Lucy Hutchinson (16201681). On the Principles of the Christian Religion. 1817.
On the Principles of the Christian Religion
MAN only, of all the creatures of this low world, being indued with a rationall soule, which putts him in a capacity of considering himselfe, and other things, what and why they are, and to what end they tend, and wherein their goodnesse consists,1 is worse then the brutes, who have not this power given them, if he employ not, nor emproove it to the glorious and blessed end for which it was given him; which was to bring him into a capacity of glorifÿng God, and being eternally happie in his blessed communion. Herein the true wisedome of man consists, and in that wisedome his greatest honor, and this leads to his highest good and eternall felicity.2
To perfect this true wisedome, two things are requisite for us to study, God and ourselves; the knowledge of which are so interwoven in each other, that no man can truly have one without the other; for a poore fleshly finite creature cannot ascend up to that inaccessible, incomprehensible light,3 wherein God dwells, to see or consider him as he is absolutely in himselfe; but by considering ourselves, as creatures produced in time,4 we are led to the knowledge of an eternall, uncreated Being before all time, who is the first cause, the last and noblest end of all beings, and this is God, whose nature is so farre transcending ours, that wee cannot know him as he is absolutely in himselfe, but by his operations manifested in ourselves, and all things elce which wee contemplate.5
As these lead us to such a knowledge of God as wee are capable of, so this knowledge of God as a cleare light6 (for he indeed is only light in whom there is no darknesse, and all things without his shining on them, and in them, are fowle polluted darkenesse)this light of God, I say, truly makes us know ourselves; in the contemplation of whose wisedome, goodnesse, righteousnesse, and holinesse, we see our folly, sin, iniquity, impurity; his power discovers our weaknesse, his fullnesse our emptinesse and vanity and nothingnesse, which wee neither discerne nor believe, till wee come to see him. This sight made Job leave of his iustification and defence of his innocence, and to abhorre himselfe in dust and ashes; and all others in this light only truly discerne themselves, when the false shaddowes of naturall pride, error, and presumption, which mist mens mindes, and fill them full of vaine conceits of themselves, flie away from the glorious presence of God.
The true knowledge of God carries more in it then a bare acknowledgement that there is a God, for it implies two things, 1. Faith in God; 2. Observance of God.7 To acknowledge Gods wisdome, power, and goodnesse, without adoring and loving them, is so farre from making us happie, that it makes us devills.8 But though the whole creation preach God to us, and God hath sett up a light in every man, which is a wittnesse of himselfe, imprinted on their owne natures, yet these are only sufficient to render men unexcusable that doe not adore and worship him as God; but they are not sufficient to instruct men in the right manner of worshipping him, and to lead them into right apprehensions of his devine nature. The creation and our owne frames are like faire volumes to a dimme-sighted man, where the truths of God are written in legible characters; but wee cannot make any sence of them without the help of devine illumination, which sacred spectacles once put on makes us read the discoveries of God with holy wonder and delight, and therefore he hath added to his workes, his word given forth in the Scriptures of the New and Old Testament, and made that a perfect rule of faith and obedience for us, of whose authority I will not here discourse, nor bring arguments to convince gainesayers, more then the Scripture carries in itselfe, which is its owne credentiall, and hath the wittnesse of the same Spirit that gave it forth in every sanctified reader, and which duely studied, shewes us the error and vanity of all men in their apprehensions of God, and accordingly in their worship of him, who walke not by Scripture light, as you may see in the beginning of the Romans, and of the first Epistle to Corinth, and severall other places of Scripture, where wee are told wee are in danger of being spoyld by vaine philosophie, and that the world by wisedome knew not God, and that the Gentiles livd without God in the world, and that all are darknesse till they come into the light of the Lord.
Since, then, we see that never any attaind to a true knowledge of God, but those who were taught it by himselfe, lett us not amuse ourselves with the uncerteineties, that poore dull philosophers have gropd out in the darke, nor admire their pudled springs, nor spend our lives for a vaine search of that in ourselves, which wee have not till God instill it into us by his word, and impresse it on our spiritts by his. This being the means which God hath ordeind to give us the knowledge of himselfe, and life in that knowledge, lett us with thankfullnesse receive it, and be content to obey the dictates of God by his prophetts, without expecting revelations out of Gods ordinary way, which is his written word; for whatever men preach, that is not it in substance, is a lie, and is of the devill, the whole will of God being therein reveald, and a curse denouncd against them that adde aniething to it, or take aniething from it.
To say no more therefore of the meanes that brings us to the knowledge of God, since, as I sayd before, wee cannot know him absolutely in himselfe, wee are bound to study him as he stands in a threefold relation to us, as, 1. Our Creator; 2. Our Redeemer; 3. Our Sanctifier; which relations wee cannot apprehend without considering our owne natures. 1. Entire in our Creation; 2. Defacd and corrupted in the Fall; 3. Restored in Christ.
The Scripture teaches us that there is but one only living and true God,9 who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure Spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternall, incomprehensible, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, most free, most absolute, most wise, holy, gratious, mercifull; abounding in goodnesse and truth, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin, and a rewarder of those that seeke him, as allsoe most iust in all his iudgments, and terrible to those who despise his mercies.
God hath his being in and of himselfe, and is to himselfe and all his creatures all-sufficient, and was eternally blessed, dwelling and delighting in himselfe, before he made the world, or any creature; neither stood he in need of any of the creatures which he hath made, nor deriveth any glory from them, but is, both to himselfe and all his creatures, a fountaine of all being, life, and glory. He is the first cause and the ultimate end of all things. In his presence, and the enioyment of his grace and favour, is all life, ioy, light, and blessednesse; and to be exild from him, and under his wrath, is to be shutt up in eternall darknesse, misery, honor, woe, and death. He is the fountaine of all the goodnesse that is in any of the creatures, and of all the good that all of them enioy. He is the absolute Lord, and hath soveraigne dominion over all things that he hath made, to doe by them, in them, for them, and upon them whatsoever himselfe pleaseth. All things are open and manifest in his sight att one view, both which were, are, or are to come. His knowledge is infinite, infallible, independent on the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncerteine. He is most holy in all his councells, in all his workes, and in all his commands, and whatsoever he wills is good, because he wills it.
In the unity of the Godhead, or devine Essence,10 the Scripture informs us, that there are three distinct subsistences, viz. that of the Father, Sonne, and Spirit, who are all equally God eternall, uncreated, Almighty Lord of heaven and earth, &c. equally communicating all the essentiall properties and devine attributes,11 which distinguish God from all creatures, and co-operating in all the workes and administrations of God to men, yet distinguisht from each other by their personall properties, which are in the Father to begett,12 in the Sonne to be begotten, and in the Holy Ghost to proceed, which are incommunicable to any of the other persons, but that one, to whom they only are proper.
When wee call God a Spiritt, wee in the body can have no adequate conception of what a spirit is, but yett wee know negatively that a spiritt is not subiect to the basenesse and inconveniences of corporallyty; and positively, by its essentiall acts, that it is a pure, active life, intelligence, and will. The Scripture not only calls God a Spiritt, but the Father of Spiritts; and whatsoever excellence he gives to his created beings, it is certeine he must have much more eminently and transcendently in himselfe; therefore if we can hardly conceive aniething of our owne spiritts, how much more short must wee be in our conceptions of whose essence is infinitely more above the nature of other spiritts then they are above bodies; therefore wee must take heed of likening God to any being either spirituall or corporall, least we run into a more refind idollatry.
But by what the Lord hath bene pleasd to reveale to us in his word, where he condiscends to speake according to our capacities, by those things that are visible to the eies of our bodies or minds, wee are enabled to have some darke, distant prospect of those things that are in God, even his eternall power and being, which wee call his Essence, which, because wee are not able to conceive by one act of faith, therefore the Lord hath manifested it to us by divers attributes,13 which are only that one pure Essence diversely apprehended of us, as it is diversly made knowne to us.14
Others shew us who God is by his essentiall properties, manifesting his gratenesse, which consists, 1. In infinitenesse, whereby he is without all limitts of essence: 2. Eternity, whereby he is without all limitts of beginning, succession, or end of time: 3. His abillity to act;16 4. His readinesse to put forth that power. His abillitie includes his understanding, whereby he understands together, and at once, all truth; and this is Omniscience, a fift attribute, which includes, 6. Wisedome; 7. Infallibillityas the virtues of his will; 8. Love; 9. Holinesse; 10. Mercy; 11. Justice; 12. Truth; 13. Immutabillity, &c. make up the rest of his attributes. Which are not divers, but one act in God, though diversely represented to us according to our weake capacity; neither are they quallities, but whatsoever is in God, is God, who is therefore sayd to be Love, Light, &c.; nor is his goodnesse capable of intention or remission, growth or decay, or any obstruction or disturbance from without, but is allwayes equall and the same in him; and so are the rest of his attributes, which therefore are not accidents and quallities, and adiuncts, as in the creature, but substances, or rather his one pure Essence.
That blessednesse wherein God eternally enioys himselfe, is not capable of any disturbance or interruption from the creature; and whereas God is sayd sometimes in Scripture, to be angrie, to grieve, repent, or the like, these are but phrazes accommodated to weake humane capacity, when God changes his administrations to men, according to the immutable and unchangeable councell of his owne will; for if God were liable to those passions, he could not be God; and therefore wee must take heed of cleaving to any litterall sense which derogates from the devine perfection of God, and is inconsistent with his nature. He cannot lie, he cannot be deceived, he changes not, but is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever.
The Scripture sometimes mentions the eies, face, mouth, arme, hands, and heart of God, to make us thereby apprehend, according to our capacity, his knowledge, providence, favour, power, workes, and will; yet few are now so grosse, as thereby to conceive him to have bodily members, which if he had, he could not be God over all, and in all, every where, equally present att the same time, and no where shut up or circumscribed, as many Scriptures abundantly proove to us; and therefore when passions are attributed to God in Scripture, wee are to understand them after the same manner as we doe members, not properly, but to insinuate his acts more intelligibly to our dull humane capacities, which are unapt to conceive things out of their common roades of bodily sence.
God from all eternitie according to the good pleasure and councell of his owne will,17 which is the first and best cause of all things, whereby he willeth himselfe directly as the greatest good, and all other things for himselfe,18 according to his good pleasure, hath establisht in his owne wisedome a perfect platforme of all things, which either can be knowne,19 or shall be done, and accordingly fixt his eternall and immutable decree, whereby he freely and unchangeably ordeins whatsoever comes to passe; yet, so as thereby God is not the author of sin; for the thing, as God decrees it, is good, which as man executes it is evill: the sin and evill is in mans act, and not at all in Gods decree, whose will is allwayes and in all things perfectly and unchangeably good.
God hath not formd his decrees of aniething because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to passe upon such conditions as the Arminians erroniously hold, that God decrees mens salvation upon the foresight of their faith, though it is true, that he doth both foreknow and foresee, as it is diversely phrazed, whatever may or can come to passe, and this foresight is as stable, certeine, and unerring as his decree; but however the foreknowledge and decree of God are distinguisht to our understanding, they are one and the same act in God.
By the decree of God some men and angells are from eternity predestinated to everlasting life, and others fore-ordeined to everlasting death; and those that are soe particularly and unchangeably designed,20 and their number soe definite and certeine that it can neither be encreased or diminished; but who these are is reservd in the hidden councell of God, and no man ought to determine of himselfe, or any other, that he is a reprobate, without a revelation from God, who is pleased to seale his elect by his spiritt of adoption, and sooner or later to assure them of their calling and election.
All of mankind whom God hath predestinated to life before the foundation of the world was laid according to his eternall, free, immutable purpose, and the secret councell and good pleasure of his will, he hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory and salvation, without any foresight of faith, good workes, or perseverance in them, as causes leading him, or conditions in the creature mooving him to mercy, which proceeds only from his free grace and good pleasure, out of which he ordeins not only glory for his elect, but all the means thereunto; so that all who are elected in Christ, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spiritt, working in due season, are iustified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation.
The rest of mankind God was pleasd, according to the unsearchable councell of his owne will, whereby he extends or withholds mercy as he pleases, for the glory of his soveraigne power over his creatures, to passe by, and to ordeine them to dishonor and wrath for their sinne, to the prayse of his glorious iustice.
This doctrine is fully argued, and all the obiections that can be made against it answered in the Epistle to the Romans, especially the 9th chapter; and those who pervert the Scripture to their owne sence, because they are not able to comprehend so greate a mistery, run into many other absurdities; while they measure the iustice of God in their owne narrow scales, and make his eternall love and favour to depend on the mutable will of man, and so derogate from his absolute soveraignty, and debase the workings of his admirable will and wisedome, by endeavouring to fathom them in their fraile and narrow comprehensions.
This doctrine is a greate mistery, which as wee are not to abuse, as some doe, turning the grace of God into wantonnesse, and presuming on their election, without seeking to find the evidence of it in themselves by the operation of the sanctifijng Spirit, working in them faith, repentance, and new obedience; and so while they live carelessely and prophanely, doubt not of their salvation; or, as others who despaire of it, and because they are taught they have nothing of themselves, let loose the bridle to sin, and use no endeavours to find evidences that they are in the number of Gods elect. These are to consider, that God ordeins not only the end, but all the meanes conducing to that end; and is in the naturall life wee know that our breath depends on God, and that it is not the bread wee eate that maintains our life, but the power and vertue God putts into it, blessing it to that end for which he gives it us, and that God can susteine our lives without bread; yett, since food is the ordinary meanes whereby he hath declared that he will uphold his creatures, none are so mad to neglect it, and attempt to live without it; and surely it is as desperate folly to expect spirituall life, without looking after the food and meanes of it, as corporall life without corporall food. As therefore this doctrine is not to be abused either these wayes, or by an audacious prijng into the secretts of God, or a contemptuous neglect of what he hath taught us, so wee are to consider it with all humble reverence and feare of the dreadfull maiesty of the greate God whom wee herein contemplate, and with most high admiration of his infinite love, power, iustice, and mercy, and his unsearchable wisedome, whereby all these are manifested and glorified.
Neither is this, as some thinke, an unconcerning study, but a greate fundamentall in our faith, and firme pillar of our Christian comfort, and of greate use to us, first, To humble us before God, when wee consider that all our life and happinesse depends solely upon the mere good pleasure of his will, and that we are nothing, nor have nothing of ourselves. 2. To stirre up our admiration of the love and goodnesse of God to us, that he should make such wormes as wee are, so much his particular concerne and conduct. 8. To affect us with ioy and thankfullness for all, even the least manifestations of his good pleasure towards us, while we know, that where he begins, he will perfect every good worke in his creature. 4thly, To warme our hearts with love to that God, who hath so freely loved us. 5thly, To stay our soules under all temptations, when we know that our future life and happinesse depends on the unchangeable good will of God, and not on our mutable holinesse; and that our soules are in the keeping of a faithfull Lord, who will not suffer them to be lost. 6thly, That wee may know there is no salvation in any other but in Christ, in whom the foundation of our salvation was layd and settled before the world began. 7thly, To encourage us in the endeavour of faith in Christ and sanctity of life, and practise of good workes, forasmuch as wee were chosen of God that wee should be faithfull and holy, and without blame before him, in love, and walke in good workes, whereunto he hath appoynted us.22
God executes his decrees by his workes of creation and providence, wherein, although by reason of their divers manner of working some workes are appropriated to the Father, as that of creationsome to the Sonne, as that of redemptionsome to the Holy Spirit, as that of application or sanctification; yet in all the workes of God, both Father, Sonne, and Spirit co-operate each in his owne manner of working, and the worke in Scripture is attributed cheifely to that Person whose distinctt manner of working appeares cheifely in the worke.
God the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost in the beginning created heaven and earth, and all things conteined in them, in the space of six dayes, out of no pre-existing matter, by his Allmightie word, which commanded all things to be, and they were, and he surveyd all his creatures, and saw that they were all good.
Some thinke the plurall word Elohim, by which God is namd in the creation, ioynd to the singular verb created, intimates the Trinity; others admitt not that, but say that the Trinity is taught us in three words, in the 1st of Genesis,God sayd, that intimates the Father: God made, intimating the Sonne: God saw, intimating the Holy Ghost. But that consultation of God in himselfe about the creation of man, when the Lord says, Let us make man in our image, is a cleare evidence that the whole Trinity did co-operate in the creation,26 which is confirmd to us in the Proverbs, the beginning of the Gospell of John, and other scriptures;concerning the Sonne, that he was the eternall word and wisedome of the Father, by whom the world and all creatures were made; and some applie that in Genesis, where it is sayd that the Spiritt of God moved upon the face of the deepe, to the Holy Ghost; which others will not admitt, but other scriptures confirme that the Spiritt of God did alsoe co-operate in the creation of all things.
The Scripture tells us that God was the creator of things invisible, as well as of those things which appeare; among these are the 3d heavens, called in the Scripture Paradice, and the dwelling of God;27 not that any place confines God more then another, but that he more eminently there appeares in his glory and maiesty, hence our Saviour calls it his Fathers house, and it is termed the city of God, &c. God alsoe when he created this place, created its blessed inhabitants the holy angells, who are an innumerable number of spiritts, indued with most acutenesse of understanding, greate strength, and celerity in motion, and liberty of will, and all these were good and holy in their creation.
God made man the last of all his creatures in this visible world, as the perfection of them all, for whom the rest were made, that he in them might contemplate his Makers power, wisdome, and glory, and his infinite goodnesse to himselfe above all the rest, being alone indued with a reasonable immortall soull, that made him capable of blessednesse in the eternall contemplation and enioyment of God.
In the sixt day God created man, male and female, in his owne image and likenesse, which consisted in his perfect understanding, righteousnesse, and holinesse, having the law of God written on his heart, and being happie in the favour of God, and communion with God, who had made him Lord of all the other creatures, and placed him in a paradice, abounding with all created ioyes, and infested with noe evills, where he had bene for ever happie, had he not fallen from it by sinne.
God not only made the world out of nothing, but by his providence, both ordinary and extraordinary, governs and guides all the natures that he hath made, and all the actions and motions of his creatures, so that nothing is left to hazard, or contingency, or accident, but all is conducted by the providence of God to those iust and holy ends he hath appoynted, with an unsearchable wisedome and goodnesse, which wee are to believe and relie on in all things, though our narrow understandings cannot penetrate into his misterious paths till the day of the revelation of the righteous iudgment of God, when wee shall see a most beautifull order in all those things which now appeare so confused to our dimme sight.
Although in respect of God (the first cause) all things come to passe necessarily, yet in respect of us, and the second causes, most of them are contingent: and although the immutable, iust, and good will of God ought to comfort us, and cause us to acquiesce in all things, after it is declard in the events; yet before it be soe revealed to us, it is neither lawfull nor possible for us to prie into the secret will and mind of God, but wee are to attend upon, and make use of those means, which he hath ordeind in the ordinary course of his providence.
The administrations of Gods providence are 2-fold: 1. Universall, whereby he governs all creatures according to the proprieties which in their creation he bestowed on each particular. 2dly, Particular, whereby he either assists, restreins, or directs the powers he hath put into his creatures, and orders them, so that prosperity and adversity come not accidentally, but according to his devine appoyntment, who orders all the lotts of men with admirable wisedome, iustice, and goodnesse, though our darke sence cannot apprehend the manner of his working, who causes all things to worke together for good to those that love him, even sins and afflictions, their bitter fruites bringing light out of darknesse, and making them love much, to whom much is forgiven, and driving his children, by fatherly corrections, into the right paths, stopping up those pleasant walkes which would lead them into the pitt, and conducting them amidst the craggie rocks to the hill of salvation; and on the other hand, cursing all the prosperity of the wicked, making their tables their snares, and overturning in a moment all their hopes and establishments: in a word, all the administrations of Gods providence are good to the godly, and none are good to those that are evill, because the goodnesse and long-suffering of God hardens the wicked, and adds to their condemnation in the day of account.
Although God ordinarily worke by meanes, yet is he free to worke alsoe without them, above them, and contrary to them, and often doth; and as his using his meanes teaches us that wee ought to waite on him in the use of those meanes he hath appoynted us, and not to expect exterordinary workes, and neglect through sloth that opportunity that lies before us in an ordinary way, soe Gods exterordinary administrations ought to confirme our hops in him, and our reliance on him, when all meanes fade us; wee are not to attribute our happie successes to meanes, nor take to ourselves, or give to any other, the glory of any good wee receive; wee ought to blesse him for the meanes, and in the meanes, and to make use of them in obedience to his appoyntment, but not all to rely on them or on our owne wisedome, and power, and industry in applijng of them, nor to despond when they are with-held from us.
As Gods providentiall care extends to all his creatures, so more especially to mankind universally, whereby he extends his goodnesse to the wicked, makes his sunne to shine on the iust and the uniust, and in many sences of that kind is the Saviour of all men, respiting his vengeance, while they rebell against him, and giving them many both ordinary and exterordinary deliverances, if it were possible to lead them to repentance, which leaves them without all excuse; but Gods providence is in a most especiall manner ever watchfull, and ever working for the good of his church, and his elect, for whose sake the world is continued till they be gathered in and purified through many trialls, and perfected by many experiences of the wonderfull workings of God.
In this doctrine of providence, then, wee are taught, 1. That God takes care of his whole creation, especially of his church: 2. That while God doth soe, the mallice of devills and wicked men cannot hurt those that trust in him; and no accident is to be feard, while Eternal Wisedome orders the events of all things, and leaves not the least out of his care: 3. That God hath an ample power of doing good, because heaven and earth, and all the creatures in them, are in his dispose, and prest to obey him: 4. That the godly acquiesce under all administrations in his protection, and the powers of hell are restreind by his empire: 5thly, Although the causes are hidden to us, yet the will of God produces all things, which when wee cannot prie into, wee ought reverently to adore, and to believe all things as God administers them are done with infinite iustice, wisedome, goodnesse, and equity, though these be not obvious to our darke and narrow humane senses, which cannot comprehend the workings of an infinite God.
Man, as created by God in his image, was incorrupt, happie in the favour and communion of God, happie in the integrity of his owne nature, in his perfect understanding, holy will, pure conscience, undefiled and free from sinne, and happie in the soveraignity he had over the creatures; happie in his life, neither liable to death nor misery, abounding with all delights and comforts, requisite to compleate his felicity. As he enioyd both his being and his happinesse from God, so was he, as a creature, bound to render all honor, love, thanks, worship, and obedience to God as his Maker, Owner, Soveraigne, Lord, and Benefactor. To experience his loyalty and duty, God gave him one positive law, that he should not eate of the fruite of the tree of knowledge of good and evill, adding a commination of death to the breach of it; this is called the covenant of workes, because in the threatning of death to his disobedience, a promise of life was implied to his obedience.
The devill and his angells, who were good in their creation, had fallen and sinned against God, and for their sinne were cast out of heaven, out of the presence and favour of God, and are reserved in chains of darknesse, till the iudgement of the greate day. What that sinne was particularly, with other circumstances of their fall, the Scripture doth not positively informe us; only tells us, they kept not their first station, became haters of God, enemies, accusers, and murtherers of mankind, liars, and deceivers; that they are subtile, and restlesse in persuing the destruction of men; that they are mallitious tormentors, and tormented, and uncapable of redemption.
The chiefe of these seduced Eve, and she her husband, to pride, infidellity, and disobedience, so that they believing the devill before God, despisd the threatning of God, aspird to be as God, did not continue in a thankfull dependance on God, but sought to have more in themselves then he had given them, and eate of the forbidden fruite, which sinne was a breach of the whole law of God; and this they committed willingly, not necessarily, being left by God to the freedome of their owne will, and he not giving them support, but permitting their fall, that he might restore them to a more happie and firme estate in Christ.
By this fall, both Adam, and all his posterity issuing from him by naturall generation, became liable to death and all misery in life, and eternall seperation from God, in the losse of whose love and favour they lost all their hopes of life and happinesse, all temporall and eternall good.
This first sinne of Adam, as he was the roote of all mankind, not only was imputed to all his posterity, he standing as a publick person in whom all men sinned, being then in his loynes and became liable to the curse of God due to sinne, but it alsoe infected every child of his, issuing by ordinary generation, and is that originall sinne, from whence all actuall transgressions flow; the corrupted fountaine of all evill, by which the image of God was defaced in all men, and they became the children of darknesse and slaves of Sathan, being through the iust wrath of God given into his power.
Man, created in Gods image, made partaker of Devine wisdome, righteousnesse, and holinesse, perfect in soule and body, was bound to a perfect obedience of all Gods commands, which obligation still lay upon him after the fall, when he by his voluntary disobedience had defacd the image of God in his soule, and renderd himselfe unable to performe his duty, and depravd both in soule and body. As for his soule, his understanding in things perteining to God, that is, the true knowledge of him and his legitimate worship, is altogether blind; it can neither resolve nor execute any good worke of itselfe. Even in humane things, as mechanick arts and liberall sciences, it is misty and unstable. The will, as to Devine things, is only bent on that which is evill; as to inferior and humane things, it is uncerteine, extravagant, and not at all constant to itselfe; and this is the state of every naturall man and woman that comes into the world, who yett have an impression of the law of God upon their hearts, which convinces them of their duty, whose consciences reflecting upon it, and their owne unconformity to it, is a wittnesse for God within them, condemning their transgressions of his righteous law; but this naturall light, though it suffice to shew men their misery, yet it is unable to lead them out of it.
This depravation of nature by Adams sinne, is called originall sinne in respect of Adams transgression, which was the first sin; 2dly, because it is the fountaine of all other particular sins, called in the Scripture lust, and concupiscence, which remains even in the regenerate, so long as they dwell in the body; and is really a sin and burthen, that all the godly have sighd under, and groand to be delivered of it; but is not imputed to those that are in Christ.
This sinne hath in it two evills, 1. want of originall righteousnesse, and through that an aversion to all good, and a want of conformity to the law of God; 2dly, inclination to all evill, which producd into act becomes a transgression and breach of that law. The wages of all sinne is death; and every man, thus knowing the misery of his naturall estate, is led to the knowledge of God, the Redeemer of lost mankind.
For man, by sinne, being a criminall against an infinite Maiesty, and a debtor to infinite Justice, it is not possible that a poore finite creature should ever be able to make satisfaction to the wrath of God, or to reinstall it selfe in his favour. All the power that naturally remains in men is but to entangle themselves more in the snare of the devill.
Therefore God, who is at that vast distance from his creature, that although the reasonable creature owe obedience to him as their Creator, yet can never have fruition of him, as their blessednesse and reward, but by a voluntary condiscention on Gods part, was pleased to doe this by way of covenant, when he promised life to Adam and his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personall obedience, which is calld the covenant of workes, which Adam, not being able to keepe, even in his perfect estate, when he was left to himselfe, the Lord was pleasd of his free grace to enter into a new covenant, called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offers to sinners, life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordeind unto life, his Holy Spiritt, to make them willing and able to believe: and because man was unable to keepe, and uncapable of entering into covenant with God of himselfe, in his fallen estate, therefore the covenant was confirmd in the hand of a powerfull Mediator, Jesus Christ, whom God gave to men to be a second roote of mankind, by whose righteousnesse they are restord to all they lost by the transgression of the first Adam, and confirmed in the favour of God.
As soone as Adam had sinnd, God of his infinite mercy renewd this covenant of grace with him, before he was sentencd for his transgression; for had not mercy stepd in and given Christ for life, before the sentence of death, all mankind had bene as irrecoverably lost as the fallen angells; but the first Gospell was preachd to Adam in Paradice, before the sentence of death was pronouncd; and from that time the covenant of grace, which was allwayes the same for substance, was held out to men under divers administrations in the time of the Law and the Gospell.
In the time of the Law, it was administred by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Paschall Lamb, and other tipes and ordinances deliverd to the people of the Jewes, foreshewing Christ to come, which were sufficient for that time, and efficacious through the working of the Spiritt, to the building up of the elect in the faith of Christ to come, who was the promised Messiah, by whom they had remission of sins and eternall salvation; and the covenant of grace being frequently in Scripture called a Testament, in regard of the death of Christ, and the heavenly inheritance thereby given and bequeathed unto us, the administration of it under the Law is called the Old Testament, as that under the Gospell the New Testament.
This in the time of the Gospell is administred by the preaching of the word, and the seales of baptisme and the supper, with more simplicity and lesse outward glory then was in the legall administration, yet in more fullnesse, evidence, and spirituall efficacie to all nations both Jewes and Gentiles.
The knowledge of God as our Creator, Lord, and Governor in our fallen estate, may affect us with admiration of him; and with dread and terror, when we consider, that none of our secrett sins can be hid from infinite wisedome, and that there is no retreate, nor withstanding of infinite power, which arms to our destruction impartiall iustice; and while we thus only consider God as our offended Judge and Lord, we cannot love and delight in him. Thus considering him, wee may learne our duty; wee may see infinite excellency in him, but that serves but to augment our horror and woe, while we are unreconciled to him, whose love and favour only appears to us in Jesus Christ, in whom his eternall grace and mercy to lost mankind is manifested and magnified; 1st, by Gods eternall purpose to glorifie his mercy in the redemption of a select number of the fallen sons of Adam; 2dly, by choosing and ordeining the Lord Jesus his only Son to be the Mediator betweene God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of his Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world, and the Captaine of salvation; 3dly, by giving his elect people to Christ to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, iustified, sanctified, and glorified; 4th, by Christ coming in the fullnesse of time to accomplish the worke of our redemption; 5thly, by making him a full fountaine of life and grace for every believer; 6thly, by the application of the holy Spiritt, making all that Christ did and sufferd effectuall in us and to us.
Herein appeares the love of the whole Trinity, in this most admirable and wise designe of bringing lost men to glorie and communion with God by Jesus Christ. The Fathers infinite love is manifested in giving his only Sonne out of his bosome to be our ransome and redeemer. The Sons infinite love is manifest in descending into our nature, and humbling himselfe that he might exalt us. The Spiritts infinite love is manifest in sealing and applijng this to our soules. This knowledge of Gods love to us begetts a love of him in us, and an unexpressable ioy in considering him as our Redeemer, where wee behold infinite and eternall wisedome designing our good and our glory, infinite power and goodnesse executing those councells, and all the glorious attributes of God working for our happinesse. Were but our faith herein confirmd, what could wee feare? This is the greate mistery of God, the true knowledge of which leads to eternall life.
To make this more illustrious to us, we are to consider, 1. who our Mediator is; 2dly, what he hath done for us; 3dly, how he is exhibited to us; 4thly, how he is receivd of us; 5thly, how wee are reteind in fellowship with him.
1. Christ Jesus, the eternall word and wisedome of the Father,28 the second in the Trinity, came from the bosome of the Father, and united the devine to the humane nature in an unconceiveable manner, both distinct natures of God and man being ioyned in one person of Christ, without conversion, changing God into man, or man into God, without composition or confusion, each nature remaining distinct in that one person of Christ, who was perfect God and perfect man, yet but one Christ, the only Mediator betweene God and man; and it was necessary that he should be both God and man, because a finite creature could not singly appease the wrath of an infinite God; neither could God be borne, suffer, die, and performe all those acts which were necessary for the Mediatour. This union of the two natures in Christ is called the Hypostaticall union, whereby God is not turned into flesh, but assumes the humane nature into the devine without mixing and confounding them.29 He tooke on him the seed of Abraham; but God was not turned into that seed, for God is immutable, and changes not, neither was that seed made God, for the Scripture sayth, the word was made flesh, not the flesh made God, but God ioyned the devine unto the humane nature, and came and dwelt in us, both natures remaining distinct in the person of Christ, which yet was but one person, and that one person eternall, most simple, and most perfect, and remaining the same for ever; to witt, the person of the Sonne of God, (for it was only the person of the Sonne, not that of the Father or the Spiritt, that tooke humane flesh,) and unto this eternall person there was added in time, not another person, but another nature, not as part of that person by which it was assumed, but a thing farre different from it, and yet assumed into the unity of it; so that the person of Christ now lives, subsists, and workes both in the devine and humane nature, which both reteine their owne distinct, essentiall properties and operations without confusion, the devine nature being still uncreated, infinite, immense, simplie omnipotent, simply wise; the humane nature created, finite, and terminated by certeine bounds. Soe likewise the devine nature hath its proper will and power, by which Christ as God worketh and willeth the things which are of God, and the humane nature hath its owne, by which the same Christ worketh and willeth the things which are of man. Each forme in Christ, with the communion of the other, worketh that which is proper to itselfe; the word still working that which is of the word, and the flesh that which is of the flesh; as for example, to forgive sins is only proper to the devine nature, but to say in articulate terms, thy sins are forgiven thee, was only proper to the humane nature, therefore the hypostaticall union, as it confounded not the natures, soe neither did it confound the actions, but reteind them distinct; yet though there remaine this perfect distinction of the two natures in Christ, such is the force of the hypostaticall union, that in Scripture phraze, what Christ is or doth according to his devine nature, that is all Christ the sonne of man sayd to be or doe; and so what Christ is, doth, or hath sufferd according to his humane nature, that is it usuall to be sayd of the Son of God to be, doe, or suffer.30 It is sayd, God purchased the church with his blood; the force of the purchase pertains to the Godhead, the shedding of blood only to the manhood, yet both these actions are ioynd together in one, and both attributed to the whole person of Christ, although they were and are distinguished. Againe, as the force of the union which is betweene the Father and the Sonne is soe greate, that he doth nothing, neither communicates any good to the world, but by the Sonne; in like manner, so greate is the force of the hypostaticall union of the two natures in Christ, that there flowes unto us no grace, no salvation, no life from the Deitie, but by the humanity apprehended of us by faith, soe that it is alltogether necessary that he be coupled unto the flesh of Christ, whoever will be made partaker of eternall life.31 Lastly, by the force of the hipostaticall union, it is made, that wee cannot worship the deity of Christ without worshipping alsoe his humanity; and that the same worship we give to the one we give alsoe to the other, worshipping the whole person,32 God and man, together; whereas the humane nature, considerd only by itselfe, and in itselfe, neither can nor ought to be worshipped, for God only is to be worshipped, but it is not any union but the hypostaticall union that effects this, for though God dwelleth in his saints, yet are not they to be worshipt and prayd to as the man Christ.
Now, although the deitie remaine distinct in Christ, yet even as man there was given unto him power, vertue, and spiritt, farre surpassing the power and knowledge of all creatures in heaven and earth; as the prophet sayth, The Spiritt of the Lord shall rest upon him,33 the spirit of wisedome and understanding, the spiritt of councell and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the feare of the Lord. The evangelists tell us,34 God gave Job. him not the spiritt by measure; and that he encreased in wisedome and stature and favour with God and man; and that he was full of grace and truth;35 and that in him are hid all the treasures of wisedome and knowledge; and that all guifts are given him of the Father for men, from whom as from our fountaine wee receive them; whence it comes to passe, that as he is man, he knoweth all things, and can doe all things that belong to his office; but for those things which no created substance can doe, those he doth by the power of the Deity, yet not without the consent, and, as it were, supplication of the humanity; insomuch, that to all the actions of Christ, as he is God, concerning our salvation, his soule in some manner is allwayes added by the love, desire, and will thereof; as in all which he did as man, the Godhead allwayes concurrd, even in his death and passion; not that the Godhead could suffer, but that it willed the death and passion of Christ, and gave to his death and passion infinite power and efficacy to expiate our sins.
Christ, thus uniting the two distant natures of God and man in his person, is the only Mediator and Reconciler betweene God and man, the Redeemer of mankind, mans surety, propitiation, &c. which denominations rather are considerable in what he hath done for us. To summe up, then, who he is, we say that he is Theanthropos, God-man, and only he is so, and as such he hath a threefold office, a High Priest, a Prophett, and a King; the exercise of which will be demonstrated in the consideration of what he hath done for us, which is the second concerning him.
2. He enterd into a covenant with God the Father, when man had broken Gods first covenant, and undertooke the redemption of fallen mankind, and the reconcilliation of Gods elect, by doing and suffering for them all that Gods law requird of them; therefore was this covenant of grace more excellent then the former, because it was established in the hands of a Mediator, who, when sacrifice would not appease Gods wrath, came, as David sayth, in his person. Then sayd I, Loe I come, in the volume of the booke is it written of me, to doe thy will, O God.36 God made his soule an offering for sinne, and he gave himselfe a ransome of all; and againe it is sayd, He gave himselfe for us that he may redeeme us from all iniquitie: the foundations of the earth were out of frame, and he bare up the pillars thereof. Having put himselfe in our steed, God gave him for a covenant to the people,37 and gave all the elect to him to be his seed, wherefore it is sayd,38 He shall see of his seed, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He being God, equall with the Father, humbled himselfe to take the nature of man upon him, and to be made man in the womb of the virgin,39 and to be borne in a low and meane condition, to suffer from his birth till his death persecutions, hunger, poverty, reproach, reiection, revilings, and many other outward evills; and led a laborious painfull life in preaching, watchings, temptations, &c.; till att last he was putt to death, and through the Eternall Spiritt offerd himselfe on the crosse to death, to satisfie the Fathers wrath for us, and the iustice due to our sins;40 he bore the burthen of the devine wrath, and was made sin and a curse for us, that he might redeeme us from the curse of the law due to our sinne; he was buried,41 and lay three dayes under the power of death, and rose againe for our iustification,42 triumphing over sin and death, which he vanquished for us, and fullfilled therein the promise, that he, as seed of the woman, should breake the serpents head;43 he instructed his disciples, and sent them forth to preach the Gospell of salvation to all nations,44 and taught them, that they might teach his people all things pertaining to the worship of God; then he ascended to his Fathers glory, to take possession of the heavenly inheritance, which he purchased for all that, beleiving on his name,45 waite for it in holy obedience to his commands; he is gone to prepare a place for us, that where he is wee may be there with him: he received gifts for men, led captivity captive, and ascended upon high, that he might send the Comforter,46 the spirit of truth, to lead his people into all truth, to guide and governe his church, and to dwell in his saints as their greate comforter. He sitteth now at the right hand of the Father, making dayly intercession for us,47 and succouring, as our high Priest, all that are tempted and come to God by him;48 and he shall come againe in the end of the world to receive all his elect into the communion and fellowship of his kingdome, and glory, and to reigne in iudgment till all his enemies be subdued, when he shall recompence his servants,49 and crowne them with glory, honor, and immortallity, that have bene faithfull to him, and shall iudge and condemne all his enemies.
Thus he is made our peace and righteousnesse, being the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world,50 the Lamb slaine from the beginning of the world; all the tipes and sacrifices of the law, shaddowing and leading to him, who was the true and only peace-maker betweene God and man, who gatherd all the elect into one body, and became their head, husband, elder brother, and made them fellow-heires with him, and the righteousnesse of God in him; their sins being his, and his righteousnesse theirs by imputation; he deliverd us from the curse and bondage of the law, and restored that image of God which was lost by the first Adams transgression, renewing his people in the inward man, and making them, after regeneration,51 to beare his image as of a second Adam, and roote of mankind. He became unto us a fountaine of light, and life, and grace, and truth; a store-house of the riches of the wisedome and knowledge of God; a rock of refuge against all the stormes of wrath and missery that wee are liable to; a covering of our shame and nakednesse;52 a living roote, in whom wee grow up to God; a foundation of glorie and blessednesse in which wee are built up a holy building to God;53 a clensing fountaine; a well of life to refresh all our wearinesse; a heavenly food to nourish us to life everlasting; a doore by whom wee have accesse to God;54 a shield that defends us from all the darts of the evill one; a Captain of our salvation to lead us into the heavenly Canaan, the everlasting rest of God. He hath restord to us a right in the whole creation, while the wicked are but usurpers of the good creatures of God. These and many other are the Scripture expressions of the greate things that Christ our Redeemer hath done for us, who not only redeemes the elect of God by price, having shed his pretious blood to make satisfaction to the wrath of God, and to purchase them to himselfe; but alsoe redeemes us by the power of his spiritt, delivering us from the bands of sinne, and hell, and death, which I have here a little confusedly sett downe as the Scriptures came into my mind, which, finding such a vast extent of his love, could not easily contract itselfe into a summary and method of discourse, on a subiect which ought to fill the hearts and tongues of men and angells with perpetuall admiration, and extolling the unspeakeable and unconceivable love of God and Christ to poore lost mankind.
3. I come next to consider how Christ is exhibited to us, and that is by the preaching of the Gospell. The Gospell, in its originall, signifies a glad message; and it is the most blessed message that man could heare, glad tidings of salvation to poore condemned sinners; condemned for a debt and forfeit they could never pay, nor make satisfaction for; not only condemned, but allready arrested and captived in the chaines of Sathan, and cast out of the favour of God, in dayly expectation of the full execution of his fierce wrath, and severe iustice against sin, who is most holy, and cannot behold iniquitie with the least indulgence to it, and who is a consuming fire, that will burne up all the wicked as stubble in the day of his wrath; for these poore sinners, allready, as it were, dead in the apprehension of death and horror of their owne guilty consciences, to heare that a sufficient surety had offered himselfe, and was accepted to pay and cancell all their debt, to die in their steed, and to rescue them from the power of death, and not only soe, but to restore them into the grace and favour of God, soe that they shall never loose it againe, and to marry these poore miserable captives to the eternall Sonne of God, and give them an interest in all his grace, glory, and blessednesse. O what ioyfull tidings is this, how should all hearts be affected with it! This Gospell, even God himselfe was the first promulgator of, and preacht it to Adam in Paradise, in that promise, that the seed of the woman should breake the serpents head, which text hath much more grace and mistery in it, then is generally taken notice of. It was after administerd to the fathers by angells, and then given to the people of the Jewes in tipes and cerimonies, and hiden under legall administrations, which all led to Christ, who is the accomplishment of the whole law, and in whom all the promises are, yea and amen. So that it is truly sayd the law was but a Gospell veyled under darke tipes, cerimonies, and promises; yet the covenant of grace which God renewd with the lost sons of Adam after the fall, being made over to us in Christ, and made with Christ for us, was the same in substance from the beginning till now; and all that were reconcild to God, and brought into his favour and life everlasting thereby, were redeemd by the blood of Christ, the Lamb slaine from the beginning; and faith in the free pardon of God through him was and is the only way of salvation; yet is it true that this mistery was darke under the first administrations, and a more generall faith in the Messias to come led them to rest in the city of God; many kings, patriarchs, and prophetts desiring to see that which wee see, and saw it not. Abraham, says our Lord, desired to see my day; and Job was firme in the faith of it, and so were all the prophetts and patriarchs of old; but the cleare revelation of the mistery was reservd till Christ came in the flesh, when the angells sung for ioy of the revelation of that, which before they desird to peepe into, and all praysed God and Christ, when he came into the world att the fullnesse of time, which the Father had appoynted to glorifie his son, and to give men the salvation he had promisd in him.
This Gospell of salvation by Jesus Christ hath bene given to men under a threefold administration:1. That of angells and visions before the law. 2. That of the law by Moses. 3dly, That of the Apostles and Evangelists whom the Lord chose to be with him, that they might be his wittnesses and dispencers of his Gospell throughout all the world: this last ministration is so farre excelling the former, that it is peculiarly called the preaching of the Gospell, and the time of the Gospell; neither are wee to amuze ourselves with needlesse disputations how the fathers were saved before and under the law, and what knowledge of Christ they had, and what faith was then required in him, but rather to blesse God for the clearer Gospell light that now wee have, and to receive it with ioy and yeild obedience to it as children of light, to whom as the Lord hath given more clearnesse, so he expects more spiritualitie, and more thankfullnesse; yet this is certeine, that the faith of Gods elect from the beginning till now is the same, and all are restord into the favour of God by Christ, whom they lookt upon as he that was to come, and wee believe in, as he that is allready come, to make our peace with God, who is the same to-day, yesterday, and for ever; neither is, nor ever was there any other mediator between God and men but Jesus Christ, who hath in all ages bene the only hope of all Gods elect, and their faith for substance the same with ours, though God hath given us a clearer revelation of the mistery, in the manner of his accomplishing our salvation, therefore they erre who reiect all the Old Testament as a covenant of works, and as of no use to believers in Gospell times; for the veyle being now taken of, and the mistery of the tipes and promises reveald by the accomplishment of them, they all preach Christ most evidently to us, and confirme our faith in the reall benefitts wee have by him, which were hidden of old under those shadowes, but now are made cleare to us, and are of greate use to explaine unto our understandings many passages in the writings of the apostles and evangelists, they being those Scriptures which Christ himselfe sayes testifie of him; and those which Paul calls the Oracles of God, and advises Timothy dilligently to attend to the reading of them, and sayes, that they are profitable for many uses to compleate the man of God, which I should not repeate here, but that I have mett with many professors who hold them forth to be things accomplished and out of date, and not appertaining to us, as there are others who erre as much on the other hand, and would reduce the cerimonies of the Mosaicall law into practise, which is no new error, but that for which the apostle so severely rebukes the Gallatians, but he forbidds not the morall duties of the law, but contrarily presses and urges them as duties of love, whereby faith worketh in every true believer, but not as workes whereby wee are iustified before God, which is a benefitt that wee only receive from his free grace in Christ, in whom all the righteous law of God is confirmd, and by whom it was fullfilld for us, yet not so that wee are freed from all dutie, but made free to dutie; as it is sayd, Thy people shall be a willing people in the day of thy power; and the law of God thus becomes a Gospell rule to us, which not only obliges us, but there is a power added to the precept, whereby Christ enables us to doe that which is requird of us.
Believers are freed from the law as a covenant of workes, as a ministry of bondage, and condemnation as a burthen of cerimonies, as held forth by Moses, and as a peculiar covenant with the Jewes, they are freed from the curse and from the rigor of it; but as it is an everlasting rule of righteousnesse, and declaration of the righteous will of God, they are by Christ made free to it, and brought to delight in it; and it is of manifold use both to bring us to Christ and to regulate our conversation in Christ; for, first, it convinces of sin; I had not knowne sin, sayth the apostle,55 but by the law. 2dly, It shews us our dead estate thereby, and by its threats drives us unto Christ. 3dly, It shews us the good and perfect will of God, and our inabillity to performe it in our owne strength. 4thly, From the sence of our weaknesse and sinfullnesse, it humbles us, and keepes us low in spirit, even after wee have believed.
The preaching of the apostles, which is that that we now call the New Testament, and particularly the Gospell of Jesus Christ, was but an unfolding of the misterie that was in the scriptures of the Old Testament, which mistery Paul summes up to Timothy when he sayeth,56 Without controversie greate is the mistery of godlinesse. God was manifested in the flesh, iustified in the Spiritt, seene of angells, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory; which preaching of Christ is so necessary to the exhibition of him to the faith of men, that the same apostle tells the Galatians, Christ was thereby so evidently sett forth as if he had bene crucified among them; and in another place intimates, that men cannot believe without they heare,57 nor heare without a preacher, nor preach without sending, and therefore brings in that scripture which sayeth, How beautifull are the feete of them that bring glad tidings, that preach the Gospell of peace. Thus Christ is, in the Gospell, held forth to men to be received as their life and salvation; and they that seeke a Christ any where but where God exhibits him, that is, his own authorized word, may find Christ of their owne inventions, but shall never find the Christ of God, the alone Saviour of men.
The Gospell is preached to all, but it is sayd, the word preached did not profitt, because it was not mixd with faith in them that heare it.58 The letter is dead without the Spiritt, and killeth; but the Spiritt quickneth. Christ, att his departure, promised to send his Spirit to his spouse the church, who is the pledge and seale of his love.
This Spirit is the third person in the Trinity,59 called the Spirit of the Father and of the Sonne, the 3d wittnesse in Heaven, and one with the Father and the Son, who applijng the word in the ministration thereof, brings the soule through faith into union with Christ, making it a member of his entire body the Catholique Church, that are united to Christ, and one another, inhabited, acted, and governd by the same spiritt that dwelt in Christ,60 and there sayd to be baptized into one body by one spiritt; and Christ at his departure, promising to send this spiritt, sayth,61 He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you; all things that the Father hath are mine; therefore sayd I, he shall receive of mine, &c.
The second is made dayly in the persons of every one of the elect as yett absent from the presence of the Lord; and this alsoe is effected by the Spiritt,62 for none can enter into the kingdome of Heaven, but such as are borne againe of water and of the Spiritt; and Christ tells us, that as the wind bloweth where it listeth, soe is every one that is borne of the Spiritt, and he that is Christs hath the Spiritt of Christ.63 As the first was made by assumption of our natures into unity with the devine nature, so this is made by the assuming of our persons into grace, and into one misticall body with Christ, whereby wee are brought into a participation of the devine nature, as the apostle Peter teaches us.64
The third and last union is, that which shall be in our owne persons when we shall be personally and perpetually present with the Lord; and unto this blessed end wee are conducted by the Spiritt of the Lord,65 which, being compleated, God shall then be all in all. The first of these is made in order to the second, the second in order to the third, as nature was ordeind to grace, and grace to glory; and by this wee shall all be assumed into glory everlasting with Christ, as by the former unions our natures were assumed into unitie with his and our persons into his grace.
This second union of our persons to Christ, allthough it be spirituall, yet it is alsoe reall; and as the first union was of two natures into one person, so this as wee may say is of many persons into one nature, as the forecited place in Peter confirms, and that scripture which sayth, Wee are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; by this his bodie is our bread, and his blood our drinke, and except wee thus eate it, we have no life in us; and thus eaten, it is in a most unconceivable manner, made not only our food, but our substance.
The greate error of the Papists, among many others, is in holding this union to be made with the flesh of Christ, as really present upon earth by the transubstantiation of the bread, in their masse, into Christs body. Other fanatique people say, this union is with the reall flesh of Christ, abiding in heaven, by that species in the mind, which philosophers call intelligible, as all things intelligible are united with the intellect, which receives them by certeine images, and mentall representations; as I was once advised, by a formall pretender to knowledge, to take in Christ into my thoughts, to prevent wandering in prayer. Neither is this union, as some falsely affirme, imaginary, or only by participation of the gifts and graces of Christ without the communication of the substance of his flesh and blood; but the true manner of this union, and incorporation of us into the body of Christ, is by the Spiritt of Christ really communicated to us, abiding in us, and stirring up faith in our hearts,66 whereby wee embrace and lay hold of Christ, offerd unto us in the Gospell. This union, though it be most reall, is very misticall, and hard to be conceived any way, but by the experimentall feeling of it, which every true Christian hath in some measure, and finds unspeakable benefitts and consolations thereby; the Scripture describes it to us by divers simillitudes, that of the head and body, of the husband and wife, of the vine and branches, the olive and grafts, the foundation and building.67
The Spiritt, bringing us into union with Christ, hath a graduall worke, consisting of two parts:68 1. Cutting of from the old Adam the wild olive-tree, which is a preparation of the soule for Christ by true conviction of and contrition for sinne; being awakened with the terrors of the law, and finding itselfe under the curse thereof, and under the bondage of sinne and Sathan, which it bewailes as its greatest evill. 2. Humilliation, whereby the Spiritt cutts of the soule from all selfe-confidence in any righteousnes it hath, or any good it doth; and especially in this worke makes it to see its want and unworthinesse of Christ, whereupon it submitts to be disposed of at Gods pleasure; whereof wee have an example in Paul,69 who, being truly humbled, counted all his gaine, all his privelledges and excellencies losse and dung, in comparison of Christ; and the prodigall in the Gospel was thus humbled.70
There are many devines who absolutely denie this preparatory worke, and call them legall preachers that presse it: but I find it the generall roade of the most sound preachers, first to convince men they are sinners, and to humble them for their sins, and then to propound Christ as a Redeemer; but they say their message, as ministers of the Gospel, is to preach Christ as a ransome for lost sinners, and that conviction of sinne and humilliation for sinne without faith is but fruitlesse labour; that when Ephraim was converted, he smote upon his thigh; that when Christ is seene to come as a Saviour, then shall the Jewes looke on him whom they have pierced, and be in bitternesse of soule; that the love of Christ constreineth us thus to iudge, that if one died for all, then were all dead, and that till wee have life wee cannot know that wee were dead, and that therefore faith is the first act of life immediately wrought by the power of the Spiritt, without legall and preparatory convictions and humilliations: they say further, that love alone kindly melts the heart, and a sight of Gods love in Christ is that which begetts kindly and evangelicall mournings. To all which I should consent, if the Scripture did not make it manifest that Christ and his apostles usd the other method, and experience confirme us, that those Christians, who are brought into Christ, upon the deepest sence of their want of him, and misery without him, walke in the most close communion with him. Our Lord himselfe tells us, tis only the sick that have need of the phisitian, and that he came to call sinners to repentance. Till the prodigall could not gett husks with the swine, he thought not of his fathers house. The woman of Samaria was made sensible of her adultery before she believd in the Messiah. The 3000 were pricked at heart for their murder of Christ before they closd with him; and the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, having propounded the righteousnesse of faith or Christ, righteousnesse imputed to us and receivd by faith, takes up allmost three entire chapters to convince all men that they were sinners by nature, and had no good in them, and were liable to the severe wrath of God, while they remaine in a state of sinne: he that feeles noe smart of his wound seekes not for balme to heale it; then is health sweetest to us, when it restores us out of sad languishment and torture: he that is asleepe complains not of darknesse, but he that wakes in the dungeon greetes the light with more exceeding ioy. Sence of misery, without Christ, endears our love to him, and enlarges our thankfullnesse to the Father for him, and augments our ioy in the Holy Ghost, in the sweete fruition of him. It is true that there is difference betweene these preparatory convictions and humilliations that are71 before faith, and those continued loathings of sinne, and humblings that flow from faith; the first are more full of terror, woe, and horror; these more full of meltings and love, mixed with comfort, and sweete reioycings in the Lord: but I confesse I cannot see how Christ can be apprehended by faith as a Saviour, except there be a sence of sinne and death, its iust demeritt, from which wee are saved. Then all the Gospell promises are made to sinners, to lost sinners, to hungring and thirsting sinners, to those that are wounded, weary, and heavie laden, which they cannot be, till they be made sensible of sinne. Neither is this any way derogatory to the free grace of God, for the same Spirit that drawes and unites us to Christ by faith, works in us a sight and sence of sinne and the need wee have of Christ.
The reprobates, as well as the elect, have convictions and humilliations for sinne, which are not easily distinguishable from each other, and therefore are called common workes of the Spiritt; but there is a different manner of working in the one and the other: those of the reprobates rather dreading the consequences of the sinne then the sinne itselfe, and working a desire of happinesse, rest, and ease, rather then of God himselfe; this either enclines to despaire, or seekes cure in itselfe, rather then comes into Christ for it: but the elect apprehend the losse of the enioyment of God, more then all other tortures. The manner of the worke of regeneration, though the worke be the same, is different allmost in every child that is borne to God; as in the naturall birth some have longer, some more paynfull pangs, some more desperate hazards and faintings, so according to the severall naturall constitutions, and other circumstances of various persons, and the force of the Spiritt wounding the soule more deepely or more indulgently, some immediately close with Christ, some lie many dayes, months, and yeares under cruell agonies of spiritt, and are brought allmost to the gates of hell before Christ snatch them out of the power of death; some have more powerfull struglings, and some more silent, though not lesse sanctified reflections; but all are made sensible of sinne, as their greatest evill, and of their undone and lost condition thereby, and brought to see a need of a Redeemer, and thus cutt of from their wild stock, the first Adam.
Then the Spiritt proceeds to its next worke, which is grafting them into Christ the second Adam, by effectuall vocation, which hath in it two parts,the Lords call and invitation and command to accept of Christ, offerd in the Gospel!; and the soules receiving of Christ, or coming to Christ, or embracing the mercy of God in Christ, which is faith.
There are various opinions of men concerning faith, some putting one act of faith for the whole worke, and some describing it one way, some another, according to their various apprehensions and experiences. The Papists and some common Protestants make it a generall assent to the truthes of God, without a particular application; other Christians make it an assent of the understanding, and a consent of the will upon rationall perswasion without a supernaturall worke. But to leave the fancies of men, the Scripture tells us that faith is a supernaturall worke of Gods Spiritt, whereby wee acknowledge the being and truth of God, and accept of the Lord Jesus offerd unto us in the Gospell upon his owne termes, yeilding ourselves up to him to be guided, governed, and disposed by him.
It is the hand of the soule which receives Christ offerd in the Gospell by the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, by which it is wrought in us, and given to us. Its common office is to subscribe to all the truths of God revealed in the word, upon the devine authority thereof. Its proper office is to regard the will of God in Christ, as alsoe the mercies of God, and the promises of grace, in the certeinty of which the Holy Spiritt illuminates our minds, and confirms our hearts, all which is summd up in this short thesis:
That faith is a firme and certeine knowledge of the good will of God towards us, which, founded upon the promise of free grace in Christ, is revealed to our understandings, and seald in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Our assembly of devines give the same description of it in substance; they say, it is a worke of the Spiritt of Christ, wrought by the ministry of the word, whereby a Christian believeth to be true, whatsoever God hath revealed in his word, for the authority of God himselfe speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage contejneth; yeilding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threats, embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come. But the principall act of saving faith is receiving and resting upon Christ alone for iustification, sanctification, and eternall life, by vertue of the covenant of grace.
I find this grace of faith more briefely describd by a sound devine, who says it is the coming of the whole soule out of itselfe into Christ for Christ, by vertue of the unresistable power of the Spiritt in the call.
The coming of the whole soule in this definition brings to my mind a passage in the Canticles, where it is sayd, My beloved is mine, and I am his. The act of the understanding in saving faith is to apprehend Christ and all his benefitts, and thus the soule takes in Christ into itselfe, and so may say, My beloved is mine. The act of the will is to carry the soule out in love and obedience to Christ, and in respect of that the soule sayes, I am his.
It (to witt, the Gospell) is the power of God to salvation to every one that believesFor therein is the righteousnesse of God revealed from faith to faith, according as it is written, the iust shall live by faith, Rom. i. 16, 17. This last clause is taken in a double sence; the first and common acceptation of it agreeing with other scriptures, that the life of the saints here is a life of faith, and not of sence, and is carried on from one degree of faith to another, believing that which wee see not, and waiting and hoping for that which wee believe.
The other sence is, that the iust by faith shall live, that is, that those who by faith have embraced the righteousnesse of Christ to be iustified, thereby shall live or receive the promise of life in Christ; which sence is alsoe true, and the place may import both.
All have sinned and come short of the glorie of God, being iustified freely of his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousnesse for the remission of sinns that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, att this time his righteousnesse, that he might be iust, and the iustifier of him that believeth in JesusWhere is boasting then? it is excluded. By what law? of workes? nay, but by the law of faith. Therefore wee conclude that a man is iustified by faith, without the deeds of the law. Rom. iii. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.
To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that iustifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousnesse. Rom. iv. 5. All the rest is worthy consideration; and in the 23. verse he thus concludes, having propounded Abrahams faith as the example of ours:It was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us alsoe, to whom it shall be imputed if wee believe on him thatt raysed up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was deliverd for our offences, and was raysed again for our iustification. Therefore, being iustified by faith, wee have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, &c. Rom. v. 1. Here is Christ the obiect of our faith,faith, the hand that embraces the free grace of God in him, and peace with God; and the following benefitts, as the fruites of faith and life eternall, in the last verse of this chapter, the end of our faith; whereof another scripture tells us, Christ is both the author and the finisher, Heb. xii.The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith which wee preach, (and he addeth after, Faith cometh by hearing.) That if thou shalt confesse with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raysed him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousnesse, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; for the Scripture sayth, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him, for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Rom. x. 8. to the 14th, and 17. And speaking of the Jewes, under the similitude of a tree and branches, he sayth, Because of unbeliefe they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but feare; not that we can finally fall from true faith, for he sayth after, The guifts and calling of God are without repentance. Rom. xi. 20. 29.
To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were borne not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John, i. 12, 13.
This scripture confirmes, that faith is the first act of the new creature. As Moses lift up the serpent, &c. That whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have life everlasting. For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Sonne, that whosoever, &c. John, iii. 14. to the 19th.
He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death to life. John, v. 24. No man can come unto me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him, and I will rayse him up att the last day. John, vi. 44. This whole chapter, from the 27th to the end, is very usefull to clearing up the doctrine of faith as to the receiving and taking hold of Christ. Read alsoe the xii. from the 38. verse to the end.
Behold I lay in Sion a corner-stone, elect, pretious, and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 1 Pet. ii. 6. To him give all the Prophetts witnesse, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts, x. 43. As many as were ordeined to eternall life believed. Acts, xiii. 48. By faith yee stand. 2 Cor. i. 24. Take heed, brethren, least there be in any of you an evill heart of unbeliefe in departing from the living GodFor wee are made partakers of Christ, if wee hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end. They could not enter into the rest of God through unbeliefe. Let us therefore feare least a promise being left unto us, of entring into his rest, any of you should seeme to come short of it, &c. Heb. iii. 12. 14. 19. and xiii. 1. to the end.
Having therefore, brethren, boldnesse to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the vaile, that is to say, his flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw neere with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evill conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, without wavering, for he is faithfull that promised: and let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good workes: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. Heb. x. 19. to the 24.; the end of this chapter, all the next, and the beginning of the xiith, are very pertinent to this subiect, and this is a most full, most comfortable, and most instructive text, if there were roome to open it. The next chapter begins with a description of faith, after this had prest it, and shewed the fearefull sin and danger of unbeliefe, telling us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seene; that this grace gave a good report to the elders, who thereby obteined testimony that they pleased God, and that without faith it is unpossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seeke him. There are many more scriptures I might adde, concerning the nature and operation of faith, but I shall not leave roome for other things.
The obiect of faith more generally is all the revealed truths of God; but such a generall faith is not a saving faith, therefore the speciall obiect of saving faith is Jesus Christ, and all his benefitts held forth to us in the Gospell of salvation. And whereas I sayd before, that conviction of sin and humilliation for sin were preparatives to faith, I like not that terme so well as to say, they are of the first actings of faith; but indeed there is an act of faith before the conviction of sinne, which is a conviction or rather a knowledge of God, and his holy attributes, his workes, and his law; for sin cannot be considered but as the breach of the righteous law of a most Soveraigne Maiesty; therefore, in the beginning of the xith of the Hebrewes, the knowledge of the creation is made an act of faith, and though that and the fore-named knowledge may be, as it is in devills and reprobates, meerely notionall without saving faith, which hath for its proper obiect Jesus Christ, yet the faith of Jesus Christ takes into it all other necessary knowledge, and even those which are called common operations and illuminations of the Spiritt; though it be the same for the subiect-matter whereon they are exercisd, yet the manner of operation is different, though not discernable to others, as it is to saints that are able to make reflections upon their beliefe of the other truths of God, before and after their illumination in the greate truth, when they have embracd that light with the love of it.
He that receives Christ by a true saving faith, receives whole Christ in all his offices, and as well submitts to him as a king, as embraces him as a Saviour; is as willing to receive and obey his law, as to accept life and pardon by him; and as it receivs Christ wholly, soe it receives him only, and admitts no partners in his mediatorship, as the Papists would have the virgins and saints; nor in his meritt, as many would have mens owne workes; nor in his powerfull redemption, as many believe their owne wills to be. It is true, he workes not upon us by his Spiritt as brutes and stones, but as rationall creatures, and makes us a willing people in the day of his power, who did before willfully resist and reiect him; he by his allmighty power and goodnesse changes, but forces not the will.
The operations of faith are by love, which hath two branches, the one to God, the other to our neighbour; and without these workes of love, faith is but a dead faith.72 The apostle tells us, that faith purifies the heart, and that he that provides not according to his duty for his famely, hath denied the faith; againe, that true faith is impartiall and respects not persons: but these duties come into consideration rather among the practicall then doctrinall principles of religion.
The union betweene the soule and Christ being made by the effectuall call of the Spiritt, answerd with the obedience of faith; from this union flowes a communion that the soule hath of all the benefitts of Christ applied by the same Spiritt.
These benefitts are, first, Justification, whereby for the satisfaction of Christ, apprehended by faith, a sinner, by the free grace of God, is absolved from the guilt and condemnation of all sin, and accepted as righteous by the imputation of Christs righteousnesse, who was made a curse for us, that wee might be made the righteousnesse of God in him. Christ is made of God unto us wisdome, righteousnesse, &c.
The third benefitt is Adoption, whereby the Lord, of his free grace, accepts believers into the number of his sons, and crowns them with the privelledges of sons,74 and sends the Spiritt of Adoption to seale and confirme them in his grace, the same Spiritt that is in his only begotten Sonne.
The fourth benefitt is Sanctification, whereby the sons of God are renewd in the whole man, according to the image of their heavenly Father in Jesus Christ,75 by the dayly mortification of sinne, through the power and vertue of Christs death, and quickning of grace by the power of his resurrection.76
This grace of sanctification is, throughout, in the whole man, through the vertue of Christs death and resurrection, by his word and spiritt, dwelling in the saints;77 the dominion of the whole body of sinne is destroyd, and the lusts thereof dayly more and more mortified, and graces encreased: but the body is not fully redeemed from all bondage in this life, but there is a perpetuall combate betweene the flesh and the spiritt; yet though remaining corruption sometimes prevaile, through the continuall supplie of grace from Christ by his spiritt sinne shall in the end be totally vanquished, and Sathan trampled under our feete,78 and the regenerate part shall overcome, and the saints shall perfect holinesse in the feare of the Lord.
A fift benefitt is Glorification, begun here in the lively expectation of it,79 from the assurance and shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts, working ioy unspeakable: into this glory believers actually enter at their deaths, and take possession of the inheritance of the saints in glory, which was before made over to them in Christ, but the full compleating of their glory is reservd till the reunion of their soules and bodies in the resurrection, when they shall be acquitted by Christ in the day of generall iudgement, and shall be rewarded, through his free grace, with glory, immortallity, and eternall life, and be made partakers of the triumphs of their Lord, and taken up into an everlasting communion with God, and participation of his glory.
Other privelledges to believers purchased by Christ are included in these, and flow from them,as peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, accesse to God, and audience of prayer, Christian liberty, and perseverance to the end.
Concerning the order of these graces of iustification, and sanctification, which precedes the other, there is greate dispute; and many other needlesse questions are argued with fierce contention; but this is a certeine truth, that they are soe inseperable, that neither can be without the other. No uniustified person is sanctified, nor no unsanctified person is actually iustified, whatever the Antinomians assert to the contrary; neither are iustification and sanctification the same thing, although they be wrought together at once by the same Spirit; for iustification is perfect and compleate, being by faith receivd and given us in Christ; but sanctification, being derivd from Christ to us, and wrought in our soules, is perfected in the body by degrees; admitts of growth and remissions and intentions; whereas a sinner once iustified can never fall againe under the condemnation and wrath of God, though he may be and is displeasd with their sins, and corrects them for sinne, but not in anger but in mercy, having accepted the satisfaction Christ hath made for their forfeits. And they that preach, a person, once iustified, may through sinne be againe reducd into an uniustified estate, preach false and uncomfortable doctrine; neither doth this truth give any encouragement to sin, for those that are iustified and regenerate persons doe so perfectly hate sinne, that the surprize of it is their punishment, and the remorce of sinne itselfe a greater afliction to them then any the worst consequence it drawes along with it.
5. The 5th and last consideration is, how wee are reteind in fellowship with Christ, which is done by the power of the same Spiritt, by which wee are gatherd into union with him; and faith, as it is the hand which receives and embraces Christ in the Gospell, so doth it receive grace and supplie of strength from Christ to live conformable to that mercy. Faith is the first act of life and the continued act of life; and according as faith is firme or languishing, so is our spirituall life and health; which makes the apostle, speaking of the Gospel, that it is the power of God to salvation, give us the reason, Because therein the righteousnesse of God is revealed unto us from faith to faith, according as it is written, The iust shall live by faith.80 And in another place he sayth, I am crucified with Christ, neverthelesse I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh is by the faith of the Sonne of God,81 who loved me and gave himselfe for me. The first act of faith is cleaving to God, the continued act of faith is living on God and his gratious promises, which receivd by faith begett in the soule a love of God, that growes as faith growes, and indeed is borne as a twinne, together with it, which is exprest in that scripture, that mentions the embracing of the truth in the love of it. Love is the exercise of faith, the life of faith, the vitall heate of a true believer, and the infallible mark of a sound faith, which, when it apprehends the love of God to us, is drawne forth into a reciprocall love of God, who, as the beloved desciple tells us, is love,82 and that he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
As faith apprehends God to be the cheifest good, and not only so in himselfe, but our soveraigne and only felicity, wee cannot so believe, but our soules must love him above all, and long after him, and seeke their supreame ioy in the fruition of him, which since wee can no way arrive to but by Christ, hence he becomes the chiefest of 10,000 to our poore soules, exceeding pretious, and excellent, and admirable, farre above all that the tongue of men and angells can expresse him.
1. None truely love God but those who love God only; they that lett anie creature share their heart with God, deceive themselves and give God none of it. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soule, with all thy strength, and him only shalt thou serve. No man can serve two masters; yee cannot serve God and Mammon.
2. As God is to be lovd only, so he is to be lovd constantly, as well when he strikes, as when he stroakes; as well when he takes, as when he gives. Whom Christ lovd he lovd to the end, and they that love Christ love him to the end; he that can fall of from the love of God never had the true love of God abiding in him nor on him. A believers sence of Gods love to him under some grievous temptations, aflictions, or desertions, may be eclipsd, but even then his love to God will not be diminished.
3. He that truely loves God, loves him for himselfe more then for the good he expects from him, and can reioyce in God alone, when all things are taken from him, and nothing left him but a naked Christ, saying with David,83 Thou shalt make my heart more ioyfull then when their corne and oyle increased.
6. The love of God makes true believers to love all his ordinances, to love his word, and the messengers of itHow beautifull are the feete of them that bring glad tidings of peace! To love all his children for their Fathers sake. My delight, says the royal prophet, all my delight is in the saints that are on the earth. To love and admire his excellent law, wherein the godly meditate day and night. To love prayer, which brings us into familliar communion with God. To love the greate assembly where his Name is celebrated. To love the time which brings in his worship, &c.
7. Further, the love of God makes a true believer to love all his dispensations, even his chastisements, so farre as they are destructive to that sinne which hath procurd them. It is good for me, sayes the holy man, that I was aflicted.
9. The love of God makes true believers to hate all things that are contrary to his holinesse, even in themselves and their most beloved relations. Doe not I hate, sayes David, the workers of iniquitie? I hate them with a perfect hatred. Yet saints hate them thus, but as workers of iniquity; as men and creatures of God, they love them so as to desire and endeavour their conversion, but they hate their sins, and those most that prevaile in their owne hearts, and the hearts of those that are dearest to them. He that loves sin and sinners, as such, cannot love God, whose nature is all holinesse.
10. He that truly loves God delights to meditate of him, and to discourse of him, and to heare the mention of his name, and is weary of that conversation, where God is seldome, slightly, or never rememberd. Doe wee not see that even in creature loves, whatever the heart is sett on, men take all occasions to admire it, to consult how to attaine the enioyment of it, and delight to heare the obiect of their loves praysd and comended by others, love those that love it, and hate those that hate it, and use all endeavours to make others admire and love what they doe; and are wee not ashamd to pretend to the love of God, when a little discourse of him is tedious to us, when those that hate the mention of him, whose mouths are full of lies and vanity, whose hearts are full of the world, and whose conversations savour nothing of God, are our beloved and delightfull companions? This is a sore evill, and deserves a deepe consideration and reflection; even the saints themselves, in their conferences of God at this day, are rather fortifijng each other in particular opinions that they affect, then magnifijng the name of God for his excellency and his wonder, manifested to the sons of men in his greate workes of creation, providence, redemption, sanctification. Who declares to each other the goodnesse of God dayly exercised to their soules, and calls on their friends and neighbours to blesse the Lord with them and for them? Ah, wee live in such a world, that a true lover of God cannot doe it, without casting pearles before swine, that would turne and rent them; and therefore are faine allmost, in all companie to keepe silence, or elce have their hearts disturbd from the contemplation of the deare obiect of their soules, and led astray in the willdernesse of the world.
The love of God makes a believer mourne for sinne more then the dread of hell could doe, and makes him more carefull to please God for pure love, then he could be for the hopes of the most pleasant reward; for indeed God, Christ, and the Holy Spiritt are the only ioy, delight, hope, desire, and reward of a true lover of God.
The characters and notes of the true love of God might be enlargd into much more particularity, because love is an ingredient in all the service of God, and that which renders every grace and every performance amiable and acceptable, of which no tongue nor pen can ever say so much as will reach the full extent of this sweete grace; but to contract myselfe in some bounds, I shall commend to you the first Epistle of John, where I find all the operations of the love of God reducd into, 1. The renouncing of the love of the world, and the diabolical life of sinne; 2. The confession and faith of Jesus Christ; 3. The observation of Gods commandements; 4. The love of the brethren.
Another scripture tells us, that love is the fullfilling of the whole law of God. Love is the royall law of Jesus Christ, and Christ summes up the whole law into love, which hath two branches, one ascending and growing upwards to God, and the other extending to all the brethren. By the exercise of love, wee are kept in communion with the Father and the Sonne, through the operation of the Spiritt, which kindles and keepes allive this holy fire in our hearts, wherewith wee offer up ourselves and all our services to God.
As what I have written hitherto may lead you into the principles of sound and true doctrine, though weakely, and in some places confusedly exprest, as a direction for your faith in God, gatherd from the prescript of his holy word; soe as the Lord shall enable me, I shall endeavour, out of the same rule, to trace you some practicall principles. To know all the truths and misteries of godlinesse, without living in and according to that knowledge, will be lesse excusable then ignorance. To practise without a principle is labour lost, although it be a greate error among believers att this day, that all rather strive to make proselites to their severall wayes and formes, then true converts to God, and desciples of Jesus Christ. I know my abillities for instruction are the meanest of many thousands, having myselfe bene a trifling schollar, that have playd away many blessed oppertunities, wherein I might have made myselfe more able to teach. I know there are many sound and holy bookes I might commend to you, which have collected these instructions more methodically then I can. I know you may say you can read the word, and make collections thence yourselfe, as well as I; but when you doe, you will find it my duty to exhort and admonish you according to the talent entrusted with me, and to watch over your soule, though you are now under anothers authoritie; and you can never be so freed from the obligation God and nature hath engagd you in, but that it is your duty to heare and receive my instruction, and obey it so farre as it is correspondent to the commands of God: it is the councell of the wisest King, not to despise the instruction of a mother; and it was his practise, too, to record, notwithstanding his owne exterordinary inspired wisedome, his mothers holy instructions. The sence of my owne duty carries me on in this worke, against all discouragements from myselfe or otherwise, to give you my light in Christian practise, as well as in the doctrine of the faith of God in Jesus Christ. I have before, in declaring God and Christ, and what he hath done for us, and how wee are brought into the participation of his grace and glory, made digressions and enlargement, and perhaps anticipated and misplacd some things, which may come to be repeated in this second part; but good things are to be taken wherever they are found, and flesh is so pregnant, even in the best, that it may endure two blowes to keepe it downe. To passe over apollogies, while I write not for the presse, to boast my owne weaknesses to the world, but to imprint on your hart the characters I have receivd of God; I shall goe on, only reduce my digressions into a summe of what you have before, which is,
That the true wisedome and felicitie of man consists in the knowledge of God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, which we could not perfectly arrive to, but by the reflection of ourselves in our created, lapsed, and restored estate. This restoration being effected by the mediator Christ, I propounded 5 things to be considered of him, 1. Who he is; viz. the eternall Son of God, uniting our humane to his devine nature, and being so, God-man, two distinct natures in one person, reconciling the fallen nature of man to the pure nature of God, and marijng them together in his person. 2. What he hath done for us, viz. that he died to satisfie the wrath of God due to our transgression, and rose againe for our iustification; and, ascending up to his Fathers glory, hath taken possession of the heavenly inheritance for us, and received guifts for men, which he gives us by his Holy Spiritt, being made our High Priest, who, by once offering up of himselfe for us, hath for ever perfected those that come to God by him: and our Prophett, who hath declard unto us the whole will of the Father, and by his continuall intercession obteins all pardon, and all grace, and all good things for us, and who by his Spiritt teaches us and leads us into all truth; and our King, who hath vanquisht for us the powers of hell, and Sathan, and death, and sin, that wee should not remaine under their dominion, but become his servants and faithfull subiects, and live under his protection, sharing his reigne and glory. 3. How he is exhibited to us, viz. by the preaching of the Gospell, and the Spiritt mooving therein. 4. How he is receivd of us, viz. by faith, which the Spiritt workes in our hearts, whereby wee receive Christ offerd unto us in the Gospell, and are made one with him. The last consideration is, how wee are reteind in his fellowship, which I have in generall sayd to be by the same Spiritt working love in our hearts, and keeping us in the exercise of all the duties of it to God and man.
To love him with all our minds, includes the duty of studijng the knowledge of him, and of his excellency. The knowledge of God is the most excellent knowledge, is the true light, without which the wisest men in the world are in darknesse. Acquaint thyselfe now with God, sayth the Scripture, and be at peace. None are enemies to God but those that are strangers to him; those that know him see such excellency in him they cannot but admire and love him, and loath themselves and all things elce in comparison of him. This knowledge is not only light but life, as well as peace; and it implies not only a notion of his nature and attributes, but an acknowledgment of the holinesse and excellency of them. This knowledge of God makes us subscribe to the equitie and goodnesse of his will in all his commands and dispensations.
3dly. Desire of enioying him only, which is called in Scripture hungring and thirsting after God; seeking of God: My soule, sayth David, panteth and thirsteth after thee, as the hart doth after the water-brookes. When shall I appeare before the living God?
1st. Zeale for his glory, preferring it before our owne, all our owne and all others interests, laying out our lives, estates, powers, time, and all wee are and have for God; serving him with all our intention. Cursed be he, sayth the Prophett, that doth the worke of the Lord negligently. A fearefull iudgment came upon Eli, and his house, because he honored his children before God. This made Moses, the mildest of men, sheath his sword in his brethrens bowells. This made Christ drive out the buyers and sellers out of the Temple with whips, fullfilling that prophecy, where it is sayd, The zeale of thy house hath eaten me up. Zeale is a fervency in the love of God, and a holy fiercenesse in his service, which makes us angrie with every thing, even our dearest relations, if Gods interest be preiudicd, or his name dishonord by them; but there is many times a greate mistake in this vertue, when it is not guided by knowledge, as it was in the Jewes, and hath bene in others the cause of grievous miscarriages.
2dly. Constancy. Some seeme to be very zealous for a time, as Jehu; but when God ceases to succeed their endeavours, or crownes them with unhopd prosperity, their zeale cools; in time of persecution they fall away; in time of outward plenty they forgett God; therefore the apostle bids us not be weary of well-doing, and exhorts us not to faint under our trialls, and to persevere to the end. God sayes, If any man draw back, my soule shall have no pleasure in him. An example of this unconstancy in the service and trust of God, wee have in the Izraelites, and the sad effects of it in their fall. In the willdernesse, how often did they professe to chuse the Lord alone for their God, and to be obedient to him; and how often did they backslide and fall away from him. Some at their first conversion are very zealous, and circumspect, and eager upon all holy performances, and in a little time after grow coole and carelesse of all dutie, whence Christ councells one of the Asian churches to remember from whence she was fallen, and to renew her first love, and doe her first workes; and the apostle councells us not to quench the Spiritt, and tells us none are crownd but those that hold on to the end.
A third duty under this branch of love is devotion, which is spirituall heate, and fervency in all the worship of God, an assiduity of prayer, and a greate intention in the duty, a frequency in meditation, a delighted waiting on the ordinances of God; this is a heavenly grace, and indeed that which putts a lustre upon all other graces.
A fourth duty is a deepe and thankfull sence of Gods love and goodnesse to poore lost sinners, and particularly to our owne soules, which drawes forth all our affections to him with an unexpressible force.
I have here given you my apprehensions of the sence of this text, which includes our whole duty to God, where I take the mind to meane the understanding, which assents to all the revealed truths and excellencies of God. The heart hath reference to the will, which loves, chooses, delights in, and persues the enioyment of that soveraigne good and beatitude, which the mind sees, believes, admires, and adores in God. By the soule is commonly understood all the affections, as ioy, delight, feare, desire, &c. which make God their sole and cheife obiect. By strength, is meant the fervent acting of all these powers and faculties of the inward man towards their beloved obiect.
But to reduce my discourse to some method, our communion with God is upheld in our worship of him, and the end of our worshipping of him is, first, to render him that honor and glory that is due to him as our Creator, Lord, Governor, Redeemer, and Benefactor, which is the end of our creation, and of all Gods mercifull and gratious bounties towards us, conferrd upon us for his owne glory; and in the second place, that wee might be blessed and happie in the communion of our God, who is in himselfe the supreame good, and the originall spring of the felicity of all his creatures.
This worship of God is internall and externall, particular, more private and publick and universall. To speake properly, the whole worship of God is internall and spirituall, for without that all externall and bodily worship is but mock-service; but as God made the hands, eies, tongue, knees, &c. as well as the heart and soule, so he is to be worshipt with our bodies as well as our soules; still reteining this, that outward and bodily reverence and service, without inward affection and intention of spiritt, is not worship of God, but vile hipocrisie, of which God complains; This people, sayth he, draw nigh unto me with their lips, but their heart is farre from me. God (says our Lord) is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spiritt and in truth. On the other side, they that pretend to worship God in spiritt, and ioyne not their bodies at due times in the duty, are but halfe worshippers of God, and consider not the examples of all the holy worshippers of God in former and later times, and the word of God, which requires it of us, and even nature itselfe, which inspires reverent behaviour in the eies of so pure a Maiesty. O come, says David, lett us fall downe before the Lord our Maker. Abraham, Esay, Daniell fell on their faces. Jacob, when old and bed-rid, bowed and worshiped on his bed. In his name, sayth the apostle, every knee shall bow; and againe in another place, For this I bow my knee; the brethren knelt on the shore and prayd. Christ himselfe in his agonie fell on his face and prayed. There are other reverent gestures of lifting up the hands and eies in prayer; and David often stirres up himselfe to prayse God with tongue and hands. Awake, lute and harpe; awake, my glory; I myselfe will awake. Againe, there is a mentall worship of God, which is acceptable and favourably regarded, more then all the pompous outward services in the world; this is that continuall prayer which true Christians offer up in all they doe, while their soules, even in all manner of actions, are continually attending on the Lord; these are the groanes and sighs of the spiritt, which are, on all occasions, eiaculated to God. But to proceed, the inward worship of God consists of two parts
Cleaving to God includes faith, whereby wee not only rest upon God for the forgivenesse of our sins, and salvation of our soules, but alsoe for the supplie of all things perteining both to this life and that which is to come; which firme beliefe of his goodnesse, power, and truth, produces hope, that is, a ioyfull expectation of the promise; and these enforce the flame of holy love into strong aspirings towards God, and longings after a blessed communion with him. These desires are the wings of the soule, whereby it mounts upwards in the cleare light of God.
Selfe-abasement or selfe-deniall is soe greate a requisite to the whole worship of God, that it will not be improper here to speake something of it. Christ sayes, He that will be my desciple must denie himselfe, and take up his crosse and follow me; if there be a difference betweene this grace and humillity, I cannot say which is the parent of the other, for the sence of our owne vilenesse and nothingnesse produces an humble submission to our Allmighty Soveraigne; and againe, an humble frame of spiritt makes us easily denie ourselves in aniething wherein it is requird of us; but although there might be some criticall difference betweene them, they are both graces so much of one nature and kind, that I shall promiscuously speake of them in this place. How acceptable a frame of spiritt this is, Christ teaches us in the parable of the Pharisee and the poore selfe-denijng Publicane; and againe, in the penitent returning prodigall, conformable to which the apostle tells us,86 that God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble; and the prophett, speaking of the maiesty of God residing in the highest heavens, sayes, he alsoe dwells with the humble;87 and David sayth, he hath respect unto such.
This grace of selfe-deniall must be universall; there are some that can easily denie themselves in some things, but in others againe they contend for their owne lusts, wills, and interests; but that partiall selfe-deniall is an abomination to the Lord; he must have the whole heart in every grace, or elce he will have none, therefore wee must denie ourselves.
First. In our esteeme of ourselves: thus Abraham acknowledged himselfe to be but dust and ashes.88 Jacob sayes, he was lesse then the least of all Gods mercies; Job, att the sight of God, abhorrs himselfe;89 David calls himselfe a worme, and no man;90 Esay cries out, of his impurity, in the presence of God.91 Therefore, Christ says, he that will be greate among his disciples must become as a little child; and the apostle tells us, that to be wise to God wee must become fooles; and there is greate reason for us to be abased in our esteemes of ourselves, if wee make but reflections on ourselves both in Scripture and experience.92 Lord, sayth David, what is man that thou art mindfull of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him!93 Man is like to vanity, his dayes are as a shadow that passes away. Surely every man living, in his best estate, is alltogether vanity. Men of low degree are vanity; men of high degree are a lie: to be layd in the ballance they are altogether lighter then vanity. Our dwelling is in houses of clay, being crusht before the moth;94 for when God with rebukes chastens men for sinne, his beauty consumeth away as a garment eaten with the moth. Man that is borne of a woman95 (sayth holy Job) is of few dayes and full of trouble: he cometh forth like a flower, and is cut downe: he flies alsoe as a shadow, and continueth not: he is carried away like swift streames;96 vanishes like sleepe in the morning; is like grasse that growes up and flourishes in the morning, in the evening is cut downe and withered:97 his life passing away as a tale that is told, and as a hasty flijng post:98 a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away. Man is borne to trouble as the sparks flie upward, hath no certeinty of one moment; when the worldling blesses himselfe with his large heapes, it is sayd, Thou foole, this night shall thy soule (thy soule, to which thou didst promise ioyes for so long time) be taken from thee:99 he comes into the world poore, naked, helplesse, and bewailing his owne wrtechednesse;100 of all he finds and gathers here, he carries nothing with him: none of his purposes can stand before the Lord, who befooles the wisedome of the wise, and turns their councells into madnesse, and derides all their vaine imaginations:101 all his industry cannot make one haire white or black, nor adde one cubitt to his stature; nor can his power cast one sparrow to the ground without the permissive providence of God: all his wealth, all his guards, all his wisedome, all his elloquence, cannot buy one moment of life, nor keepe out prevailing death, nor evade the lott appoynted him, nor charme the least payne. While Herod is admird as a God, wormes eate him up allive: while Nebuchadnezzar glories in his stately pallace, his reason is taken from him, and he is sent to graze with the wild beasts: while the foolish builders of Babilon carry on their designe to prevent Gods vengeance, they are scatterd and sent away, bewailing their folly in confounded language. What is there, then, in man, for which man should have such high thoughts of himselfe before the Lord? If he have wisedome, or vertue, or goodnesse, or beauty, or the like, are they not all given him of God? Doth he not hold his life, and all he hath, upon Gods absolute free grace? May not a quick disease turne the most naming beauty that ever shind in a mortall face, into ashes in a moment; the greatest strength that ever made vaine man proud, into corruption and rottennesse; the greatest wisedome, into madnesse; and spoyle the harmony of the sweetest elloquence, while payne produces horrid yells and roarings; what, then, shall man thinke highly of himselfe for, whose foundation is in the dust, for whom the gaping sepulchre howrely waites, who hath no power to stop one moment that swift carreere he runs to death, being like a stone cast downe, which rests not till it fall into the centre? Corruption is his mother, and the worme his father. That blood that dances so pleasantly in the vaines is loathsome pollution: when the vitall fire ceases to boyle it, the pamperd, praised, idolized flesh turnes into wormes and rottennesse. Were not all this glory such a gloworme, such an ignis fatui, such a falling starre, which, blazing in its descent, is found upon the ground a corrupt gelly, yet hath he no reason to esteeme himselfe for himselfe, for he is not his owne, hath no power to dispose himselfe, his times, or aniething that belongs to him, and as he hath no power in nor over himselfe, so lesse over aniething elce; shall he, then, thinke highly of himselfe? for what he hath, is any of that his owne, when he himselfe is not his owne, nor hath no dispose of himselfe? He borrows all his cloths from beasts and wormes, and glories in his shame when he lifts his proud head under the gawdie plumes with which God clothd those fowles he murtherd for their spoyles. Shall he esteeme himselfe for being the possessor of greate lordships, or vast heapes, or sumptuous furnitures, though acquird by his industrious witt or labour, or left him by a series of glorious ancestors; what part of these shall serve him in the grave? what adde these to him but his owne vaine esteem? Who gave him these lands, these ancestors, but God the greate proprietor of heaven and earth, and all things in them? Shall he, then, lift up himselfe before the Lord, usurping to himselfe a propriety in what God hath only committed to his stewardship, and what ought to make him come with trembling before his Master, to thinke how ill he hath dispenced and improovd them? Shall he not yett vallue himselfe upon the vallue he holds in the esteeme of many of wise, greate, and vertuous persons? The multitude are full of error, the wisest are not free from ignorance, and the most vertuous subiect to frailty and delusion; they that esteeme men know them not; the vaine opinion of erring men conferrs no reall worth on those they either misconceive or flatter, who, for the most part, doe not so much reverence men as their accidents and fortunes; and he that reioyces in their estimations, lett him remember the example of Herod, and thinke how soone God is able to undeceive them. These and the like considerations will make us know that of ourselves wee are nothing, nor have nothing; and not only so, but through our sins are become farre worse then nothing, worse then the most contemptible creature that creepes on the earth; and that all those mountaines, which now heave our pride to heaven, will, in the end, presse us deeper into hell, if the Lord by his meekening humble Spiritt doe not take them of from us.
Secondly. Wee are to denie ourselves in our ends. Gods glory ought to be the prime end of all our actions, even before the salvation of our owne soules, if they were seperable; but God in his gratious goodnesse hath soe tied them together that none can misse salvation, who principally seeke his glory. This made Paule say he could wish himselfe Anathema for his brethren. This made Moses desire to be blotted out of Gods booke for the Jewes, although God putts not our grace ordinarily upon so strict a triall.
Fourthly. Wee are to denie ourselves in our whole lives and conversations. Whither you eate or drinke, or whatsoever you doe, let all be done to the glory of God;102 for none of us liveth to himselfe, and no man dieth to himselfe, for whither we live, wee live unto the Lord; and whither we die, wee die unto the Lord; whither therefore wee live or die wee are the Lords.103 Let us, therefore, reckon ourselves dead to sin, but allive to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and yeild ourselves unto God as those that are allive from the dead, and our members as instruments of righteousnesse unto God; according to which the apostle sayth,104 Our conversation is in heaven, &c. and therefore Christ purchasd us, that wee should not live unto the flesh nor unto ourselves, but unto God in Christ; for as many as are Christs are led by the Spiritt of Christ, and live not to the flesh, but in the spiritt to the Lord.
Fifthly. Wee are to denie all our owne legall righteousnesse, as wee have an example in the greate apostle, who sayes, What things were gaine to me I counted losse for Christ; yea, doubtlesse,105 I count all losse and dung that I may be found in Christ, not having my owne righteousnesse which is of the law, but the righteousnesse of God, which is by faith in Jesus Christ; and the apostle says of the Jewes, that they, going about to establish their owne righteousnesse, fell short of and made voyd the righteousnesse of God by faith.
Sixthly and lastly. Wee are to deny ourselves in all our comforts, relations, interests, whenever they come in competition with the interest of Christ, according to the example our Lord gave, who, being calld to his father and mother, sayd, Who is my father, mother, &c. but he that doth the will of my Father in heaven; and he tells us, that he that hates not father, mother, brother, sister, husband, or wife, for his sake, is not worthy of him; no more is he that loves house, or land, or freinds, or even his owne life more then Christ. Here note, father, mother, &c. are not to be absolutely hated, for that elcewhere will appeare to be a greate sinne, but comparatively when they come into competition with Christ; and there is very good reason we should thus denie ourselves for God and Christ, who so condiscended for us, when the Father gave his only and his dearely beloved Sonne to death for us who were his enemies; and when the Sonne came downe from his eternall pallace in the bosome of his Father to be borne in a stable, to live in misery, to be clothed with our fraile flesh, to be made a servant, a scorne, a by-word of the people, and to die a shamefull death for us, that he might not only leave us an example of selfe-deniall, but purchase us a reward and crowne of the grace, having promised that whatsoever wee loose upon his account wee shall receive an hunderd fold for it in this world, and life everlasting; and wee are told, that if we suffer with him, wee shall alsoe reigne with him; and for our encouragement so to doe, that the Captaine of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, that he might bring many sons to glory.
First, High and reverent thoughts of him, banishing from our conceptions of him all fancies and vaine opinions that are below the maiesty of so greate a God,106 who is God above all gods, wonderfull in prayses, greate in councell, and mighty in working, with whom is no variation nor shadow of change,107 who is from everlasting, and whose yeares faile not; whose glory cannot be diminished, and who receives not addition from any of his creatures or their services;108 who is to be admired in all his saints, and to be reverenced of all those that approach him. They that assigne to him any bodily shape, any passions or parts, or liken him to anithing that man can conceive; they that make his will dependent on the creature, his councell mutable, or goe about to measure his iustice in the scale of humane reason, derogate from his Maiesty,109 whose wayes wee must allwayes acknowledge to be equall, although the depth of his wisedome be past our fathom, and his wayes past our finding out; for his thoughts are not as our thoughts; yet he is iust in all his iudgements, and righteous in all his wayes, for he is the Judge of all the earth, and therefore he doth right. Who hath first given unto him, he giveth life and breath and all things plentifully to all. He is our potter, and wee are his clay, and he doeth whatsoever he will, and his will is holy, righteous, and good; wherefore, if we exalt God aright in our soules, wee doe not entertaine any hard thoughts of him in any of his dealings with us, but wee admire his iustice and goodnesse, when it is above our comprehensions, and waite for the revelation of his righteous iudgement in all his dispensations; wee contemplate him in his creatures and his providences, and have our hearts wonderfully drawne forth thereby to magnifie his name; wee are willing to take any shame to ourselves rather then his name should be dishonord by us.
Secondly. When God is exalted in our esteeme, it makes us approach him with more dread and reverence, to tremble in his presence, not through slavish feare, but through deepe sence of his transcendent maiesty and greatnesse.
Fourthly. This high esteeme of God exalts him as our highest end, to whome all our desires aspire, and in whom all our happinesse is summd up, for whom as well as by whom alone wee live, and to whom all the actions of our lives are primarily and ultimately intended.
In this adoration of God, performd with selfe-abasement, and exaltation of God in all his attributes, (iustice as well as mercy, mercy as well as iustice; truth meeting with mercy, and wisedome ruling and ordering all changes, &c.)in this adoration, I say, there are 4 inward vertues included.
Some comprehend all these in two acts:1. Patient receiving the will of God. 2dly, Chearefull doing the will of God, which under various termes implie the same thing, here more contracted, there more enlarged.
Feare is a word frequently used in Scripture to intimate the whole worship of God, as in that place where the Lord sayes, their feare of me is taught by the precepts of men; and in another, where God is called the feare of Izaack, meaning the God whom Izaack worshipt; and Abraham, in his excuse to Abimelech, says, Surely I thought the feare of God was not in this place; and Joseph, encouraging his brethren, tells them, he feard the Lord:110 hence many promises are made to them that feare the Lord, and many precepts given to men to observe and continue in his feare, in which Solomon summes up the whole duty of man, when he sayes,111 Feare God, and keepe his commandements; and this, David tells us, is the beginning of wisedome,112 and it is not only taken in a restreind sence for the worship of God, but in a larger sence for all godly conversation, as we find it explaind by Moses, when he instructs the Jewes. And now, Izraell, sayth he, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to feare the Lord thy God, to walke in all his wayes, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soule,113 to keepe the commandements of the Lord and his statutes, which I have commanded thee this day for thy good: and againe, he sayes, Thou shalt feare the Lord thy God, him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and sweare by his name. This godly affection of feare in the worship of God is not that spirit of bondage and slavish terror that is upon the hearts of the wicked, who, through a conviction of their duty as his creatures, and his terriblenesse to his enemies, performe some outward services, through dread of punishment for the neglect of them, but not with love either to God or the duty; whereas the right feare of God is that reverentiall awe that a child hath to a father, whom he loves and honors, desiring and delighting to please him, and being grievd more for sin then for the evill consequents of sin; yet this feare is a bridle to all inordinate lusts, as it was in Joseph, when his mistrisse tempted him; and in the midwives of Egipt, when the king commanded them to drowne the Hebrew children; and in Nehemiah, when he forbore to exact his dues of the people, because they were poore; and thus Christ commands, that wee should rather feare God then men; and though there are some which call it a mercenary and servile spiritt, to be led by feare of punishment or hope of reward, to any service of God; yet if the losse of God be the punishment wee feare, and God himselfe the chiefe reward we persue, this feare may well consist with love, and with a filliall, and not a slavish spiritt. Tis the greatest effect of love to feare to loose the communion of that which is beloved, and to feare to displease it in the least. Those proud Antinomians, who argue against this humble feare, this sweete and easie yoake, are presumptuous sinners; and whereas it is sayd, love casteth out feare,114 and that Christ hath redeemd us that wee might serve him without feare, and that wee have not receivd the spiritt of bondage againe to feare; all this is meant of that terror that is upon the wicked who are out of Christ, under the conviction of their sins, and expectation of the severe wrath and just vengeance of God due to them, in which condition all unreconciled sinners are; and though they stupifie their consciences for a while with the oppiats of carnall security, and the drunken cupps of pleasure, yet whenever any little sence revives in them, the flashes of hell affright them into superstitious services done for necessity, and not freely. This feare, bondage, and terror, believers and true worshippers of God are deliverd from, through the redemption that is in Christ; but that gentle curb, which the love of God putts, as a bridle, on our wild affections, is the delight of the saints, who count the service of God perfect freedome. These are affected with a reverentiall, filliall awe in his presence; they dread his displeasure more then hell, and seeke his face and favour more then heaven. Heaven would not be heaven to a true child of God, if God were not there in his grace and favour; and were it possible there could be a hell where Gods favour could be enioyed, a true lover of God would chuse it before Paradice without him: but God cannot be seperated from heaven, he is the heaven of heaven; and where he is present in grace and favour, there is no hell in the greatest tortures imaginable. This made Lawrence his gridiron a bed of roses; this made the stones that were hurld at Stephen, only to beate away the grosse ayre from about him, and bring the glorious heaven into his view, with the sight of which he was so extasied, he felt not the payne of the strokes. This reverentiall feare begetts a holy care and watch in the soule, suspecting and crijng out to God to keepe his citadell there, at every small motion and appearance of the enemie, in any suggestion or any rising mist. Tis a holy frame of spiritt that keepes us allwayes in a reverent awe and dread of the greate maiesty of God, and in an humble posture of soule before him, yet cutts not of, but aggravates our delight in him, our ioy and our singing before him: it is our wall of defence, and not our prison; our badge of honor, and not our chaine of bondage; herein our love is exercised; and this is one of Gods sweete embracings, whereby he holds in our soules and keepes them close to him. He that feares not God loves him not, as tis to be suspected too many doe that unreverently approach his throne in all their filthy pollutions, and dread not to come so undecently into his presence.
Where the true feare of God is, there is a constant invocation of his name; they know the Lord delights to have his children call upon him, and therefore their hearts are allwayes sending up sighs and aspirations to him. This inward invocation is the only prayer, without which all other prayer, though never so solemne, is but formall and mocking of God. This continuall lifting up of the heart to God, in all occasions, is the true and sincere owning and worship of God. Wee cannot invocate his deity in our soules, but from a beliefe that he is present in our secrett thoughts, and that he hath power over all things to doe in us, and for us, what wee call upon him for, and that he is gratious and mercifull, hearing the prayers that are made to him. These aspirations are the dove-like wings of the soule, by which it ascends to God. Tis not the wind of words, nor the harmony of phrazes, nor the vehemence of cries, that God regards; but the fervent and humble affections of the soule, the inward cries and addresses which are frequent in that soule, that through faith lives sensible of its owne emptinesse and imbecillity and wretchednesse in itselfe, and of Gods infinite love, wisedome, and power, to supplie it. That soule, that thus invocates not God, lives without God in the world, is like the swine that feeds on the mast, but never regards the hand that throws it downe. The heathen poet could say, that invocation made a God of that to which it is addrest. Calling upon the name of the Lord is put for the whole worship of God, and soe wee have a promise, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved; but of this wee shall have occasion to speake more hereafter, only as for this mentall and inward invocation, it may be, and ought indeed to be att all times, and in all actions, and is the only true prayer, and therefore, in our lawes, it is a very good note of triall that is given, concerning the lawfullnesse of recreations, that that action, wherein wee cannot invocate the name of God for a blessing, is not lawfull to be done. This is a kind of prayer, wherein there can be no ostentation, nor no hipocrisie; this cannot be without faith in some degree. This is entring into the secrett closett of our soules, as Christ directs, and in the middst of the greatest crowds we may enioy this retreate, for short eiaculation, holy aspirations, and fervent desires, which are all true prayers, and the continuall prayer that God commands. This ardor, as I sayd, of desire, may be amidst a crowd of people, and businesse; but it cannot be soe intent as, when the soule is seperated from all sensible diverting obiects; wherefore Jesus, in the flesh, went often apart into a mountaine or other solitary place to pray; and it is necessary that wee doe soe, and that wee sequester ourselves alone with God to gett our soules sett into a frame for conversation among others. Whither alone, or in company, our hearts ought never to be estrangd from God; but then wee have the sweete and soule-refreshing communion with him, when wee are withdrawne from all worldly interruption; we may, in the presse of men and businesse, cast loving and longing lookes to our loved King on his throne, and receive sweete and gratious smiles, calling us to come thorough them all unto him; but it is in his secret chambers, in his close embraces, that our soules are sweetely extasied and ravisht with the ioyes of heavenly love, and these ioyes the soule may find, when the body ioyns no further in the exercise, then not to disturbe it; these too, it may find, when the bodily members are its organs, and employd ioyntly with it in the holy office; but as the society of men in worldly employments is a hinderance to the soules free and full communion with God, which it finds when it is singly retird with him, so the society of Christians ioyning in his worship adds force to every spiritt by the gathering of them together into the spiritt of the Lord, and makes the presence of the Lord among them more glorious and more ioyfull, in such a manner as cannot be expresst but by them who have experiencd it is wittnessd unto, as wee find it frequently in the psalmes and other places.
Some mistake themselves and thinke customary faint wishes are these aspirations of soule to God, and that that is a sufficient worship of him; but these are so farre from a holy invocation of his name, that they are a provocation of his wrath. Holy love is like what workes itselfe still upwards, and rests not till it come to its owne centre. He that rashly and unconsiderately rushes into Gods presence, and dares to call to him, without serious pondering of his Maiesty, and its owne vilenesse, may expect to be punisht for its irreverence, rather then accepted in mercy. God is as well dreadfull in prayses as in iudgements, and those that call not on his name with due reverence prophane it; therefore those who thinke they worship him, with a few lazie wishes, are as bad as those who set up themselves in open defiance against him. Where the desires or aspirations of the soule are serious towards him, they make the soule unsatisfied till it come into the full fruition of him, and thirsting after all opertunities to appeare in his presence, and to approach him in the neerest communion. Like Queene Hester, who, comming before the greate King, was not satisfied when the sceptre of grace was held forth with that first favour, for which she fainted, too, before she had it; but entreats a further, that he would come into her apartment to her banquett of wine, and there receiving new testimonies of his grace, she is emboldned to seeke more, and obteines the ruine of her enemies, the salvation of her people, glorious triumph and deliverance. So the soule which setts God before its eies, and comes trembling into his presence, encouragd by his grace, seekes to enioy him alone, and to feast him with his owne wine of graces, wherein, finding his favour and persuing its addresses, it at the length obteins of him the destruction of all its proud enemies, sinne and Sathan, and the salvation of itselfe among Gods people. Those wishes, which are but like sparks knockt out of flints, dijng as soone as borne, are not to be reckond for inward invocation, which is a true worship of God, and a constant flame of holy desire, ascending to his throne of grace, and seeking to unite itselfe with him by the power and spiritt and mediation of the Lord Jesus. This may be alone without outward worship sometimes, and alone it is worship, but outward worship without this is not worship, but mockerie; and where there is this true internall worship, it rests not without bringing the bodie to ioyne with the soule, and the whole person to ioyne with other saints to call upon God and celebrate his name with more solemnity.
The next inward vertue requird in internall worship is obedience, which brings all the powers and faculties of the soule into subiection to the law of Christ, every high thought exalting itselfe is subdued; and thus sinne is not only mortified in the conversation, but in the inward affections, and not only hated as the bitter spring of death, but as sinne, as an unholy thing unconformable to Gods pure law. I have found in a poore blind Papist, things spoken of this, very truly and very pertinently. It is not enough, says he, to mortifie the acts of sinne, but wee must mortifie the affections to sinne, elce wee shall be but as sick men, that dare not eate melons, because they know it is death; but they will handle them, and smell to them, and wish they might, without danger, eate them; so many for feare of hell will not consent to some temptations, but they will wish it were not sinne to please themselves in the abuse of the creature, to be revenged, or to meditate retalliation of iniuries; but though there may herein be obedience, outwardly, to the law of God, the heart is a rebell, and all its oblations are abominations; where there is inward obedience the heart consents to the law of God, that it is holy, iust, and good, and loves it as such. It hates sinne more for its unconformity to God, then for the danger of it, and loves holinesse for its owne beauty, more then for its reward. This inward obedience is principally requird in two faculties, the understanding and the will, where there are two rebells that exalt themselves against the dominion of Jesus Christ, carnall reason and carnall lust. This earn all reason, seducd by the sences to believe other things good besides God, produces a carnall lust after them; therefore the Scripture calls true faith sometimes the obedience of faith, because it disputes not according to the dictates of sence, but yeilds to the command of God. Hence the wisedome of the flesh is sayd to be enmity against God, for the greate misteries of God are above the comprehension of sence; and therefore the naturall understanding that is not assisted by the Spiritt of God, either contemns the things it understands not, or not being able to comprehend them aright, changes the truth of God into a lie, and adheres to its owne figments and inventions. How hard is it for carnall reason to believe death, prison, sicknesse, poverty, torture, and the like, to be better then sinne, which is accompanied with ease, profitt, pleasure, and safety! How hard to believe the plaine simple truths of the gospell rather then the inventions of fine witts, and for one of a noble witt, a vast searching understanding, a reaching soule, elevated above the vulgar pitch, to wave all these, and to become as a child, to cast by all naturall endowments and all acquirements, and to receive its illumination only from the Spiritt! I doe not here speake against things that are excellent in their owne place, but only pernicious as sett in opposition to the light of God, or exalted above it; when they are soe, they are like fire, which in the chimney warms, comforts, and serves the whole famely, but carried to the house-top setts it all on fire; soe wisedome and learning, parts and acquirements, are of use as hand-maids to devotion in a sanctified soule, but in an unsanctified soule they puffe it up and make it consume in the flames of vaine glory, pride, and arrogance. Yet it is as greate an error in them, that thinke men must devest their reason and become brutes, ideots, and fanatiques, true fanatiques, distracted and unsound persons, to be Christians; this is not the intent of those Scriptures that speake against carnall reason, and fleshly wisedome, for indeed when they are opposd to God and his truths, they are but the names of wisedome and reason, and in truth are folly and madnesse. The foole, sayth David, hath sayd in his heart, there is no God; and when he hath sett downe the worldly wise councells and customes of the ungodly, he concluds them to be folly, and that such men as are led by them are without understanding, and like the brutes that perish, in the 40th psalme. As reason is the highest improvement of humane understanding, the excellency of men, the degrees of which make men as much differ among themselves as they doe from brutes; so when it is sanctified and rangd under the obedience of faith, and kept in its owne humble bound, it is a greate instrument to the glorie of God; for the misteries of faith, allthough they are above the search of naturall reason and the reach of humane apprehension, yet are they not contrary to reason, but the truest and best emproovers and regulators of it. At this day there are two sorts of people that equally offend; those that abuse reason and install it above faith, and submitt faith to it, neglecting more high and devine illumination, and those that utterly denie the use of it, of which sort it is hard to believe there should be any that beare the name of men; and yet experience tells us that there is a multitude of those fooles, who through mistake of the Scriptures, that condemne the uniust pride and glory of fleshly wisedome, runne into as bad a pride on the other hand, and glory in ignorance and folly, as if heaven were only made for ideots and madmen. Charity is farre to be preferrd before knowledge; yet knowledge managd with charity is more excellent in its degree then a bare simple love which may unite a soule to God, but the other makes it more eminent in his service. Tis sayd the corruption of the best things is worst corruption, and there is no rebellion more high then to fight against God with his owne guifts, therefore carnall reason is most abominable when opposd to faith, or exalted equall to it or above it.
Carnall lust and concupiscence is no lesse an impediment to this inward obedience; and however the Papists deny, some of them, the sinfullnesse of it, yet it is certeine that there is in it a greate disobedience to the will of God, and where it is indulgd there cannot be a right inward obedience, nor a pure internall worship of God.
The third vertue, requird in internall worship, is submission to the will of God, which at the first seemes to differ little from obedience, but to be the same thing, yet there is a distinction. Obedience is the free yeilding up of the conscience to the commands, threats, and promises of God, so that wee are willing it should be bound unto them and kept with all the other powers and faculties of the soule under their subiection,115 bringing every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ, which is chiefely exercisd in subiection to the doctrine and precepts of the Gospell. Submission to the will of God, in distinction from this obedience, is chiefely exercisd in a patient quieting of the heart under all administrations of Providence, especially those that are aflictive.116 Christ says, he that will be my desciple must take up his crosse and follow me. Many, like Simon, have the crosse layd on them, whither they will or noe; but the true desciple must take it up willingly as his Master did, of whom it may be obiected that he prayd, Let the cup passe from me; but though that was the language of weake nature, and spoken to shew that he was subiect to all infirmities that could be without sinne, yet it was utterd with submission, as appears in the next words: Neverthelesse, not my Will but thy will be done. It was your fathers expression once in a letter to me. Wee must, sayd he, whither wee will or no, submitt to the will of God which wee cannot resist, but when wee accept it as his will, and knowing it to be soe, would not resist it if we could, this is truly Christian. This submission to God is exercisd, first, in reference to our condition and rank in the world, and that station wherein God hath set us, when we are contented in it, and thinke it best for us, because God allotts it to us. Secondly, in respect of our inward and outward guifts and endowments, wee ought to accept what the Lord bestowes on us with thankfullnesse and satisfaction in them, thinking that measure best for us that God allotts us. Thirdly, even in the guifts and graces of the Spiritt, wee ought to submitt to God, and reioyce in our owne measure, without envijng those that have more, or repining att God, who gives all freely, according to the good pleasure of his owne will. Lastly, in all those things which wee call our accidents, as time, health, fame, riches, friends, successes, or any other comforts, wee ought to thinke Gods dispensation best for us, though the thing in itselfe may not be soe happie as that which is conferrd on another. This submission, all people that are but humanely wise, seeme to have outwardly, but inwardly even the godly themselves find it hard to obteine. Job att the first could say, The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord; yett soone after, in the bitternes of his spiritt, he fell to curse his day, though even while he did soe, he submitted to God and sayd, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in his mercy. I held my peace, says David, because it was thy doing: and there is a greate example of Aaron, when the Lord slew his sons by a signall iudgement, tis sayd he held his peace.117 So Eli, when he heard the fatall ruine of his house, It is the Lord, sayd he, lett him doe what he pleaseth. So Hezekiah submitted without the least murmur to the destruction of his house, and gave God thankes it was not to come in his day. This submission, if it were as it ought to be, would cutt of all discontent att aniething that befalls us, this made the saints of old to take ioyfully the spoyling of their goods, and made Paul learne content in every condition. To stirre up our hearts to this, wee are to consider, in the first place, that all wee have is from the free grace of God; he owes us nothing; our being and our lives wee have from him, and owe to him, and therefore tis fitt he should dispose us att his pleasure.
Ninthly, there is unspeakable ease, quiet, and ioy in submitting to the Lord;quiet of conscience, because it is our duty, and most iust wee should doe soe; quiet of spiritt, because while wee doe so wee have hope of helpe; for one end why God strikes us, is to bring us to a submissive frame of spiritt; and quiet of life, because when our will is made subiect to Gods, there remains no smart in aniething we suffer.
Lastly, the more patient our sufferance is, the more glorious our crowne will be; the more painefull our labour, the sweeter our rest; the more wee humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, the more eminently will he in his due time exalt us; and it is but a short time that wee are to suffer here, nor is the sufferance in many things more then imaginary. There is nothing really necessary to the body but food and rayment; and one of these is made soe but by custome, for wee see many naked nations that feele no iniurie by cold or heate. Sicknesse and torture, no question, if they be violent, are the most insupportable evills, and yet wee see how sweetely many submissive spiritts are carried thorough them.
The last duty of internall worship is thankfullnesse, which is not only an acknowledgement of the free grace of God in all wee are, and all wee have, but a consecration of ourselves, our parts and powers to his glory. What shall I render to the Lord, says David, for all his benefitts? That soule is truely thankfull that meditates retribution, not that wee can give aniething to the Lord which is not his owne, but wee acknowledge it to be soe by rendring him the tribute of it. Of all sins, ingratitude is the most abominable to God and man; and of all ingratitude, unthankfullnesse to God is the highest. It is made the greate reason why God gave the Gentilles over to such sad crimes, because that when they knew God,118 they worshipped him not as God, neither were thankfull, implijng that thankfullnesse is the greate requisite of Gods true worship. Thankefullnesse and humillity are the parents and ofspring of each other, or rather like faire twins, are borne, and live, and die together. While the heart is humble, and hath low conceits of itselfe, it is enclind to be exceeding thankefull to God for the least benefitt; and while it is thankfull to God, it cannot lift itselfe up before him. When Hezekiahs heart was lifted up, he forgott to render according to the benefitt he had received. In that prayer, Christ teacheth us, he concludes, Thine is the kingdome, the power, and the glory; and he that in heart confesses this, gives thankes to God, yea, gives himselfe for a thanke-offering to God: this includes all the other parts of worship, feare, obedience, and submission. The gratefull affection of the soule is such a sweete melting grace, is accompanied with such honor, and such love, as is not to be conceivd by any who have not felt the power of it on their owne soules; yett man naturally is of a proud ungratefull nature, and this sinne of ungratitude is a sowre mixture, that embitters every other sinne, as there is more or lesse of it compounded with it. Much is required of him that receiveth much, and they that trample under foot the blood of Jesus are liable to much sorer punishment then they that despisd the law of Moses.
To stirre up our soules to thankfullnesse, it is necessary to call to mind often, all the benefitts wee receive from God. Common benefitts are commonly slighted, or not taken notice of. While the whole world shares with us the glorious and admirable benefitt of light, wee seldome consider what cause of thanksgiving wee have for that mercy, and so for the ayre, fire, water, summer, and winter, and the like; and this is for want of humanity and love to mankind; for did we consider ourselves to be one body with them, wee should be more thankfull to God for imparting his benefitt to all, then if it were only particularly extended to ourselves. Wherefore David stirrs up his soule to prayse God for his goodnesse to the children of men. This makes him in a holy extasie to admire the bounty of God to mankind,119 when he saysLord, what is man that thou art mindfull of him, &c. But if the common benefitts which God of his unspeakable mercy and goodnesse extends to all the children of men, be so worthy of admiration, how much more is the riches of his free grace and love to his elect in Jesus Christ: this ought to be perpetually ponderd, and this thought on by a sensible heart, will draw forth the soule to all thankfullnesse. The benefitts wee are made partakers of from God, for which wee are bound to render him continuall and eternall thankes, fall under three heads, and each advances the other; first, those of creation; secondly, our redemption by Christ; thirdly, the application of Christ and his benefitts by the Spiritt.
In the first, when wee consider the admirable frame of heaven and earth, the creating of so many glorious creatures for the service of man, the maintaining them in their various courses and orders, the bounding and extending so many powers for his advantage, induing the creatures with such various and excellent vertues in his favourWhat tongue is sufficient to expresse, or what heart to conceive, the goodnesse of the greate Creator to this poore worme, to whom, being but dust and ashes, he hath given a high and heavenly minde, and exalted him to the angelicall nature, making him the center where heaven and earth meete. That God who was perfectly and eternally blessed in himselfe, and had no need of any of his creatures, should, out of his extensive goodnesse, thus honor poore mankind, is enough to engage the most insensible heart in thankfullnesse to him. Is it not all the iustice and reason in the world, that wee should honor him with all the excellencies he hath bestowd on us, and render him the tribute of his owne guifts?
But if wee are thus obliegd upon the account of our creation and nature, how much more are we doubly tied to the Lord upon the account of Jesus Christ, whom he appoynted to be our Mediator, Saviour, and Redeemer. When wee had sinnd ourselves into a state of unspeakable misery and perdition, and when all the powers in heaven and earth could never have done the least towards his redemption, the Lord then gave his Sonne out of his bosome to reconcile us to himselfe by his blood;120 therefore it is all the reason in the world that wee should present ourselves a sacrifice to that God who hath thus purchasd us, and made himselfe a sacrifice for usus who in the third place are so weake, wee have not power to receive him and his benefitts, but what is given us from the Father, through the Spiritt; all which considerations that ought to be enlargd in our dayly meditations, are very forcible to stirre up thankfullnesse, besides the particular providences, exercisd particularly to every man and woman in the world, which are such that even he who lies under the heaviest outward pressure, hath infinite cause of thankes to God; this is the greate duty God requires of us, and in this he is most pleasd. In all things, sayth the apostle, give thankes, even in afflictions and crosses.
These inward vertues are requisite to the true inward worship of God, without which the outward worship is but a false shew, a painted sepulchre, and hath no acceptance with the Lord; but concerning the duties and cerimonies of outward worship, I shall send you my experiences in another booke: in the meane time, I beg of you make conscience of all these things, which I have weakely, according to my abillity, sett before you; but the truths are not weake, but the powerfull word and precepts of the Lord, and the duties commanded are allowd by all Christians without dispute; and if you by the Spiritt exercise yourselfe therein, and waite in a spirituall worship of God, his Spiritt will enlighten you alsoe in those things that are more obscure and doubtfull, and I beg of the Lord that he would keepe you from the delusions of Sathan, and the errors of the day, that you may appeare unbalmeable before him att his coming.
Note 71. I doubt my owne mistake in calling it a preparatory worke before faith, for faith is the first works; it is a degree of faith drawing to Christ to see ourselves sinfull, lost, and undone without him. To be sensible of emptinesse is ever accompanied with a desire of fullnesse, and this desire is the little graine of mustard-seed, which after growes so greate a plant in the garden of God. [back]