than in them all.”

William Guthrie, of Fenwick, was a cousin of the eminent martyr, James Guthrie, who refused a bishopric and died on the scaffold at the Cross of Edinburgh in 1661. William desired to go to the execution of his valued cousin, but was prevented by friends who feared for his life.

It was while a student under Samuel Rutherford, and through his instrumentality, that he received a calling to the ministry. He was accounted one of the greatest preaches of his day. His labours were abundantly blessed. He was banished from his church, amidst bitter persecution, and died a few years later in 1665, at the age of forty-five, sweetly assured of the crown that awaited him in glory.


                                                           W. Grant,      


Halkirk, 1951




To the Reader

Christian Reader,

While the generality of men, especially in these days, by their eager pursuit after low and base interests, have proclaimed, as upon the house tops, how much they have forgotten to make choice of that better part, which, if chosen, should never be taken from them; I have made an essay, such as it is, in the following Treatise, to take thee off from this unprofitable, though painful pursuit, by proposing the chiefest of interest, even the Christian’s Great Interest, to be seriously pondered and constantly pursued by thee. Thou mayst think it strange to see anything in print from my pen, as it is indeed a surprise to myself; but necessity has made me, for this once, to offer so much violence to my own inclination, in regard that some, without my knowledge, have lately published some imperfect note of a few of my sermons, most confusedly cast together, prefixing withal this vain title, as displeasing to myself as the publishing of the thing, ‘A Clear Attractive Warming Beam,’ &c. Upon this occasion was I prevailed with to publish this late piece, wherein I have purposely used a homely and plain style, lest otherwise—though, when I have stretched myself to the utmost, I am below the judicious and more understanding—I should be above the reach of the rude and ignorant, whose advantage I have mainly, if not only, consulted. I have, likewise, studied brevity in everything, so far as I conceived it to be consistent with plainness and perspicuity; knowing that the persons to whom I address myself herein, have neither much money to spend upon books, nor much time to spare in reading. If thou be a rigid critic, I know thou mayst meet with several things to carp at; yet assure thyself, that I had no design to offend thee, neither will thy simple approbation satisfy me. It is thy edification I intend, together with the incitements of some others, more expert and experienced in this excellent subject, to handle the same to greater length, which I have more briefly hinted at,—who am thy servant in the work of the gospel,

William Guthrie



The Christian’s Great Interest.

Part I. The Trial of a Saving Interest in Christ

Since there are so many people living under the ordinances, pretending, without ground, to a special interest in Christ, and to His favour and salvation, as is clear from the words of 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.’ (Matt. 7: 22, 23.) ‘Afterwards 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.’ (Matt. 25: 11,12.) ‘Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.’ (Luke 13: 24.) And since many who have good ground of claim to Christ, are not established in the confidence of this favour, 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 may know if he has a true and special interest in Christ, and whether he does 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 should take for making sure of God’s friendship and salvation to himself.

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

Chapter I.—Things premised for the better understanding of the trial itself

Before we speak directly to the question, we shall premise some things, to make way for the answer.

I.—A man’s interest in Christ may be known

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 unto than many imagine; for not only has the Lord commanded men to know their interest in Him, as a thing attainable—’Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith’ (2 Cor. 13: 5); ‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure’ (2 Peter 1: 10)—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?’ (Rom. 8: 38, 39.) 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 are our Father,’ saith the prophet (Isa. 64: 8), in name of the Church. It is clear from this:—1. That can be no fancy, but a very sure knowledge, which does yield to a rational man comfort in most real straits; but so does this—’When the people spoke of stoning David, he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.’ (1 Sam. 30: 6.) He saith, ‘He will not be afraid though ten thousands rise up against him.’ (Psa. 3: 6.) Compare these words with the following: ‘But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.’ (Psa. 3: 3.) ‘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.’ (Psa. 27: 3.) 2. That is a sure knowledge of a thing which maketh a wise merchant sell all he has, that he may keep it sure; that maketh a man forego children, lands, life, and suffer the spoiling of all joyfully; but so does this—Matt. 13: 44; Mark 10: 28, 29; Heb. 10: 34; Rom. 5: 3; Acts 5: 41. 3. That must be a sure and certain knowledge, and no fancy, upon which a man voluntarily and freely does adventure his soul when he is stepping into eternity, with this word in his mouth, ‘This is all my desire’ (2 Sam. 23: 5); 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 be 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’ (John 1: 12); 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 aforesaid scripture, which cannot fail.

II.—Importance of having an interest in Christ

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.’ (Deut. 32: 47.) 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. (Matt. 7: 14.) 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 were. (Matt. 25.)

III.—We must allow our condition to be determined by Scripture

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’ (Isa. 8: 20)—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 bands shall be made strong’ (Isa. 28: 22); for ‘a jot of His word cannot fail.’ (Matt. 5: 11.) Therefore, seek eye-salve from Christ to judge of things according as the word of God shall discover them to be.

IV.—Causes why so few attain to a distinct knowledge of their state

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.

(1) 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 (John 3: 16)—’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 away from suitable and high apprehensions of the first spring and rise of God’s covenant favour to His people, which has 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 has ground to lay claim to it, namely, That ordinarily, 1st, It discovers his fallen state in 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.’ (Phil. 3: 8.) 2ndly, It discovers Christ as the full and satisfying treasure, above all things: ‘The man finds a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all that he has.’ (Matt. 13: 44, 46.) 3rdly, It determines the heart, and causes it to approach unto a living God in the ordinances: ‘Blessed is the man whom Thou choosest, and causes to approach unto Thee, that he may dwell in Thy courts’ (Psa. 65: 4); and causes the heart to wait upon Him, and Him alone: ‘My soul, wait thou only upon God. (Psa. 62: 5.) Thus having dropped in the seed of God in the heart, and formed Christ there (Gal. 4: 19), the heart is changed and made new in the work (Ezek. 36: 26); and God’s law is so stamped upon the heart in that change (Jer. 31: 33), that the whole yoke of Christ is commended to the man without exception. (Rom. 7: 12, 16.) 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 (Gal. 5: 6), ‘Faith worketh by love;’ (Rom. 6: 18, 22), and the man becometh a servant of righteousness unto God, which especially appears in the spirituality of worship: men then ‘serve God in spirit and in truth, in the newness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter’ (John 4: 24; Rom. 7: 6)—and tenderness in all manner of Conversation. The man then ‘exerciseth himself how to keep a conscience void of offense towards God and towards men.’ (Acts 24: 16.) Now in this way does the love of God discover itself unto man, and acteth on him, so as he has ground of laying some good claim to it; and so as he may justly think that the love which sent a Saviour had respect to such a man as has had these things made out unto him. Surely ignorance in this does hinder many from the knowledge of their interest in Christ; for if a man know not how God worketh with a person, so as 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.’ (Jer. 14: 8.) 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’ (1 Peter 1: 21)—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.’ (Rom. 4: 5.) Indeed, if any person take liberty here, and turn grace unto licentiousness, there is, without doubt, in so far a delusion: since there is mercy with Him upon condition that it conciliate fear to him. (Psa. 130: 4.) Yea, hardly can any man who has 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 does not sin,’ and ‘he who does so sin has not seen God.’ (1 John 3: 6, 9.) I say God is the hope of His people, and not their own holiness, 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’ (Gal. 3: 6); ‘and if any man sin, we have an advocate.’ (1 John 2: 1.) 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.’ (Psa. 9: 10.) ‘My glory will I not give to another: I am the Lord, that is my name.’ (Isa. 42: 8.)

4. Many are ignorant of the different ways and degrees of God’s working with His people, and this does 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, by which God 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 (Acts 16.23 ff); Paul is kept in suspense three days (Acts 9); Zaccheus not one moment (Luke 19). 2. They are ignorant of, at least they do not consider, how different are the degrees of sanctification in the saints, and the honorable appearances thereof before men in some, and the sad blemishes 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’ (Job 1: 8); ‘righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’ (Luke 1: 6.) Others were subject to very gross and sad evils, as Solomon, Asa, etc. 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.’ (Heb. 2: 15.) Surely the ignorance of the different ways of God’s working and dealing with His people does very much darken the knowledge of their interest in Him, whilst they usually limit the Lord to one way of working, which He does not keep, as we have shown in the former examples.

(2) The second thing which darkens men about their interest in Christ is, There is one thing or other wherein their heart, in some respect, does condemn them, as dealing deceitfully and guilefully with God. It is not to be expected that those can come to clearness about their interest, whose heart does condemn them for keeping up some known transgressions 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 those 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 respects, 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.’ (1 John 3: 21.) 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.’ (Psa. 65: 3.) ‘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.’ (Rom. 7: 23, 24.) 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.’ (Judges 10: 13.) The idolatries of the people are cast up to them by the Lord, and their suit rejected thereupon. That which draweth away the heart first in the morning, and last at night, like ‘an oven heated at night, and it burns as a flaming fire in the morning’ (Hos. 7: 6), 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’ (Psa. 36: 4):—That which does ordinarily lead away the heart in time of religious duty, and the remembrance of which has 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’ (Ezek. 11: 21):—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?’ (Psa. 50: 16):—that is the thing which does prevent the knowledge of a gracious state. Let it go, and it will be more easy to reach the knowledge of an interest in Christ.

(3) The third thing which hindereth in many the knowledge of an interest in Christ 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 few take 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.’ (2 Cor. 13: 5.) The several words used here, namely, Examine, prove, know—intimate that there is a labour in it: Diligence must be used to make our ‘calling and election sure.’ (2 Peter 1: 10.) 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.’ (1 John 2: 27.) Shall the Lord impart a business of so great concernment, and not so much as ‘be inquired after to do it for men?’ (Ezek. 36: 37.) Be ashamed, you who spend so much time in reading of 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 an heir of glory or note 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.

(4) 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 them 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’ (1 John 1: 4); and, ‘that those who believe,’ may ‘know that they have eternal life’ (1 John 5: 13); and since ‘he that believeth has the witness of it in himself ‘ (1 John 5: 10), 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.

(5) The fifth thing that helps much to keep men in the dark with respect to their interest in Christ is, Their 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 Psa. 65: 3, ‘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 Rom. 7: 23, 24, 25, where Paul thanketh God through Christ, as freed from the condemnation of the law, even whilst a law in his members leadeth captive unto sin.

2ndly, 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 exercises 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?’ (Psa. 13: 1); ‘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.’ (Psa. 22: 1, 2.)

3rdly, Some think that all who have any true interest in Him have God witnessing the same 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’ (Rom. 8: 16, 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 has given of the Son, that there is life enough in Him for men (1 John 5: 10,11), 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.’ (Eph 1: 13.) As long as people hold fast these principles, and the like, they can hardly come to the knowledge of their gracious state, which God has warranted people to prove and clear up to themselves, otherwise than by these aforesaid things.

V.—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 does 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 them that believe, that they may know they have a title to eternal life’ (1 John 5: 13); 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’ (Rom. 8: 18); another cometh but this length, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.’ (Mark 9: 24.)

3. It is a mistake to think that every one who attains a strong persuasion of his interest does always hold there; for he who today may say of the Lord, ‘He is his refuge’ (Psa. 91: 2), and ‘his portion’ (Psa. 11: 57), will at another time say, ‘He is cut off’ (Psa. 31: 22), and will ask, ‘if the truth of God’s promise does fail for evermore’ (Psa. 77: 7, 8, 9.)

4. It is also a mistake to think that every one who attains a good knowledge of their gracious state can formally answer all objection made to the contrary; but yet they may hold fast the conclusion, and say, ‘I know whom I have believed.’ (2 Tim. 1: 12.) There are few grounds of the Christian religion, whereof 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 the case in hand.

5. It is no less a mistake to imagine, that the vain groundless confidence, which many profane ignorant atheists do maintain, is this knowledge of an interest in Christ which we plead for. Many do falsely avow Him ‘to be their Father’ (John 8: 14); and many look for heaven, who are beguiled, like the ‘foolish virgins.’ (Matt. 25: 12.) 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.’ (1 John 5: 19.)

Chapter II.—Marks of a Saving Change

The Ways by which the Lord draweth some to Christ, without a sensible preparatory Law-Work

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 has a special interest in Christ, so that he may warrantable 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 does ordinarily 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 has some relation to that ‘spirit of bondage,’ and does now under the New Testament answer unto it, and usually leadeth on to the ‘Spirit of adoption.’ (Rom. 3: 15.)

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 its several steps, as we are to speak of it; for, as we shall see, the Lord does not always observe the same plan 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 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 point out, 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 savingly into His covenant, and draws them unto Christ.

I.—Some called from the womb

There are some called from the womb, as John the Baptist was (Luke 1); or in very early years, before they can be actively engaged in Satan’s ways, as Timothy. (2 Tim. 3: 15.) It cannot be supposed that these 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 are usually from their childhood kept free from ordinary pollutions, as swearing, lying, mocking of religion and religious persons, etc., with which children are often defiled. Those whom God calleth effectually, He sanctifieth from the time of that effectual calling: ‘Sin cannot have dominion over them,’ as over others, ‘Because they are under grace.’ (Rom. 6: 14.)

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’ (2 Cor. 5: 14), so that they yield themselves servants of righteousness, without outward constraint. (Rom. 6: 16.)

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, of whose first conversion we are not told. They are, upon some occasions, shut out from God, and are again admitted, in their apprehension, to come near; their heart is also further broken up by the ordinances, as is said of Lydia. (Acts 16: 14.) And ordinarily 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 called in a sovereign gospel-way

Some are brought to 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 (Luke 19), and others, who, upon a word spoken by Christ, did leave all and follow Him; and we hear nothing of a law-work 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 spoke to his heart, and that word took such hold upon him, that presently with joy he accepted Christ’s offer, and closed with Christ as Lord, whilst few of any note were following Him. 3. Upon this his heart was opened to the poor, although it seems he was a covetous man before. 4. He had a due impression of his former ways, evidencing his respect to the law of Moses, and this he signifies before all the company then present, not shrinking from taking shame to himself in such things as probably were notorious to the world. 5. Upon all these things, Christ confirms and ratifies the contract by His word; recommending to him that oneness of interest which behaved to be between him and the saints, and the thoughts of his own lost condition, if Christ had not come and sought him; all which is clear from Luke 19: 3-10.

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 law work, if their heart has yielded unto Christ; for a work of the law is not desirable, except for this end. Therefore Christ offers 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 warrantable 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 spoke to them, at His first meeting with them, we must rationally suppose that then He discovered to them so much of their necessity, and His own fulness and excellency, 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 has so dealt, so there is no ground 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.—Some graciously called at the hour of death

There are some brought in to 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.’ (Luke 23: 39-45.) 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 on either themselves or others before the last breath; and we shall, on the other hand, speak so particularly, that none may dare to delay so great a business to the last hour of their life.

We find these remarkable circumstances in the conversation between Christ and the thief. 1. The man falls 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, and 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 supply all his need. 7. He acquiesced sweetly in the word which Christ spoke to him for the ground of his comfort. All which are very clear in the case of that poor dying man, and prove a 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 entreat all, as they love their souls, not to delay their soul’s salvation, hoping for such assistance from Christ in the end, as too many do,—this being a rare miracle of mercy, in which Christ honorably triumphed over the ignominy of His cross; a parallel to which we shall hardly find in all the Scripture besides. Yea, as there be but few at all saved: ‘many be called, but few are chosen’ (Matt. 20: 16); and fewest saved this way; so the Lord has peremptorily threatened to laugh at the calamity, and not to hear the cry of such as mocked formerly 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 comes’ (Prov. 1: 24-26): which scripture, although it does not shut mercy’s door upon any, who at the hour of death do sincerely judge themselves and flee to Christ, as this penitent thief did; yet it certainly implieth 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.

IV.—God’s more ordinary way of calling sinners to Himself

The Work of the Law by which the Lord prepares His way into men’s souls; which is either more violent and sudden or more calm and gradual…

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 awakened with sin and fear of wrath, does really close with Christ; the contrary appears in Cain, Saul, Judas, etc. But there is a conviction of sin, an awakening of conscience, and work of humiliation, which, as we shall point out, rarely miscarries, or fails of a gracious issue, but ordinarily does resolve into the Spirit of adoption, and a gracious work of God’s Spirit. And because the Lord deals with many sinners this way, and we find that many are much puzzled about giving judgment of this law-work, we shall speak of it particularly.

This work is either more violent and sudden, or it is more quiet and gradual, so as to be protracted through a greater length of time, by which means 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 shakings 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’ (Acts 2: 37); some fall a ‘trembling’ (Acts 16: 29.) And thus it is, that the person is brought to his wits’ end: ‘What wilt Thou have me to do?’ saith Paul (Act: 9: 6.) ‘What must I do to be saved’ saith the jailer. (Acts 16: 32.) 2. The person is content to have salvation and God’s friendship on any terms, as the question implies, ‘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 fore-cited Scriptures. 4. The person presently becomes of one interest with the saints, joins himself with that persecuted society, puts 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 has 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. (Acts 22)

Again, the Lord sometimes carries on this work more calmly, softly, and gradually, protracting it so that the several steps of men’s exercise under it are very discernible. It would lead us to a great length to enlarge upon 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 offering Himself in the ordinances; and by some word preached, read, or borne in on the mind, or by some providence leading on unto the word, He does assault the house kept peaceably by the strong man, the devil; and thus Christ, who is the stronger man, comes upon him (Luke 22: 11); 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 knoweth himself guilty. The Spirit convinces the man, and binds it upon him, that he is the same person against whom the word of God speaks, because he is guilty of 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, etc.! yea, he is led on, until he sees himself guilty almost of the breach of the whole law: he sees ‘innumerable evils compassing him,’ as David speaks. (Psa. 40: 12.) A man sometimes will entertain alarming views of sin in this case, and is sharp-sighted to perceive himself guilty of almost every sin. Thus the Spirit comes and convinces of sin. (John 16: 8.)

2. The Lord overcomes a special stronghold in the garrison, a refuge of lies, to which the man betaketh himself when his sins are thus discovered to him. The poor man pretends to faith in Christ, whereby he thinks his burden is taken off him, as the Pharisees said, ‘We have one Father, even God.’ (John 8: 41.) 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 has 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 has in him; and between him and the truly godly: as Christ laboureth to do with the Jews in John 8: 42, 44 ‘If God were your father, ye would love Me. Ye are of the devil, for ye do the lusts of your father.’ So, ‘fear surpriseth the hypocrite in heart’ (Isa. 33: 14); especially when the Lord discovereth to him conditions, in many of those promises in which he trusted most, not easily attainable. He now sees grace and faith to be another thing than once he judged them. We may in some respect apply that word here, The Spirit ‘convinceth him of sin, because he has not believed on the Son.’ (John 16: 9.) He is particularly convinced of unbelief: he now sees a vast difference 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 coucheth down under his own burden, which before this time he thought Christ did bear for him: he now begins to be alarmed as to the promises, because of such passages of Scripture as, ‘What hast thou to do to take my covenant in thy mouth?’ etc. (Psa. 50: 16.)

3. The man becomes careful about his salvation, and begins to take it to heart as the one thing necessary. He is brought to say with the jailer, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ (Acts 16) His salvation becomes the leading thing with him. It was least in his thoughts before, but now it prevails, 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?’ (Matt. 9: 26.) 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 their great concern is secured; and some are vexed with apprehensions that they are guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is unpardonable, and so are driven a dangerous length—Satan still reminding them of many sad examples of people who have miserably put an end to their own lives: but they are in the hand of one who ‘knoweth how to succour them that are tempted.’ (Heb. 2: 18.)

4. When a man is thus in hazard of miscarrying, the Lord uses a work of preventing mercy towards him, quietly and underhand supporting him; and this is by infusing into his mind the possibility of his salvation, leading him to the remembrance of numerous proofs of God’s free and rich grace, in pardoning gross transgressors, such as Manasseh, who was a bloody idolatrous man, and had correspondence with the devil, and yet obtained mercy (2 Chron. 33: 11, 13); 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 supposes that he apprehends a possibility of being saved, else he would 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.’ (Zeph. 2: 3.) He finds nothing excluding him from mercy now, if he have a heart for the thing. The man does not, it may be, here perceive that it is the Lord who upholdeth him, yet afterwards he can say that, ‘when his foot was slipping, God’s mercy held him up,’ as the Psalmist speaks in another case. (Psa. 94: 17, 18.) And he will afterwards say, when he ‘was as a beast, and a fool, in many respects, God held him by the hand.’ (Psa. 73: 22, 23.)

5. After this discovery of a possibility to be saved, there is a work of desire quickened in the soul; which is clear from that same expression, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ But sometimes this desire is expressed amiss, whilst it goes out thus, ‘What shall I do that I may work the works of God?’ (John 6: 28.) In this 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 is commanded, and to forego every evil way (yet much misunderstanding Christ Jesus), and so begins to take some courage to himself, ‘going about to establish his own righteousness, but not submitting unto the righteousness of God.’ (Rom. 10: 3.) Whereupon the Lord makes a new assault upon him, intending the discovery of 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.’ (Josh. 24) In this new assault the Lord—1. Shows the man the spirituality of the law; the commandment cometh with a new charge in the spiritual meaning of it. (Rom. 7: 9.) The law came, saith Paul, that is, in the spiritual meaning of it. Paul had never entertained such a view of the law before. 2. God most holily looseth the restraining bonds which he had laid upon the man’s corruption, and suffereth it not only to boil and swell within, but to threaten to break out in all the outward members. Thus sin grows bold, and spurns 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 into 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.’ (Rom. 7:8-13) 3. The Lord discovers to the man, more than ever, the uncleanness of his righteousness, and the spots of his best things. These things kill the man, and he dies in his own conceit (Rom.7:10), and despairs of relief in himself, if it come not from another source.

6. After many ups and downs, here ordinarily the man resolves on retirement; he desires to be alone, he cannot keep company as before. Like those in a besieged city, 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.’ (Psa. 4: 4.) Thus God leadeth into the wilderness, that He may speak to the heart. (Hos. 2: 14.) 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 he dwells at large on his 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’ (Ezek. 36: 31); like that of Psalm 51: 3, ‘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 remembereth 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.’ (Psa. 42: 1-7.) 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.’ (1 Kings 10: 8.) ‘Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house.’ (Psa. 94: 4.) He wishes to be one of the meanest who have any relation to God; as the prodigal son speaks, he would be as ‘one of his father’s hired servants.’ (Luke 15: 7, 19.) 4. Then he calls to mind the good report that is going 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. (Jonah 4: 2.) The free and large promises and offers of grace come in here; and the gracious dealings of God with sinners of all sorts, as recorded in Scripture. 5. He thinks with himself, ‘Why has God spared me so long? And why have I got such a sight of my sin? And why has He kept me from breaking prison at my own hand? Why has He made this strange change in 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, resolveth 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. (2 Kings 7: 3, 4.) 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 does. And it may be, here he resolves what to speak; but things soon vary when he is present 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.’ (Luke 15: 17-21.)

And now, when he cometh before God, more observable than ever before—1. He beginneth, with the publican, afar off, with many thorough confessions and self-condemnings, in which he is very liberal, as (Luke 15: 21)—’I have sinned against Heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy,’ etc. 2. Now his thoughts are occupied as to the hearing of his prayers, which he was not wont to question much: he now knows what those expressions of the saints concerning the hearing of their prayers do import. 3. It is observable in this address, that there are many broken sentences, like that of Psa. 6: 3—’But Thou, O Lord, how long?’ supplied with sighs and ‘groanings which cannot be uttered,’ and anxiously looking upward, thereby speaking more than can be well expressed by words. 4. There are ordinarily some interruptions, and, as it were, diversions; the man speaking sometimes to the enemy, sometimes to his own heart, sometimes to the multitudes in the world, as David does in other cases—’O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end.’ (Psa. 9: 6.) ‘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, who is the help of my countenance.’ (Psa. 42: 6.) ‘O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame?’ (Psa. 4: 2.) 5. It is observable here that sometimes the man will halt, and be silent, to hear some indistinct whisperings of a joyful sound glancing on the mind, or some news in some broken word of Scripture, which, it may be, the man scarcely knoweth to be Scripture, or whether it is come from God, or whether an insinuation from Satan to delude him; yet this he has resolved, only to ‘hear what God the Lord will speak,’ as upon another occasion. (Psa. 85: 8.) 6. More distinct promises come into the man’s mind, on which he attempts 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.’ (Psa. 22 3, 6.) 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.’ (Psa. 89: 15.) 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.’ (Matt. 17: 5.)

We can speak no further of the man’s exercise as a preparatory work; for what followeth 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, mightily conveyeth the knowledge of His covenant into the heart, and determines the heart to close with it; and God now draweth his soul so to Christ (John 6: 44), 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 Psa. 73: 25—’Whom have I in heaven but Thee? Or whom have I desired on earth beside Thee?’ The soul now resolves to die if He shall so command, yet at His door, and looking towards Him.

We have stated this preparatory work at some length, not tying any man to such particular circumstances: only we say, the Lord dealeth so with some; and where He so convinceth of sin, corruption, and self-emptiness, and makes a man take salvation to beset as the one thing necessary, and sets him to work in the use of the means which God has appointed for relief; I say, such a work rarely shall be found to fail of a good issue and gracious result.

V.—Objections and difficulties considered

The difference betwixt that preparatory Law-work which hath a gracious issue and the convictions of hypocrites.

(1) 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 differences 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 awakenings of conscience in the Lord’s people, and other marks, of which we shall speak afterwards, it were hard to adventure 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 ordinarily found in that law-work which has 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. (1 Sam. 26: 21.) Judas grants only the betraying of innocent blood (Matt. 7: 4); but usually those convictions by which the Lord prepareth His own way in the soul, although they may begin at one or more gross particular transgression, yet they stop not; but man is led on to see many breaches of the law, and ‘innumerable evils compassing Him’ (Psa. 40: 12), as David speaketh in the sight of his sin. And withal, that universal conviction, if I 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 spoke of himself: He not only is the chief of sinners, but particularly, he was a blasphemer, a persecutor. (1 Tim. 1: 13.)

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. Ordinarily 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?’ (John 9: 34); 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?’ (2 Kings 8: 13); and also in their undertakings of duty, as that scribe spoke, ‘Master, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest.’ (Matt. 8: 19.) See how the people 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.’ (Jer. 42: 5, 6.) 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.’ (Rom. 10: 3.) But I may say, that convictions and exercise about corruption, and that body of death, inclining them to evil, and disabling for good, is not the least part of the work where the Lord is preparing His own way. They judge themselves very wretched because of the body of sin, and are at their wits’ end how to be delivered as Paul speaks 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.’ (Rom. 7: 24.)

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 conviction (Gen. 4); Felix went away until a more convenient time, and we hear no more of his trembling (Acts 14: 25); or, if that work becomes very serious, then it runneth to the other extremity, even despair of relief, leaving no room for escape. So we find Judas very serious in his convictions, yet he grew desperate, and hanged himself. (Matt. 27: 4, 5.) But where the Lord prepares His own way, the work is both so serious, that the person cannot be put off 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’ (Acts 16: 30.) 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 has allowed clear differences between the precious and the vile.

(2) Object. I still fear I have not had so thorough a sight of my sin and misery as the Lord giveth to many whom He effectually calleth, especially to great transgressors such as I am.

Ans. It is true, the Lord discovereth to some clear views 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 lives.’ (Heb. 2: 15.) So that we must not limit the Lord to one way of working here. The main thing we are to look unto 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 be 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 chase them out of themselves, and to put them out of conceit of their own righteousness. Men naturally have high thoughts of themselves, and 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 despair of relief in themselves; and so they are forced to flee out of themselves, and from the covenant of works, to seek refuge elsewhere. (Heb. 6: 18.) ‘They become dead to themselves, and the law,’ as to the point of justification. (Rom. 7: 4.) Then ‘have they no more confidence in the flesh’ (Phil. 3: 3.) This is supposed in the offers of Christ ‘coming to seek and save that which is lost’ (Luke 19: 10); and ‘to be a physician to those who are sick.’ (Matt. 9: 12.)

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 (Matt. 13: 14); 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 sight of a man’s own misery and lost estate 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 leadeth 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, etc., and maketh 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 frighten people from sin, and make them quarrel with it, and consent to put their neck under Christ’s 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.’ (Jer. 2: 19.) So we find rest offered to the weary, upon condition they will take 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.’ (Matt. 11: 29.) And God offereth to own men as their God and Father, upon condition they will allow no peaceable abode to Belial: ‘What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion has light with darkness and what concord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has 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.’ (2 Cor. 6: 14-18.)

The fourth great end is, to work in men 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 anymore, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee, for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord.’ (Ezek. 16: 63.) The sight of a man’s own vileness and deserving makes him silent, and constrains him to lay his hand on his mouth, whatsoever God does unto him: ‘I was dumb and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it.’ (Psa. 39: 9.) ‘God has punished us less than our iniquities.’ (Ezra 9: 13.) ‘I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned.’ (Mic. 7: 9.) The man carets not what God does to him, or how He deal with him, if only He save him from the deserved wrath to come: also any mercy is great mercy to him who has seen such a sight of himself; ‘he is less than the least of mercies.’ (Gen. 32: 10.) ‘Any crumb falling from the Master’s table’ is welcome. (Matt. 15: 27.) He thinks it ‘rich mercy that he is not consumed.’ (Lam. 3: 22.) This is the thing that marvelously maketh God’s poor afflicted people so silent under and satisfied with their lot; nay, they think he deserveth hell who openeth his mouth at anything God does to him, since he has pardoned his transgressions.

So then, for satisfying the objection, I say, if the Lord have 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 does unto 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 forever to male 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 renders thee conformed to His will, must accompany thee throughout all thy lifetime in this world.

Chapter III.—Evidences of a Believing State

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 whereby 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.’ (Rom. 4: 19.) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ (Acts 26: 31.) Now, although, in propriety of speech, it is hard to prove an interest by faith, it being one 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.

I.—Mistakes as to what faith is

Many object to 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 lowest 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 which has sent me draw him.’ (John 6: 44.) ‘Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe on Him.’ (Phil. 1: 29.) Yet it were a reflection upon Christ, and all He has 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 saith 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 has 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.’ (Rom. 10: 6-11.) It were, according to that Scriptures 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 has 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 to be attained at the first 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 the aforesaid 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 has 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,’ etc.: but none of these, nor the believing of many such truths, evinces 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 sundry things about truth in the understanding—’With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ (Rom. 10: 10.) And although it seem (verse 9), that a man is saved upon condition that he believes this truth, namely, that ‘God raised Christ from the dead,’ yet we must understand another thing there, and verse 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 has 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.’ (John 1: 12.) The receiving of Christ is there explained to be the believing on His name. It is also called a staying on the Lord (Isa. 26: 3); 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 has sent’ (John 6: 29), 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 comes to me, I will in no wise cast out. No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.’ (John 6: 37, 44.) The kingdom of heaven is like a man finding a jewel, with which he falleth in love: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof, goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls; who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.’ (Matt. 13: 44-46.) 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 does consist much in desire? If men have but an appetite, they have it; for they are ‘blessed that hunger after righteousness.’ (Matt. 5: 6.) ‘If you will,’ you are welcome. (Rev. 22: 17.) 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.’ (Isa. 45: 22.) 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.’ (Psa. 81: 10.) Such a thing is faith, if not less. Oh, if I could persuade people what justifying faith is, which appropriateth Christ to me! We often drive people from their just rest and quiet, by making them apprehend faith to be some deep, mysterious thing, and by exciting 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 has 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.’ (John 3: 18, 36.)

3. Others do not meddle with this noble mark of faith, because they judge it a work of the greatest difficulty to find out where faith is. To these I say, it is not so difficult to find it out, since ‘he that believeth, has the witness in himself.’ (1 John 5: 10.) 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 a satisfying fulness in Christ, very desirable if he could obtain it;—a serious minding of this, with a heart laid open for relief; as also by the ordinary companions and concomitants of it, namely, the liking of Christ’s dominion, His kingly and prophetical office, a desire to resign myself wholly up to Him, to be as His disposing; as also by the native consequences of it, namely, the acquitting of the word, the acquitting of my own conscience according to the word, a heart purifying work, a working by love, etc.; 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’ (1 Cor. 2: 12); as also, that God has 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; (1 John 5: 13); 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 perceive what is in him.

II.—True saving faith described

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 has it may find and take it up in his own mould. It sometimes acts 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.’ (Isa. 45: 22.) This seems to be a weak act of faith, and far below other acting of it at other times perhaps in that same person. Men will look to what they dare not approach (in their apprehension), which they dare not touch or embrace; they may look to one to whom they dare not speak: yet God has made the promise to faith in that acting, as the fore-cited Scripture shows: and this He has done mercifully and wisely; for this is the only discernible way of the acting of faith in some. Such are the actings or outgoings of faith expressed in Scripture by ‘hungering and thirsting after righteousness’ (Matt. 5: 6), and that expressed by willing—’And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ (Rev. 22: 17.)

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 has so held him out, although he be a stumbling-stone to others. (Rom. 9: 33.) 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.’ (Isa. 26: 3, 4.) ‘They that trust in the lord shall be as Mount Zion, which abideth for ever.’ (Psa. 125: 1.) I say, the Lord has 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 has somewhat depending before God, and has not clearly discovered his mind concerning it, then faith does wait; and so it has the promise—’They shall not be ashamed that wait for me.’ (Isa. 49: 23.) Sometimes it acteth in a wilful way upon the Lord, when the soul apprehendeth God thrusting it away, and threatening its ruin —’Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’ (Job 13: 15.) The faith of that poor woman of Canaan (Matt. 15.), so highly commended by Christ, went out in this way of wilful acting over difficulties: and the Lord speaketh much good of it, and to it, because some will be at times called upon to exercise faith in 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 outgoings after Christ,—I may say, according to the various conditions of man. And accordingly faith, which God has appointed to traffic and travel between Christ and man, as the instrument of conveyance of His fulness unto man, and of maintaining union and communion with Him, acteth variously and differently upon God in Christ: for faith is the very shaping 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’ (Col. 1: 16); 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 (Rev. 3: 17, 18); then accordingly faith’s work here is to ‘put on the Lord Jesus.’ (Rom. 13: 14.) 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.’ (Isa. 40: 1, 2; John 6: 48, 51.) He is ‘the feast of fat things, and of wines on the lees well refined’ (Isa. 25: 6): then the work and exercise of faith is to ‘go, buy, eat, and drink abundantly.’ (John 6: 53, 57; Isa. 40: 1.) The soul is pursued for guilt more or less, and is not able to withstand the charge: Christ Jesus is the city of refuge, and the high-priest there, during whose priesthood, that is, forever, the poor man who escapes thither is safe; then the work and exercise of faith is ‘to flee thither for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us.’ (Heb. 6: 18.) In a word, whatsoever way He may benefit poor man, He declares Himself able to do. And as He holdeth out Himself in the Scriptures, so faith does 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 has raised Him’ on that account. (Rom. 10: 9.) 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 goes abroad in His truth, although faith sees not much, yet it ‘believeth on His name,’ upon the very fame He has sent abroad of Himself. (John 1: 12.)

III.—Farther explanatory remarks concerning saving faith

But here, for avoiding mistakes, considers—1. That although justifying faith acts so variously, yet every believer who has a good title to Christ Jesus has not all these various actings and exercises of faith; for his condition requires them not; and also the faster is sometimes pleased not to lead out the faith of some persons, in all these particular ways, for reasons known to Himself, even when their necessity (to their apprehension) calleth for such an acting of faith. Surely, every one dare not say, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’ (Job 13: 15.) Many would not have gone up with the woman of Canaan, spoken of in Matt. 15:22, but would have been discouraged, and have given up the pursuit. It is on this account that Christ highly commends the faith of some beyond the faith of others; as of the centurion (Matt. 8: 5), and the woman of Canaan. Many good people are much disquieted about their faith, because it goes not out in all those ways we find recorded in Scripture; but there is hardly any one to be found whose faith has acted all these ways.

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

3. Each one of these actings of faith speaks good to the person in whom it is, and has promises annexed unto it, as we have said. Yet—

4. Although these acting of faith have promises annexed to them, they are not, on that account, the condition of the new covenant; for then every one behaved 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 supposeth 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 imply justifying faith, which is the condition of the covenant. All these are acting 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 aforesaid acting of faith, wherein the nature and essence of justifying faith consist: and this is the heart’s satisfaction with 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 now dwells, 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 puts 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 bears 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 falls from works, ‘becoming dead to the law,’ as to the point of justification, ‘by the body of Christ.’ (Rom. 7: 4.) Man perceiving that God has 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 acting of faith are not to be found. This does clearly suppose known distress in a man, without any 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 acting of faith spoken of before. He that greedily hungereth, has this; and he that leaneth has this, etc. This is to esteem ‘Christ the wisdom and power of God’ to salvation, as He is said to be to all that believe. (1 Cor. 1: 24.) They esteem that device wise and sure, becoming God; and that is to believe. On this account, Christ, who is the stone rejected by 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, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, 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 offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed.’ (1 Peter 2: 4-8.) ‘The kingdom of God is like a man finding a treasure, for which with joy he selleth all.’ (Matt. 13: 44.) 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 looking to the brazen serpent. (John 3: 14.) 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.’ (John 3: 33.) True! Wherein? In that record He has borne, that God has provided life for men, and placed it all in Christ. ‘He that believeth not maketh God a liar.’ (1 John 5: 10.) 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 has 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.’ (1 John 5: 1.) This is to ‘believe with the heart that God has raised Christ from the dead.’ (Acts 8: 37.) The man believeth Christ died and rose on the account of 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 does, until a new heart be given unto him); that is, he is cordially pleased, and satisfied with, and acquiesceth in, this glorious method. And thus faith layeth out itself now and then in its acting, 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, not only in these actings;—many times a man may know if his heart does hunger after Christ, and flee for refuge to Him when pursued, and if he does commit himself unto God, etc.—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 after Christ in that discovery, and approveth Him as Lord of the life of men, terminating and resting there, and nowhere else, acquiescing in that contrivance with desire and complacency. This is a discernible thing; therefore I call upon 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 Jesus Christ, and a good claim and title to the crown, since ‘he that believeth shall never perish, but have everlasting life.’ (John 3: 16, 36.)

IV.—Difficulties as to what seems to be faith removed

Object. Hypocrites and reprobates have a sort of faith, and are said to believe; and cannot 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. ‘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.’ (John 2: 23, 24.) ‘Then Simon the sorcerer himself believed also.’ (Acts 8: 13.)

Ans. To say nothing of that thought of your heart, whereby you wonder that any man should not approve of the device of salvation by Christ, and be led out towards Him, as a very promising thing, and implying that justifying faith is in your bosom; and, to say nothing in contradiction to that which you think, that a natural man, whilst such, and before he gets a new heart, can be pleased with that device, and affectionately believe with his heart, and that which perfectly overthrows the covenant of works, and abaseth man in the point of self-righteousness already attained, or that can be attained by him, which is inconsistent with many scriptural truths; I shall notice the following differences between the faith of all hypocrites or reprobates, and that true saving justifying faith, whereof we have spoken.

1. They never close with Christ Jesus in that device, and Him alone, as a sufficient severing of the eyes, as is said of Abraham to Sarah (Gen. 20: 16); they still hold fast somewhat of their own, at least to help to procure God’s favour and salvation; their heart does still speak, as that young man in Luke insinuates, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 10: 25; 18: 18.) Besides that, they 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.’ (Matt. 6: 24.) 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 prepared for that device of salvation by Christ, whom God has alone made Lord here, in whom all fulness shall dwell. But where justifying faith is, the soul of a man and his heart does close with Christ, and Him alone, ‘having no confidence in the flesh,’ and trusting only in God. (Phil. 3: 3; Psa. 62: 5.) Also the man here giveth up all other lovers; as they compete with Christ, he resolves ‘not to be for another.’ (Hos. 3: 3.) 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 fully close with Christ as 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 offices. But where true justifying faith is, a man closeth wholly with Christ in all His offices, judging all His will ‘good, holy, just, and spiritual (Rom. 7: 12); and right concerning all things’ (Psa. 119: 128); ‘making mention of His righteousness only.’ (Psa. 71: 16.)

The man also giveth up himself to be taught of Him—’Learn of me.’ (Matt. 11: 29.) So that ‘Christ is made,’ to the true believer, with His own consent, ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.’ (1 Cor. 1: 30.) 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 goes. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has not where to lay His head.’ (Matt. 8: 19, 20.) But where true justifying faith is, a man closes with Him at all hazards; he resolves to forego all rather than forego Christ. ‘We have left all and followed Thee’ (Mark 10: 28); ‘he reckoned all to be loss and dung for the excellency of Christ Jesus, as his Lord, and to be found in Him.’ (Phil. 3: 8.)

We might point out other differences also, as that true faith is operative, ‘purifying the heart’ (Acts 15: 9); ‘working by love’ (Gal. 5: 6); whilst hypocrites do only cleanse the ‘outside of the platter’ (Matt. 23: 5); and ‘do all to be seen of men’ (Matt. 6: 5); ‘not seeking the honour that is of God only’ (John 5: 44), 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 determine his gracious state by his faith, and the acting thereof on Christ, we pass these things for the present.

Chapter IV.—Evidences of a Renewed State

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.’ (2 Cor. 5: 17.) 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 unto 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.’ (Col. 1: 13.) But in all who do warrantable pretend to Christ, this new creature must be; although some do not know experimentally the contraries of every part of it 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’ (Gal. 3: 10), which points 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 in 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. (Col. 3: 10.) This renovation of the man who is in Christ may be reduced into these two great heads:—

I.—The whole man must be to some extend renewed

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. (1 Cor. 1: 23, 24.) 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, substantial things, having a desirable accomplishment in Christ, and resolving much in 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.’ (1 Cor. 2: 14,15.) ‘As God is true, our word towards you was not yea and nay. For 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.’ (2 Cor. 1: 19, 20.) Natural men, educated under gospel ordinances, although they have some notional knowledge of God, Christ, the promises, the motions of the Holy Spirit, etc., so that they may confer, preach, and dispute about these things; yet they look on them as common received maxims of Christianity, from which to recede were a singularity and disgrace; but not as real, solid, substantial truths, so as to venture 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 (Psa. 19: 1); they see the heavens declaring His glory and power; and somewhat of God in the providence, and the dispensations that fall out: His wondrous works declare that His name is near. (Psa. 75: 1.) The understanding also perceives 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.’ (Psa. 16: 2.) ‘My soul said, Thy face will I seek.’ (Psa. 27: 8.) ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul’; ‘Return unto thy rest, O my soul.’ (Psa. 42: 5; 116: 7.)

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.’ (Ezek. 36: 26, 27.) It was before a heart of stone, void of the fear of God. The affections are now renewed: the love is renewed in a good measure; it goes out after God, after His law, and after those who have God’s image in them, ‘I will love the Lord’ (Psa. 18: 1);—after His law, ‘O how love I thy law!’ (Psa. 119: 97);—after those who have had God’s image in them, ‘By this shall all men knave that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ (John 13: 35.) ‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.’ (1 John 3: 14.) This love to God’s people is purely on the account that they are the children of God, and keep His statutes: it is with a ‘pure heart fervently’ (1 Peter 1: 22); and therefore it goes 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’ (Psa. 119: 63);—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 seeks a godly wife, a godly master, a godly servant, a godly counsellor, in preference to all others—’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.’ (Psa. 101: 6.) And ‘it is not quenched by many waters.’ (Cant. 8: 7.) 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 godly poor requires—’Thou art my Lord, my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,’ etc. (Psa. 16: 2.) ‘But whose has this world’s good, and sees 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 indeed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.’ (1 John 3: 18,19.) The man’s hatred is also renewed, and is now directed against sin, ‘I hate vain thoughts’ (Psa. 119: 113); against God’s enemies, as such, ‘Do not I hate them that hate Thee?’ (Psa. 139: 21, 22.) 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 (Psa. 73: 25);—towards His law and will, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord’ (Psa. 1: 2);—and towards the godly and their fellowship, ‘To the saints in whom is all my delight.’ (Psa. 16: 3.) The sorrow is turned against sin which has wronged Christ—’Looking to Him whom they have pierced, they mourn.’ (Zech. 12: 10.) The sorrow is godly there, and against what encroacheth upon God’s honour—’They are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, and the reproach of that is their burden.’ (Zeph. 3: 18.) 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, and the foot, so that those members which once were abused as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin, are now improved as weapons of righteousness unto holiness. (Rom. 6: 19.)

II.—He must be, to some extent, renewed in all his ways

A man who is in Christ is renewed in some measure in all his ways—’Behold all things are become new.’ (2 Cor. 5: 17.) 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?’ (Psa. 4: 6); but now his interest and business is, how to ‘be found in Christ, in that day’ (Phil. 3: 9); or how to be obedient to Him, and ‘walk before Him in the light of the living’ (Psa. 56: 13); 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.’ (Psa. 119: 64.) The interest of Christ also becomes the man’s interest, as appears in the song of Hannah and of Mary. (1 Sam. 2: 1-10; Luke 1: 46-56). 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’ (Rom. 7: 6); according to custom, answering the letter of the command in outward duty which one in whom the old man has absolute dominion can do; but now he worshippeth God in newness of spirit, in a new way, wherein He is ‘helped by the Spirit of God’ (Rom. 8: 26); beyond the reach of flesh and blood. He ‘serveth now the true and living God’ (1 Thess. 1: 9); ‘in spirit and in truth.’ (John 4: 23.) 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 hearth and seeth Him, and can accept His service. (Psa. 62: 1, 2.) I grant he fails of this many times; yet I may say, such worship he intends, and sometimes overtakes, and does not much reckon that worship which is not 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 vainglorious boastings, like the Pharisee—’Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other men’ (Luke 18: 11, 12); or the Athenians, who worshipped an ‘unknown God.’ (Acts 17: 23.)

3. The man that is in Christ is renewed in the way of his outward calling and employments in the world; he now resolves to be diligent in it, because God has so commanded—Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord’ (Rom. 12: 11); and to reward God in it as the last end, doing it to ‘His glory’ (1 Cor. 10: 31); and studying to keep some intercourse with God in the exercise of his outward employments, as Jacob on his dying bed—’I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord’ (Gen. 49: 18); and as Nehemiah did ‘Then the king 8aid unto me, For what dost thou male request? So I prayed to the God of heaven’ (Neh. 2: 4); so that the man resolves to walk with God, and ‘set Him always before him’ (Psa. 16: 8); wherein I deny not that he often faileth.

4. He becomes new in the way of his relations;—he becomes a more dutiful husband, father, brother, master, servant, neighbour, etc. Herein does he exercise himself to keep a conscience void of offense towards men as well as towards God, ‘becoming all things to all men.’ (Acts 24: 16; 1 Cor. 9: 22.)

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 I will not be brought under the power of any’ (1 Cor. 6: 12); nor to give offense 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 offense. 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.’ (Rom. 14: 20, 21.) ‘Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification’ (Rom. 15: 2),—not using ‘liberty as an occasion to the flesh.’ (Gal. 5: 13.) Yea, he laboureth to use all these things as a stranger on earth, so that his moderation may appear: ‘Let your moderation be known unto all men.’ (Phil. 4: 5.) And he regards 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.’ (2 Cor. 5: 17.) He that is so a new creature is undoubtedly in Christ.

This renovation of a man in all manner of conversation, and this being under the law to God in all things, is that ‘holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. ‘ (Heb. 12: 14.) Men may fancy things to themselves, but unless they study to approve themselves unto God in all well-pleasing, and attain some inward testimony of sincerity that way, they shall not assure their hearts before Him. The testimony of men’s conscience is their rejoicing (2 Cor. 1: 12.) ‘By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.’ (1 John 2: 3.) ‘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 one heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. ‘ (1 John 3: 19-21.) No confidence if the heart condemn. This is the new creature, having a principle of new spiritual life infused by God into the heart, whereby it becometh new, and putteth 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 resolves to contend against secret sins, ‘not to lay a stumbling-block before the blind’ (Lev. 19: 14),—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’ (Matt. 5: 19),—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’ (2 Cor. 7: 1);—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.’ (Matt. 25: 42, 44.) 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.’ (Matt. 5: 29.) This new principle of life, by the good hand of God, makes the man set himself against every known sin, so far as not to allow peaceful abode to any known darkness—’What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion has light with darkness?’ (2 Cor. 6: 14.) 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 (Psa. 119: 6); to ‘live godly, righteously, and soberly’ (Tit. 2: 12); 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 liveth on earth, but still to ‘press forward toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil. 3: 13,14.) This is true holiness, every way 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.’ (1 John 3: 2.)

III.—The supposed unattainableness of such evidences considered

Some may think these things high attainments, and very hard to be got at.

I grant it is true. But—

First, Remember that there is a very large allowance in the covenant, promised to His people, which maketh 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 to keep it.’ He has 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.’ (Ezek. 36: 26, 27; Jer. 31: 12-14, 33; 31: 32, 36, 40; Isa. 27: 3.) And if He must be ‘inquired of to do all these things unto men,’ He engageth to pour out the Spirit of grace and supplication on them, and so to teach them how to seek these things, and how to put Him to it, to do all for them. (Zech. 12: 10.)

Secondly, 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.’ (Ephes. 5: 21-24.) 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 instruct this to others, neither discern it in himself, because many know not the distinct parts of the soul, nor the reformation 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 has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has 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.’ (2 Cor. 6: 14-16; Psa. 119: 6; 66: 18.) 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.’ (Heb. 8: 10.) I grant many know not how to have respect to 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 again 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’ (Gal. 5: 17); and sometimes the one, and sometimes the other does 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, whereby it maketh opposition to the flesh, according to the foresaid scripture. For now it is the time of winter in the soul, and we may not expect fruit; yea, not leaves, as in some other seasons. Only here, lest profane atheists should take advantage of this, we will say, that the spirit does often prevail over the flesh in a godly man, and that the scope, aim, tenor, and main drift of his way is in the law of the Lord; that is his walk (Psa. 119: 1); whereas the pathway 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 overcome by any transgression, ordinarily it is his sad vexation: 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?’ (Psa. 56: 13.)

IV.—The special attainments of hypocrites considered

Object. Atheists and hypocrites may have great changes and renovations wrought upon them, and in them, and I fear such may be the case with me.

Ans. I grant that atheists and hypocrites have many things in them which look like the new creature.

First, in regard of the parts of the man, they may—1. Come to much knowledge, as (Heb. 6: 4) ‘They are enlightened.’ 2. There may be an exciting of their affections, as ‘They receive the word with joy,’ as he that received the seed into stony places. (Matt. 13: 20.) 3. They may effect a great deal of reformation in the outward man, both as to 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.’ (Luke 18: 11, 12.) Yea 1. In regard of their practical understanding, they may judge some things of God to be excellent: the officers said that ‘never man spoke as Christ.’ (John 7: 46.)

Secondly, Hypocrites may have a great deal of profession. 1. They may talk of the law and gospel, and of the covenant: as the wicked do—’What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou should’st take my covenant in thy mouth?’ (Psa. 50: 16.) 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.’ (1 Sam. 26: 21.) 3. They may humble themselves in sackcloth, with Ahab—’And it came to pass, when Ahab heard these words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.’ (1 Kings 21: 27.) 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 of me the ordinances of justice, they take delight in approaching to God.’ (Isa. 58: 2.) 5. They may join with God’s interest in a hard and difficult time, as Demas and other hypocrites, who afterwards fell away. 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.’ (Acts 5: 1, 2; 1 Cor. 13: 3.) 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.

Thirdly, 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.’ (Matt. 27: 3-5.) 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.’ (Acts 24: 5.) 3. They may rejoice in ‘receiving of the truth, as he that received the seed into stony places.’ (Matt. 13: 20.) 4. They may be in some peace and quiet, in expectation of salvation by Christ, as the foolish virgins were. (Matt. 25: 1-13) 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.’ (Matt. 12: 43; Luke 18: 11, 12.) 6. This work may seem to be confirmed by some special experiences and ‘tastings of the good word of God.’ (Heb. 6: 4.)

   Fourthly, Hypocrites may have some things very like the saving graces of the Spirit; as—1. They may have a sort of faith, like 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.’ (Acts 8: 13.) 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?’ (Mal. 3: 14.) 3. They may have a great fear of God, such as Baalam had, who, for a house full of gold, would not go with the messengers of Balak, without leave asked of God and given. (Num. 22: 18.) 4. They have a sort of hope—’The hypocrite’s hope shall perish.’ (Job. 13: 13.) 5. They may have some love, as 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.’ (Mark 6: 26.) I need not insist, as it is out of all question, they have counterfeits of all saving graces.

Fifthly, 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, working powerfully on them, with some flashes of joy arising thence,’ as Heb. 6: 4, 5—’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 ‘become Christians.’ (Acts 26: 28.) It were tedious to speak particularly to each of these things, and to clear it up, that they are all unsound; I shall point out some few things, wherein a truly renewed man, who is in Christ, does differ from hypocrites and reprobates.

1. Whatever changes 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—’I 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 an heart of flesh.’ (Jer. 32: 39; Ezek. 36: 26.) Hypocrites never apprehend 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 has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goes and selleth all that he has, and buyeth that field.’ (Matt. 13: 44.) The truly renewed man dare, and can upon good ground say, and has a testimony of it from on high, that his heart has been changed in taking up with Christ, and has been led out after Him, as the only enriching treasure, in whom ‘to be found he accounteth all things else loss and dung.’ (Phil. 3: 8, 9.)

2. Whatever reformation or profession hypocrites attain unto, as it comes not from a new heart, and pure principle of zeal for God, so it is always for some wicked or base end; as, ‘to be seen of men’ (Matt. 6: 5), or to evade and shun some outward strait, to be freed from God’s wrath, and the trouble of their own conscience—’Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and Thou sees not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?’ (Isa. 58: 3.) ‘What profit is it that we have kept His ordinances, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts?’ (Mal. 3: 14.) In testimony of this, they never have respect to all known commands, else they should ‘never be ashamed’ (Psa. 119: 6); nor do they, without guile in their own heart, resolve against every known iniquity, else they were free of heart-condemning, and so might justly ‘have confidence before God.’ (1 John 3: 21.) If from a principle of love unto, and of zeal for Christ, and for a right end, they did, in ever so small a degree, confess and profess Him, Christ were obliged by His own word to confess them before His Father. (Matt. 10: 32.)

3. Whatever length hypocrites advance in that work, by which people are led on unto Christ, yet they never ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’ (Matt. 6: 33.) ‘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 them.’ (Luke 10: 42.)

4. Whatever counterfeits of grace are in hypocrites, yet they are all produced 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’ (Rom. 10: 3); 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 in these old bottles.’ (Matt. 9: 16, 17.)

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 heart, and emptied of their own righteousness, so as to loathe themselves. Such ‘lost ones Christ came to seek and save.’ (Luke 19: 10.) 2. They never took up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can enrich and satisfy; and therefore, have never cordially agreed unto God’s device in the covenant, and so are not worthy of Him: neither has 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 has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he has, and buyeth that field.’ (Matt. 13: 44) 3. They never in earnest close with Christ’s whole yoke without exception, judging all His ‘will just and good, holy and spiritual’ (Rom. 7: 12); and therefore no rest is given to them by Christ—’Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ (Matt. 11: 29.) Therefore, whosoever thou art, who can lay clear and just claim to these three aforesaid 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.

V.—Doubts because of prevailing sin considered

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

Ans. It is much to be lamented, that people professing the name of Christ 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.’ (Psa. 65: 3.) Thus Paul thanks God through Christ, even while lamenting that a law in his members leads him captive unto sin. (Rom. 7: 25.) But for the right understanding, and safe application of such truths, we must make a difference betwixt 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 he had numbered the people. 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 foolishly.’ (2 Sam. 24: 10.) 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.’ (Jonah 1: 9-12.)

Next, as for those sins of infirmity, and daily incursions of heart-evils, such as those whereof (it is like) Paul does 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 does much fail, and cannot reach conformity to God’s law, he does 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.’ (Rom. 7: 12,14.) 2. He can say, he failed of a good which he intended, and did outshoot himself, and he had often honestly resolved against the sin into which he fell—’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.’ (Rom. 7: 15,18,19.) 3. He saith that the prevailing of sin over him is his burden, so that he judgeth himself wretched because of such a body of death, from which he longeth to be delivered. (Rom. 7: 24.) 4. He saith, that whilst he is under the power and law of sin, there is somewhat in the bottom of his heart opposing it, although overcome by it, which would be another way, and when that gets the upper hand it is a delightsome thing. (Rom. 7: 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.’ (Rom. 8: 1.) Now, then, see if you can lay claim to these things. 1. If you blame yourself, and approve the law, whilst you fail. 2. If you can say that you 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, should be much endeavoured by people, as a world pleasing unto God—’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.’ (Gal. 2: 21.) ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.’ (John 6: 29.) This is the ready way to draw life and sap from Christ, the blessed root, for fruitfulness in all cases, as in John 15: 4, 5—’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.’

VI.—Doubts arising out of a want of Christian experience considered

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 are often speaking, and whereunto they attain. The want of these things maketh me much suspect my state.

Ans. I shall shortly point out some of these excellent communications, and I hope, upon a right discovery of them, there will be but small ground left for the jealous complaints of many gracious people.

1. Besides those convictions of the Spirit of God, which usually 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 world work the Holy Ghost, imprinting the draughts and lineaments of God’s image and revealed will upon a man, as a seal or signet does leave the 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.’ (2 Tim. 2: 19.) And thus I conceive the seal to be called a witness—’He that believeth has the witness in himself’ (1 John 5: 10); that is, the grounds upon which an interest in Christ is to be made out and proved, are in every believer; for he has somewhat of the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in him, which is a sure, although not always a clear and manifest witness.

3. There is communion with God much talked of among Christians, whereby 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 as a man interested in God Himself, but in all that is the Lord’s; so the Lord has 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 other’s persons, goods, and concerns: so it is here. There is such a communion with God; He is our God, and all things are ours, because He is ours. This communion with God all true believers have at all times, as we shall show afterwards. I grant there is an actual improvement of that communion, whereby men do boldly approach unto God and converse with Him as their God with holy familiarity; especially in worship, when the soul does converse with a living God, partaking of the divine nature, growing like unto Him, and sweetly travelling through His attributes, and, with some confidence 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 ordinarily 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 benefit 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 have all believers, as that their heart converseth with a living God there, now and then, and is, in some measure, changed into that same image; and there needeth not be any further doubt about it.

3. There is also fellowship with God, which is often mistaken amongst believers. If by fellowship be meant the walking in our duty, as in the sight of a living God, who sees and hears 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.’ (Psa. 16: 8.) 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.’ (1 John 1: 3.) If by fellowship we mean a sweet, refreshing, familiar, sensible, conversing with God, which does 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 seemeth Enoch had much of it, whilst it is said, ‘He walked with God’ (Gen. 5: 24); yet it is not so ordinary 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.’ (Psa. 63: 5, 8.)

4. There is also 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 admitted to come close to him: so it is here. Now this access, in Scripture, is sometimes taken for Christ’s preparing of the way, the removing of enmity between God and sinners, so as men now have an open way to come unto God through Christ—’For through Him we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.’ (Eph. 2: 18.) 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 does not act towards him as a stranger, keeping up Himself from him, or frowning on him, but the man is admitted to ‘come even to His seat.’ (Job 23: 3.) Of the want of which he complains, whilst he saith, ‘Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backwards, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He does work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him.’ (Job 23: 8, 9.) 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.

5. There is also liberty before God; and this properly 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 has said, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ (2 Cor. 3: 17); but they do unjustly confine that liberty spoken of there unto this free speaking before God. I grant, where the Spirit of the Lord savingly discovers 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 naturally on 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 mouths with arguments’ (Job 23: 4), is granted to the godly, but not as liberty taken in the former senses. Although the Lord has obliged Himself to ‘pour out the spirit of prayer upon all the house of David’ (Zech. 12: 10), 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 as to any great confidence in the time of prayer, at least until it draw towards the close of it. It standeth much in a vivacity of the understanding to take up the case which a man is to speak 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 ordinarily in this liberty a special melting of the heart often joined with a great measure of the ‘spirit of grace and supplication.’ (Zech. 12: 10.) So the soul is poured out before God as for a firstborn. 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’ (Eph. 3: 12)—’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 has 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 goodwill, pleadeth his cause before Him as a living God; and this is all the sensible presence that many saints do attain unto. 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 sometimes, and not at others; 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.

6. There is also an influence, or breathing of the Spirit. This gracious influence (for of such only do I now speak) is either ordinary: and this is the operation 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 concede, does always attend believers, and is that ‘keeping and watering night and day, and every moment,’ promised Isaiah 27: 3. 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’ (Ezek. 37: 9, 10); putting them in good case, and ‘as the dew or rain to the grass,’ or newly-mown field and parched ground. (Psa. 77: 6.) Such influence is meant by the ‘blowing of the south-wind, making the spices to flow out.’ (Cant. 4: 16.) 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 does run in the ways of God.’ (Psa. 119: 32.) 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 discernible 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.

7. 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 had fled unto Christ; and approached unto God in Him, praying 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 shall ask in my name, I will do it.’ (John 14: 13.) ‘This is our confidence, that whatsoever we ask according to His will He heareth us.’ (1 John 5: 14.) ‘Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ (Mark 11: 24.) ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ (Psa. 66: 18.) Then, if I regard not iniquity, I may believe that He does hear me.’ Or, 2. A man does sensibly perceive that God hearth his prayer; it is made out to his heart, without any syllogistical deduction. Such a hearing of prayer Hannah obtained—’Her countenance was no more sad.’ (1 Sam. 1: 18.) Surely the Lord did breathe upon her faith, and made her believe she was heard: she could not make it out by any argument; for she had not grounds whereupon 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 ought to be much occupied 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.

8. There is assurance of God’s favour by the witnessing of our own spirits; which assurance is adduced by way of argument syllogistically, thus—Whosoever believeth on Christ shall never perish: but I do believe on Christ; therefore I shall never perish. Whose has respect unto all God’s commandments shall never be ashamed; but I have respect unto all His commandments; therefore I shall never be ashamed. I say, by reasoning thus, and comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, a man may attain unto a good certainty of his gracious state. It is supposed (1 John 3: 18, 19) 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. (2 Cor. 1: 12.) A man may have ‘confidence towards God, if his heart do not condemn him.’ (1 John 3: 21.) We may then attain unto 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 needeth 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 by 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.

9. There is a witnessing of God’s Spirit, mentioned as ‘bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.’ (Rom. 8: 16.) This operation of the Spirit is best understood, if we produce any syllogism by which our spirit does 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, evincing 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 calleth so. Thus we are said to ‘know by His Spirit the things that are freely given unto us of God.’ (1 Cor. 2: 13.) 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 full 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’ (Rom. 8: 16), is not that first operation upon the first proposition; for that operation is that testimony of the Spirit by which He beareth witness to the divinity of the whole Scripture, 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 is 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, whereby 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, does the Spirit of God prove a co-witness with our spirit: for the main thing wherein lies the witness of our spirit 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, namely, the truth and reality of such and such graces in the man, which our own spirit or conscience does depone according to its knowledge, and the Spirit of the Lord does 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.’ (Heb. 1: 15.)

10. 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 vouchsafed 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 ray of glory filling the soul with God, as He is life, light, love, and liberty, corresponding to that audible voice, ‘O man, greatly beloved’ (Dan. 9: 23); putting a man in a transport with this on his heart, ‘It is good to be here.’ (Matt. 17: 4.) 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.’ (John 20: 16.) 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 unto 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’ (Eph. 1: 14); for it is a present, and, as it were, sensible discovery 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 resolveth wholly into the sensible presence of God. This is the thing which does best deserve the title of sensible presence; and is not given unto all believers, some whereof ‘are all their days under bondage, and in fear’ (Heb. 2: 15); but here ‘love, almost perfect, casteth out fear.’ (1 John 4: 18.) 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.

11. 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 relating to his present case and condition, that he is walking so as approved 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 with respect to a man’s state, as being in Christ, is sure in the court of Scripture and of heaven, when a man does by faith close with Christ and the new covenant. ‘Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.’ (Rom. 5: 1.) 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 often the conscience is misinformed and in the dark, therefore there is often peace as to a man’s state according to Scripture, whilst his conscience threatens the contrary, and does still condemn, and refuseth to acquit 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, as to a man’s present case or condition, namely, that it is approved of God in a gospel sense, may be awaiting, and justly wanting, although the peace concerning a man’s state be sure. This peace as to 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 need fear no stated quarrel between God and him in order to a temporary stroke: and when it is thus, his conscience should also acquit 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 has at him, although He intend salvation for him. This is enough to keep a man in disquiet, and to prohibit him from the rejoicing allowed 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, unless it make them clear by Scripture. At that by let every man stand, both as to his state, and his condition or case; and let him appeal from all other courts to that, and not receive any indictment, unless conformed to the truth of God, by which the conscience is to be regulated in all things. And if this were well looked unto, there would not be so many groundless suspicions amongst the Lord’s people, either as to their state or their condition, upon every thought which entereth their mind.

12. 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 maketh it set out sensibly and vigorously; and when 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.’ (1 Peter 1: 8.) This joy followeth upon peace, and peace followeth upon righteousness—’The kingdom of God—is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ (Rom. 14: 17.) This joy will in general not fail to be according to the measure of the assurance of faith, as 1 Peter 1: 8—’In whom believing ye rejoice.’ So that the removal of mistakes about other things will allay doubts as to this.

Now, because some of these excellent communications of the Spirit, after they are gone, are brought into 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 much brokenness of spirit—’Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice’ (Psa. 51: 8),—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’ (Dan. 9: 3, 21),—or in time of great suffering for righteousness—’Rejoice, inasmuch 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’ (1 Peter 4: 14);—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’ (Isa. 6: 5),—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’ (Rom. 8: 16),—or these things do so provoke unto holiness, and to have every thing answerable and conformable to these manifestations of God—’Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.’ (2 Tim. 2: 19.) The person under them loathes all things besides God’s friendship and fellowship—’Peter said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here.’ (Matt. 17: 4.) And these things carry on them and with them so much authority and divine superscription, whilst they are in the soul, that afterwards they do appear sufficiently to be special communications of God, and singular gracious operations of His Spirit, and no delusion of ‘Satan transforming himself into an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11: 14); nor such common flashes of the Spirit as may afterwards admit of irrecoverable apostasy 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.’ (Heb. 6: 4- 6.)

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 outpourings of the Spirit,—1. Bless God if you want nothing essential for the making out of a saving interest in Christ. God has 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 yourselves to be. But, 3. Remember, the promises of life and of peace with God, are nowhere in Scripture made unto those special things whereof 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’ (Heb. 2: 15); so that there shall 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 unto God’s word. He has 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 honorable apprehensions and thoughts of the Spirit of God, whose proper work it is to put forth the aforesaid 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 the grace of the Spirit of God, and so you may find more of these excellent things.

Continue to Part II.

Conclusion: The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers

Quest. 1. What is the great business a man has to do in this world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. 14 What way shall I do that?

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

Q. 15 What if I break with God afterwards?

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

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

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

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

A. Union and communion with God, all good here and His blessed fellowship in heaven forever afterwards.

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

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

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

The Christian’s Great Interest


William Guthrie (1620-1665)

Copyright: Public Domain

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The Christian’s Great Interest

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 unto them?

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

Chapter I.–Some Things Premised for the Information of the 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 did, at the beginning, out of His bounty, make a covenant with man in Adam–‘And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayst 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.’ (Gen. 2: 16, 17.) And He gave the man ability to abide in that covenant–‘God has made man upright’ (Eccl. 7: 29); but man, by eating of that forbidden fruit, did break that covenant–‘They, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant’ (Hos. 6: 7); and made it void forever, and involved himself in misery thereby–‘By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight’ (Rom. 3: 20); ‘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.’ (Rom. 5: 12.)

2. The Lord did most freely, from everlasting, purpose and intend to save men another way, namely, 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, saying, ‘That the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.’ (Gen. 3: 15.) And the Lord has in all generations made this known to His church.

3. The Lord has 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 oblige themselves to acquiesce in the same, and to seek salvation by Christ Jesus, as God does offer 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 does 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 has avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He has promised thee, and that thou shouldst keep all His commandments.’ (Deut. 26: 17, 18.) Yea, the Lord does 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 (Deut. 29: 10-15); and all are appointed to come under some seal of that covenant, as was enjoined to Abraham. (Gen. 22: 10.) 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.’ (Acts 2: 38, 41.)

4. Many 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 steadfast in His covenant.’ (Psa. 78: 36, 37.) 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. (John 8: 3.) 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 those who are so does He make out the spiritual promises of the covenant, they only being privileged to be the sons of God who do really receive Christ (John 1: 12); yet the Lord does 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 does admit them to be members of His church, granting unto them the use of ordinances, and many other external mercies and privileges denied unto 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 depart this life; 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’ (Matt. 7: 14); ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’ (Matt. 20: 16.) 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 has obtained it, and the rest were blinded’ (Rom. 11: 7)–and whose hearts the Lord does sovereignly determine to that blessed choice–‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which has sent Me, draw him’ (John 6: 44); yet the Lord has 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, does convey life and strength to the elect, and does therein convey the new heart unto them, which pointeth kindly towards this new device of saving sinners, and towards Christ in His covenant relations; for 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 business 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 has sent Me, draw him.’ (John 6: 44.) It is a drawing on His heart, and a running on our part–‘Draw me, we will run after Thee.’ (Cant. 1: 4.) It is an approaching on our part, and yet a ‘choosing and causing to approach’ on His part. (Psa. 65: 4.) 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.’ (John 1: 12; Phil. 1: 29.)

Chapter II.–The Duty of Closing with God’s Plan of Saving Sinners by Christ Jesus

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 ought forthwith, 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 show—

1. What it is to accept of and close with that noble device.

2. That it is the necessary duty of those who would be in favour with God and secure their souls.

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

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

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

I.–What it is to accept of, and close with, the gospel offer

1. 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 in to 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 has freely manifested another way of repairing man’s lost estate, namely, 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 has 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 renounce all thoughts of help or salvation by our own righteousness, and to agree unto this way which God has found out: it is to value and highly esteem Christ Jesus as the treasure sufficient to enrich poor sinners; and with the heart to believe this record, that there is life enough in Him for men: it is to approve this plan and acquiesce in it, as the only way to true happiness: it is to point towards this mediator, as God holdeth 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.’ (John 1: 12.) This is that ‘believing on the Lord Jesus Christ,’ commanded to the jailer for his safety. (Acts 16: 31.) This agreeth to all the descriptions of justifying faith in the Scripture. This answers to the type of looking to the ‘brazen serpent lifted up in the wilderness’ (John 3: 14, 15); and this is supposed in all those ordinary acting 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.–This the duty of those who would be saved

As to the second thing, namely, That this is the necessary duty of all such as would be in favour with God and secure their souls; it appeareth thus:–

1. This closing with God’s device or believing in Christ, is commanded everywhere in Scripture by the Lord as the condition of the new covenant, giving right and title unto all the spiritual blessings of the same; for it is, upon the matter, the receiving of Christ. This is commanded, when God bids ‘men come and buy,’ that is, appropriate all, by closing with that device. (Isa. 55: 1) ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matt. 11: 28.) 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.’ (1 John 3: 23.) This is enough to prove it a duty incumbent. But further, it is such a duty as only gives right and title 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.’ (John 1: 12.)

2. It appears to be the necessary duty of all, thus: No less than this does give an opportunity for God, offering Himself to be our God in Christ; and no less than this does 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. (Matt. 17: 5.) If we close not with the offer, we give no answer unto God. Moreover, we are all ‘baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.’ (Acts 2: 38.) Now, unless we close with Christ, as aforesaid, we falsify that profession: therefore, since this is the thing which does 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 has else, if he do not thus close with God’s device concerning Christ Jesus, and do not receive Him, it does 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 has made us accepted in the Beloved.’ (Eph. 1: 6.) Abel and his offering are accepted by faith. ‘Without faith;t is impossible to please God’ (Heb. 11: 4, 6); and ‘He that believeth not is condemned already, and shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ (John 3: 18, 36.) For want of this, no external title does avail; the children of the kingdom are ‘cast out,’ if this be wanting. (Matt. 8: 10-12.) 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 them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Egypt and Judas, and Edom; for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.’ (Jer. 9: 25, 26.) 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.’ (John 8: 24.)

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 hearth 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 salvation of perishing 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 are offered in universal terms to all without exception: ‘If any man will,’ he shall be welcome. (Rev. 22: 17.) If any thirst, although after that which will never profit, yet they shall be welcome here, on the condition aforesaid–‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has 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 breads 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.’ (Isa. 55: 1-3.) All are ‘commanded to believe.’ This is His commandment, ‘that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.’ (1 John 3: 23.) 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.’ (Acts 2: 39.) So that if any desire salvation, they may come forward, ‘He will in no wise cast them out’ (John 6: 37), being ‘able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God through Him.’ (Heb. 7: 25.) And those who have long delayed to take this matter to heart, have 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’ (Isa. 32: 15); to cause them to approach unto 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’ (Luke 11: 13), and cause them to know what belongs unto their peace, and bring them to their duty.

III.–What is required of those who would believe on Christ Jesus and be saved

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 approve of the 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, notice some things pre-required in a person who is to close with Christ Jesus; which, although we offer not as positive qualifications, fitting a man for Christ that way: ‘Come–without money, and without price’ (Isa. 55: 1); vet 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 be 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 Testaments are 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 unto 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 be very serious about them; I say, he must know some things; as

1. That as he was born a rebel and an outlaw unto God, so he has by many actual transgressions disobeyed God, and ratified the forfeiture of His favour: yea, a man should know many particular instances of his rebellion on all hands; as that he is a liar, Sabbathbreaker, blasphemer, or the like; as Paul speaketh very particularly of himself afterwards–‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.’ (1 Tim. 1: 13.)

2. The man must know that the wrath of God denounced in Scripture is standing in force against those very sins whereof he is guilty, and so, consequently, he is the party undoubtedly against whom God, who cannot lie, has denounced war. A man must know, that when the Scripture saith, ‘Cursed is he that offereth a corrupt thing unto God’ (Mal. 1: 14); 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’ (Exod. 20: 7), the man must know it speaketh against himself, who has often carelessly profaned that dreadful name, before which all knees shall bow (Phil. 2: 10); and which His enemies do take in vain. (Psa. 139: 20.) When the word saith, ‘Cursed is he that does the work of the Lord negligently’ (Jer. 48: 10), the man must know that it speaks against himself, who has irreverently, with much wandering of heart, and drowsiness, heard the word preached; and without sense, faith, or understanding, has 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’ (Hab. 2: 15,16), the man must know that it is spoken against himself, who has 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’ (Heb. 13: 4), and will exclude them from the ‘New Jerusalem, and they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone’ (Rev. 21: 8); 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 has 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.’ (Isa. 64: 6.) His prayers, his other services done to God, his alms-deeds, etc., are not acceptable unto 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.’ (Prov. 21: 27.)

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 name, godly sorrow for sin, etc., 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 anywhere else, before he bring it to the Surety.

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

1. A taking of salvation to heart more than anything else. Shall men be obliged to ‘seek first the kingdom of God?’ (Matt. 6: 33); is there but ‘one thing necessary?’ (Luke 10: 42); shall Paul ‘count all things loss and dung’ for this matter (Phil. 3: 8); is a man a loser, if he gain ‘the whole world and lose his own soul?’ (Mark 8: 36); shall this be the only ground of joy, ‘that men’s names are written in the book of life?’ (Luke 10: 26); and shall not men, who would be reckoned serious, take their soul and salvation more to heart than anything 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, have not gone nearer to their heart than anything in the world beside, it cannot be presumed, upon just grounds, that they have known sin, or God, or the eternity of His wrath, aright.

2. This seriousness breaks the man’s heart, and causeth the stoutness of it to faint, and leadeth it out to sorrow as for a firstborn. (Zech. 12: 10.) I grant their sorrow will better suit that scripture afterwards, when they apprehend Christ pierced by their sins.

3. It leads the man to a self-loathing. A man taking up himself so, cannot but loathe himself for his abominations, whereby he has destroyed himself. There is somewhat of that spirit of revenge, which is mentioned as a fruit of true repentance ‘This selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you; yea, what revenge?’ (2 Cor. 7: 11.)

4. 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 finds himself so pursued and urged to it, that he flees 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 estate to heart, despairing of help in themselves, since ‘the whole need not a physician, but those who are sick.’ (Matt. 9: 12.) As for the measure, we plead only that which probably supposes that a man will be induced thereby to treat cordially with Christ, on any terms he does offer 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 has devised a way to save poor lost man by Jesus Christ, whose perfect righteousness has 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.’ (Acts 13: 38, 39.) ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’ (John 1: 12.) So that no person is excluded, of whatsoever rank or condition, whatsoever has 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 sins’ are forgiven unto those who accept of the offer in God’s way. (Matt. 12: 31.) ‘He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God through Him.’ (Heb. 7: 25.)

The third thing pre-required is, a man must know, that as God has not excluded him from the relief appointed, so He is willing to be reconciled unto men through Christ, and has 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 has no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price’ (Isa. 55: 1, 2); and welcometh all that come, as we find in the gospel, and commendeth those who come, as the centurion and the woman of Canaan (Matt. 8: 10; 15: 28); and chideth for not coming and closing with Him, ‘Ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life’ (John 5: 40); and condemneth for not closing so with Him: ‘He that believeth not is condemned already’ (John 3: 18);–but He also commandeth all to believe on Christ: ‘This is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.’ (1 John 3: 23.) So that a man is not to question the Lord’s willingness to receive men who go to Christ honestly, for God has 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.’ (Isa. 28: 15.) Whatsoever known evil men are engaged in, they must resolve to forego it; for there is no concord between Christ and Belial. (2 Cor. 6: 14-18.) The Lord requireth that they who would expect ‘Him to be for them, should not be for another.’ (Hos. 3: 3.) This is far from evangelical repentance, which I grant does not precede a man’s closing with Christ by faith: there is little here beyond a disregard of those things into which a man was formerly devoted, and a slighting what he was mad upon, because he sees himself destroyed thereby, and relief now offered; upon which his heart beginneth to be more intent that formerly it was. After this when Christ is looked upon alone, His worth and beauty do appear, so as among all the gods there is none like unto Him, and He appeareth as a sufficient covering of the eyes to all who obtain Him: upon which the heart loves God’s device in the new covenant, and desires 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, whereof 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.’ (Prov. 30: 18.) It is hard to trace the heart in its translation from darkness to light; yet we hold out the most ordinary and likely way to him who does ask the way; debarring thereby ignorant and senseless persons from meddling, and discharging them from pretending to any interest in Him whilst they remain such.

IV.–Some of the properties and native consequences of true believing

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.’ (Hab. 2: 4.) 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 God’s 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 does 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 respects, engage for their children, and give them away unto 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 have faith in Christ Jesus, and with his own heart approve 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.

2ndly, This duty must be cordial and hearty–‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ (Rom. 10: 10.) 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 must not only 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. (2 Sam. 23: 5.) If a man be cordial and affectionate in anything, 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 anything, 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?’ (Isa. 62: 5); and ‘to rest in His love with joy?’ (Zeph. 3: 17); and shall not the heart of man go out and meet Him here? The heart or nothing; love or nothing; marriage-love, which goes from heart to heart; love of espousals, or nothing–‘My son, give me thine heart.’ (Prov. 23: 26.) ‘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.’ (1 Cor. 13: 2.) 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 engaged, that ‘many waters cannot quench it. It is strong as death, and jealousy in it burneth as fire. ‘ (Cant. 8: 6, 7.)

3. The third property or qualification of believing, as it goes 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 a 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.’ (Jer. 24: 7; 31: 34.) I mean also, that a man must 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’ (Matt. 13: 20); 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’ (Psa. 78: 34); 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 goes out rationally, so it goes 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 altered to these. The man whose heart is a laying out for Christ Jesus, cannot say, ‘There is a lion in the street.’ (Prov. 26: 13.) If he cannot have access by the door, he will break through the roof of the house. (Luke 5: 19.) 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. (Luke 19.) This resoluteness of spirit foresees what inconveniences may follow, and disregards all these; at least resolving over all these, like a wise builder who reckoneth the expense beforehand. (Luke 14: 28.) 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 did cast his garment from him when Christ called him. (Mar. 10: 50.) This resoluteness in the soul proceedeth from desperate self-necessity within the man, as it was with the jailer (Acts 16: 30); 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’ (1 John 3: 23); and from the good report gone abroad of God, that ‘He putteth none away that come unto Him through Christ’ (John 6: 37); but commends such as do adventure over the greatest difficulties, as the woman of Canaan. (Matt. 15: 28.) But, above all, this resoluteness does proceed from the arm of JEHOVAH, secretly and strongly drawing the sinner towards Christ–‘No man can come to Me, except the Father, which has sent Me, draw him.’ (John 6: 4.)

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.

By what is said, it manifestly appears that many in the visible church had need to do somewhat 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, seemeth 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 (Heb. 6: 4); and have found some reality in their fear–‘Felix trembled’ (Acts 24: 25);–or in their joy–‘He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that hearth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it’ (Matt. 13: 20); and Herod heard John ‘gladly’ (Mark 6: 20);–but not having engaged their heart in approaching to God (Jer. 30: 21), have either sat 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’ (Matt. 13: 21);–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’ (2 Peter 2: 20-22); 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 has trodden under foot, the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ (Heb. 6: 4-6; 10: 26-29.) Which things should provoke men to be serious in this great business.

V.–Some of the effects of saving faith

“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 have to speak of them to these two, namely, Union with God, and communion. First, then, I say, When a sinner closets with Christ Jesus, 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.’ (Ephes. 5: 30.) He that is so ‘joined unto the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Cor. 6: 17); as the Father is in the Son, and Christ in the Father, so believers are one in the Father and the Son; they are one, as the Father and 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 here! (John 7: 21-26.)

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 does Christ His people. (Eph. 5: 29.) He may be angry, so as to correct and chastise the man that is a believer; but all He does to him is for his good and advantage–‘All the Lord’s paths must be mercy and truth to him.’ (Psa. 25: 10.) ‘All things work together for good to him.’ (Rom. 8: 28.) On the other side, the believer can never hate God maliciously; for–‘He that is born of God sinneth not.’ (1 John 3: 9.) For the Lord has resolved and ordained things so, that His hand shall undoubtedly so be upon all believers for good, that they shall never be permitted to hate Him, and so be 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. (Isa. 63: 9.) He does 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 (Zech. 2: 8)–‘He is touched with the feeling of their infirmities’ (Heb. 4: 15); and ‘precious in His sight is their death.’ (Psa. 116: 15.) 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.’ (Matt. 10: 40.) ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me: inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.’ (Matt. 25: 40, 45.) On the other part, the ‘zeal of His house’ occupieth the heart of the believer. (Psa. 69: 9.) ‘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 everything 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 disgrace herself 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 does 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 has done whatsoever He pleased.’ (1 Cor. 3: 21, 23; Psa. 112: 6, 7; 115: 3.)

The other great consequence of believing, is an admirable unparalleled communion, by virtue whereof, 1. The parties themselves do 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, etc., for He becomes the God of His people, as He often speaks in the covenant. On the other part, believers are His people. In their very persons they are His, as the covenant does speak; they shall be His people; their head, their heart, their hand, etc.; 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, so far as can be useful. All the Lord’s word belongs to the believer; threatening as well as promises are for his good; all His ways, all His works of all sorts, special communications, death, devils, even all things 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.’ (1 Cor. 3: 21-23.) On the other side, all that belongs to the believer is the Lord’s; heritage, children, life, wife, credit, etc., 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 own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’ (Luke 14: 26.)

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 does 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.’ (Isa. 38: 8; 2 Kings 4: 23, 26.) 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’ (Heb. 4: 16); and present his addresses unto God. He is no more a stranger unto God, so that he needs not speak unto God as one who has acquaintances 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’ (1 Sam. 1: 15); and impart all his secrets unto Him, and all his temptations, without fear of a mistake. The believer also may inquire into what God does, in so far as may concern his own duty, or in so far as may ward off 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.’ (Job 13: 15.) The believer is a friend in this respect, as ‘knowing what the Master does;’ see Gen. 18: 23; Jer. 12: 1; Isa. 63: 17.

The believer also may draw near daily unto God with all his failings, and seek repentance, pardon, and peace, through the advocacy of Christ–‘Him has God exalted with His right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.’ (Acts 5: 31.) ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ (1 John 2: 1.) O how often in one day may the believer plead pardon, if he intend not to mock God, nor turn His grace into licentiousness! The Lord has commanded men to forgive seventy times seven in one day; and has intimated there, in a parable of a king who took account of his servants, how much more the Master will forgive. (Matt. 18: 22-28.)

The believer also may entrust God with all His outward concerns, for He cares 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.’ (Matt. 6: 30-32.) ‘Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5: 7.) Yea, the believer may humbly put God to it to make Him 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.’ (Heb. 4: 16.) Yea, how great things may believers seek from him in Christ Jesus, both for themselves and others! ‘If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.’ (1 John 5: 14, 15.) ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.’ (John 14: 13.) ‘Ask of me things to come concerning my sons: and concerning the work of my hands, command ye me.’ (Isa. 45: 11.) 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.’ (John 16: 24.)

By what is said, it appears of how great consequence this duty of believing is, by which a man closes with Christ Jesus, whom the father has sealed and given for a covenant to the people. It is so honorable 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, of which I shall notice the most ordinary.

Chapter III.–Objections and Difficulties Answered and Explained

I.–The sinner’s baseness rendering it presumption to come to Christ

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

Ans. It is true, all the children of Adam are base and wicked before Him, ‘who chargeth His angels with folly.’ (Job 4: 18.) ‘All nations are less than nothing and vanity before him.’ (Isa. 40: 17.) There is such a disproportion between God and man, that unless He Himself had devised that covenant, and of His own free will had offered so to transact with men, it had been high treason for men or angels to have imagined that God should have humbled himself, and become a servant, and have taken on Him our nature, and have united it by a personal union to the blessed Godhead; and that He should have subjected Himself to the shameful death of the cross; and all this, that men, who were rebels, should be reconciled unto God, and be made eternally happy, by being in His holy company for ever.

But I say, all this was His own device and free choice; yea, moreover, if God had not sovereignly commanded men so to close with Him in and through Christ, no man durst have made use of that device of His–‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.’ (Isa. 40: 1-3.) ‘And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His son Jesus Christ.’ (1 John 3: 23.) So then, although with Abigail I may say, ‘Let me be but a servant, to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord’ (1 Sam. 25: 41); yet, since He has in His holy wisdom devised that way, and knows how to be richly glorified in it–‘The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know, what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints’ (Eph. 1: 18); ‘All Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, and I am glorified in them’ (John 17: 10); and has commanded me, as I shall be answerable at the great day, to close with Him in Christ, I dare not disobey, nor inquire into the reasons of His contrivance and commands, but must comply with the command, as I would not be found to ‘frustrate the grace of God’ (Gal. 2: 21); and in a manner disappoint the gospel, and falsify the record which God has borne of His Son, ‘that there is life enough in Him for men’ (1 John 5: 10, 11), and so ‘make God a liar,’ and add that rebellion to all my former transgressions.

II.–The singularity of his sin barring the way

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

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

Know, therefore, that all sins are equal before the free grace of God, ‘who loveth freely’ (Hos. 14: 4); and looketh not to less or more sin. If the person have a heart to ‘come unto Him through Christ, then He is able to save to the uttermost.’ (Heb. 7: 25.) Yea, it is more provoking before God, not to close with Christ, when the offer comes to a man, than all the rest of his transgressions are; for ‘he that believeth not has made God a liar,’ in that record He has borne of life in the Son. (1 John 5: 10, 11.) ‘And he who does not believe, shall be condemned for not believing on the Son of God.’ (John 3: 18.) That shall be the main thing in his indictment; so that much sin cannot excuse a man, if he reject Christ, and refuse His offer; since God has openly declared, that ‘this is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners, whereof I am chief.’ Even he who is chief of sinners in his own apprehension, is bound to believe and ‘accept this saying.’ (1 Tim. 1: 15.)

III.–Special aggravations a hindrance

Object. My sins have some aggravating circumstances beyond the same sins in other persons, which does much terrify me.

Ans. What can the aggravations of thy sins be, which are not parallelled in the foregoing examples? Is thy sin against great light? So were many of those of whom we spoke before. Was it against singular mercies and deliverances? So was that of Lot’s and Noah’s drunkenness. Was thy sin done with much deliberation? So was David’s, when he wrote the letter against Uriah. Was it against or after any singular manifestation of God? So was Solomon’s. Was it by a small and despicable temptation? So was that of Jonah and of Peter, if we consider the heinousness of their transgressions. Hast thou reiterated the sin, and committed it over again? So did Lot, so did Peter, so did Jehoshaphat, in joining with Ahab and Jehoram. (1 Kings 22; 2 Kings 3.) Are there many gross sins concurring together in thee? So were there in Manasseh. Hast thou stood long out in rebellion? That, as all the former, is thy shame; but so did the thief on the cross; he stood it out to the last gasp. (Luke 23: 42, 43.) If yet ‘thou hast an ear to hear,’ thou art commanded ‘to hear.’ (Matt. 13: 9.) Although thou hast long ‘spent thy money for that which is not bread’ (Isa. 55: 1, 3), thou hast the greater need now to make haste and to flee for refuge; and if thou do so, He shall welcome thee, and ‘in no wise cast thee out’ (John 6: 37); especially, since He has used no prescription of time in Scripture. So that all those aggravations of thy sin, will not excuse thy refusing the Lord’s offer.

IV.–Sins not named a barrier

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

Ans. It is difficult to notice every particular transgression which may vex the conscience; yea, lesser sins than some of those I have mentioned may very much disquiet, if the Lord awaken the conscience. But, for thy satisfaction, I shall refer to some truths of Scripture, which do reach sins and cases more universally than any man can do particularly: Exod. 34: 7–‘God pardoneth iniquity, transgression, and sin;’ that is, all manner of sin. If a man turn from all his wickedness, it shall no more be remembered, or prove his ruin. (Ezek. 18: 21, 22, 30.) ‘Him that comets He will in nowise cast out’ (John 6: 37); that is, whatsoever be his sins, or the aggravations of them. ‘Whosoever believeth shall have everlasting life’ (John 3: 16); that is, without exception of any sin or any case. ‘He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him’ (Heb. 7: 25); no man can sufficiently declare what is God’s uttermost. ‘All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men’ (Matt. 12: 31); that is, there is no sort of sin, whereof one instance shall not be forgiven in one person or other, ‘except the sin against the Holy Ghost.’ These and the like scriptures carry all sorts of sin before them: so that let thy sins be what they will, or can be, they may be sunk in one of these truths; so that thy sin can be no excuse to thee for refusing the offers of peace and salvation through Christ, since ‘any man who will,; is allowed to ‘come and take.’

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

V.–The sin against the Holy Ghost alleged

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

Ans. Although none should charge this sin on themselves, or on others, unless they can prove and establish the charge according to Christ’s example ‘And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come’ (Matt. 12: 5, 26, 32): yet for satisfying of the doubt, I shall, 1. Show what is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, properly so called, because there be some gross sins which people do unwarrantable judge to be this unpardonable sin. 2. I shall show what is the sin against the Holy Ghost. 3. I shall draw some conclusions in answer directly to the objection.

I.–What it is not

As for the first, There be many gross sins, which although, as all other sins, they be sins against the Holy Ghost, who is God equal and one with the Father and the Son, and are done against some of His operations and motions; yet are they not that sin against the Holy Ghost which is the unpardonable sin. As, 1. Blaspheming of God under bodily tortures is not that sin; for some saints fell into this sin–‘And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme’ (Acts 26: 11); much less blaspheming of God in a fit of distraction or frenzy; for a man is not a free rational agent at that time; and ‘He that spareth His people, as a father does the son that serveth him, and pitieth them that fear Him, as a father pitieth his children’ (Mal. 3: 17; Psa. 103: 13); so does He spare and pity in these rovings; for so would our fathers according to the flesh do, if we blasphemed them in a fit of distraction. Much less are horrid blasphemies against God darted in upon the soul, and not allowed there, this unpardonable sin; for such things were offered to Christ, and are often cast in upon the saints. (Matt. 4: 1-11.)

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

3. Heart-rising at the thriving of others the work and way of God, whilst I love it myself; yea, the rising of the heart against Providence, which often expresses itself against the creatures nearest our hand; yea, this rising of heart entertained and maintained (although they be horrid things leading towards that unpardonable sin, yet) are not that sin; for these may be in the saints proceeding from self-love, which cannot endure to be darkened by another, and proceeding from some cross in their idol under a fit of temptation: the most part of all this was in Jonah, chap. 4.

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

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

6. Purposes and attempts of self-murder, and even purposes of murdering godly men, the party being under a sad fit of temptation; yea, actual self-murder (although probably it is often joined in the issue with this unpardonable sin, which ought to make every soul look upon the very temptation to it with horror and abhorrence, yet) is not the sin against the Holy Ghost. The jailer intended to kill himself upon a worse account than many poor people do, in the sight and sense of God’s wrath, and of their own sin and corruption; yet that jailer obtained pardon (Acts 16: 27, 34); and Paul, before his effectual calling, was accessory unto the murder of many saints, and intended to kill more, as himself granteth–‘I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme: and, being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.’ (Acts 26:


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

II.–What the sin against the Holy Ghost is

As for the second thing: Let us see what the sin against the Holy Ghost is. It is not a simple act of transgression, but a combination of many mischievous things, involving soul and body ordinarily in guilt. We thus describe it–‘It is a rejecting and opposing of the chief gospel truth, and way of salvation, made out particularly to a man by the Spirit of God, in the truth and good thereof; and that avowedly, freely, wilfully, maliciously, and despitefully, working hopeless fear.’ There be three places of Scripture which do speak most of this sin, and thence we will prove every part of this description, in so far as may be useful to our present purpose; by which it will appear, that none who have a mind for Christ need stumble at what is spoken of this sin in Scripture–‘Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.’ ‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to 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, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ (Matt. 12: 23-32; Heb. 6: 4-6; 10: 25-29.)

1. Then let us consider the object about which this sin, or sinful acting of the man guilty thereof, is conversant, and that is the chief gospel-truth and way of salvation; both which come to one thing. It is the way which God has contrived for saving of sinners by Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and Saviour, by whose death and righteousness men are to be saved, as He has held Him forth in the ordinances, confirming the same by many mighty works in Scripture tending thereto. This way of salvation is the object. The Pharisees oppose this that Christ was the Messiah–‘And all the people said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils’ (Matt. 12: 23, 24.) The wrong is done against the Son of God–‘It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame’ (Heb. 6: 6); and against the blood of the covenant, and the Spirit graciously offering to apply these things–‘Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace?’ (Heb. 10: 29.)

2. In the description, consider the qualifications of this object. It is singularly made out to the party by the Spirit of God, both in the truth and good thereof. This faith, 1. That there must be knowledge of the truth and way of salvation. The Pharisees knew that Christ was the heir–‘But when they saw the Son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill Him.’ (Matt. 21: 38.) The party hath knowledge–But if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins’ (Heb. 10: 26.) 2. That knowledge of the thing must not swim only in the head, but there must be some half-heart persuasion of it: Christ knew the Pharisees’ thoughts (Matt. 12: 25); and so did judge them, and that the contrary of what they spoke was made out upon their heart. There is a tasting, which is beyond simple enlightening–‘For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and have tasted of the good word of God, and of the powers of the world to come,’ etc. (Heb. 6: 4, 5.) Yea, there is such a persuasion ordinarily as leadeth to a deal of outward sanctification–‘Who has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing.’ (Heb. 10: 29.) 3. This persuasion must not only be of the verity of the thing, but of the good of it: the party ‘tasteth the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come’ (Heb. 6: 5); and he apprehendeth the thing as eligible. 4. This persuasion is not made out only by strength of argument, but also by an enlightening work of God’s Spirit, shining on the truth, and making it conspicuous; therefore is that sin called, ‘The sin against the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 12: 31; Mark 3: 29.) The persons are said ‘to have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost’ (Heb. 6: 4); and ‘to do despite unto the Spirit of grace,’ who was in the nearest step of a gracious operation with them. (Heb. 10: 29.)

3. In this description, consider the acting of the party against the object so qualified. It is a rejecting and opposing of it; which importeth, 1. That men have once, some way at least, been in hands with it, or had the offer of it, as is true of the Pharisees. 2. That they do reject, even with contempt, what they had of it, or in their offer. The Pharisees deny it, and speak disdainfully of Christ–‘This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.’ (Matt. 12: 24.) They fall away, intending to put Christ to ‘an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.) 3. The men set themselves against it by the spirit of persecution, as the Pharisees did still. They rail against it; therefore it is called ‘blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.’ (Matt. 12: 24, 31.) They would ‘crucify Christ again’ if they could. (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries. (Heb. 10: 17.)

4. Consider the properties of this acting. 1. It is avowed, that is, not seeking to shelter or to hide itself. The Pharisees speak against Christ publicly–‘But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.’ (Matt. 12: 24.) They would have ‘Christ brought to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.) They forsake the ordinances which savour that way–‘Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is’–and despise the danger; for, looking for indignation, they trample that blood still. (Heb. 10: 25, 27, 29.) 2. The party acteth freely. It is not from unadvisedness, nor from force or constraint, but an acting of free choice; nothing does force the Pharisees to speak against and persecute Christ. They ‘crucify to themselves,’ they redact the murder of their own free accord, and in their own bosom, none constraining them. They sin of free choice, or, as the word may be rendered, spontaneously–‘For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.’ (Heb. 6: 6; 10: 26.) 3. It is acted wilfully. They are so resolute, they will not be dissuaded by any offer, or take most precious means, as is clear in the aforesaid scriptures. 4. It is done maliciously, so that it proceeds not so much, if at all, from a temptation to pleasure, profit, or honour. It proceedeth not from fear, or force, or from any good end proposed, but out of heart-malice against God and Christ, and the advancement of His glory and kingdom: so that it is of the very nature of Satan’s sin, who has an irreconcilable hatred against God, and the remedy of sin, because His glory is thereby advanced. This is a special ingredient in this sin. The Pharisees are found guilty of heart-malice against Christ, since they spake so against Him, and not against their own children’s casting out devils: and this is the force of Christ’s argument–‘If I, by Beelzebub, cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?’ (Matt. 12: 27.) They do their utmost ‘to crucify Christ again, and to bring Him to an open shame.’ (Heb. 6: 6.) They are adversaries, like the devil. 5. It is done despitefully: the malice must betray itself. The Pharisees must proclaim that Christ has correspondence with devils: He must ‘be put to open shame, and crucified again:’ they must ‘tread under foot that blood, and do despite to the Spirit:’ so that the party had rather perish a thousand times than be in Christ’s debt for salvation.

5. The last thing in the description is, the ordinary attendant or consequence of this sin; it induceth desperate and hopeless fear. They fear Him, whom they hate with a slavish, hopeless fear, such as devils have–‘A certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.’ (Heb. 10: 27.) They know that God will put out His power against them; they tremble in the remembrance of it; and if they could be above Him, and destroy Him, they would: and since they cannot reach that, they hate with the utmost of heart-malice, and do persecute Him, and all that is His, with despite.

III.–Conclusions bearing on the objections

As for the third thing proposed, viz., the conclusions to be drawn from what is said, whereby we will speak directly to the objection. 1. As I hinted before, since the sin against the Holy Ghost is so remarkable, and may be well known where it is, none should charge themselves with it, unless they can prove and establish the charge; for it is a great wrong done unto God to labour to persuade my soul that He will never pardon me: it is the very way to make me desperate, and to lead me into the unpardonable sin; therefore, unless thou can’t and dare say that thou dost hate the way which God has devised for the saving of sinners, and dost resolve to oppose the thriving of His kingdom, both with Himself and others, out of malice and despite against God, thou oughtest not to suspect thyself guilty of this sin. 2. Whatsoever thou hast done against God, if thou dost repent of it, and wish it were undone, thou can’t not be guilty of this sin; for in it heart-malice and despite against God do still prevail. 3. If thou art content to be His debtor for pardon, and world be infinitely obliged unto Him for it, then thou can’t not, in this case, be guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost; for, as we showed before, they who are guilty of it do so despite God that they would not be His debtors for salvation. 4. Whatsoever thou hast done, if thou hast a desire after Jesus Christ, and dost look with a sore heart after Him, and cannot think of parting with His blessed company forever, or, if they must part with Him, yet dost wish well to Him, and all His, thou needs not suspect thyself to be guilty of this unpardonable sin; for there can be no such hatred of Him in thy bosom as is necessarily required to make up that sin. 5. If thou would be above the reach of that sin, and secure against it forever, then go work up thy heart to approve of salvation by Christ Jesus, and so close with God in Him, acquiescing in Him as the sufficient ransom and rest, as we have been pressing before, and yield to Him to be saved in His way. Do this in good earnest, and thou shalt for ever be put out of the reach of that awful thing wherewith Satan does affright so many poor seekers of God.

VI.–Objections from the want of power to believe answered

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

Ans. It is true that saving faith, by which alone a man can heartily close with God in Christ, is above our power and is the gift of God, as we said before in the premises; yet remember, 1. The Lord has left it as a duty upon all who hear this gospel cordially by faith to close with His offer of salvation through Christ, as is clear from Scripture. And you must know, that although it be not in our power to perform that duty of ourselves, yet the Lord may justly condemn us for not performing it, and we are inexcusable; because at first he made man perfectly able to do whatsoever He should command. 2. The Lord commanding this thing, which is above our power, willeth us to be sensible of our inability to do the thing, and would have us to put it on Him to work it in us. He has promised to give the new heart, and He has not excluded any from the benefit of that promise. 3. The Lord uses, by these commands and invitations, and men’s meditation on the same, and their supplication about the thing, to convey power unto the soul to perform the duty.

Therefore, for answer to the objection, I do entreat thee, in the Lord’s name, to lay to heart these His commandments and promises, and meditate on them, and upon that blessed business of the new covenant, and pray unto God, as you can, over them, ‘for He will be inquired of to do these things ‘ (Ezek. 36: 37); and lay thy cold heart to that device of God expressed in the Scripture, and unto Christ Jesus, who is given for a covenant to the people, and look to Him for life and quickening. Go and endeavour to approve of that salvation in the way God does offer it, and so close with, and rest on Christ for it, as if all were in thy power; yet, looking to Him for the thing, as knowing that it must come from Him; and if thou do so, He who meets those who remember Him in His ways (Isa. 64: 5), will not be wanting on His part; and thou shalt not have ground to say, that thou movedst toward the thing until thou couldst do no more for want of strength, and so left it at God’s door. It shall not fail on His part, if thou have a mind for the business; yea, I may say, if by all thou hast ever heard of that matter, thy heart loveth it, and desireth to be engaged with it, thou hast it already performed within thee; so that difficulty is past before thou wast aware of it.

VII.–Objection arising from the complaints of believers as to unfruitfulness

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

Ans. If thou be convinced that it is a duty to believe on Christ, you may not neglect it under any pretence. As for the complaints of some who have looked after Him, not admitting every one to be judge of his own fruit, I say—

1. Many, by their jealousies of God’s love, and by their unbelief, after they have so closed with God, do obstruct many precious communications, which otherwise would be let out to them–‘And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.’ (Matt. 13: 58.)

2. It cannot be that any whose heart is gone out after Christ ‘have found Him a wilderness.’ (Jer. 2: 31.) Surely they find somewhat in their spirit swaying them towards God in whose two great things, namely, how to be found in Him in that day–‘Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith’ (Phil. 3: 8, 9);–and how to show forth His praise in the land of the living, ‘Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep Thy word.’ (Psa. 119: 17.) ‘Wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the land of the living.’ (Psa. 56: 13.) They find these two things existing in the soul, and that is much. Moreover, they shall, on due inquiry, ever find such an emptiness in the creatures, that the utmost abundance of the creature cannot satisfy their souls–all is vanity, only God can fill the empty room in their heart; and when He breathes but a little, there is no room for additional comfort from creatures. This shows that God has captivated the man, and has fixed that saving principle in the understanding and heart–‘Who is God but the Lord? Worship Him all ye gods.’ (Psa. 97: 7.) Yea, further, those whose hearts have closed with God in Christ as aforesaid, will not deny that there has been seasonable preventing and quickening now and then when the soul was like to fail–‘For Thou preventest me with the blessings of Thy goodness.’ (Psa. 21: 3.) ‘When I said, my foot slippeth, Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, Thy comforts delight my soul.’ (Psa. 94: 18, 19.) Therefore, let none say that there is no fruit following, and let none neglect their duty upon the unjust and groundless complaints of others.

VIII.–Objection from ignorance regarding covenanting with God,–The nature of that duty unfolded

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

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

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

1. Although God made man perfect at the beginning, and put him in some capacity of transacting with Him immediately–‘God has made man upright’ (Eccl. 7: 29); ‘And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mast freely eat,’ etc. (Gen. 2: 16, 17); yet man by his fall did put himself at such a distance from God, as to be in an utter incapacity to bargain or deal any more with him immediately.

2. The Lord did, after Adam’s fall, make manifest the new covenant, in which he did signify he was content to transact with man again, in and through a mediator; and so did appoint men to come to Him through Christ–‘He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him’ (Heb. 7: 25); and to look for acceptance only in Him–‘To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved’ (Eph. 1: 6); ordaining men to hear Christ, He being the only party in whom God was well pleased–‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.’ (Matt. 16: 5.)

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

4. Consider that Christ Jesus, God-man, is not only a fit place of meeting for God and men to meet in, and a fit spokesman to treat between the parties now at variance–‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Cor. 5: 19); but we may say also, He is an immediate bridegroom; and so our closing or transacting with God may be justly called the marriage of the King’s son, and the elect may be called the Lamb’s wife; Christ Jesus being, as it were, the hand which God holdeth out to men, and on which they lay hold when they deal with God. And so through and by Christ we close with God, as our God, on whom our soul does terminate lastly and ultimately through Christ ‘Who by Him do believe in God that raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.’ (1 Peter 1: 21.)

5. Consider that the various relations mentioned in Scripture are set down to signify the sure and indissoluble union and communion between God and His people. Whatsoever connexion is between head and members, root and branches, king and subjects, shepherd and flock, father and children, brother and brother, husband and wife, etc., all is here–‘And they all shall be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me. And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them: that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be perfect in one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’ (John 17: 21-26.) So that whatsoever is spoken in Scripture, people may be sure, that God calleth them to be reconciled unto Him through Christ, and does offer Himself to be their God and husband in Him alone: and men are to accept God to be their God in Christ, approving of that way of relief for poor man, and to give up themselves unto God in Christ, in whom alone they can be accepted. And they who close with Christ, they do close with God and Him, who is in Christ, ‘reconciling the world to Himself.’ (2 Cor. 5: 19; John 14: 8-11.) And we are not to dip further into the different relations mentioned in Scripture between God or Christ and men, than as they may point out union and communion, or nearness with God through Christ Jesus, and our advantage thereby.

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

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

IX.–Doubts as to the inquirer’s being savingly in covenant with God answered

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

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

Certain things premised concerning personal covenanting

Before I speak directly to this express covenanting with God, I premise these few things:–1. I do not here intend a covenanting with God essentially differing from the covenant between God and the visible church, as the Lord does hold it out in His revealed will; neither do I intend a covenant differing essentially from the transacting of the heart with God in Christ, formerly spoken unto: it is that same covenant; only it differeth by a singular circumstance, namely, the formal expression of the thing which the heart did before practice.

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

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

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

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

I.–The thing itself is warrantable

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

1. In many places of Scripture, if we look to what they may bear, according to their scope and the analogy of faith, God has commanded it, and left it on people as a duty–‘One shall say, I am the Lord’s.’ ‘Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.’ (Isa. 44: 5; 45: 24.) ‘Wilt thou not from this time cry unto Me, My Father, Thou are the guide of my youth.’ (Jer. 3: 4.) ‘They shall say, the Lord is my God’ (Zech. 13: 9); ‘Thou shalt call Me Ishi’ (Hos. 2: 16); and in many places elsewhere. Now, since God has so clearly left it on men in the letter of the word, they may be persuaded that it is a practice warranted and allowed by Him, and well pleasing unto Him.

2. It is the approved practice of the saints in Scripture thus expressly to covenant with God, and they have found much comfort in that duty afterwards. David did often expressly say unto God, that He was his God, his portion, and that himself was His servant. Thomas will put his interest out of question with it–‘And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord, and my God.’ (John 20: 28.) Yea, I say, the saints are much quieted in remembrance of what has passed that way between God and them–‘Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee.’ ‘I cried unto Thee, O Lord, I said, Thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living.’ (Psa. 73: 25; 142: 5.) We find it often so in the book of the Canticles. Now, shall the chief worthies of God abound so much in a duty, which produces so much peace and satisfaction to them in many cases, and shall we, under the New Testament, unto whom access is ministered abundantly, and who partake of the sap of the olive; shall we, I say, fall behind in this approved method of communion with God? Since we study to imitate that cloud of witnesses in other things, as faith, zeal, patience, etc., let us also imitate them in this.

3. The thing about which we here speak is a matter of the greatest concernment in all the world. ‘It is the life of our soul’ (Deut. 32: 47.) Oh! shall men study to be express, explicit, plain, and peremptory, in all their other great businesses, because they are such: and shall they not much more be peremptory and express in this, which does most concern them? I wonder that many not only do not speak it with their mouth, but that they do not swear and subscribe it with their hand, and do not everything for securing of God to themselves in Christ, and themselves unto God, which the Scriptures does warrant–‘One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.’ (Isa. 44: 5.)

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

This also may be urged here for pressing this as a duty, that God is so formal, express, distinct, and legal, to say so, in all the business of man’s salvation, namely, Christ must be a near kinsman to whom the right of redemption does belong; He must be chosen, called authorized, and sent; covenants formally drawn between the Father and Him, the Father accepting payment and satisfaction, giving formal discharges, all done clearly and expressly. Shall the Lord be so express, plain, and peremptory in every part of the business, and shall our part of it rest in a confused thought, and we be as dumb beasts before Him? If it were a marriage between man and wife, it would not be judged enough, although there were consent in heart given by the woman, and known to the man, if she did never express so much by word, being in a capacity to do so. Now, this covenant between God and man is held out in Scripture as a marriage between man and wife–‘And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.’ (Hos. 2: 19, 20.) ‘For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.’ (2 Cor. 11: 2.) The whole song of Solomon speaketh it. The Lord uses similitudes, to signify unto us what He intends; and surely this is a special requisite in marriage, that the wife give an express and explicit consent unto the business: the man saith–‘So I take thee to be my lawful wife and do oblige myself to be a dutiful husband.’ The woman is obliged, on the other part, to express her consent, and to say–‘Even so I take thee to be my lawful husband, and do promise duty and subjection.’ It is so here; the Lord saith, ‘I do betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt call me Ishi,’ that is, my husband. (Hos. 2: 16.) I will be for thee as a head and husband, if ‘thou wilt not be for another.’ (Hos. 3: 3.) The man ought to answer, and say, Amen, so be it; Thou shalt be my God, my Head, and Lord, and I shall and will be Thine, and not for another–‘I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.’ (Cant. 6: 3.) And so this making of the covenant with God is called ‘a giving of the hand to Him,’ as the word is–‘Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into His sanctuary, which He has sanctified for ever; and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you’ (2 Chron. 30: 8); which does intimate a very express, formal, explicit, and positive bargaining with God. So then, we conclude it to be an incumbent duty, and an approved practice necessary for the quieting of a man’s mind, and his more comfortable being in covenant with God, and more fully answering God’s condescension and offer in that great and primary promise–‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’

Not only may and should people thus expressly close with God in Christ for fixing their heart; but they may upon some occasions renew this verbal transaction with God, especially when, through temptations, they are made to question if they have really and sincerely closed covenant with God. As they are then to put out new acts of faith, embracing Christ as the desirable portion and treasure, and also upon other occasions, so it were expedient, especially if there remain any doubt as to the thing, that by viva voce and express words they determine that controversy, and ‘say of the Lord, and to Him, that He is their refuge and portion’ (Psa. 91: 2; 142: 5.) We find the saints doing so, and we may imitate them.


1. In the time of great backsliding, people were wont to renew the covenant with God, and we should do so also. Our heart should go out after Christ in the promises of reconciliation with God: for He is our peace upon all occasions, and our Advocate; and we are bound to apprehend Him so, when we transgress–‘If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2: 1); and to express so much by word, as the saints did in their formal renewing of the covenant.

2. When people are in hazard, and difficulties are present or foreseen, then it were good that they should send out their hearts after Him, and express their adherence unto Him for securing their own hearts. We find Joshua doing so, when He was to settle in the land of Canaan, in the midst of snares:–‘Now therefore, fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God, He it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed; and the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for He is our God. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for He is an holy God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sin. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that He has done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves, that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses. Now, therefore put away (said he) the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, the Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.’ (Josh. 24.) So did David in his straits–‘In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.’ (Psa. 57: 1.)

3. When men apprehend God to be at a distance from them, and their soul to be under withering and decay, then it is safest heartily to close with Christ, and embrace Him by faith for the securing of the soul; and it were good to put it out of question by the expression of the thing. This is the ready way to draw sap from Christ the root, for recovering of the soul, and for establishing the heart before Him. The spouse, in the Song of Solomon, does so; thus asserting her interest in Him when in such a condition, professing and avowing Him to be her beloved. (Cant. 5.)

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

We shall not confine the Lord’s people to times and seasons for this duty; the Lord may bind it upon them at His pleasure; only there is hazard, that by too frequent express covenanting with God, men turn too formal in it. Therefore, it is not so fit that people should ordinarily at full length renew that explicit transaction with God, but rather to declare unto God that they adhere unto the covenant made with Him, and that they do maintain and will never revoke nor recall the same; and withal, they may hint the sum of it, in laying claim unto God in Christ as their own God; and this they may do often, even in all their addresses to God. And probably this is the thing designed by the saints in their so ordinary practice in Scripture, whilst they assert their interest in God as their God and portion; and it is fit that men, in all their walk, hold their heart to the business, by heart-cleaving to God in Christ–‘The life we live in the flesh should be by faith in the Son of God.’ (Gal. 2: 20.)

II.–The preparation needed

As to the second thing, namely, what preparation is required of him who is expressly to transact with God here. Besides what we mentioned before, as previous to a man’s closing with Christ Jesus, we only add, 1. That he who would explicitly bargain with God, must know, that to do so is warranted, and allowed by God, as we showed before. If this be wanting, a man cannot do it in faith, and so it will be sin unto him–‘Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ (Rom. 14: 23.) 2. Then man must labour to bring up his heart to the thing, that it do not belie the tongue; it will be a great mocking of God, so to ‘draw near to Him with the lips, whilst the heart is far from Him.’ (Isa. 29: 13.)

III.–How the duty of covenanting is to be performed

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

1. The man should do it confidently; not only believing that he is about his duty when he does it; but also, that God in Christ Jesus will accept his poor imperfect way of doing his duty: He does ‘accept a man according to what he has, if there be a willing mind.’ (2 Cor. 8: 12.) A mite is accepted, since it is ‘all the poor woman’s substance.’ (Mark 12: 44.) Yea, if it can be attained, the man should believe that the issue and consequence of this transacting shall prove comfortable, and all shall be well; and that God, who engageth for all in the covenant (since He has determined the man to this happy choice), will in some measure make him forthcoming, and will perfect what concerns him–‘Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.’ (1 Thess. 5: 24.) If this confidence be wanting, the matter will be done with much fear and jealousy, if not worse: and will still prove a disquieting business to the man.

2. It should be done holily. It is called ‘the holy covenant’ (Luke 1: 72); ‘the sure mercies (or holy things) of David.’ (Acts 13: 34.) Here it were fitting that what is done in this express transacting with God should not be done cursorily and by the bye, but in some special address unto God; the thing should be spoken unto the Lord–‘I cried unto Thee, O Lord; I said; thou art my refuge and my portion.’ (Psa. 142: 5.) It is proper, in so great a business, that a portion of time were set apart for confession and supplication before God; yea, also, the person so transacting with God should labour to have high apprehensions of God’s greatness and sovereignty–‘Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like unto Thee, neither is there any God beside Thee.’ (2 Sam. 7: 22.)

Although He thus humble himself to behold things in heaven and earth; and these high and holy thoughts of Him will and should be attended with debasing and humbling thoughts of self, although admitted to this high dignity–‘Then went King David in, and sat before the Lord: and he said, Who am I, O Lord God; and what is my house that Thou hast brought me hitherto?’ (2 Sam. 7: 18.) It is no small thing to be allied unto, and with, the great God of heaven and His Son Christ; as David speaketh, when King Saul did offer his daughter to him. (2 Sam. 18: 22.) Yea, further, there should be special guarding and watching that the heart keep spiritual in transacting with God. There is great reason for this holy way of performing the duty, for men are ready to mistake themselves, and to think of the Lord according to their own fancy, and to turn carnal in the business, since it is a marriage transaction held out in all the ordinal expressions of love, as in the Song of Solomon. (Isa. 62: 5; Zeph. 3: 17.)

IV.–What should follow this solemn act

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

1. He should thenceforth be singularly careful to abide close with God, in all manner of conversation; for, if a man thenceforth do anything unsuitable, he does falsify his word before God, which will stick much in his conscience, and prove a snare. If a man henceforth forsake God, and take on him to dispose of himself, since he is not his own, and has opened his mouth unto the Lord, he makes inquiry after vows, and devoureth that which is holy. (Prov. 20: 25.)

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

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

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

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

If men would heartily and sincerely do this, it might, through the Lord’s b1essing, help to establish them against many fears and jealousies; and they might date some good thing from this day and hour, which might prove comfortable unto them when they fall in the dark afterwards, and even when many failings do stare them in the face, perhaps at the hour of death–‘These be the last words of David: although my house be not so with God, yet He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure; for this is all my salvation, and all my desire.’ (2 Sam. 23: 5.) It is much if a man can appeal unto God, and say, Thou knowest there was a day and an hour when in such a place I did accept of peace through Christ, and did deliver up my heart to Thee, to write on it Thy whole law without exception; heaven and earth are witnesses of it–‘Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.’ (Psa. 119: 49.)

X.–A want of proper feeling considered as an obstacle in the way of covenanting

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

Ans. It is to be regretted that men’s hearts do not, with intensity of desire and affection, embrace and welcome that blessed offer and portion. Yet, for answer to this objection, remember, 1. That in those to whom the Lord gives the new heart, forming Christ in them, the whole heart is not renewed; there is ‘flesh and spirit lusting against each other, the one contrary unto the other, so that a man can neither do the good or evil he would do,’ with full strength. (Gal. 5: 17.) It is well if there be a good part of the heart going out after Christ, desiring to close with Him on His own terms.

2. That there is often a rational love in the heart unto Christ Jesus, expressing itself by a respect to His commandments–‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous’ (1 John 5: 3); when there is not a sensible prevailing love which maketh the soul sick–‘I am sick of love.’ (Cant. 2: 5.) Men must not always expect to find this. I say, then, although somewhat in your heart drawn back, yet if you can say that you are convinced of your lost state without Him, that you want a righteousness to cover your guilt, and that you want strength to stand out against sin, or to do what is pleasing before God, and that you also see fulness in Him; in both these respects, if you dare say that somewhat within your heart would fain embrace Him upon His own terms, and would have both righteousness for justification, and strength in order to sanctification; and that what is within you contradicting this, is in some measure your burden and your bondage–if it be so, your heart is brought up a tolerable length; go on to the business, and determine the matter by covenanting with God, and say with your mouth, ‘That you have both righteousness and strength in the Lord,’ as He has sworn you shall do–‘I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return. That unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to Him shall men come; and all that are incensed against Him shall be ashamed.’ (Isa. 45: 23, 24.) It is according to Scripture to say unto God, I believe, when much unbelief is in me and the heart is divided in the case ‘Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief.’ (Mark 9: 24.) Withal show unto God how matters are in your heart, so that you may be without guile before Him, concealing nothing from Him; and put your heart as it is in His hand, to write His law on it, according to the covenant: for that is the thing He seeks of men, that they deliver up their heart to Him, that He may stamp it with His whole will, without exception; and if you can heartily consent unto that, judging Christ’s blood a sufficient ransom and satisfaction for man’s transgression, you may go and expressly strike a covenant with God, for your heart and affection is already engaged.

XI.–The fear of backsliding a hindrance

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

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

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

3. If people may be afraid of covenanting with God lest they should afterwards transgress, then not one man should covenant with God; for surely every one will transgress afterwards, if they live any length of time after the transaction; and we know no way like this to secure men from falling; for if you covenant honestly with Him, He engageth, beside the new heart, to put His fear and law therein, to give His Spirit to cause you to walk in His way. And when you covenant with God, you deliver up yourself unto Him to be sanctified and made conformable to His will. It is rather a giving up of yourself to be led in His way, in all things, and kept from every evil way, than any formal engagement on your part to keep His way, and to hold off from evil: so that you need not be afraid of the covenant, the language whereof is, ‘Wilt thou not be made clean?’ (Jer. 13: 27.) And all that shun to join in covenant with God, do thereby declare that they desire not to be made clean.

4. As it is hard for any to say confidently they shall transgress, if such a temptation did offer, so and so circumstantiated, because that men may think that either God will keep a temptation out of their way, or will not suffer them to be tempted above what they are able to bear, or give to them a way of escape–‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psa. 46: 1.) ‘There has no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; but will with the temptation also make a wsy to escape, that ye may be able to bear it’ (1 Cor. 10: 13); so the question is not, what I may do afterwards, but what I now resolve to do. If my heart charge me presently with any deceit or resolution to transgress, I must lay aside that deceit before I covenant with God; but if my heart charge me with no such purpose, yea, I dare say I resolve against every transgression; and although I think I shall fall before such and such temptation, yet that thought floweth not from any allowed and approved resolution to do so, but from a knowledge of my own corruption, and of what I have done to provoke God to desert me: but the Lord knows I resolve not to transgress, nor do I approve any secret inclination of my heart to such a sin, but would reckon it my singular mercy to be kept from sin in such a case; and I judge myself a wretched man, because of such a body of death within me, which threatens to make me transgress; in that case I say, My heart does not condemn me, therefore, I may and ought to have confidence before God. (1 John 3: 21.) If this then be the case, I say to thee, although thou shouldst afterwards fail many ways, and so perhaps hereby draw upon thyself sad temporal strokes, and lose for a season many expressions of His love, yet there is an ‘Advocate with the Father’ to plead thy pardon (1 John 2: 1); who has satisfied for our breaches–‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa. 53: 5, 6.) And for His sake God resolves to hold fast the covenant with men after their transgression–‘If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments: nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My lips. Once have I sworn by My holiness.’ (Psa. 89: 30-37.) Else how could He be said ‘to betroth us to Himself for ever?’ (Hos. 2: 19, 20.) And how could the covenant be called ‘everlasting, ordered in all things and sure,’ if there were not ground of comfort in it, ‘even when our house is not so with God?’ (2 Sam. 23: 5.)

Yea, it were no better than the covenant of works, if those who enter into it with God could so depart from Him again, as to make it void unto themselves, and to put themselves into a worse condition than they were in before they made it–‘And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good’ (Jer. 32: 40)–compared with Heb. 8: 6, ‘But now has He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.’ ‘The Lord hateth putting away.’ (Mal. 2: 16.) No honest heart will stumble at this, but will rather be strengthened thereby in duty–‘I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. Who is wise, and he shall understand these things: prudent, and he shall know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them.’ (Hos. 14: 9.) For other ties and bonds, besides the fear of divorce, and punishment by death, do oblige the ingenuous wife unto duty; so here men will ‘fear the Lord and His goodness.’ (Hos. 3: 5.)

XII.–Objection arising from past fruitlessness considered

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

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

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

3. Men should be sparing to bring in question their sincerity in transacting with God unless they can prove the same, or have great presumptions for it. If you can discover any deceit or guile in your transacting with Him, you are obliged to disclaim and rectify it, and to transact with God honestly, and. without guile: but if you know nothing of your deceit or guile in the day you did transact with Him; yea, if you can say that you did appeal unto God in that day and that you dealt honestly with Him, and intended not to deceive; and did entreat Him, according to his faithfulness, to search and try if there was any crookedness in your way, and to discover it unto you, and heal it–‘Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (Psa. 139: 23, 24); and that afterwards you ‘came to the light, that your deeds might be manifest’ (John 3: 20, 21); and if you can say, that God’s answers from His words to you, in so far as you could understand, were answers of peace, and confirmations of your sincerity; yea, further, if you dare say, that if, upon life and death, you were again to transact with Him, you can do it no other way, nor intend more sincerity and seriousness than before; then I dare say unto thee in the Lord’s name, thou ought not to question thy sincerity in transacting with God, but to ‘have confidence before God, since thy heart does not condemn thee’ (1 John 3: 21); and thou art bound to believe that ‘God dealeth uprightly with the upright man, and with the pure does show himself pure.’ (Psa 28: 25, 26.) If a man intend honestly, God will not suffer him to beguile himself; yea, the Lord suffereth no man to deceive Himself, unless the man intend to deceive both God and man.

4. Therefore impute your unfruitfulness to your unwatchfulness and your unbelief, and impute your want of full assurance unto an evil heart of unbelief, helped by Satan to act against the glorious free grace of God: and charge not these things to the want of sincerity in your closing with Christ. And resolve henceforth to abide close by the root, and you shall bring forth much fruit; and by much fruit you lay yourselves open to the witness of God’s Spirit, which will testify with your spirit that you have sincerely and honestly closed with God, and that the rest of your works are wrought in God, and approved of Him; and so the witness of the Spirit and the water, joining with the blood, whereupon you are to lay the weight of your soul and conscience, and where alone you are to sink the curses of the law due unto you for all your sins and failings in your best things. These three do agree in one, namely, that this is the way of life and peace, and that you have interest therein, and so you come to quietness and full assurance–‘Abide in me, and I in you; as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.’ (John 15: 4, 5.) ‘He that has my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If a man love me he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.’ (John 14: 21, 23.) ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.’ (Rom. 8: 10.) ‘There are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one.’ (1 John 5: 8.)

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

Conclusion: The whole Treatise resumed in a Few Questions and Answers

Quest. 1. What is the great business a man has to do in this world?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. 14 What way shall I do that?

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

Q. 15 What if I break with God afterwards?

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

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

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

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

A. Union and communion with God, all good here and His blessed fellowship in heaven forever afterwards.

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

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