About this volume: — pp. 520.

1. A Practical Commentary, or an Exposition, with notes, on the Epistle of Jude.

2. Meat out of the Eater. Zechariah 14:9. Preached to the House of Commons June 30, 1647.

3. England's Spiritual Languishing, its Causes and Cure. Revelation 3:2. Preached to the House of Commons June 28, 1648. 

4. Sermons at Morning Exercise:

a.     How we may Cure Distractions in Holy Duties. Matthew 15:7-8.

b.     How Ought we to Improve our Baptism? Acts 2:38.

c.      Man's Impotency to Help himself out of his Misery. Romans 5:6.

d.     The Scripture sufficient without Unwritten Traditions. 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

5. Preface to Smectymnuus Redivivus.


The Complete Works of Thomas Manton

With Memoir of the Author - BY THE REV. WILLIAM HARRIS, D.D.

And an Essay - BY THE REV. J. C. RYLE, B.A., VICAR OF STRADBROKE, SUFFOLK.

VOLUME V.

CONTAINING

AN ESTIMATE OF MANTON, BY THE REV. J. C. RYLE, B.A.

SEVERAL DISCOURSES TENDING TO PROMOTE

PEACE AND HOLINESS.

TWENTY SERMONS ON IMPORTANT PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE.

FAREWELL AND FUNERAL SERMONS.

http://www.oldpaths.org.uk

 

LONDON:
JAMES NISBET & CO, 21 BERNERS STREET.
1870.


 

COUNCIL OF PUBLICATION.

·  W. LINDSAY ALEXANDER, D.D., Professor of Theology, Congregational Union, Edinburgh.

·  JAMES BEGG, D.D., Minister of Newington Free Church, Edinburgh.

·  THOMAS J. CRAWFORD, D.D., S.T.P., Professor of Divinity, University, Edinburgh.

·  D. T. K. DRUMMOND, M.A., Minister of St Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh.

·  WILLIAM H. GOOLD, D.D., Professor of Biblical Literature and Church History, Reformed Presbyterian Church, Edinburgh.

·  ANDREW THOMSON, D.D., Minister of Broughton Place United Presbyterian Church, Edinburgh.

·  General Editor REV. THOMAS SMITH, D.D., EDINBURGH.

Contents



Vol 5.—Page 501.—Editorial Note on Smectymnuus Redivivus.—To the Reader.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:50 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:11 ]



EDITORIAL NOTE ON SMECTYMNUUS REDIVIVUS.

ACCORDING to the advertisement which has been long before the public, this volume should have contained the treatise called Smectymnuus Redivivus. That advertisement was prepared by the late Mr Nichol under the impression that that was a treatise by Dr Manton, different from the work of the five divines whose initials formed the name Smectymnuus. But it was not so. It was simply that work re-issued, with a very short preface by Dr Manton. It is not surprising that Mr Nichol should have been misled by the title; for certainly it is not usual to designate a reprint of a book by the name of its author with the adjunct Redivivus, while it is not unusual for an author, professing to write in the same spirit in which one of his predecessors had written, to adopt his name with that adjunct appended to it. If we saw an announcement of the publication of a book with the title Junius Redivivus, ‘we should not expect it to be a new edition of the famous Letters,’ but a new work by one who proposed to treat the political topics of the present day in a similar way to that in which Junius treated those of his day. Such an expectation would be reasonable; but in the present case it would be erroneous.

It may be noticed that the same mistake was made long ago by Anthony ‘a Wood;’ and, indeed, it is probable that it was he who misled Mr Nichol.

Being aware, then, that the treatise was not Dr Manton’s, the Editor has not thought himself entitled to include it among his works. It is enough to subjoin the preface, which was all that Manton contributed to the treatise as reprinted. The work was originally published in 1641, in answer to Bishop Hall’s advocacy of the divine right of Episcopacy. It authors were Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and VVilliam Spurstow, whose initials were combined to form the pseudonym Smectymnuus. In 1653 it was reprinted, as we have stated, with the following preface by Dr Manton:

[[@Page: 502]]

TO THE READER.

GOOD READER,Solomon told us long since, that there is no end of many books, Ecclesiastes 12:12. Scripturiency (it seemeth) is no novel humour, but abounded then, even when the means of transmitting knowledge was more difficult. If there were cause for the complaint then, there is much more now, since the press hath helped the pen; every one will be scribbling, and so better books are neglected, and lie like a few grains of corn under a heap of chaff and dust. Usually books are received as fashions; the newest, not the best and most profitable, are most in esteem; insomuch that really learned and sober men have been afraid to publish their labours, lest they should divert the world from reading the useful works of others that wrote before them. I remember Dr Altingius, [1] a terse and neat spirit, stood out the battle of twenty years’ importunity, and would not yield to divulge anything upon this fear. Certainly, reader, it is for thy profit some times to look back and consult with them that first laboured in the mines of knowledge, and not always to take up what cometh next to hand. In this controversy of discipline many have written, but not all with a like judgment and strength, which I believe hath been no small rock of offence, and stone of stumbling to the adversaries, who are hardened with nothing so much as a weak defence of the truth; as Austin complaineth, [2] that when he was a Manichee, he had had too too often the victory put into his hands by the defences of weak and unskilful Christians. This work, which the stationer hath now revived (that it may not be forgotten, and, like a jewel, after once showing, shut in the cabinet of private studies only), was penned by several worthy divines of great note and fame in the churches of Christ, under the borrowed and covered name of Smectymnuus, [3] which was some matter of scorn and exception to the adversaries; as the Papists objected to Calvin, his printing his Institutions under the name of Alcunius, and to Bucer his naming himself Aretius Felinus, though all this without ground and reason, the affixion of the name to any work being a thing indifferent, for there we must not consider so much the author as the matter, and not who said it, but what; and the assumption of another name not being infamous, but where it is done out of deceit, and to another’s prejudice, or out of shame because of guilt, or fear to own the truths which they should establish. I suppose the reverend authors were willing to lie hid under this onomastic, partly that their work might not be received with prejudice, the faction against which they dealt arrogating to themselves a monopoly of learning, and condemning all others as ignorants and novices not worthy to be heard; and partly that they might not [[@Page: 503]] burthen their frontispiece with a voluminous nomenclature, it not being usual to affix so many names at length to one treatise.

For the work itself speaketh its own praise, and is now once more subjected to thy censure and judgment. This second publication of it was occasioned by another book for vindication of the ministry by the Provincial Assembly of London, wherein there are frequent appeals to Smectymnuus. Though otherwise I should have judged the reprinting seasonable; for the Lord hath now returned us to such a juncture of time wherein there is greater freedom of debate, without noise and vulgar prejudice; and certainly if the quarrel of Episcopacy were once cleared and brought to an issue, we should not be so much in the dark in other parts of discipline, the conviction of an error by solid grounds being the best way to find out the truth. Reformations carried on with popular tumults, rather than rational conviction, seldom end well; though the judgment of God be to be observed in pouring contempt upon those which are partial in His law, yet the improvident leaps which a people are wont to make upon such occasions lay the foundation of a lasting mischief. I hope, that by the review of these matters we shall come to know more of the Lord’s counsel for the ordering of his house; or at least that, by weighing what may be said on all sides, we shall learn more [4] to truth-it in love, which is the unfeigned desire of him who is thine in the Lord,

Tho. Manton.

Newington, June 23, 1653.

PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY
EDINBURGH AND LONDON

THE END OF VOL. V.
Footnotes:

[1] Videbat enim passim laborari mole et copia variorum in hoc genere commentariorum, novis editionibus ancipitem reddi eorum delectum; sed    meliores etiam, id est, veteres illos et probatos, auctores e studiosorum manibus extrudi,' &c.--Praefat. Scriptorum Theolog, Henric. Alting.

[2] Quaedam noxia victoria pasene mihi semper in disputationibus proveniebat cum Christianis imperitis.'--August. contra Manich., cap. 19.

[3] Mr Steven Marshall, Mr Edmund Calamy, Dr Thomas Young, Mr Matthew Newcomen, Dr William Spurstow.

[4] Ἀληθεύειν ἐν ἀγάπῃ.'—Ephesians 4:14.


Vol 5.—Page 587.—The Scripture Sufficient without unwritten Traditions.—Proposition.—The Scripture is a Sufficient Rule of Christian Faith, or a Record of All Necessary Christian Doctrines, without any Supplement of Unwritten Traditions, as Containing any Necessary Matter of Faith, and is thus Far Sufficient for the Decision of All Controversies.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:46 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:12 ]



The Scripture Sufficient without unwritten Traditions.

Proposition. — The Scripture is a Sufficient Rule of Christian Faith, or a Record of All Necessary Christian Doctrines, without any Supplement of Unwritten Traditions, as Containing any Necessary Matter of Faith, and is thus Far Sufficient for the Decision of All Controversies.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.2 Thessalonians 2:15.

THE apostle, after he had comforted the Thessalonians, he exhorteth them to constancy in the truth, whatever temptations they had to the contrary. The comforts he propoundeth to them were taken(1.) From their election, ver. 13; (2.) From their vocation, ver. 14. His exhortation is to perseverance, therefore, brethren, &c.

In the words observe:

1. The illative particle therefore, because God hath chosen you and called you, and given you such advantages against error and seduction.

2. The duty inferred, στήκετε, stand fast; it is a military word; you have the same in other places: 1 Corinthians 16:13, ‘Watch ye, stand ye fast,’ &c; Ephesians 6:14, ‘Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.’ The word intimateth perseverance.

3. The means of perseverance, hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.

Where observe:(1.) The act; (2.) The object.

[1.] The act, krateite, hold with strong hand; the word implieth a forcible, holding against assaults, whether of error or persecution. The Thessalonians were assaulted in both kinds; the heathens persecuted them, and some were gone abroad that began the mystery of iniquity, and were ready to pervert them.

[2.] The object; which is propounded(1.) By a common and general term, the traditions which ye have been taught. (2.) By a distribution, whether by word or our epistle.

[[@Page: 588]]First, The common and general term, the traditions which ye have been taught. There are two sorts of traditionshuman and divine.

1. Human traditions are certain external observances instituted by men, and delivered from hand to hand, from progenitors to their posterity; these may be either beside or contrary to the word of God. (1.) Beside the word; as the institutions of the family of the Rechabites, in the observance of which, from father to son, they were so exact and punctual that God produceth their example to shame the disobedience of his people: Jeremiah 35:6, 7, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘Ye shall drink no wine, nor build houses, nor plant vineyards,’ &c. (2.) Contrary to the word of God; such as were those of the Pharisees, Matthew 15:2, ‘Why transgress ye the commandment of God by your tradition?’ Human inventions in religion are contrary to, and destructive of, divine laws.

2. Traditions divine are either heavenly doctrines revealed by God, or institutions and ordinances appointed by him for the use of the church. These are the rule and ground of our faith, worship, and obedience. The whole doctrine of the gospel is a tradition delivered and conveyed to us by fit messengers, such as the apostles were: 1 Corinthians 11:2, ‘Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances,’ marg.traditions, as ‘I delivered them to you.’ So that holding the traditions is nothing else but perseverance in apostolical doctrine.

Second, Distribution; that no cheat might be put upon them under any pretence, therefore he saith, whether by word or our epistle; that is, by word of mouth when present, or by epistle when absent; and he saith not epistles, but epistle, as alluding to the former wrote unto them. They were bound to yield to both alike credence and obedience, for, whether in speaking or writing, the apostolical authority was the same. To improve this verse for your benefit, I shall lay down several propositions.

Prop. 1. That whatever assurance we have of God’s preserving us in the truth, yet we are bound to use diligence and caution; for the apostle had said that God had chosen and called them to the belief of the truth, and yet saith, therefore, brethren, stand fast. First, reason will tell us(1.) That when we intend an end we must use the means, otherwise the bare intention and desire would suffice, and to the accomplishing of any effect we need no more than to will it; and then the sluggard would be the wisest man in the world, who is full of wishings and wouldings, though his hands refuse to labour; but common experience showeth that the end cannot be obtained without a diligent use of the means: Proverbs 13:4, ‘The soul of the sluggard desireth and hath nothing, but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat;’ that is, rewarded with the intended benefit. (2.) The business in hand is, whether God’s election, calling, or promise doth so secure the end to us, as that we need not be so careful in the diligent use of means. Such a notion or conceit there may be in the hearts of men, therefore let us attack it a little by these considerations.

1. God’s decree is both of ends and means, for all his purposes [[@Page: 489]] are executed by fit means. He that hath chosen us to salvation bringeth it about by the belief of the truth and sanctification of the Spirit, 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and without faith and holiness no man shall see God and escape condemnation.’ God had assured Paul, that there should be no loss of any man’s life among them, except of the ship,’ Acts 27:22; and yet afterward, Acts 27:31, ‘Paul telleth them, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.’ How could that assurance given to Paul from God, and Paul’s caution to the mariners, stand together? Doth the purpose of God depend upon the uncertain will and actions of men? I answerNot as a cause, from whence it receiveth its force and strength, but as a means, appointed also by God, to the execution of his decree, for, by the same decree, God appointeth the event what he will do, and the means by which he will have it done; and the Lord revealing by his word the conjunction of ends and means, there is a necessity of duty lying upon man to use these means, and not to expect the end without them. God intended to save all in the ship, and yet the mariners must abide in the ship; therefore, what God hath joined together let no man separate. If we separate these things God doth not change his counsel, but we pervert his order to our own destruction.

2. God, that hath bidden us to believe his promises, hath forbidden us to tempt his providence, Matthew 4:7. Now we tempt God when we desire him to give an extraordinary proof of his care over us, when ordinary means will serve the turn or be useful to us.

3. Though the means seem to have no connection with the end, yet, if God hath enjoined them for that end, we must use them. As in the instance of Namaan, God was resolved to cure him; but Namaan must take his prescribed way, though against his own fancy and conceit: 2 Kings 5:10, ‘Wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again unto thee, and thou shalt be clean.’ Compare ver. 13, ‘If the prophet had bidden thee to do some great thing,’ &c. So John 13:6, 7, Peter must submit to be washed, though he could not see the benefit of it. So John 9:6, 7, the blind man must submit to have his eyes anointed with clay, and wash in the pool of Siloam; though the clay seemed to put out his eyes rather than cure them, and the pool could not wash away his blindness: but means appointed by God must be used, whatever improbabilities are apprehended by us.

4. That when God’s will is expressly declared concerning the event, yet he will have the means used; as, for instance, 2 Kings 20:5-7, ‘God was absolutely resolved to add fifteen years more to Hezekiah’s life, yet he must take a lump of figs and lay it on the boil;’ which plainly showeth that no promise on God’s part, nor assurance on ours, hindereth the use of means; God will work by them, not without them.

5. In spiritual things assurance of the event is an encouragement to industry, not a pretence to sloth: 1 John 2:27, 28, ‘Ye shall abide in him; and now, little children, abide in him.’ The promise of perseverance doth encourage us to use endeavours, that we may persevere, and quicken diligence, rather than nourish security, or open a gap to carnal liberty: 1 Corinthians 9:26, ‘I run, not as one that is [[@Page: 490]] uncertain;’ we are the more earnest, because we are assured the means shall not be ineffectual.

Prop. 2. Our duty is to stand fast in the faith of Christ and profession of godliness, whatever temptations we have to the contrary. Stand fast being a military word, it alludeth to a soldier’s keeping his ground, and is opposed to two things:(1.) A cowardly flight; (2.) A treacherous revolt,

1. A cowardly flight implieth our being overcome in the evil day by the many afflictions that befall us for the truth’s sake: Ephesians 6:13, ‘Wherefore take to you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, that after you have done all things ye may stand.’ Their temptation was the many troubles and persecutions that befell them, called there the evil day. Their defence lay in the whole armour of God, which is there made of six piecesthe girdle of truth or sincerity, which is a strength to us as a girdle to the loins; the breastplate of righteousness, or a holy inclination and desire to perform our duty to God in all things; and the shield of faith, or a steadfast adhering to the truths of the gospel, whether delivered in a way of command, promise, or threatening; the helmet of hope, or a certain and desirous expectation of the promised glory; the shoe of the preparation of the gospel of peace, which is a readiness to endure all encounters for Christ’s sake, who hath made our peace with God; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Now, if we take this armour and use it in our conflicts, what doth it serve for? To withstand and stand; the first is the act of a soldier, the second is the posture of a conqueror; here is withstanding till the field be won, and then standing when the day of evil is over. Here we make our way to heaven by conflict and conquest, and here after we triumph.

2. A treacherous revolt, or yielding to the enemy by complying with those things which are against the interests of Christ and his kingdom for advantage sake: 2 Timothy 4:10, ‘Demas hath forsaken us, and loved the present world.’ Backsliders in heart are the worst sort of apostates, ‘such as lose their affection to God, and delight in his ways, and esteem of his glorious recompenses, for a little pleasure, profit, or pomp of living;’ ‘sell the birthright for one morsel of meat,’ Hebrews 12:15, 16. Some fail in their understandings, but most miscarry by the perverse inclination of their wills; they are carnal, worldly hypocrites that never thoroughly mortified the fleshly mind; prize things as they are commodious to the flesh, and will save them from sufferings. The bias of such men’s hearts doth easily prevail against the light of their understandings.

Prop. 3. The means of standing fast is by holding the traditions which were taught by the holy apostles. Here I will prove:(1.) That the doctrine of Christianity taught by the apostles is a tradition. (2.) That holding this tradition by strong hand when others would wrest it from us is the means of. our perseverance.

1. That the doctrine of Christianity is a tradition. I prove it by two arguments.

[1.] Matters not evident by the light of nature, nor immediately revealed to us by God, must be either an invention or a tradition. [[@Page: 491]] An invention is something in religion not evident by natural light nor agreeable to sound reason, but is some cunningly devised fable, invented by one or more, and obtruded by various artifices upon the belief of the world. Inventions in this kind were man’s disease, not his remedy: Ecclesiastes 7:29, ‘God made man upright, but they sought out many inventions.’ As when the philosophers sat abrood upon religion, a goodly chimera it was they hatched and brought forth: Romans 1:21, 22, ‘They became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.’ These inventions little became the nature of God; nor were they profitable to man, for still the great sore of nature was unhealed, which is a fear of death, and the righteous wrath of God, Romans 1:32, so that neither man’s comfort nor duty was well provided for. Surely the. gospel is none of this sort; not an invention of man, but a revelation of God; and a revelation not made to us in person, but brought out of the bosom of God by Jesus Christ, and by him manifested to chosen witnesses who might publish this mystery and secret to others. Well, then, since the gospel is not an invention it is a tradition, or a delivery of the truth upon the testimony of one that came from God to instruct the world, or reduce it to him; not an invention of man, but a secret brought out of the bosom of God by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore it is said, Hebrews 2:3, 4, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation; first spoken by the Lord himself, and then confirmed to us by them that heard him, the Lord bearing them witness?’ &c. Christ delivered it to the apostles, and the apostles delivered it to others: 2 Timothy 2:2, ‘Those things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ The apostles received the gospel from, Christ, and the churches and ministers from the apostles, and then delivered it down to others, until it came to us; which is the means of our believing the truth, and confessing the name of Christ. This testimony, delivered and conveyed to us by the most credible means, and which we have no reason to doubt of, is as binding as if we had heard Christ and his apostles in person; for we have their word in writing; though we did not hear them preach and publish it with the lively voice, their authority is the same delivered either way. And that these are their writings appeareth by the constant tradition of the church, and the acknowledgment of friends and enemies, who still appeal to them as a public authentic record; and, as they have been attested by the church, they have been owned by God, and blessed by him to the converting and sanctifying of many souls throughout all succession of ages. And by this tradition Christianity hath held up the head against all encounters of time, and the persecutions of adverse powers have not suppressed it, nor the disputes of enemies silenced the profession of it; but from age to age it hath been received and transmitted to future generations, though sometimes at a very dear rate. And this is binding to us, though we saw not the persons and miracles by which they confirmed their message, and heard not the first report. Yet the universal tradition having handed it to us is a sufficient ground of faith, and so we believe through their word, and [[@Page: 492]] are concerned in Christ’s prayers, John 17:20, for with them and their successors (as to these necessary things) Christ hath promised to be to the end of the world, Matthew 28:20.

[2.] My next argument is, because Christian religion must needs be a tradition, partly because matter of fact is the foundation of it, and it is in itself matter of faith. (1.) Because it is built upon matter of fact, that the Son of God came from God to bring us to God; that is to say, appeared in human nature, instructed the world by his doctrine and example, and at length died for sinners, confirming both in life and death the truth of his mission by such unquestionable miracles as showed him to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Now, a testimony, tradition, or report is necessary in matters of fact, which of necessity must be confined to some determinate time and place. It was not fit that Christ should be always working miracles, always dying, always rising and ascending, in every place, and in the view of every man; but these things were to be once done, in one place of the world, in the sight of some particular and competent witnesses; but, because the knowledge of them concerned all the rest of the world, they were by them to be attested to others; matters of fact can only be proved by credible witnesses, and this was the great office put upon the apostles, Acts 1:8, 21:22, 2:32, 3:15, 10:39, 40, 41. (2.) As it is matter of faith, or the doctrine built upon this matter of fact. We cannot properly be said to believe a thing but upon report and testimony. I may know a thing by sense or reason, but I cannot believe it but as it is affirmed or brought to me by credible testimony. As we are said to see those things which we perceive by the eye, or the sense of seeing, and to know those things which we receive by reason, or sure demonstration, so we are said to believe those things which are brought to us by valuable testimony, tradition, and report. As, for instance, if any one ask you, Do you believe the sun shineth at noon day? you will answerI do not believe it, but see it. So if any one ask youDo you believe that twice two make four, and twice three make six? you will sayI do not believe it. but know it, because certain and evident reason telleth me that two is the half of four, and three of six, and every whole consisteth of two halves or moieties. But if he should ask youDo you believe that the sun is bigger than the earth? you will sayI believe it; for though your eye doth not discover it, nor doth an ignorant man know any certain demonstration of it, yet having the authority of learned men, who are competent judges in the case, you judge it a rash and foolish obstinacy not to believe it. Apply it now to the mysteries of godliness revealed in the gospel: they cannot be seen by the eye, for they are invisible; nor found out and comprehended by any human understanding, because they exceed the reach of man’s reason, and depend upon the love and arbitrary will of God, John 3:16. Yet you believe them, because God hath revealed them to the prophets and apostles; and God, being truth and wisdom itself, cannot deceive or be deceived; and, therefore, you believe them with the certainty of divine faith, and do no more doubt of them than you do of those things which you see with your eyes, and know and understand by a sure demonstration. The sense of seeing may be deceived, and human reason may err, but it is [[@Page: 493]] impossible God should deceive or be deceived. It oftentimes falleth out that men do prefer the authority and report of a man whom they judge to be wise and good before their own sense and reason; as, for instance, that man who by his eye judgeth the sun to be less than the earth, yet doth not obstinately stand in his opinion, when he heareth a knowing and skilful philosopher assert the contrary. Now, ‘if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater,’ 1 John 5:9. And this testimony of God is brought to us by his authorised messengers as the ground of faith, and what is that but tradition? ‘We believe in God by hearing of him, and we hear by a preacher.’ Romans 10:14. Ordinary preachers declare his mind to us, but the extraordinary confirm it; the common preachers give us notice, but Christ and his apostles give us assurance; and by their testimony and tradition, our faith is ultimately resolved into the veracity of God.

2. That holding this tradition is the great means of standing fast in the faith of Christ, and the confession of his name; for in the word of God, delivered by Christ and his apostles, there is sure direction to walk by, and sure promises to build upon. For whatever they made known of Christ was not a fable, but a certain truth; for they had the testimony of sense, 2 Peter 1:16, 17, 1 John 1:1-4, and so could plead both the authority of his command and the certainty of his promise, and that with uncontrollable evidence; and without this revelation there can be neither faith nor obedience, nor sure expectation of happiness. For we cannot trust God for what he hath not promised, nor obey God in what he hath not commanded; nor in our difficulties and distresses expect happiness from him without his war rant and assurance. But by this doctrine delivered to us, we have all that belongeth to faith, obedience, and happiness, and beyond that the creature can desire no more. (1.) There can be no faith till we have a sure testimony of God’s revelation, for faith is a believing such things as God hath revealed because he hath revealed them. It is not faith but fancy to believe such things as God hath never revealed, nor is it trust and a regular confidence to think that he will certainly give us what he hath never promised; this were to lay us open to all manner of delusion; and therefore we are never upon sure and stable ground but by sticking to such a tradition as may justly entitle itself to God. (2.) Nor obedience, for obedience is a doing what God hath commanded because he hath commanded it. The fundamental reason of obedience is the sight of God’s will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:18, 1 Peter 2:15. To do what God never commanded, or not to do it upon that account, but for other reasons, is not obedience; and in difficult cases the soul can never be held to its duty till we are persuaded that so is God’s will concerning us. Now, to know his will concerning us, we are often bidden to search the scriptures, but never bidden to consult with the church, to know what unwritten tradition? she hath in her keeping to instruct us in our duty. (3.) No certain expectation of happiness. We are never safe till we know by what rule Christ will judge us; that is, reward or punish men at the last day. Now, ‘he will judge us according to the gospel.’ Romans 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 1:8. Obey the gospel, and you have a perfect rule to guide you to happiness; [[@Page: 494]] but if you neglect this great salvation, or be unfaithful in the profession of it, this word condemneth you, and God will ratify the sentence of it.

Prop. 4. That whilst the apostles were in being, there were two ways of delivering the truth, and that was by word of mouth and writing. So in the text, whether by word or our epistle. The apostles went up and down and preached Christ everywhere; that needeth no proof, unless you would have me to produce the whole book of the Acts of the Apostles. But they did not preach only, but write, and both by the instinct of the Holy Spirit, who guided their journeys, and moved them to write epistles. For being often absent from churches newly planted, and heresies arising, or some contentions, which could not be avoided among weak Christians, God overruled these occasions for the profit of the church in after ages. Upon one occasion or another, they saw a necessity to write, ἀνάγκην ἔχων: Jude 3, ‘It was needful for me to write unto you.’ As in the Old Testament, God himself delivered the law with great majesty and terror, and afterward caused the same to be written on tables of stone for the constant use of his people; and the prophets first uttered their prophecies, and then wrote them; so the apostles first preached evangelical doctrine, and then consigned it to writing for the use of all ages. And though all things delivered by them were not delivered in one sermon or one epistle, yet, by degrees, the canon of the New Testament was constituted, and made perfect by the writings of the evangelists and apostles.

Prop. 5. That now, when they are long since gone to God, and we cannot receive from them the doctrine of life by word of mouth, we must stick to the scriptures or written word. (1.) Because we are taught to do so by Christ and his apostles. Christ always appealeth to the writings of the Old Testament, both against traditions, which he condemneth, Matthew 15:2, and against pretended revelations, Luke 16:31, ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded to repent if one should come from the dead.’ And the apostles still have recourse to this proof: Acts 26:22, ‘Witnessing no other things than the prophets and Moses did say should come to pass.’ And when they pleaded they were eye and ear witnesses, and so their testimony was valuable, yet they say ye have βεβαιότερον λόγον, a surer word of prophecy, whereunto ‘ye shall do well to take heed,’ 2 Peter 1:19. Now, how can we do better than to imitate these great examples? (2.) Because these things were written for our sakes: 1 John 1:4, These things write we unto you, ‘that your joy may be full.’ The apostles being to leave the world, did know the slipperiness of man’s memory, and the danger of corrupting Christian doctrine, if there were not a sure authentic record left; therefore they wrote, and so fully that nothing is wanting to complete our joy and happiness. (3.) Because the scriptures are perfect. The perfection of scripture is known by its end and intended use, which is to give us a knowledge of those things which concern our faith, duty, and happiness. (1st.) Our faith in Christ. If there be enough written for that end, we need not unwritten traditions to complete our rule. Now St John telleth us he might have written more things, ‘But these things are written that ye might believe [[@Page: 495]] in the Son of God, and have life through his name,’ John 20:30, 31. Certainly nothing is wanting to beget a faith in Christ; the object is sufficiently propounded, the warrant or claim is laid down in the new covenant, and the encouragements to believe are clear and strong. What would men have more? so that here is a perfect rule, perfect in its kind, and for its proper use. (2d.) For our duty; that is sufficiently provided for. The apostle telleth us that the grace of God, take it objectively for the grace of the gospel, or subjectively for grace in our hearts, teacheth us: if you mean objective grace, it prescribeth, directeth; ‘if of subjective grace, it persuadeth and exciteth what to do, to live soberly, righteously, godly, in the present world,’ Titus 2:12. There are all the branches of man’s duty enumerated: soberly relateth to self-government; righteously, to our carriage towards our neighbour; godly, to our commerce and communion with God. Now, in the word of God what is there wanting that belongeth either to worship, or justice, or personal holiness? Therefore certainly we need no other rule, for it layeth down whatsoever men are bound to do in all ages and places of the world, and in whatsoever circumstances God shall put them. And so it is fit to be the law of the universal king and lawgiver; yea, it is so perfect, that whatever other way is set up, it presently dasheth against those notions that we have or should have of God and his service, and worship; or it infringeth or perverteth the liberty and nature of man. (3d.) For our happiness, that doctrine and institution which is able to make us wise unto salvation is enough for us, but so the holy scriptures are said to do: 2 Timothy 3:15, ‘Thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ Nay, afterward, 1 Timothy 3:17, ‘The man of God is by them made perfect, and thoroughly furnished to every good work.’

If the scriptures do thoroughly direct men to know God in Christ, and save their own souls, why should we look any further? Now, they do not only furnish every private Christian with this knowledge; but the man of God, who is to instruct others, he needeth look no further, but is furnished out of the scripture with all things necessary to discharge his office. Therefore here we fix and rest, we have a sufficient rule, and a full record of all necessary Christian doctrine.

Use 1. The use of all is, let us not seek another rule than the word of God. Papists cry up unwritten traditions, to be received with equal respect and reverence as we receive the holy scriptures. But you, brethren, stand fast, holding the apostolical tradition: you cannot have it by word of mouth from them now, therefore you must stick to what is written, or else you cannot preserve yourselves from the frauds and impostures of antichrist. These apostolical writings have been received in all ages and times of the church from the beginning; and all disputes among Christians have been tried by them. None were allowed good or sincere Christians who doubted of the truth of them. But because we have to do with a people that will sacrifice all to the honour and interest of their church, and knowing they are not able to stand before the light of scriptures, have, to the no little prejudice of the Christian cause, done all that they can to weaken the authority, sufficiency, and perspicuity of them, that we might have no religion [[@Page: 496]] without the testimony and recommendation of their church; therefore I shall resume the matter and declare it afresh.

1. Mankind lying in darkness, and in the shadow of death, it was necessary that one way or another God should reveal his mind to them, that we may know what belongeth to our duty and happiness, for our chief good and last end. Being altered by sin, we strangely mistake things, and put light for darkness, and darkness for light, good for evil, and evil for good; weighing all things in the balance of the flesh, which we seek to please. We confound both the names and natures of things, and wander in a maze of a thousand perplexities; therefore God in pity to mankind hath given us a sure direction in his word, which is a ‘lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path,’ Psalm 119:105. Mark the words of ‘light’ and ‘lamp;’ the use of a lamp is by night, and in the day we have the light of the sun; whether it be day or night with us, here we are taught how to carry ourselves. Mark again the words of ‘path’ and ‘feet;’ the one signifieth our way and general course, the other all our particular actions, so far as religion is concerned in them; we have directions in the word about them. Besides, man’s condition is such that he needeth a supernatural remedy by a redeemer, which, depending upon the mere love and free grace of God, cannot be found out by natural light left to us; for that only can judge of things necessary, but not of such things as depend upon the mere pleasure of God. Therefore a divine revelation there must be.

2. Since it is necessary that God should some way or another reveal his mind to his people, it must be done by oracles, visions, dreams, or by extraordinary messengers, who by word of mouth might convey it to us; or else by writing, and by ordinary teachers, whose lips may preserve knowledge in the church. The former ways might suffice, while God saw fit to reveal but a few truths, and such as did not burden the memory; and men were long-lived and of great simplicity, and the church was confined within a small compass of ground, and not liable to so many miseries and changes as now in the latter ages. But when once God hath spoken to us by his Son, these extraordinary ways ceased, Hebrews 1:1, 2, God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath ‘in these last times spoken unto us by his Son.’ As formerly God did speak πολυτρόπως, in divers manners, that is to say, by visions, oracles, dreams,’ &c., so polumeros, at sundry times, by several steps and degrees, he acquainted the world with the truths necessary for man to know, delivering them out by portions, not altogether at once, till he came ‘who had the Spirit without measure,’ John 3:34. The prophets, to whom God revealed himself before by visions, oracles, dreams, or the coming of the Spirit upon them, had the Spirit ἐκ μέτρου, by measure, to fit them for some particular errand or message on which God sent them. But when God sent his Son out of his bosom to reveal the whole doctrine of faith at once, and to declare his Father’s will with full authority and power, he fixed and closed up the rule of faith. So it was not fit that after him there should come any extraordinary nuncios and ambassadors from heaven, or any other should be owned as infallible messengers, but such as he immediately sent abroad in the world to disciple the nations. Therefore all former [[@Page: 497]] extraordinary ways ceased, and we are left to the ordinary rule stated by Christ.

3. Being left to the ordinary rule, it was necessary it should be taught not only by word of mouth, but committed to writing; for Christ is ascended into heaven, and the apostles do not live for ever, and we have no men now that are immediately and divinely inspired; and ordinary pastors and teachers cannot make new articles of faith, but do only build on the apostles’ foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:10, or that divinely inspired doctrine which they delivered to the church. Yea, that doctrine cannot well be preserved from oblivion and corruption without writing, therefore God accounted this the safest way. Those things that are only delivered by word of mouth, or from hand to hand, may easily be changed, corrupted, or utterly lost. Certainly if you consider man’s sloth, treachery, levity, and the many vile affections which may easily induce him to extinguish or corrupt the truth, which is contrary to them; you will see that it is necessary that there should be a sure authentic record, by which truth and error might be tried and distinguished. Yea, that the church, which is dispersed through out the world, might have truth at hand, and particular believers have this doctrine ever by them for their comfort and use; it being the property of a blessed man to delight in the law of God, and ‘to exercise himself therein day and night,’ Psalm 1:2. In short, while the apostles were living it was good to take the tradition from their mouth; but now they are dead, we take it from their writings. Surely if God saw some writing necessary when those extraordinary ways we spoke of before were in use, and the church of the Old Testament was in a much quieter state than the church of the New,I say, if some writing were necessary then, it is more necessary now; for the Christian church is more exposed to dreadful storms of persecution, the deceits of heretics of all sorts, especially to the frauds of antichrist, which we are forewarned of in this chapter, and are detected and discovered by their contrariety to the written word.

4. This truth being written, it is both a safe and a full rule for us to walk by. It is a safe rule, because it is written by the apostles and evangelists, holy men moved by the Holy Ghost. The apostles did not lose their infallibility when they committed what they preached to writing: the same Spirit that assisted them in delivering the doctrine by word of mouth assisted them also when they delivered it by writing; and it is a full and sufficient rule, because it containeth all things which are necessary for men to believe and do in order to eternal life. Let them name what is necessary beyond what is recommended there, or may be deduced from thence. Yea, it doth contain not only all the essential but also the integral parts of the Christian religion; and therefore nothing can be any part of our religion which is not there. The direction of old was, Isaiah 8:20, ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.’ Everything was then tried by Moses and the prophets, and everything must be now tried by the prophets and apostles, which is our foundation of faith, worship, and obedience, Ephesians 2:20.

5. That which we blame in the Papists is, that they cry up a private, unproved, unwritten tradition of their own, as of equal authority with [[@Page: 498]] this safe and full rule which is contained in the written word of God. Their crime and fault may be considered partly with respect to the object and matter, that these traditions are not indifferent customs, but essential points, necessary to faith and Christian practice; and so though a Christian be never so thorough and sound in his obedience to the word of God, and true to the baptismal covenant, yet if he submitteth not to these unwritten traditions, he wants some point necessary to faith and practice, and so to life eternal, which is contrary to Mark 16:16, ‘He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned;’ and John 17:3, ‘This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ Partly as to the subject, as they make their own faction to be the only keepers of these things, and that nothing is to be owned as apostolical tradition but what is delivered as such by their authority; which is to leave the church to the tyranny and usurpation of a corrupt faction, to declare for apostolical tradition any thing which serveth their ends and interests, and for which no true historical evidence is produced. Now the unjust and fraudulent practices which they have used to promote this usurpation over the churches of Christ rendered them of all men most unfit to be trusted in this kind. Partly with respect to the manner; they will have these things received pari reverentia et pietatis affectuwith the same reverence and pious affection with which we receive the holy scriptures; and so man’s post is set by God’s, and unproved traditions equalled with doctrines of faith. Their opinion is bad enough, but their practice is worse, for there they show they value these things more than the scriptures, as superstition always aboundeth in its own things. Did ever any of their doctors say the same things of traditions which they take the boldness to say of scripture? Did they ever call them pen and inkhorn, or parchment divinity, a nose of wax, a dumb rule, an obscure and ambiguous doctrine? These blasphemies they vent boldly against the scripture, but did they ever speak thus of tradition? And again, their common people are a thousand times better instructed in their traditions than in the doctrine of salvation; ‘they skill more of Lent, and ember-weeks,’ &c., than they truly understand the doctrine of man’s misery and remedy. And call you this equal reverence and pious affection to the scriptures and traditions? Partly because they would never give us a perfect catalogue of unwritten traditions necessary to be observed by all Christians; it may be lest they should amaze the people with the multitude of them, or else that the people may not know how many of their doctrines are destitute of scripture proof and so they plainly be discovered to be imposers on the belief of the Christian world.

6. Though we blame this in Papists, yet we reject not all tradition.

[1.] Because scripture itself is a tradition, as we proved before, and is conveyed to us by the most credible means, which we have no reason to doubt of. The scriptures of the Old Testament were preserved by the Jews, ‘to whom were committed the oracles of God.’ Romans 3:2. And Protestants receive all the books which they admitted into their canon. And for the books of the New Testament, the Christian church hath received them as the writings of those whose names they [[@Page: 499]] bear, and by the constant universal tradition of the church they are transmitted to us; and we have no more reason to doubt of them than we do of statutes and laws made by kings and parliaments who lived long before we had a being. Yea, we may be much more confident, as the matter is of greater weight and consequence, and these writings have the signature and stamp of God’s Spirit on them, and have been blessed by God to the converting and sanctifying of many souls; and have been delivered down to us by a succession of believers unto this very day: and by them Christianity hath been preserved in the world, notwithstanding the wickedness of it; and hath held up head against all the encounters of time. The persecutions of adverse powers have not suppressed it, nor the disputes of enemies silenced the profession of it; but still from age to age God’s truth is received and transmitted to posterity.

[2.] Because the proof of Christianity depending upon matters of fact, chiefly Christ’s rising from the dead, it can only be proved by a testimony, which in so extraordinary a case must be made valuable and authorised to the world by the miracles accompanying it. Now, the notice of these things is brought to us by tradition, which being un questionable, giveth us as good ground of faith as it did to them that lived in the apostles’ time, and heard their doctrine, and saw their miracles. God’s wonderful works were never intended for the benefit of that age only in which they were done, but for the benefit also of those that should hear of them by any credible means whatsoever, Psalm 145:4, Joel 1:3, Psalm 70:3-7. ‘These things were told them that they might set their hope in God,’ &c.

[3.] Because there are some doctrines drawn by just consequence from scripture, but are the more confirmed to us when they are backed with constant church usage and practice; as baptism of infants, Lord’s day, singing of psalms in our public worship, &c.

[4.] Because there are certain words which are not found in scripture indeed, yet agreeable thereunto, and are very useful to discover the frauds of heretics, as trinity, divine providence, consubstantial, procession of the Holy Ghost, satisfaction, &c.

[5.] We reject not all church history, or the records of ancient writers concerning the providences of God in their days in owning the gospel, which make much for our instruction in manners, and are helps to encourage us to put our trust in God.

[6.] There are certain usages and innocent customs or circumstances, common or sacred, and other actions, which we despise not, but acknowledge and receive as far as their own variable nature and condition requireth; not rejecting them because anciently practised, nor regarding them when the general law of edification requireth the omission of them. But that which we detest is, that the traditions of men should be made equal in dignity and authority with the express revelation of God. Yea, that manifest corruptions and usurpations, as making Rome the mistress of other churches, and superinducing the Pope as the head of the universal visible church, and the vicar of Christ, without his leave and appointment, and such like other points, should be obtruded upon the world as apostolical traditions, and to be received with like religious reverence as we do articles of faith set down in [[@Page: 500]] scripture. This is that we cannot sufficiently abhor, as apparently false and destructive to Christianity.

The propositions drawn out of the text in this sermon are these:

1. Whatever assurance we have of God’s preserving us in the truth, yet we are bound to use diligence and caution.

2. Our diligence and caution is to be employed about this, that we may stand fast in the faith of Christ, and the profession and practice of godliness.

3. That the means of standing fast in the faith of Christ and the profession and practice of godliness is by holding the traditions which were taught by the holy apostles.

4. That while the apostles were in being there were two ways of delivering the truthby word of mouth and writing.

5. That now when they are long since gone to God, and we cannot receive from them the doctrine of life by word of mouth, we must stick to the scriptures or written word. 


Vol 5.—Page 475.—Man’s Impotency to Help Himself out of his Misery.—Romans 5:6.—For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:41 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:12 ]



Man’s Impotency to Help Himself out of his Misery.

Romans 5:6. — For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

IN this chapter there are two parts: in the first, the apostle lays down the comfortable fruits and privileges of a justified estate; in the second, he argues the firmness of these comforts, because they are so rich that they are scarce credible, and hardly received. The firmness and soundness of these comforts the apostle representeth by a double comparison:(1.) By comparing Christ with Christ; and (2.) Christ with Adam. Christ with Christ, or one benefit that we have by him with another, from the text to Romans 5:12; then Christ with Adam, the second Adam with the first, to the end of the chapter.

1. In comparing Christ with Christ, three considerations do occur:

[1.] The efficacy of his love toward us before justification, with the efficacy of his love toward us after justification. The argument standeth thus: If Christ had a love to us when sinners, and his love prevailed with him to die for us, much more may we expect his love when made friends: if when we were in sin and misery, shiftless and helpless, Christ had the heart to die for us, and to take us with all our faults, will he cast us off after we are justified and accepted with God in him? This love of Christ is asserted in Romans 5:6, amplified in Romans 5:7, 8, and the conclusion is inferred in ver. 9: ‘Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.’

[2.] The second comparison is of the efficacy of the death of Christ, and the efficacy of the life of Christ. It is absurd to think that Christ rising from the dead, and living in heaven, should not be as powerful to save, and bring us to God, as Christ dying was to reconcile us to him.

[3.] The third comparison is the privative mercy, or being saved from hell, with the positive mercy, or obtaining a title to heaven: ‘And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,’ Romans 5:11.

2. For the comparison between Christ and Adam, the sum of it is, that Christ is more able to save than Adam to destroy, and therefore [[@Page: 476]] justified persons need to fear nothing. As Adam was a public person, and root of mankind, so is Christ a public person; ‘for Adam was Τύρος τοῦ μέλλοντος, the figure of him that was to come,’ Romans 5:14. Adam was a public person, but a finite person, having no intrinsic value in himself, and only was all us by divine institution; but Christ, beside the institution of God, was an infinite person, and therefore there is a πολλῷ μᾶλλον, a much more,’ upon Christ. His sacred virtue exceedeth that cursed influence of Adam in many particulars, amply set down in the latter end of the chapter by the apostle.

The words begin the first comparison. In them,

1. The condition wherein we are by nature is set forth by two notionsungodly, and without strength: the one noteth that we have no worth to move God to help us, for ‘we were ungodly;’ the other, that we have no power to help ourselves, for we were ‘without strength:’ we were ‘without strength,’ and so need help;’ ungodly,’ and so refused help.

2. The means of our recovery, Christ died for us.

3. The seasonableness of our redemption, in due time.

For the first notion, whereby our natural estate is expressed, ‘ungodly,’ I shall pass it by; the next notion, ‘without strength,’ will yield us this point:

Doct. That man, fallen, is destitute of all power and means of rising again, or helping himself out of that misery into which he hath plunged himself by sin.

This will appear, if you consider his condition with respect to the law, or with respect to the gospel, and those terms of grace which God offers in Christ. The former more properly falls under the consideration of this place; but, because of the method of this exercise, you expect the discussion of the latter also, I shall take occasion from hence to speak of that.

First, With respect to the law. That will be understood by a view of that scripture that expresseth the tenor of the law: ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all the words of this law to do them,’ Galatians 3:10; where is considerable,

1. The duty it exacts.

2. The penalty it inflicts.

3. The operation that both these have upon the fallen creature.

1. The duty it exacts. ‘An innocent nature, that is presupposed; for the person must continue.’ It doth not say, ‘now begin;’ the sentence of the law doth not suppose man as lapsed and fallen, or as having already broken with God; but as in a good and sound estate. And then universal, perpetual, perfect obedience is indispensably required: he must continue in all things with all his heart, and that continually; if he fails in one point, he is gone. This is personally exacted of all men, as long as they abide under Adam’s covenant: ‘He that doeth them shall live in them;’ and ‘the soul that sinneth, it shall die,’ Ezekiel 18:4, 20:11. Now if God should call us to an account for the most inoffensive day that ever we passed over, what would become of us? ‘If thou shouldest mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?’ [1] Psalm 130:3. ‘Better never born, than to be liable [[@Page: 477]] to that judgment, when the law shall take the sinner by the throat,’ and say, ‘Pay me that thou owest,’ Matthew 18:28. What shall the poor wretch do? ‘So that here we are without strength,’ altogether un able to come up to the obedience of the law of works. ‘The law can make nothing perfect, because it is become weak through our flesh.’ Romans 8:3. To fallen man it establisheth a course of punishing sin, not of taking away sin: we may increase the debt, but we cannot lessen it. If our obedience were exact for the future (let us suppose it), yet the paying of new debts doth not quit old scores. They that could not keep themselves when entire and innocent, cannot recover themselves when lost and fallen.

2. The penalty it inflicts: ‘Cursed is every one.’ How cursed? Cursed in all that he hath, Deuteronomy 28:15-18. All his enjoyments become a snare, and temporal comforts do but harden him, and prepare him for a greater misery. ‘Cursed in all that he doeth: his prayer is turned into sin; his hearing, the savour of death unto death;’ all his toil and labour in outward service is to no purpose: The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: ‘how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?’ Proverbs 21:27. ‘At the best it is but an abomination.’ God will not accept an offering at his hands; much more when it is polluted with sinful and evil aims. But this is not all; he is cursed for evermore: the law bindeth him over, body and soul, to everlasting torments; and in time he shall hear that dreadful sentence, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,’ Matthew 25:41. There is but the slender thread of a frail life that hinders the execution of this sentence upon him: a sinner stands upon the very brink of hell, and ever and anon is ready to be cast in; where he shall eternally lie under the wrath of God. ‘So that here we are without strength,’ because we cannot satisfy the justice of God for one sin, but are always satisfying, and can never be said to have satisfied; like a poor man that pays a debt of a thousand pounds by a farthing a week.

3. Consider how this works with him. An exaction of duty under so severe a penalty doth either terrify or stupefy the conscience; he that escapeth the one suffereth the other; or else, thirdly, doth irritate corruption; or, fourthly, obtrude us upon a sottish despair, so as to give over all endeavours and hope of salvation.

First, Sometimes it terrifieth. That is easily done; the conscience of a sinner is a sore place; they are all their lifetime ‘subject to bondage,’ Hebrews 2:15. There is a hidden fear in the heart of a wicked man, not always felt, but soon awakened, either by a sound conviction from the word, or some sore judgment, or by the agonies of death, or serious thoughts of the world to come. Felix trembled when Paul did but mention ‘God’s judgment,’ Acts 24:25; the prisoner makes the judge tremble. A sinner is afraid to think of his condition, if God do but a little break in upon his heart: do what he can, he lies under the bondage of a wounded spirit, and wherever he goes, like the devils, he carrieth his own hell about with him.

Secondly, ‘If it terrifieth not the conscience, it stupefieth the conscience, that they grow senseless of their misery, past feeling,’ Ephesians 4:19. And that is a dangerous crisis and estate of soul, when [[@Page: 478]] once a man comes to that, and goeth like a fool to the correction of the stocks.

Thirdly, It irritateth their inbred corruption: ‘The commandment came,’ that is, ‘in full conviction and power, and sin revived, and I died.’ Romans 7:9. The more we understand of the necessity of our subjection to God, the more opposite is the soul to him; as a dam makes a river or strong stream the more violent, or as a bullock at the first yoking becometh the more unruly. Or,

Fourthly, It breedeth a sottish despair: ‘There is no hope; therefore we will walk after our own devices, and do every one according to the evil imaginations of our own heart,’ Jeremiah 18:12. It is to no purpose to speak to us, or strive further about us; as if they had said, There is no hope; and therefore we will live as we list, without any further care of turning to God. ‘This is the worst kind of despair, when a man is given up to his own heart’s lust,’ Psalm 81:12, and runneth headlong in the way of destruction, without hope of returning. There is more hope of them that are under despairing fears or a terrified conscience than there is of those who are under despairing resolutions or a stupid and sottish obstinacy. Thus as to the law, man is helpless.

Secondly, Consider man as to terms of grace offered in the gospel. ‘He is still without strength;’ not only in a damnable condition by the law, but, without grace, unable to accept the gospel. This will appear by two considerations:

1. By those emphatical terms of scripture by which the case and cure of man are set forth.

2. By those positive assertions whereby all power is denied to man to convert himself to God, or to do anything that is spiritually good.

1. Those emphatical expressions which represent his case and his cure.

[1.] His case. The scripture sets forth man’s condition thus: that he is born in sin, Psalm 51:5; and things natural are not easily altered. Greedy of sin: ‘He drinketh in iniquity like water,’ Job 15:16; it noteth a vehement propension, as greedy to sin as a thirsty man to drink. Thirst is the most implacable appetite; hunger is far better borne. But this, you will say, is but now and then, in a great temptation or vehement passion. No; ‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is evil, only evil,’ and ‘that continually,’ Genesis 6:5. By how many aggravating and increasing circumstances is man’s sin there set forth! There is in him a mint always at work: his mind coining evil thoughts, his heart evil desires, and carnal motions; and his memory is the closet and storehouse wherein they are kept. But may not a man be reclaimed? is not this his bondage and trouble? No; his heart is a heart of stone, Ezekiel 36:26; that is, inflexible, insensible. When God useth the word, some common motions of his Spirit, some rousing providences, yet all is in vain; ‘for man’s heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,’ Jeremiah 17:9; inventing shifts and excuses to avoid God, and to cheat itself of its own happiness. But is not the New Testament more favourable than the Old? or is not man grown better, since there was so much grace discovered? I answerNo; there is a [[@Page: 479]] perfect harmony between the Testaments; there you will find man represented as ‘a child of wrath by nature,’ Ephesians 2:3, even ‘the elect as well as others to be a servant of sin.’ Romans 6:17. Never such an imperious master, never such a willing servant: sin never leaveth commanding, and we love the work. ‘You will find him again expressed as one averse from God, alienated from his life,’ Ephesians 4:18. It is a melancholy thought to a carnal heart to think of the life of God. As an enemy to the law, Romans 8:7; one that neither can nor will please God. ‘As blind,’ and knoweth not what to do, 2 Peter 1:9: and this blindness spiritual is worse than bodily. A man that is blind in body seeketh for a fit guide; as Elymas, when he was stricken blind, ‘sought about for one to lead him by the hand,’ Acts 13:11. ‘As weak and without strength,’ here in the text; yea, ‘stark dead in trespasses and sins,’ Ephesians 2:1-5; yea, worse than dead: a dead man doeth no more hurt, his evil dieth with him; but there is a life of resistance and rebellion against God that goeth along with this death in sin. Now, put all this together, and you may spell out man’s misery, what a wretched, impotent creature he is in his natural estate. The scripture does not speak this by glances or short touches; neither is it a hyperbole used once or twice, but everywhere, where it professedly speaks of this matter. Certainly man contributeth little to his own conversion: ‘he cannot hunger and thirst’ after ‘Christ that drinks in iniquity like water;’ there is nothing in nature to carry him to grace who is altogether sinful. If the scripture had only said that man had ‘accustomed himself to sin, and was not born in sin;’ that man was ‘somewhat prone to iniquity, and not greedy’ of it; and did often think evil, and not continually;’ that man was ‘somewhat obstinate, and not a stone,’ an ‘adamant;’ if the scripture had only said ‘that man was indifferent to God, and not a professed enemy;’ if ‘a captive of sin, and not a servant;’ if ‘only weak, and not dead;’ if only a neuter, and not a rebel;’ then there might be something in man, and the work of conversion not so difficult. But the scripture saith the quite contrary.

[2.] The cure. Certainly to remedy so great an evil requires an almighty power, and the all-sufficiency of grace; therefore it is good to see how conversion is described in scripture. Sometimes by enlightening the mind: ‘And the eyes of your understandings being enlightened,’’ &c., Ephesians 1:18. Man, the wisest creature on this side heaven, is stark blind in the things of God. Though he hath the light of nature, and can put on the spectacles of art, and dress his notions of divine things by the glass of the word, yet ere the cure is wrought, something must be done upon the faculty: the eyes of our understandings must be en lightened, as well as the object revealed. Ay! but this infusion of light is not all; the scripture speaks of opening the heart: ‘He opened the heart of Lydia,’ Acts 16:14. God doth not only knock at the heart, but open it. He knocks many times by the outward means, but finds no entrance. Yea, as one that would open a door,he tries key after key, till he hath tried all the keys in the bunch; so does God use means after means; but till he putteth his fingers upon the handles of the lock, Solomon’s Song 5:4, 5, the door is not opened to him. Well, then, the mind must be enlightened, and the heart opened. If [[@Page: 480]] these words are not emphatical enough, you will find conversion expressed by regeneration: ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,’ John 3:3. Mark, we must not only be reformed, but regenerated. Now because generation is an ordinary work of nature, and often falls out in the course of second causes, therefore it is expressed by the metaphor of resurrection, Ephesians 2:5. But that which hath been may be again; therefore it is called a creation: ‘We are’ ποίημα αὐτοῦ, ‘his workmanship,’ Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 4:6, 5:17; Psalm 51:10. Yea, further it is expressed by victory, 1 John 4:4; or ‘the beating and binding of the strong man,’ by ‘one that is stronger than he,’ Luke 11:21, 22; by ‘bringing into captivity every proud thought,’ 2 Corinthians 10:5. All these expressions doth the scripture use to set out the mystery of grace. One expression may not enough be heeded, and therefore are many types and figures of it used, that what is wanting in one notion may be supplied by another. As let us gather them up a little. There must be not only light in the mind, but the heart must be moved; and that not a little stirred, but changed, fashioned anew, born again. And because generation supposeth a previous disposition in the matter, not only is it called ‘regeneration,’ but the term ‘resurrection’ is used, in which the matter is wholly unprepared. But yet because still here is matter to work upon, therefore it is called creation, which was a making all things out of nothing. ‘God works faith where there is no faith, and repentance where was no repentance; and calleth the things that are not as though they were.’ But now because sin makes us worse than nothing, and as in creation, as there was nothing to help, so there was nothing to resist and hinder, therefore it is expressed by victory; implying the opposition of God’s work, and the resistance that there is in the heart of man till it be overpowered by grace.

2. The next proof is from those assertions whereby all power is denied to man to convert himself to God, or to do anything that is spiritually good. As when it is said he cannot know, 1 Corinthians 2:14; he cannot believe, John 6:44; he cannot obey, Romans 8:7. Nay, to instance in single acts: he cannot think a good thought of himself, 2 Corinthians 3:5; he cannot speak a good word: ‘How can ye, being evil, speak good things?’ Matthew 12:34. He cannot do anything, John 15:5. He doth not say, nihil magnum, but nihil; ‘not no great thing,’ but ‘Without me ye can do nothing’ Well, then, when man can neither know, nor believe, nor obey, nor think, nor speak, nor do anything without grace, surely man is ‘without strength,’ wholly impotent and unable to turn himself to God.

Obj. 1. But here is an objection: If it be so, how can these things stand with the mercy of God, as the Creator of mankind, to require the debt of him that is not able to pay? with the justice of God, as the judge of the world, to punish him with eternal death for the neglect of that which he could not perform? or with the wisdom of the supreme lawgiver, to exhort him by promises who hath no power to do what he is exhorted unto?

Ans. 1. I answerto the firstGod doth not lose his right, though man hath lost his power; their impotency doth not dissolve their obligation; a drunken servant is a servant, and it is against all reason [[@Page: 481]] that the master should lose his right to command by the servant’s default. A prodigal debtor, that hath nothing to pay, yet is liable to be sued for the debt without any injustice. God contracted with us in Adam; and that obedience which he requireth is not only due by covenant, but by law; not only by positive law and contract, but by immutable right. It is harsh, men think, to suffer for Adam’s fault, to which they were not conscious and actually consenting; but every man will find an Adam in his own heart: the old man is there, wasting away the few remains of natural light and strength. And shall not God challenge the debt of obedience from a debtor that is both proud and prodigal? We are proud; for when we are miserable, we think ourselves happy; and when we are poor, we think ourselves rich; and when we are blind, we conceit ourselves very seeing; and when we are naked, we think ourselves well clad, Revelation 3:17. And therefore God may admonish us of our duty, and demand his right; if for no other reason but to show us our impotency, and that we may not pretend that we were not called upon for what we owe. And as man is proud, so he is prodigal. We spend what is left, and throw away those relics of conscience and moral inclinations which escaped out of the ruins of the fall.

Ans. 2. As to the second, how God can with justice punish him for the neglect of what he could not do, I answerOur natural impotency is voluntary. We must not consider man only as impotent to good, but as delighting in evil, and loving it with all his heart. As man can not, so he will not, come to God, John 5:40. Our impotency lies in our obstinacy, and so man is left without excuse. We refuse the grace that is offered to us, and by continuing in sin, increase our bondage, our inveterate customs turning to another nature.

Ans. 3. As to the last, how God can exhort and persuade us, for answer, suppose we should sayThis is only for the elect’s sake, who certainly are ‘the called according to purpose.’ Romans 8:28; whereas others are called obiter, ‘by the by,’ and as they live intermingled with them. If the elect did dwell alone, and were a distinct community by themselves, the objection were plausible; but they are hidden amongst others, and therefore the reprobate have the like favour in the external means with them. The world standeth for the elect’s sake, yet the sun doth not shine upon them alone, nor the showers fall upon their fields alone. Or let me illustrate it thus: The sun shineth, though blind men see it not; the rain falls upon the rocks and mountains, as well as the fruitful valleys: so are exhortations of duty promiscuously tendered to good and bad. This might be answer enough; but that which I rather say is, that these exhortations have their use; for they carry their own blessing with them, to them to whom God means them for good. The word has a ministerial subserviency to the power of God; as when Christ said, ‘Lazarus, come forth,’ it raised him. out of his grave. As for others that are not converted by them, it is for their conviction, and to bridle their fierceness, and a means to civilise them, and keep them from growing worse, whereby many temporal blessings do accrue to them; as Pagan Rome flourished in all manner of virtue and success as long as moral precepts were in force. But of this more in the next objection.

[[@Page: 482]]Obj. 2. If man be so altogether without strength, why do ye press him to the use of means?

Ans. I answerThough man cannot change himself, yet he is to use the means; and that for several reasons:

1. That we may practically see our own weakness. Men think the work of grace is easy, till they put themselves upon a trial: the lameness of the arm is found in exercise: ‘Apply thy heart to understanding,’ then ‘cry for knowledge,’ Proverbs 2:2, 3. Whosoever sets himself in good earnest to get any grace, will be forced to cry for it before he hath done. We never seek strength at God’s hands in so feeling a manner, till our experience convince us of our weakness. When a man goes to lift up a piece of timber heavy above his strength, he is forced to call in help.

2. The use of the means we owe to God, as well as the change of the heart. We lie under a moral obligation to use them. God, that hath required faith and conversion, hath required prayer, hearing, reading, meditating; and we are bound to obey, though we know not what good will come of it: as Abraham obeyed God, ‘not knowing whither he went,’ Hebrews 11:8; and Peter, when there was little hope, saith, ‘Howbeit, at thy command,’’ &c., Luke 5:5. Our great rule is, we are to do what he commandeth, and let God do what he will.

3. To lessen our guilt. For when men do not use the means, they have no excuse: it is plain laziness and want of will, not want of power, when we will not so much as try to come out of our condition; we love our bondage, and shut the door upon ourselves; or, as that phrase, ‘judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life,’ Acts 13:46; pass sentence upon our own souls. It is a sign we care not whether God show us mercy, yea, or no; for you will not so much as bestow a thought upon it; you come under the censure of wicked and slothful servants, Matthew 25:26.

4. There is encouragement in the use of means many ways.

[1.] If we do not something, we shall grow worse. Standing pools are apt to putrefy. Man is of an active nature, either growing better or worse: when we do not improve nature, we deprave it: ‘They corrupt themselves in what they know naturally,’ Jude 10. Voluntary neglects draw on penal hardness; and so your impotency is in creased. There is this benefit of using meansit prevents much sin and hardness of heart: it is like the embalming of a dead body; it keeps it from stinking, though it does not restore life.

[2.] Without the use of means they can never hope for anything: ‘How shall they believe without a preacher?’ Romans 10:14. If ever I meet with God, with Christ, it must be in this way; it is good to lie at the pool, as the poor man did who was unable to get in when the angel stirred the waters, John 5:3-5. Marriage is instituted for the propagation of mankind, yet the soul is of God only. No man abstaineth from marriage because he cannot beget a reasonable soul. So grace is of God; but hearing, reading, praying, are the instituted means; and we must not abstain from these means because grace is not of ourselves, but God.

[3.] It may be God will meet with us. It is the ordinary practice of his free grace so to do; and it is good to make trial upon a [[@Page: 483]] common hope: ‘Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee,’ Acts 8:22. There is a great uncertainty, yet pray; it is God’s usual way to meet with them that seek him: I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth, 3 Luke 11:8: for ‘his importunity’s sake.’ διὰ τὴν ἀναίδειαν, for his impudence,’ [2] God is not engaged; but who knows what importunity may do? He may, and he may not, give grace; but usually he doth. It is God’s usual way to bless man’s industry; and yet all they that labour have not an absolute certainty of success. Who would forbear ploughing, because in one year of ten there may happen a dearth or a lean harvest? Act; God may come in (for usually he doth) with his influence and blessing.

Let me now give you some reasons why God permits this weakness and want of strength to lie upon the fallen creature.

1. To exalt the freeness and power of his grace. First, The freeness of his grace; for God hath shut up all under the curse, that there may be no way of escape but by his mercy; their eternal ruin and damnation is else certain and inevitable: ‘God hath concluded them all under unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.’ Romans 11:32. Συνέκλεισε, that is the word:’ the state of unbelief is there compared to a prison, made sure and fast with iron bars and bolts; and by God’s permission man hath shut up’ himself in such a prison that mercy alone might open the door to him. Jew and Gentile lie fast bound with a chain that can be loosened by no hand but God’s. So, Galatians 3:22: ‘The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe:’ it is the same word and notion: we may mourn and sigh through the grates of the flaming prison, but can never get out till God look upon us in mercy through Christ. And so also the power of his grace in rescuing us out of this misery: it is a mighty power that works in them that believe, Ephesians 1:19. When we consider it, we may wonder at it that ever such a change should be wrought in us that are so carnal, so obstinate: ‘Who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light,’ 1 Peter 2:9. It is indeed marvellous that ever we should get out of the prison of sin; more miraculous than Peter’s getting out of prison, having so many chains, and doors, and keepers upon him, Acts 12:

2. To humble the creature thoroughly by a sense of his own guilt, un worthiness, and nothingness. ‘In our natural state we are ungodly’ and ‘without strength.’ Why has God permitted it? ‘That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,’ ὑπόδικος τ θεῷ, Romans 3:19, liable to the process of his revenging justice; and so to humble us for our inability and obstinacy, that we may go complainingly to God, saying, ‘Lord, I am as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke,’ Jeremiah 31:18. Whosoever hath passed this trial, doth sensibly find it.

Use of all.

1. To the unconverted,to be sensible of their condition, and mourn over it to God. Acknowledge the debt; confess your impotency; [[@Page: 484]] beg pardon and grace; and, in a humble sense of your misery, endeavour earnestly to come out of it. By such doctrines as these men are either cut at heart,’ Acts 7:54, or ‘pricked at heart,’ Acts 2:37, which is the far more kindly work. Some men’s hearts and lusts are exasperated; and they rage and storm when they are warned of their danger by a closer application. Oh! it is better to bemoan yourselves, than fret against the Lord, and yield to a sottish despair. There is some hope when conviction ends in groaning rather than murmuring; and you do not fret against the Lord’s sovereignty, but complain to him of the naughtiness of your hearts, begging his grace for Christ’s sake. Therefore go and lie at his feet, and say, Lord, I have a blind mind, a froward heart; none more. I shall never of myself fly the evil forbidden, perform the good commanded, renounce these bewitching lusts, take up such a course of service to thy blessed majesty. Oh! take away this stony, untractable heart! &c. ‘You are in prison, but you are prisoners of hope,’ if you do so.

2. To press the converted to thankfulness. We were once in such a pitiful case, till God plucked us as brands out of the burning; we were utterly miserable and destitute of all good. Oh! blessed be God, that opened the prison-door, and proclaimed deliverance by Christ to poor captives; and not only proclaimed it, but wrought it for us: none but an Almighty arm could loosen the bolts, and shoot back the many locks that were upon us. Peter, when the angel made his chains fall off, ‘considered’ the matter, Acts 12:12, and went to give thanks among the saints. Oh! when there were so many doors and bolts upon you, such difficulties and disadvantages in the way of your conversion, consider it, and bless God for your escape: ‘Blessed be the Lord, that gave me counsel in my reins,’ Psalm 16:7.

3. Let us compassionate others that are in this estate. Poor souls! in what a sad condition are they! We have not usually such a deep sense of their misery as we should have. Israel was to pity strangers, because they were once strangers in the land of Egypt: we ourselves have been in the house of bondage. Oh! pity poor captive souls. Especially doth this concern the ministry; they that do induere personam Christi, that ‘stand in the stead of Christ,should induere viscera Christi, ‘put on the bowels of Christ:’ ‘God is my record how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Christ Jesus,Philippians 1:8. ‘When we were ungodly,and ‘without strength, Christ died for sinners;’ and wilt not thou labour for them, and employ thy talent to edification? ‘Oh! if we had more weighty thoughts about the worth and danger of souls, we would not do the Lord’s work so sleepily as usually we do; but as co-workers with God,’ ‘we would beseech you with all earnestness not to receive the grace of God in vain,2 Corinthians 6:1. Every advantage should be taken hold of: as a sinking, perishing man, if it be but a bough in the waters, catcheth at it, so should we press you to improve all closer applications and ministerial helps, and that with compassion and tenderness, as having ourselves been acquainted with the heart of a poor, impotent, captive sinner.

Footnotes:

[1] That is, rectus in curiabe able to make a bold defence.

[2] And so fitly expressing our restlessness in the use of means. 


Vol 5.—Page 461.—How ought we to Improve our Baptism?—Acts 2:38.—Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:37 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:13 ]



How ought we to Improve our Baptism?

Acts 2:38. — Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.

THIS chapter gives us an account of the pouring out of the Spirit, according to promise, presently after Christ’s ascension. As soon as the Spirit was poured out, the apostles were enabled to speak in various languages, to the astonishment and wonder of the hearers. This was for the glory of God, the confirmation of the gospel, and to authorise them as special messengers sent by Christ.

At the sight of this miracle some wonder, others mock, as if this speaking with divers tongues had been a confused jabbering that proceeded from the fumes of wine, rather than the gift and operation of the Holy Spirit.

To satisfy both, Peter declares in a sermon the effect and intent of the miracle, proving Jesus, whom they had crucified, to be Lord and Christ. ‘When they heard this, many of the most obstinate among them were pricked at the heart,’ and relented A happy sermon it was that Peter preached, it brought in thousands of souls to Christ; the first handsel of the power of the Spirit and success of the gospel.

It is good to observe what course they took for ease and relief after this piercing and brokenness of heart; they said to Peter, and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ This is the usual question of men under a sound and thorough conviction.

To their serious question Peter makes a seasonable answer, ver. 38. It is the part of a good physician not only to discover the disease, but also to prescribe a remedy; especially should spiritual physicians be tender of broken-hearted sinners, and willing and ready to give them counsel.

In Peter’s direction and counsel to them, observe(1.) What he persuades them to do. (2.) By what motive and argument; what they should do, and what they should receive.

In the advice, he persuades them to repentance, and to be baptized in the name of Christ. The latter we are upon.

For explaining it, we may inquire:

Quest. 1. Why is baptism mentioned, rather than faith and other things more internal and necessary to salvation?

I answer(1.) Certainly faith is implied; for, Mark 16:16, He [[@Page: 462]] that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.’ Baptism is an open and real profession of Christ crucified; so that, ‘Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ is as much as ‘be Baptized, believing on the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins,’ (2.) Baptism is mentioned because it was the visible rite of receiving proselytes to Christ. Now, it imported them who were convinced as persecutors to turn professors, if they would have ease for their consciences; and therefore not only to believe with the heart, but to make open profession of faith in Christ, Romans 10:10.

Quest. 2. Why in the name of Christ only? The Father and the Holy Ghost are not mentioned, according to the prescript form, Matthew 28:19. I answerHe speaks not of the form of baptism, but the use and end thereof. Now, the great use of baptism is that we may have benefit by the mystery of redemption by Christ; therefore, else where we are said to be ‘baptized into Jesus Christ.’ Romans 6:3; and to ‘put on Christ,’ Galatians 3:27. He is the head of the church, and by baptism we are planted into his mystical body.

This being premised, my work shall be to show what use and respect baptism has unto this benefit of obtaining remission of sins by Jesus Christ. I shall do it in these considerations:

1. That God hath ever delighted to deal with his creatures in the way of a covenant, that we might know what to expect from him, and might look upon ourselves as under the firmer bonds of obedience to his blessed majesty. In a covenant, which is the most solemn transaction between man and man, both parties are engagedGod to us, and we to God. It is not meet that one party should be bound and the other free; therefore both are bound to each other, God to bless and we to obey. Indeed, in the first covenant, the debitum poenae is only mentioned, because that only took place: Genesis 2:17, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.’ But the other part is implied, and it doth in effect speak thus much, ‘Do and live, sin and die.’

2. Because the first covenant was broken on our part, God was pleased to enter into a second, wherein he would manifest the glory of his redeeming grace and pardoning mercy to fallen man; this was brought about in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:19, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself;’ and therefore ‘this second covenant is called a covenant of peace,’ as being made with us after the breach, and when man was obnoxious to the wrath of God: Isaiah 54:10, ‘The covenant of my peace shall not be removed,’ Man needeth such a covenant, and God, appeased by Christ, offereth it to us.

3. In this covenant of peace, the privileges and duties are suited to the state in which man was when God invited him into covenant with himself. Man was fallen from his duty, and obnoxious to the wrath and displeasure of God; and therefore the new covenant is a doctrine of repentance and remission of sins. ‘What is preach the gospel to every creature,’ Mark 16:16, is in Luke 24:47, ‘that repentance and remission of sin should be preached in his name among all nations;’ for that is the gospel, or the new remedial law of our Lord Jesus: repentance to heal us and set us in joint again as to our duty; remission of sins; to recover us into God’s favour. Both these benefits [[@Page: 463]] we have by the Redeemer: Acts 5:31, ‘Him hath God exalted to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel;’ he giveth the one simply, and both giveth and requireth the other; so that, by the new covenant, remission of sins is conveyed to all true penitents.

4. More distinctly to understand the tenor of this new and second covenant, we must consider both the duties and the privileges thereof; for in every covenant there is ratio dati et acceptithere is some thing promised and given, and something required; and usually the promise consists of somewhat which the party is willing of, and the duty or condition required of that to which he is more backward and loath to submit. So in the covenant of grace, in the promise God respects man’s want, in the duty his own honour. Every man would have pardon and be saved from hell, but God will have subjection; even corrupt nature is not against desires of happiness; these God makes use of to gain us to holiness. All men readily catch at felicity, and would have impunity, peace, comfort, glory, but are unwilling to deny the flesh, to renounce the credit, profit, or pleasure of sin, or to grow dead to the world and worldly things. Now God promiseth what we desire, on condition that we will submit to those things that we are against: as we sweeten bitter pills to children, that they may swallow them the better; they love the sugar though they loathe the aloes. So doth God invite us to our duty by our interest. Therefore whosoever would enter into the gospel-state must resolve to take the blessings and benefits offered for his happiness, and the duties required for his work. Indeed, accepting of the benefits is a part of the condition, because we treat with an invisible ‘God about a happiness that lieth in another world; but it is but part, there are other terms, and therefore we must draw nigh with a true heart, in full assurance of faith,’ Hebrews 10:22. With a true heart, resolving upon the duties of the covenant, in full assurance of faith, depending upon God’s word that he will give us the blessings.

5. The privileges are twopardon and life. These are the great blessings offered in the new covenant; you have them both together, Acts 26:18, ‘To turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and in heritance among them that are sanctified by faith.’ These two benefits are most necessary, the one to allay the fears of the guilty creature, and the other to gratify desires of happiness, which are natural to us; the one to remedy the misery incurred by sin and the fall of man, the other to establish our true and proper felicity in the everlasting enjoyment of God; the one to ease our consciences, and support us against troubles of mind, the other to comfort us against the outward troubles and afflictions which sin hath introduced into the world. In short, the one to free us from deserved punishment, the other to assure us of undeserved blessedness; the one importeth deliverance from eternal death, and the other entrance into eternal life.

6. The duties thereof do either concern our first entrance into the Christian state, or our progress therein. Our Lord represented it under the notions of ‘the gate,’ and ‘the way,’ Matthew 7:14, ‘Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life.’ Other scriptures deliver it under the notions of making covenant, and [[@Page: 464]] keeping covenant with God: making covenant, Psalm 50:5; keeping covenant, Psalm 25:10, Psalm 103:18. The covenant must not only be made, but kept.

[1.] As to entering into covenant with God, there is required true repentance and faith: Mark 1:15, ‘Repent, and believe the gospel,’ Repentance respects God as our end; faith respects Christ as the great means or way to the Father: Acts 20:21, ‘Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ God is our end, for ‘Christ died to bring us to God,’ 1 Peter 3:18; and Christ is our way, John 14:6; and whole of Christianity is a coming to God by Christ, Hebrews 7:25. Now, in our first entrance faith and repentance are both mixed; and it is hard to sever them, and show what belongs to the one, and what to the other; at least it would perplex the discourse. Both together imply that a man be turned from a life of sin to God by faith in Christ, or a renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, and devoting and dedicating himself to God.

(1.) A renouncing of the devil, the world, and the flesh; for these are the three great enemies of God and our salvation: Ephesians 2:2, 3, ‘In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, after the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works now in the children of disobedience, among whom also we had our conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.’ There all our enemies appear abreast: the devil, as the grand deceiver and principle of all wickedness; the world, with its pleasures, honours, and profits, as the bait by which it doth deceive us, and steal away our hearts from God, and pervert and divert us, that we should not look after the one thing necessary; the flesh is that corrupt inclination in us which entertains and closeth with these temptations, to the neglect of God and the wrong of our own souls; this is very importunate to be pleased, and is the proper internal cause of all our mischief; for James 1:14, ‘Every man is enticed and drawn away by his own lust.’ These must be renounced before we can return to God; for till we put away our idols we cannot incline our hearts to the true God, Joshua 24:23. And these are the great idols by which our hearts are estranged from him. When God is laid aside, self-interposeth as the next heir, and that which we count self is the flesh. Many wrong their own souls, but never any man hated his own flesh. That which feeds the flesh is the world; and the devil, by proposing the bait, irritateth and stirreth up our affections. Therefore we must be turned from Satan to God; we must be delivered from the present evil world; we must abstain from fleshly lusts, for God will have no copartners and competitors in our hearts.

[[@Page: 465]](2.) A devoting and giving up ourselves to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as our God, 2 Corinthians 8:3, and Romans 6:13; as our owner by creation, Psalm 100:3; and by redemption, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20; as our sovereign lord, Jeremiah 24:8, Isaiah 26:13, ‘Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us,’ &c.; as the fountain of our life and blessedness: Psalm 31:14, I trusted in the Lord, I said, Thou art my God;’ Lamentations 3:24, The Lord is my portion, saith my soul, therefore will ‘I hope in him;’ Psalm 119:57, I have said, ‘Thou art my portion, therefore I will keep thy precepts.’

[2.] As to our progress and perseverance, which is our walking in the narrow way, and shows the sincerity and heartiness of our consent in making the covenantand besides, this is not the work of a day, but of our whole liveswe have continual need of coming to God by Christ. Here three things are required:

(1.) As to the enemies of God and our souls, there must be a forsaking as well as a renouncing: the devil must be forsaken; we must be no more of his party and confederacy; we must resist, stand out against all his batteries and assaults, 1 Peter 5:8, 9; the world must be overcome, 1 John 5:4, 5; and the flesh must be subdued and mortified, Galatians 5:24, that we be no more governed by the desires thereof, and if we be sometimes foiled, we must not go back again, but renew our resolutions; and the drift of our lives must still be for God and heaven.

(2.) As to God, to whom we have devoted ourselves, we must love and please and serve him all our days, Luke 1:75. We must make it our work to love him, and count it our happiness to be beloved by him, and carefully apply ourselves to seek his favour, and cherish a fresh sense of it upon our hearts, and continue with patience in well doing, Romans 2:7, till we come to the complete sight and love of him in heaven, 1 John 3:2.

(3.) You must always live in the hope of the coming of Christ, and everlasting glory: Titus 2:13, ‘Looking for the blessed hope;’ and Jude 21, ‘Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus unto eternal life.’ As we did at first thankfully accept of our recovery by Christ, and at first consent to renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh, and resolve to follow God’s counsel and direction, we must still persevere in this mind, and use his appointed means in order to our final happiness. The sum, then, of our Christianity is, that we should by true repentance and faith forsake the world, the flesh, and the devil, and give up ourselves to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that he may take us for his reconciled children, and, for Christ’s sake, forgive all our sins; and by his Spirit give us grace to persevere in those resolutions, till our full and final happiness come in hand.

7. This covenant, consisting of such duties and privileges as God hath confirmed by certain visible ordinances, commonly called sacraments, as baptism and the Lord’s Supper; both which, but in a different manner, respect the whole tenor of the covenant. For as the covenant bindeth mutually on God’s part and ours, so these duties have a mutual aspect or respect to what God does, and what we must do. On God’s part they are a sign and a seal, on our part they are a badge and a bond.

[1.] On God’s part they are sealing or confirming signs. ‘As circumcision is called, a sign’ or ‘seal of the righteousness which is by faith.’ Romans 4:11; that is, of the grace offered to us in Christ; so is baptism, which came in the room of circumcision: Colossians 2:11, 12, ‘In whom ye are circumcised, buried with him in baptism.’ Surely the gospel ordinances signify as much grace as the ordinances of the legal covenant. If circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness which is by faith, or a pledge of God’s good-will to us in Christ, so is baptism, so is the Lord’s Supper; they are a sign to signify and a seal to confirm, to represent the grace and assure the grant of pardon and life. As, for instance, baptism signifies pardon and life, so does the [[@Page: 466]] Lord’s Supper, Matthew 26:28, 29; that for our growth and nourishment, this for our initiation. Baptism is under our consideration at present, that it hath respect to remission of sins. ‘The text is clear for it, and so are many other scriptures. It was Ananias’ advice to Paul, Acts 22:16, ‘Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, and call on the name of the Lord.’ So Ephesians 5:26, ‘That he might sanctify and cleanse us by the washing of water through the word.’ The washing represents the washing away the guilt and filth of sin; it signifies also our resurrection to a blessed and eternal life. Baptism saveth by the resurrection of Christ, 1 Peter 3:21. Well, then, it is a sealing sign. When God promised longer life to Hezekiah. 2 Kings 20:8, he said, ‘What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me?’ So when he promiseth pardon and life to us, What shall be the sign that the Lord will do this for us? Baptism is this sign; a witness between us and God: Genesis 31:48, ‘This heap is a witness between thee and me.’

[2.] On our part they are a badge and a bond to oblige us to the duties of the covenanta badge of the profession, and a bond to engage us to the duties which that profession calls for. ‘As the apostle speaks of circumcision, that whosoever is circumcised is a debtor to the whole law,’ Galatians 5:3, binds himself to the observances of Moses; so ‘a Christian, by being baptized, becomes a debtor, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh,’ &c., Romans 8:12. ‘And it is called an answer towards God,’ 1 Peter 3:21; the answer supposes the demands of the covenant; and so it is an undertaking faithfully to perform the conditions required of us, a vow or an obligation whereby we reckon ourselves bound to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness, ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 6:11. It bindeth us chiefly to the duties that belong to our entrance, as the Lord’s Supper doth more directly to the duties which belong to our progress; it bindeth us to a true belief of the gospel, or an acceptance of Christ, and consent to the covenant of grace; to renounce the devil, the world, and the flesh, and to give up ourselves unto God; and therefore the baptismal covenant, by which we are initiated into Christianity, is expressed by our being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Matthew 28:19, which implies a giving up ourselves to them in their distinct personal relations. To the Father, that we may return to him, and obey him as our rightful Lord; that we may love him, and depend upon him as the fountain of all our good and all-sufficient happiness, and prefer his favour before all the sensual pleasures of the world. We are baptized in the name of Christ, that we may believe in him, accept him as our Saviour and Redeemer, expecting to be saved by his merits, righteousness, and intercession, from the wrath of God, and guilt of sin, and eternal death. To the Holy Ghost, as our guide, sanctifier, and comforter, that he may free us from sin, change us into the image and likeness of Christ, and lead us into all truth and godliness, and comfort us with the sense of our present interest in God’s love, and the hopes of future glory.

8. These visible confirming ordinances give us great advantages above the word and bare proposal of the covenant.

[1.] As these sealing signs are an expression of God’s earnest and [[@Page: 467]] sincere respect to our salvation. God hath opened his mind in his word concerning his love and good-will to sinners in Christ; and he hath also added his seal, that the charter of his grace might be more valid and authentic. It argueth the goodness and communicativeness of God, to give notice in his word; but his solicitousness and anxious care for our good, to give visible assurance in the sacraments, as being willing ek perissou, over and above to satisfy ‘the heirs of promise.’ If a man be more than ordinarily cautious to make all sure, it is a sign his heart is upon the thing. Surely it is a great condescension that God would dispose his grace into a covenant form; but it is a further condescension that he would add seals, which needed not on his part; but he added them to give us the more ‘strong consolation.’ Nudum pactum, a naked promise, is not so valid and authentic as when articles of agreement are put into a formal instrument and deed of law, and that signed and sealed, and interchangeably delivered; this breeds more confidence and security on both sides. God’s word certifieth us of his good-will; but when he is pleased to make a formal indenture of it, and to sign it and seal it, it doth breed more assurance in our minds that his promises are made with a real intent to perform them, and bindeth us the more firmly to God, when, besides our naked promise, there is a kind of vow and oath on our part, solemnly entered into by baptism.

[2.] There is this advantage in the sacraments above the word, that they are a closer application. The word speaks to all promiscuously, as inviting; the sacrament to every one in particular, as obliging. By the word none are excluded from the grace offered upon God’s terms: ‘Go preach the gospel to every creature;’ but by the sacrament, every one is expressly admonished of his duty. ‘The object revealed in the word is like the brazen serpent, which without difference was exposed to the eye of all, that whosoever looked upon it might be healed;’ but the same object offered in the sacraments is like the blood sprinkled on the door-posts, that every man might be assured that his family should be in safety. Now the reason of this difference is, because things propounded in the word are like a treaty between God and us, or an offer and a debating of matters till the parties do agree. But sacraments are not of use till both sides have agreed upon the conditions of the covenant. In adults, at least, the word conduceth to the making of the covenant, but sacraments suppose it made; therefore, the word universally propoundeth that which in the seals is particularly applied. Now those things do not affect us so much which are spoken indifferently to all, as those that are particularly applied to ourselves, be cause they stir us up to a more accurate care and endeavour to fulfil the duty incumbent upon us. The conditions are propounded in the word, Repent and believe, and I will pardon, and give thee eternal life. But the sacraments suppose an actual consent, that thou hast done, or undertaken to do so; and then God comes and saith, Take this as an undoubted pledge, that thou shalt have what I have promised; which doth more increase our hope and persuade our duty.

[3.] By these sealing signs we are solemnly invested into a right to the things promised, as when we are put in possession of what we have [[@Page: 468]] bargained for by due formalities of law: ‘This is my body:’ that is our solemn investiture into the privileges purchased by Christ’s crucified body. A believer receiveth Christ in the word, John 1:12, and he receiveth Christ in the Lord’s Supper. What is the difference? There his right is solemnly owned and confirmed in the way which God hath ap pointed. As soon as a man consents to a bargain, he hath an interest in the thing bargained for, but the right is made more explicit when it is delivered to him by some formalities of law, as a house by a key, a field by a turf or twig; in such delivery we say, This key is my house, this turf or twig is my field. So are we put in possession of Christ by these words: ‘This is my body.’ Every penitent and believing sinner hath a right to Christ and pardon; but his solemn infeoffment is by the sacraments: ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins;’ or, as it is, Acts 22:14, ‘Arise and be baptized, for the washing away of thy sins.’ God gave Abraham the land of promise by word of mouth; but, Genesis 13., he bids him go through the land, and view it, and build an altar, and offer sacrifice there; then was he actually invested in the gift. God gave Israel a grant of Canaan, but the clusters, of Eschol were, as it were, the livery and seisin of it. Though the gift be sufficiently made over by the promise, yet it is further ratified, and more solemnly conveyed and delivered by the sacraments.

[4.] This is one advantage more, that the great mysteries of godliness are laid before our eyes in some visible rites, and so have greater force to excite the mind to serious consideration. When God will condescend to give us help against our infirmities, it must be by the senses, by which all knowledge comes into the soul. Now feeling, smelling, tasting, seem not so fit for this, as being more gross, and conducing to the welfare of the body; but seeing and hearing convey objects to the understanding, and therefore are called the senses of discipline and learning. Now the covenant is made by words, which strike the ear; but the seals by visible things set it before our eyes, and, as the apostle saith, ‘Christ is crucified among us, and evidently set forth,’ Galatians 3:1. The sight doth in a more lively manner stir up the mind than the bare hearing. Washing from sin doth fitly represent to us, and raise thoughts in us about, the sanctification of the Spirit, and so in a lively manner excite us to expect this benefit.

Use. Let us not be slight in the use and improvement of baptism; for it implieth a solemn covenanting with God, that we may obtain remission of sins, and eternal life. John the Baptist calleth it, Mark 1:4, ‘The baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.’ Therefore, let us reflect upon ourselves, We are all baptized, but what are we the better? Have we the more confidence of the pardon of our sins, and a greater sense of our covenant vow, to die unto sin and live unto God? We cannot have the former without the latter; both must be regarded by us. Volateranus reporteth of Lucian, that scoffing atheist, that when he revolted from the profession of Christianity, he scoffed at his baptism, saying, Se nihil ex eo consecutum quam quod nomen ipsius esset corruptum ex Lucio, Lucianus factumthat he got no thing by his baptism but a syllable to his name, it being changed from Lucius to Lucianus, Alas! what do most get by their baptism but a [[@Page: 469]] name? It should not be so with you; you may have great advantage by it if you improve it to the ends for which it was appointed. To quicken you, consider:

1. Baptism is a perpetual bond upon us, obliging us to repentance and holy life, Romans 6:4, therefore the scripture often reasoneth from it, as Romans 6:2, How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?’ He argueth not ab impossibili, but ab incongruonot from what is impossible, but what will misbecome our renewed state, which we profess to enter into by baptism, which is a vowed death to sin, and a bond wherewith we bind our souls to new obedience. So else where, Colossians 3:1, ‘Ye are arisen with Christ,’ in the import and signication of ‘baptism;’ therefore ‘seek the things which are above.’ And again, ‘Ye are dead, therefore mortify,’’ &c., Colossians 3:3-5. Once more, Colossians 3:8, 9, ‘Put off all these, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds.’ And in many other places the apostle argueth from the baptismal engagement to the effect intended and signified thereby.

2. The improvement of baptism is the best preparation for the Lord’s Supper: John 13:8, ‘If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.’ That washing had a spiritual meaning; and presently after it the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood was instituted, to the participation of which this spiritual washing was necessary. In the supposition, if I wash thee not, is implied baptism; in the commination, thou hast no part with me, is implied the Lord’s Supper, which Christ was then about to institute. In foro ecclesiae, before the church, none but baptized persons have a right to the Lord’s table; in foro coeli, before God, none but those who have the fruit of baptism have right to the benefits thereof; they that are sanctified by the Spirit of Christ have only right to the benefits purchased by his blood. Our Lord would remind his disciples of this before he would admit them to his table.

3. If we improve it not, our baptism will be a witness to solicit vengeance against us; as the gospel itself is preached either ‘for a witness’ to us, Matthew 24:14, or ‘for a witness’ against us, if we obey it not, Mark 14:9. So baptism, instead of being a witness to us, will be a witness against us if we mind it not. And in the judgment we shall fare no better than the heathen; for all the difference between us is, that they are uncircumcised in flesh, and we in heart, Jeremiah 9:25, 26; they are not washed in water, and we are not cleansed from our sins. I remember a passage in Victor Uticensis concerning one Elpidophorus, who had revolted from Catholicism to the Vandal Arians: the deacon who had baptized him showed him the stole, or linen clothes in which he was baptized, saying, Hae, te accusabunt cum majestas venerit judicantis, &c.O Elpidophorus! these shall be a witness against thee to all eternity, for thy just perdition, when the Judge cometh. What wilt thou do, wretch, when the people of God shall be admitted to the joys of heaven, and thyself thrust out? &c. If we have been baptized, and lived directly contrary to our baptismal vow, as if we were in covenant with the devil, the world, and the flesh, rather than with Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what will become of us in the judgment?

But how shall we improve it?

First, We must personally and solemnly own the covenant made [[@Page: 470]] with God in infancy. Every one of us should choose the Lord for our sovereign lord and portion; and Christ Jesus for our Redeemer and Saviour; and the Holy Ghost for our guide, sanctifier, and comforter. Every one must personally thus engage himself to God; it is not enough that Christ engage for us as the common surety of all the elect, Hebrews 7:22. Something he did for us, and in our names; but every one must take a bond upon himself before he can have the benefit of it. You must yield up yourselves to the Lord, 2 Chronicles 30:8. It is not enough that the church engage for us as a visible political body, or a community and society of men, who are in visible covenant with God and Christ: Ezekiel 16:8, ‘Thou enteredst into covenant with me, and becamest mine;’ meaning it of the body of the church; but every individual person must also enter into covenant with God, and become his: Ezekiel 20:37, ‘I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.’ Where there is an allusion to the sheep passing out of the fold when they were to be tithed for God, Leviticus 27:32; they were to be told with a rod, one, two, three,’ &c., and the tenth was the Lord’s. God will not covenant with us in the lump and body, but every one was to be particularly minded of his duty; it is not enough that our parents did engage for us in baptism, as the Israelites, in the name of their little ones, did avouch God to be their God, Deuteronomy 29:10-12. No man can savingly transact this work for another, we must ratify the covenant in our own persons, and make our own professed subjection to the gospel of Christ, 2 Corinthians 9:13. ‘This work cannot be done by a proxy or assigns; our parents’ dedication will not profit us without some personal act of our own, if we live to years of discretion. Once more, this must be done not only in words, or visible external rites, which may signify so much as personal covenanting with God, but a man must engage his heart to God, Jeremiah 30:21. Yea, this is a business that must be done between God and our own souls, where no outward witnesses are conscious to it. God speaketh to the soul in this transaction, Psalm 35:3, Say unto my soul, ‘I am thy salvation;’ and the soul speaketh to God, Lamentations 3:24, ‘Thou art my portion, saith my soul;’ and Psalm 16:2, ‘O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my God;’ thus the covenant is carried on in soul-language. Now upon this personal inward covenanting with God our right to all the privileges doth depend.

Secondly, Renew often the sense of your obligation to God, and keep a constant reckoning how you lay out yourselves for him: Acts 27:23, ‘His I am and him I serve;’ Philippians 1:21, ‘To me to live is Christ.’ Some few renegades renounce their baptism, but most Christians forget their baptism: 2 Peter 1:9, ‘He is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was washed from his old sins;’ therefore we should be continually exciting ourselves both to obedience and dependence, that the sincerity of our first vow and consent may be verified by a real and constant performance of it.

Thirdly, You should use frequent self-reflection, that you may come to know whether you are indeed washed from the guilt and filth of sin: 1 Corinthians 6:11, ‘Such were some of you, but now ye are sanctified, but now ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.’ You should observe what further sense you have [[@Page: 471]] of the pardon of sin, how you get ground upon your bondage of spirit, and grow up into some rejoicing of faith, for by these signs God in tended our strong consolation, Hebrews 6:18; and the eunuch, when he was baptized, went his way rejoicing, Acts 8:39. Hath God applied his covenant to me? taken me into the family? planted me into the mystical body of Christ? And shall not I be glad and rejoice in his salvation? So for sanctification, see whether God’s interest doth prevail in you, or the interest of the flesh; what power and strength of will you get against corruption easily, Galatians 5:16, 17; whether sin be more subdued, and you can govern your passions and appetites better, Galatians 5:24. They that are Christ’s should find some thing of this in themselves, otherwise their baptism is but an empty formality.

Fourthly and lastly, You must use it as a great help in all temptations; as when you are tempted to sin, either by the delights of sense: a Christian hath his answer ready, I am no debtor to the flesh; or, I am baptized, and dedicated to God in the way of mortification and holiness to obtain pardon and life, 1 Corinthians 6:15. Shall I take the members of Christ? &c. This soul, this body, this time, this strength is Christ’s, not to please the flesh, but the Lord. Or by the terrors of sense. Dionysia comforted her son Majoricus, an African martyr, when he was going to suffer for owning the Godhead of Christ, with this speech: Memento, fili, te baptizatum esse in nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti — remember, my son, that thou art baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and be constant. So when you are tempted by the devil, taking advantage of your melancholy and grievous afflictions, to question God’s love and mercy to penitent believers, remember the covenant sealed in baptism, that you may keep up your faith in God through Christ, which pardoneth all your sins, and hath begotten us to a lively hope. We must expect to be tempted; the devil tempted Christ, after his baptism, to question his filiation so solemnly attested. Compare Matthew 3:17, with Matthew 4:16. Luther saith of himself, that when the devil tempted him to despair, or to any doubts and fears about the love of God or his mercy to sinners, he would always answer, Ecce ego baptizatus sum, et credo in Christum crucifixumBehold, I am baptized, and believe in Christ crucified. And he telleth us also of a holy virgin who gave this reply when the devil abused her solitudes, and injected any despairing thoughts into her mind, Baptizata sumI am baptized, and entered into God’s covenant, and will expect the pardon of my sins by Jesus Christ.

Thus should we all the days of our life improve our baptism, till we have the full of that holy and happy estate, for which we were first purified and washed in God’s laver. 


Vol 5.—Page 443.—How may we Cure Distractions in Holy Duties?—Matthew 15:7, 8.—Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:34 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:13 ]



How may we Cure Distractions in Holy Duties?

Matthew 15:7, 8. — Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

IN this chapter you will find a contest between Christ and the Pharisees, about their traditions and old customs, which they valued above the commandments of God; as it is usual with formal men to love chains of their own making, and to make conscience of a tradition, when yet they can dispense with a commandment; and thereby discovering themselves to be very hypocrites, who are more in externals than in internals, in show than substance, minding the formality rather than the spirit and life of service to God. ‘Our Lord confirms his censure by the testimony of the prophet Isaiah, Ye hypocrites,’ &c.

I shall not stand explaining the words. Drawing nigh is a phrase peculiar to worship, especially to invocation. Mouth and lips are put for all external gestures, and that bodily exercise which is necessary to the worship of God, especially for words. But their heart is far from me; it chiefly intendeth their habitual averseness from God, but may also comprise the wandering and roving of the mind in duty, which is a degree and spice of it: of that I shall treat at this time, and my note will be:

That distraction of thoughts, or the removing of the heart from God in worship, is a great sin, and degree of hypocrisy.

The text speaketh of gross hypocrisy, or a zealous pretence of outward worship without any serious bent of heart towards God; but any removal of the heart from him in times necessary to think of him is a degree of it; for though distractions in worship are incident to the people of God, yet they are culpable, and do so far argue the relics of hypocrisy in them. I shall show:

1. The greatness of the sin.

2. The causes.

3. The remedies.

First, That there is such a sin, sad experience witnesseth; vain thoughts intrude importunately upon the soul in every duty; in [[@Page: 444]] hearing the word we are not free (Ezekiel 33:31), nor in singing; but chiefly they haunt us in prayer, and of all kinds of prayer, in mental prayer, when our addresses to God are managed by thoughts alone; there we are more easily disturbed. Words bound the thoughts, and the inconvenience of an interruption is more sensible, as occasioning a pause in our speech; and as in mental prayer, so when we join with others, to keep time and pace with the words, unless the Lord quicken them to an extraordinary liveliness, we find it very hard; but how great a sin this is, is my first task to show. I shall do it:

1. By three general considerations.

2. By speaking particularly to the present case.

First, Generally.

1. Consider how tender God is of his worship: Leviticus 10:3, he hath said that ‘he will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto him.’ To sanctify is to set apart from common use. Now, God will be sanctified, that is, not treated with as an ordinary person, but with special needfulness of soul and affection, becoming so great a majesty; when you think to put him off with anything, you lessen his excellency and greatness, and do not sanctify him, or glorify him as God, and therefore God pleadeth his majesty when they would put a sorry sacrifice upon him, as if everything were good enough for him: Malachi 1:14, ‘Cursed be the deceiver which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth to the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts.’ To be slight in his service, argueth mean thoughts of God: Ecclesiastes 5:2, ‘Be not rash with thy mouth, nor hasty to utter anything before God, for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth.’ We forget our distance, and by a bold profaneness are too fellow-like and familiar with God, when we are not deeply serious and exact in what we do and say in his presence, but only babble over a few impertinent words without attention and affection. Certainly, God is very sensible of the wrong and contempt we put upon him, for he noteth all: Hebrews 4:13, ‘All things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do.’ And he will not put it up, for he telleth us, Exodus 20:7, that ‘he will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain;’ and he will be as good as his word; for the least disorders in worship have been sorely punished; witness the stroke from heaven upon Aaron’s sons, Leviticus 10:2; the breach made upon Uzzah, 2 Samuel 6:6; and the havoc made of the Bethshemites, 1 Samuel 6:19.; the diseases that raged at Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:30. And though judgments be not so rife and visible now upon our unhallowed approaches to God, yet he smiteth us with deadness, where he doth not smite us with death; for a man is punished otherwise than a boy, and judgments are now spiritual, which in the infancy of the church were temporal and bodily. Certainly, we have all cause to tremble when we come before the Lord.

2. The more sincere any one is, the more he maketh conscience of his thoughts, is more observant of them, and more troubled about them: Isaiah 55:7, ‘Let the unrighteous man forsake his thoughts;’ then he beginneth to be serious, and to have a conscience indeed, when his thoughts trouble him. So David: Psalm 119:113, I hate vain thoughts: but ‘thy law do I love.’ We think thoughts are free, [[@Page: 445]] and subject to no tribunal; if there be any error in them, we think it is a very venial one; they betray us to no shame in the world, and therefore we let them go without dislike and remorse. But a child of God cannot pass over the matter so: he knoweth that thoughts are the immediate births of the soul, and do much discover the temper of it; that there actions begin, and if vain thoughts be suffered to lodge in him, he will soon fall into further mischief, and therefore he considereth what he thinketh, as well as what he speaketh and doeth; and if at all times, especially in worship, where the workings of the inward man are of chief regard, and the acts of the outward only required, as a help to our serving ‘God in the spirit,’ Philippians 3:3.

3. Carelessness in duties is the high way to atheism; for every formal and slight prayer doth harden the heart, and make way for contempt of God; men that have made bold with God in duty, and it succeeds well with them, their awe of God is lessened, and the lively sense of his glory and majesty abated, till it be quite lost; by degrees they outgrow all feelings and tenderness of conscience; every time you come to God slightly, you lose ground by coming, till at length you look upon worship as a mere custom, or something done for fashion’s sake.

Secondly, Particularly:1. It is an affront to God, and a kind of mockery. We wrong his omnisciency, as if he saw not the heart, and could not tell man his thought. ‘It is God’s essential glory in worship to be acknowledged an all-seeing spirit, and accordingly to be worshipped in spirit and in truth,’ John 4:24. Thoughts are as audible with him as words; therefore when you prattle words, and do not make conscience of thoughts, you do not worship him as a spirit. We wrong his majesty when we speak to him in prayer, and do not give heed to what we say. ‘Surely we are not to prattle, like jays, or parrots, words without affection and feeling, or to chatter like cranes,’ or be like Ephraim, whom the prophet ‘calls a silly dove without an heart.’ A mean man taketh it ill when you have business to talk with him about, and your minds are elsewhere; you would all judge it to be an affront to the majesty of God if a man should send his clothes stuffed with straw, or a puppet dressed up in stead of himself, into the assemblies of God’s people, and think this should supply his personal presence; yet our clothes stuffed with straw, or an image dressed up instead of us, such as Michal put into David’s bed, 1 Samuel 19:12, 13, would be less offensive to God than our bodies without our souls; the absence of the spirit is the absence of the more noble part. We pretend to speak to God, and do not hear ourselves, nor can give any account of what we pray for; or rather let me give you Chrysostom’s comparison: a man would have been thought to have profaned the mysteries of the Levitical worship, if instead of sweet incense he should have put into the censer sulphur or brimstone, or mingled the one with the other. [1] ‘Surely our prayers should be set forth as incense,’ Psalm 141:2. And do not we affront God to his face, that mingle so many vain, sinful, proud, filthy, blasphemous thoughts? What is this but to mingle sulphur with our incense? Again, when God speaketh [[@Page: 446]] to us, and knocks at the heart, and there is none within to hear him, is it not an affront to his majesty? Put it in a temporal case. If a great person should talk to us, and we should neglect him, and entertain ourselves with his servants, he would take it as a despite and contempt done to him. The great God of heaven and earth doth often call you together to speak to you; now if you think so slightly of his speeches as not to attend, but set your minds adrift to be carried hither and thither with every wave, where is that reverence you owe to him?

It is a wrong to his goodness, and the comforts of his holy presence; for in effect you say that you do not find that sweetness in God which you expect, and therefore are weary of his company before your business be over with him. It is said of the Israelites, when they were going for Canaan, that in ‘their hearts they turned back again into Egypt,’ Acts 7:39. ‘They had more mind to be in Egypt than under Moses’ government; and their thoughts ever ran upon the flesh-pots and belly-cheer they enjoyed there. We are offended with their impatience and murmurings, and the affronts they put upon their guides; and do not we even the same and worse in our careless manner of worshipping? When God hath brought us into his presence, we do in effect say, Give us the world again; this is better entertainment for our thoughts than God and holy things. If Christians would but interpret their actions, they would be ashamed of them; is anything more worthy to be thought of than God? ‘The Israelites’ hearts were upon Egypt in the wilderness, and our hearts are upon the world, nay, every toy, even when we are at the throne of grace, and conversing with him who is the centre of our rest, and the fountain of our blessedness.

2. It grieveth the Spirit of God: he is grieved with our vain thoughts as well as our scandalous actions; other sins may shame us more, but these are a grief to the Spirit, because they are conceived in the heart, which is his presence-chamber, and place of special residence; and he is most grieved with these vain thoughts which haunt us in the time of our special addresses to God, because his peculiar operations are hindered, and the heart is set open to God’s adversary in God’s presence, and the world and Satan are suffered to interpose in the very time of the reign of grace, then when it shall be in solio, in its royalty, commanding all our faculties to serve it; this is to steal away the soul from under Christ’s own arm, as a captain of a garrison is troubled, when the enemies come to prey under the very walls, in the face of all his forces and strength; so certainly it is a grief to the Spirit when our lusts have power to disturb us in holy duties, and the heart is taken up with unclean glances, and worldly thoughts, then when we present ourselves before the Lord. God looks upon his people’s sins as aggravated because committed in his own house: Jeremiah 23:11, ‘In my house I have found their wickedness;’ what is this but to dare God to his very face? Solomon saith, ‘A king sitting upon his throne scattereth away evil with his eyes,’ Proverbs 20:8. They are bold men that dare break the laws when a magistrate is upon the throne, and actually exercising judgment against offenders; so it argueth much impudence that when [[@Page: 447]] we come to deal with God, as sitting upon the throne, and observing and looking upon us, that we can yet lend our hearts to our lusts, and suffer every vain thought to divert us. There is more of modesty, though little of sincerity, in them that say to their lusts, as Abraham to his servants: Genesis 12:5, ‘Tarry here while I go yonder and worship;’ or, as they say, the serpent layeth aside her poison when she goeth to drink. When a man goeth to God he should leave his lusts behind him, not for a while, and with an intent to entertain them again, but for ever. However this argueth some reverence to God, and sense of the weight of holy duties; but when we bring them along with us, it is a sign we little mind the work we go about.

3. It is a spiritual disease. The soul hath its diseases as well as the body; the unsteady roving of the mind, or the disturbance of vain and impertinent thoughts, is one of those diseases,shall I call it a spiritual madness, or fever, or shaking palsy, or all these? You know madmen make several relations, and rove from one thing to another, and are gone off from a sentence ere they have well begun it; our thoughts are as slippery and inconsistent as their speeches, therefore what is this but the frenzy of the soul? What mad creatures would we seem to be, if all our thoughts were patent, or an invisible notary were lurking in our hearts to write them down! We run from object to object in a moment, and one thought looks like a mere stranger upon another; we wander and run through all the world in an instant. Oh, who can count the numberless operations and working of our mind in one duty! What impertinent excursions have we from things good to lawful; from lawful to sinful, from ordinarily sinful to downright blasphemous! Should any one of us, after he hath been some time exercised in duty, go aside and write down his thoughts, and the many interlinings of his own prayers, he would stand amazed at the madness and light discurrency of his own imaginations.

Or shall I call it the feverish distemper of their soul? Ægri somnia is a proverb; in fevers men have a thousand fancies and swimming toys in their dreams, and just so it is with our souls in God’s worship. We bring that curse upon us spiritually, which corporally God threatened to bring upon the Jews: ‘I will scatter you to the end of the earth.’ We scatter our thoughts hither and thither without any consistency; the heart, in regard of this roving madness, is like a runagate servant, who, when he hath left his master, wandereth up and down, and knoweth not where to fix; or like those that are full of distracting business, that cannot make a set meal, but take their diet by snatches.

4. It argueth the loss and non-acceptance of our prayers. You are in danger to lose your worship, at least so much of it as you do not attend upon; and truly to a man that knows the value of that kind of traffic, this is a very great loss. You that are tradesmen are troubled if you happen to be abroad when a good customer cometh to deal with you; the ordinances of God are the market for your souls; if you had not been abroad with Esau, you might have received the blessing, and gone away richly laden from a prayer, from the [[@Page: 448]] word, and the Lord’s Supper; but you lose your advantages for want of attention; allowed distractions turn your prayers into sin, and make them no prayers. When the soul departeth from the body it is no longer a man, but a carcase; so when the thoughts are gone from prayer, it is no longer a prayer, the essence of the duty is wanting. What is prayer? ἀνάβασις τοῦ νοῦ, as Damascene defined it, the lifting up of the heart to God. Many have prayed without words, but never any prayed without lifting up, or pouring out the heart. If a man should kneel, and use a gesture of worship, and fall asleep, no doubt that man doth not pray. This is to sleep with the heart, and the words uttered are but like a dream, have but a slight touch of reason in them, a mere drowsy inattentive devotion; the soul is asleep though the eyes be not closed, and the senses locked up. Can we expect that God should hear us, and bless us, because of our mere outward presence? We are ashamed of those that sleep at a duty, and this is as bad or worse; they may sleep out of natural infirmity, as weakness, age, sickness,’ &c., but this doth more directly proceed from some slightness or irreverence. Well, then, with what face can we expect the fruit of that prayer to which we have not attended? It is a great presumption to desire God to hear those requests, a great part whereof we have not heard ourselves; if they be not worthy of our attention they are far more unworthy of God’s. Cyprian, [2] or Ruffinus, or whoever was the author of the explication of the Lord’s Prayer in Cyprian’s works, hath a notable passage to this purpose: Quomodo te a Deo exaudiri postulas, cum te ipse non audias? Vis Deum esse memorem tui cum rogas, cum ipse tui memor non sis? Thou art unmindful of thyself; thou dost not hear thy self; and how canst thou with reason desire the blessing and comfort of the duty which thou thoughtest not worthy thine own attention and regard?

I would not willingly grate too hard upon a tender conscience. It is a question that is often propounded, whether wandering thoughts do altogether frustrate a duty, and make it of none effect? and whether, in some cases, a virtual attention doth not suffice? There is an actual intension, and a virtual intension. The actual intension is when a soul doth distinctly and constantly regard everything that is said and done in a duty; and a virtual intension is when we keep only a disposition and purpose to attend, though many times we fail and are carried aside. This Aquinas calleth priorem intensionem; out of the Scripture we may call it, ‘the setting of the heart to seek the Lord,’ 1 Chronicles 22:19. Now, what shall we say in this case? On the one side, we must not be too strict, lest we prejudice the comfort and expectation of God’s people. When did they ever manage a duty, but they are guilty of some wanderings? It is much to keep up our hearts to the main and solid requests that are made to God in prayer. But, on the other side, we must not be too remiss, lest we encourage indiligence and careless devotion. Briefly, then, by way of answer, there is a threefold distraction in prayer — distractio invita, negligens, et voluntaria.

1. There is distractio invita, an unwilling distraction, when the [[@Page: 449]] heart is seriously and solemnly set to seek God, and yet we are carried besides our purpose; for it is impossible so to shut doors and win dows but that some wind will get inso to guard the heart as to be wholly free from vain thoughts; but they are not constant, frequent, allowed, but resisted, prayed against, striven against, bewailed; and then they are not iniquities, but infirmities, which the Lord will pardon; he will gather up the broken part of our prayers, and in mercy give us an answer; I say, where this distraction is retracted with grief, resisted with care, as Abraham drove away the fowls when they came to pitch upon his sacrifice, Genesis 15:11, it is to be reckoned among the infirmities of the saints, which do not hinder their consolation.

2. There is distractio negligens, a negligent distraction, when a man hath an intention to pray, and express his desires to God; but he prays carelessly, and doth not guard his thoughts, so that some times he wanders, and sometimes recovers himself again, and then strays again, and is in and out, off and on with God, as a spaniel roveth up and down, and is still crossing the ways, sometimes losing the company he goes with, and then retiring to them again. I cannot say, this man prayeth not at all, or that God doth not hear him, but he will have little comfort in his prayers; yea, if he be serious, they will minister more matter of grief to him than comfort; and therefore he ought to be more earnest and sedulous in resisting this infirmity, that he may be assured of audience; otherwise, if his heart be not affected with it in time, by degrees all those motions and dispositions of heart that are necessary to prayer will be eaten out and lost.

3. There is distractio voluntaria, a voluntary distraction, when men mind no more than the task or work wrought, and only go round in a track of accustomed duties, without considering with what heart they perform them: this is such a vanity of mind as turneth the whole prayer into sin.

Secondly, The causes of this roving and impertinent intrusion of vain thoughts.

1. Satan is one cause, who doth maxime insidiari orationibus (as Cassian speaketh), lie in wait to hinder the prayers of the saints; whenever we minister before the Lord, he is at our right hand ready to resist us, Zechariah 3:1. And therefore the apostle James, when ‘he biddeth us draw nigh to God,’ biddeth us also to ‘resist the devil,’ James 4:7, 8; implying thereby that there is no drawing nigh to God without resisting Satan. When a tale is told, and you are going about the affairs of the world, he doth not trouble you; for these things do not trouble him, or do any prejudice to his kingdom; but when you are going to God, and that in a warm, lively, affectionate manner, he will be sure to disturb you, seeking to abate the edge of your affections, or divert your minds. Formal prayers pattered over, Jo him no harm; but when you seriously set yourselves to call upon God, he saith within himself, This man will pray for God’s glory, and then I am at a loss; for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, and then mine goeth to wreck; that God’s will may be done upon earth as it is in heaven, and that minds me of my old fall, and my [[@Page: 450]] business is to cross the will of God; he will pray for daily bread, and that strengthened dependence; for pardon and comfort, and then I lose ground (for ‘the devils are the rulers of the darkness of this world,’ Ephesians 6:12); he will pray to be kept from sin and temptation, and that is against me. Thus Satan is afraid of the prayers of the saints; he is concerned in every request you make to God; and therefore he will hinder or cheat you of your prayers; if you will needs be praying, he will carry away your hearts. Now, much he can do if you be not watchful; he can present objects to the senses which stir up thoughts, yea, pursue his temptations, and cast in one fiery dart after another, therefore we had need stand upon our guard.

2. The natural levity of our spirits. Man is a restless creature. We have much ado to stay our hearts for any space of time in one state, much more in holy things, from which we are naturally averse: Romans 7:21, When I would do good, evil is present with me.’ τῷ κακῶν παράκειται. Oh! consider this natural feebleness of mind, whereby we are unable to keep long to any employment, but are light, feathery, tossed up and down like a dried leaf before the wind, or as an empty vessel upon the waves. It is so with us in most businesses, especially in those which are sacred. ‘The apostle biddeth us pray without ceasing,’ and we cannot do it whilst we pray; he is a stranger to God and his own heart who finds it not daily. This is an incurable vanity; though we often repent of it, yet it is not amended; a misery that God would leave upon our natures, to humble us while we are in the world, and that we may long for heaven; the angels and blessed spirits there are not troubled with those things; in heaven there is no complaining of wandering thoughtsthere God is all in all; they that are there have but one object to fill their understandings, one object to give contentment to their desires, their hearts cleave to God inseparably by a perfect love; but here we are cumbered with much serving, and much work begets a multitude of thoughts in us: Psalm 94:11, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are but vanity.’ When we have summed up all the traverses, reasonings, and discourses of the mind, we may write at the bottom this, as the total sumHere is nothing but vanity.

3. Another cause is practical atheism. We have little sense of things that are unseen, and lie within the veil, in the world of spirits; things that are seen have a great force upon us. ‘Offer it now to thy governor,’ saith the prophet, Malachi 1:8. God is afar off, both from our sight and apprehension; senses bind attention. If you speak to a man, your thoughts are settled, and you think of nothing else; but in speaking to God, you have not like attention, because you see him not: Exodus 32:1, ‘Make us gods to go before us.’ Ay! we would have a visible god, whom we may see and hear; but the true God being a spirit, and an invisible power, all the service that we do him is a task performed more out of custom than affection, in a slight, perfunctory way.

4. Strong and unmortified lusts, which being rooted in us, and having the soul at most command, will trouble us, and distract us when we go about any duty. ‘Each man hath a mind, and can spend [[@Page: 451]] it unweariedly as he is inclined, either to covetousness, ambition, or sensuality; for where the treasure is, there will the heart be,’ Matthew 6:20. Set but the covetous man about the world, the voluptuous man about his pleasures, and the ambitious man about his honours and preferments, and will they suffer their thoughts to be taken off? surely no; but set either of these about holy things, and presently these lusts will be interposing: Ezekiel 33:31, ‘Their heart goeth after their covetousness.’ The sins to which a man is most addicted will engross the thought; so that this is one sign by which a man may know his reigning sin, that which interrupts him most in holy duties; for when all other lusts are kept out, Satan will be sure to set the darling sin a-work to plead for him. If a man be addicted to the world, so will his musings be; if to mirth, and good cheer, and vain sports, his thoughts will be taken up about them; if to the inordinate love of women, his fancy will be rolling upon carnal beauty, and he will be firing his heart with unclean thoughts.

5. Want of love to God and holy things. Men are loath to come into God’s presence for want of faith, and to keep there for want of love; love fixeth the thoughts, and drieth up those swimming toys and fancies that do distract us; we ponder and muse upon that in which we delight. Were our natural hatred of God and of the means of grace changed into a perfect love, we should adhere to him without distraction. We see where men love strongly, they are deaf and blind to all other objectsthey can think and speak of no other thing; but because our love to God is weak, every vain occasion carrieth away our minds from him. You find this by daily experience; when your affections flag in an ordinance, your thoughts are soon scattered, weariness maketh way for wandering, your hearts are first gone, and then your minds. You complain you have not a settled mind; the fault is, you have not a settled love, for that would cause you to pause upon things without weariness: Psalm 1:2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night;’ Psalm 119:97, ‘O how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day.’ David’s mind would never run upon the word so much if his heart were not there. Thoughts are at the command and beck of love; where love biddeth them go, they go; and where love biddeth them tarry, they tarry: the saints first delight, and then meditate.

6. Slightness and irreverence, or want of a sense of God’s presence. A careless spirit will surely wander; but one deeply affected is fixed and intent. Jonah, when he prayed in the whale s belly, could he have an heart to forget his work? Daniel, when he prayed among the lions, could he mind anything else? When we are serious and pray in good earnest, we will call in all our thoughts, and hold them under command. This question was put to Basil, how a man should keep the mind free from distraction? His answer wasγίγνεται ὁ μετεωρισμὸς ἀπὸ τῆς ἀργίας τοῦ νοῦ, καὶ ἐξ ἀπιστίας μὴ παρεῖναι μὴ παρεῖναι τῶν θεὸν ἐξετάζοντα καρδίας καὶ νεφροὺς. [3] That is, that this evil came from slightness of heart, and unbelief of God’s presence; for if a man did believe that God were before his eyes, searching the heart, and trying the reins, he would be serious: ‘All things are naked and [[@Page: 452]] open to him with whom we have to do;’ God looketh on, and so do the angels; he looketh on the heart, and will not you be serious? Scholars that have a truant mind, yet the presence of their masters forceth them to their books; the great God who telleth man his thought, he seeth our desires; and thoughts speak louder in his ears than our words; therefore possess the heart with a dread of his glorious presence, and with the weight and importance of the works we are about: were we to deal with man in a case of life and death, we would weigh our words and not rove like madmen.

7. The curiosity of the senses, these occasion a diversion. It is the office of the fancy to present, as in a glass, whatsoever is received by the external senses, or offered by the memory, and so the understanding taketh notice of it; the wandering eye causeth a wandering heart. Solomon saith, Proverbs 17:24, ‘The fool’s eyes are to the ends of the earth;’ first, his eyes rove, and then his heart. The apostle Peter saith of unclean persons, that ‘they have eyes full of adultery,’ 2 Peter 2:14, μοιχαλίδος, of the adulteress (as the word signifieth); the eye is rolled upon the object, and then the dart is by the fancy transmitted to the heart. Senses are the windows and doors of the soul; keep the senses if you would keep the heart. Job was at a severe appointment with his eyes, Job 31:1. It is good when we go to God to renew these covenants, to agree with the heart that we will not go to God without it; with the eyes and ears, that we will not see and hear anything but what concerns our work. It was a strange consistency and fixedness which Josephus speaketh of, [4] when Faustus, Cornelius, and Furius, and Fabius with their troops had broken into the city of Jerusalem, and some fled one way and some another, yet the priests went on with their sacrifices and the holy rites of the temple, as if they heard nothing; though they rushed on them with their swords, yet they preferred the duty of their religion, before their own safety; and strange is that other instance of the Spartan youth in Plutarch, that held the censer to Alexander whilst he was sacrificing, and though a coal lighted upon his flesh, he suffered it to burn there, rather than by any crying out he would disturb the rites of their heathenish superstition. Certainly these instances should shame us Christians, that do not hold the senses under a more severe restraint, but upon every light occasion suffer them to trouble and distract us in worship.

8. Carking and distrustful cares. When we are torn in pieces with the cares of the world, we cannot have a composed heart, but our minds will waver, and our dangers will recur to our thoughts, and hinder the exercise of our faith. God took special care of the Jews, when they went up to worship, that they might have nothing to trouble them; and therefore he saith, Exodus 34:24, None of the nations shall desire the land when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy God thrice in the year; and Augustine [5] gives the reason of it, lest they should be distracted with thoughts about their own preservationVult Deus intelligi ut securus quisque ascender et, nec de terra sua sollicitus esset, Deo promittente custodiam: and one of [[@Page: 453]] the arguments by which Paul commendeth single life is freedom from the incumbrances of the world: ‘That we may serve the Lord without distraction,’ 1 Corinthians 7:35.

Thirdly, Remedies. I might speak many things by way of mere counsel about guarding the senses, the use and abuse of a form, &c.; but all these are but like external applications in physic, or topical medicines, as the binding of things to the wrists of the hands,’ &c., which work no perfect cure of a disease, unless the distemper be purged away; therefore I shall speak to those things that are most effectual.

1. Go to God and wait for the power of his grace. David speaketh of it as his work: Psalm 86:11, ‘Unite my heart to the fear of thy name,’ fix it, gather it together, ἑνῶσον τὴν καρδίαν μωϋ (saith the Septuagint [6]), make it one. The heart is multiplied when it is distracted by several thoughts. God hath our hearts in his own hand, and when we can keep them up no longer, then he holds them up; when he withdraws his grace, we lose our life and seriousness; as meteors hang in the air as long as the heat of the sun is great, but when the sun is gone down they fall; as long as the love of God and the work of his grace are powerful in us, we are kept in a lively heavenly frame; but as that abateth, the soul swerveth and returneth to vanity and sin. We read, Acts 16:14, 15, that ‘The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, so that she attended to the things that were spoken of Paul.’ Attention there beareth somewhat a larger sense than we now consider it in, namely, a deep regard to the doctrine of life; yet this sense of fixedness of spirit cannot be excluded. Go to God, then, pray him to keep thy heart together; he that hath set bounds to the sea, and can bind up the waves in a heap, and stop the sun in its flight, certainly he can fasten and establish thy heart, and keep it from running out.

2. Meditate on the greatness of him before whom we are. It is of great consequence in duties to consider whom we take to be our party with whom we have to do, Hebrews 4:13. In the word, God is the party that speaketh to us: ‘Thou shalt be as my mouth,’ Jeremiah 15:16; ‘As if God spake by us,’ 2 Corinthians 5:20. It is God speaketh; and the heathen king of Moab showeth such reverence, that when Ehud said, ‘I have a message to thee from God,’ he arose out of his seat, Judges 3:20. So in prayer you have to do with God; you do as really minister before him as the angels that abide in his presence. Oh, if you could see him that is invisible, you would have more reverence. A man that is praying or worshipping should behave himself as if he were in heaven immediately before God, in the midst of all the blessed angels, those ten thousand times ten thousand that stand before God. [7] Oh, with what reverence, with what fear, should a poor worm creep into his presence! Think then of that glorious [[@Page: 454]] all-seeing God, with, whom thou canst converse in thoughts as freely as with men in words; he knoweth all that is in thy heart, and seeth thee through and through. If you had spoken all those things you have thoughts upon, you would be odious to men; if all the blasphemy, uncleanness, worldly projects, were known to those that join with us, should we be able to hold up our heads for blushing? And doth not the Lord see all this? Could we believe his inspection of the heart, there would be a greater awe upon us.

3. Mortify those lusts that are apt to withdraw our minds. He that indulgeth any one vile affection will never be able to pray aright. Every duty will give you experience what corruption to resist, what thoughts we are haunted and pestered with, when we come to God. God requireth prayer, that we may be weary of our lusts, and that the trouble that we find from them in holy exercises may exasperate our souls against them. We are angry with an importunate beggar that will not be satisfied with any reasonable terms, but is always obtruding upon us. Every experience in this kind should give us an advantage to free our hearts from this disturbance. The whole work of grace tendeth to prayer; and the great exercise and employment of the spiritual life is watching unto prayer, Ephesians 6:18; and that prayer be not interrupted, 1 Peter 3:2.

4. Before the duty there must be an actual preparation, or a solemn, discharge of all impediments, that we may not bring the world along with us. ‘Put off thy shoes off thy feet,’ saith God to Moses, for ‘the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ Surely we should put off our carnal distractions when we go about holy duties. Gird up the loins of your minds,’ saith the apostle Peter, 1 Peter 1:13, an allusion to long garments worn in that country: it is dangerous to come to prayer with a loose heart. ‘My heart is fixed saith David, O God, my heart is fixed,’ Psalm 57:7; that is, fitted, prepared, bended to God’s worship: the soul must be set, put into a dexterous ready posture. Claudatur contra adversarium pectus, et soli Deo pateat, ne ad se hostem Dei accedere tempore orationis patiatur.(Cyp. lib. De Oratione Domini.) There must be a resolved shutting of the heart against God’s enemy, lest he insinuate with us, and withdraw our minds.

5. Be severe to your purpose, and see that you regard nothing but what the duty leadeth you unto. It is the devil’s policy to cheat us of the present duty by an unseasonable interposition. Satan beginneth with us in good things, that he may draw us to worse. What is unseasonable is naught; watch against the first diversion, how plausible soever; it is an intruding thought that breaketh a rank. In this case say as the spouse, Solomon's Song 3. ‘I charge you that you awake not my beloved till he please;’ such a rigid severity should you use against the starting of the heart. If Satan should at first cast in a thought of blasphemy, that would make thee quake and shake; therefore he beginneth with plausible thoughts; but be careful to observe [[@Page: 455]] the first stragglings; yea, be not diverted by thy very strivings against diversions, and therefore do not dispute with suggestions, but despise them; nor stand examining temptations, but reject them, [8] as blind Bartimeus regarded not the rebukes of the people, but cried the more after Christ; or as travellers do not stand beating back the dogs that bark at them, but hold on their course; this is to be religiously obstinate and severe to our purpose. Satan contemned, hath the less advantage against you; when he is writing images upon the fancy, do not vouchsafe to look upon them. A crier in the court that is often commanding silence, disturbeth the court more than they that make the noise; so disputing with our distractions, increaseth them. They better are avoided by a severe contempt.

6. Bring with you to every holy service strong spiritual affections; our thoughts would not be at such a distance from our work if our affections were more ready and more earnestly set. It is the unwilling servant that is loath to stay long at his work, but is soon gone; could we bring ourselves more delightfully to converse with God, our hearts would hold our minds close, and we would not straggle so often as we do; therefore see you do this, or you do nothing. ‘I was glad,’ saith David, when they said unto me, ‘Come let us go into the house of the Lord,’ Psalm 122:1. Were we of this frame of spirit, many directions would not need. Now what should hinder us from, being thus affected? Are not the ordinances of God the special means of our communion with him? and the throne of grace the very porch of heaven? Can we be better than in God’s company, pleading with him for our soul’s good, and waiting for his blessing? Therefore let us be glad, and rejoice in his. presence, and you will not easily find such outstrayings of mind and thought.

7. Remember the weight and consequence of the duties of religion, that is a cure for slightness; you are dealing with God in a case of life and death, and will you not be serious? With what diligence and earnestness doth an advocate plead with a man in a case wherein he himself is not concerned, either for the life of another, or the inheritance or goods of another! [9] And wilt not thou plead earnestly with God when thy soul is in danger, when it is a case of eternal life and death, as all matters that pass between God and us are? Certainly, if we did consider the weight of the business, the heart would be freed from this garish wantonness. If Christ had taken thee aside into the garden, as he took Peter, James, and John, and thou hadst seen him praying and trembling under his agonies, thou wouldst have seen that it is no light matter to go to God in a case of the salvation of souls, though thou hast never so much assurance of the issue, for so Christ had: the frequent return of Christian [[@Page: 456]] duties maketh us to forget the consequence of them. In hearing the word, be serious, it is your life: Deuteronomy 32:46, ‘Hearken unto the words of the law, for this is not a vain thing, because it is your life;’ thy everlasting estate is upon trial, and the things that are spoken concern your souls; every act of communion with God, every participation of his grace, hath an influence upon eternity. Say, therefore, as Nehemiah in another case, Nehemiah 6:3, ‘I am doing a great work, I cannot come down.’ Can you have an heart to mind other things, when you are about so great a work as the saving of your souls?

8. Let every experimental wandering make you more humble and careful. If men did lay their wanderings to heart, and retract them, even every glance with a sigh, the mind would not so boldly, so constantly digress and step aside; all actions displeasing are not done so readily; therefore it is good to bewail these distractions. Do not count them as light things. Cassianus, speaking of these wandering thoughts, saith, The most that come to worship, being involved in greater sins, scarce count distraction of thoughts an evil, and so the mischief is increased upon them. [10] It is a sad thing to be given up to a vain mind, and such a frothy spirit as cannot be serious; therefore if we do soundly humble ourselves for these offences, and they did once become our burden, they would not be our practice. One saith, [11] that huntsmen observe of young dogs, that if a fresh game come in view, they leave their old scent, but if soundly beaten off from it, they kindly take to their first pursuit; the application is easy,did we rate our hearts for this vanity, and pray against the sins of our prayers with deep remorse, this evil would not be so familiar with us.

9. A constant heavenliness and holiness of heart. If men were as they should be, holy, en pase anastrophe1 Peter 1:14, ‘In all manner of conversation,’ in solemn duties, good and proper thoughts would be more natural and kindly to us. They that live in a constant communion with God do not find it such a tedious business to converse with him; if they have any excursion of thoughts, it is in their daily work, and the offices of the common life, which they are ever seasoning with some gracious meditations and short ejaculations; when they are in duty, they are where they would be; constant gravity and seriousness is a great help to them. Men allow themselves a lawless liberty in their ordinary conversations, and then in prayer they know not how to gather up their hearts. Such as men are out of prayer, such they will be in prayer; we cannot expect that pangs of devotion should come upon us all of a sudden, and that when we come reeking into the world, we should presently leap into a heavenly frame.

10. The next remedy is frequent solemn meditation. If the understanding were oftener taken up with the things of God, and our thoughts were kept in more frequent exercise, they would the better [[@Page: 457]] come to hand. There is a double advantage comes to us by meditation:

1. The soul gets more abundance of heart-warming knowledge, and therefore will not be so barren and dry, which certainly is a cause of wandering: Psalm 45:1, ‘My heart inditeth a good matter, and then my tongue is as the pen of a ready writer.’ A man that boileth and concocts truths in his heart, hath a great readiness of words and affections. There is a good treasure within him, Matthew 12:35, out of which he may spend freely. One expresseth it thus: [12] He that hath store of gold and silver in his pocket, and but a few brass farthings, will more readily, upon every draught, come out with gold and silver than brass farthings; so ‘he that hath stocked his heart with holy thoughts will not find carnal musings so rife and frequent.’

2. By use a man gets a greater command over himself. When we constantly leave the thoughts at random, and never lay restraints upon them, it is in vain to think we shall keep them in order when we please. Fierce creatures are tame to those that use to command them; every art is difficult at first, as writing, singing, playing upon an instrument; but we get a facility by use and exercise; yea, not only a facility, but a delight in them; and those things that at first we thought impossible, by a little practice grow easy. ‘Certainly, the way of the Lord is strength to the upright,Proverbs 11:29, and the more we set ourselves to any good thing, the more readily and prepared are we for it.

Footnotes:

[1] Chrys. Hom. 74 in Matthew.

[2] Cypr. de Orat. Domin.

[3] Basil in Regulis Brevioribus.

[4] Josephus de Bello Judæorum.

[5] Augustinus, Quæst. 161, in Exodus.

[6] This is the rendering of Symmachus, not of the lxx. — ED.

[7] ‘Omnino nos oportet orationis tempore curiam intrare coelestem illam, utique curiam in qua Rex regum sedet in stellato solio, circumdante eum innumerabili et ineffabili beatorum spirituum exercitu, ubi et ipse qui viderit, quia majorem numerum non invenit, Millia ait millium ministrabant ei, et decies centena millium assistebant ei, quanta ergo cum reverentia, quanto timore, quanta illuc humilitate accedere debet e palude sua procedens et repens ranuncula vilis; quam tremebundus, quam supplex, quam denique humilis et sollicitus, et toto intentus animo majestati gloriae in praesentia angelorum, in concilio justorum et congregatione assistere poterit vilis homuncio.’ Bernard de Quatuor Modis Orandi.

[8] ‘Est præterea optimum ad attendendum remedium si imagines rerum inutiles non solum non advertas, non excutias, non examines, sed ita te habeas quasi eas non aspicere digneris; nam ipsum advertere, et examinare istas cogitationes evagari est; et jam adversarius aliquid a nobis extorsit,’ &c.Jacobus Alvarez.

[9] ‘Si cum sublimi homine, non dicam pro vita, et salute nostra, sed etiam pro alicujus lucri commodo supplicamus, totam in eum mentis, et corporis aciem defigimus, de nutu ejus trepida expectatione pendemus, non mediocriter formidantes, ne quid forte ineptum et incongruum verbum misericordiam audientis avertat. Quanto magis cum illi occultorum omnium cognitori pro imminenti perpetuae mortis periculo supplicamus,’ &c.Cassian, Col. xxiii. c. 7.

[10] ‘Haec omnia nonnullis qui sunt crassioribus vitiis involuti levia, atque a peccato pene aliena videntur, scientibus tamen perfectionis bonum etiam minimarum rerum multitudo gravissima est.’ Cassian, Col. xxiii. c. 7.

[11] Hooker on Acts 2:37.

[12] Cobbet of Prayer. 


Vol 5.—Page 415.— Revelation 3:2. — Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:29 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:14 ]



Revelation 3:2. — Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

IN scriptures wherein the expression is anything more difficult, wits are most rank and luxuriant, every one taking a liberty to affix his own sense there, where the true and genuine sense is not so obvious and easily found out; and because two or three false interpretations may be asserted with equal probability, the scriptures have suffered as an uncertain rule, or nose of wax (it is the blasphemy of the Papists), which is ductile and pliable to every fancy and purpose. The truth is, we are more happy in discovering falsehood than in clearing truth, and those which come after can more easily discern wherein others have halted and are defective, than reach the truth themselves. I have always looked upon that as a grave observation, [1] Facilius est aliorum convellere sententias quam stabilire propriammen are always better at confuting than confirming; in which, though I am strengthened by the censure of Jerome on Lactantius, [2] who observed that his arguments were more valid and strong which he brought against false worships, than those other by which he confirmed the true; and Tully wished he could as easily find out the true God as disprove the false. [3] Whether it be through that natural desire that is in us to blemish others, or from the weakness and imperfection of our apprehensions, or from an obstinate prejudice against divine truths, or from God’s hiding and reserving many things till the age next their accomplishment, I will not now dispute. I only hint it to show that therefore it is why men have disputed so unhappily, and with such variety, about some difficult places of scripture, always acquitting themselves with more honour, success, and satisfaction in disproving the opinion of others, than in vindicating and clearing their own.

As this hath been the fate of other scriptures, so especially of this book of the Revelation, wherein there are as many mysteries as words; [[@Page: 416]] and all matters, as is usual in prophecies, veiled under expressions which are of a mystic sense and interpretation. [4] Above all other parts of the book, the three first chapters are most plain and easy to be understood, though here also difficulties want not. For my part, I shall not trouble you with the several thoughts of men about these chapters. The noise of axe and hammer should not be heard in the temple; these discussions better become the study than the pulpit.

Let it suffice to note that the main contents of them are several epistles sent from Jesus Christ by John to the seven churches of Asia. But here a doubt ariseth, why a Catholic prophecy, such as is calculated for the church in general, and all ages of it, should begin with epistles to these particular churches. What may be the reason of this? Ans. It is so, partly because the gospel did here first eminently flourish, and the Spirit of God foresaw that the malice of Satan would also first powerfully invade and overrun these churches, and so engage them to the wrath of God; [5] partly because of John’s particular relation and apostolical presidency over these churches, wherein the Spirit of God condescendeth to that natural inquisitiveness and desire that we have to know what shall become of our own; and therefore being about to reveal to him the state of all the churches, he beginneth with those to whom he stood in particular bond and relation.

But why to the seven churches in Asia, since there were more planted in that tract and country? [6] I answeragainIt may be partly because of the prophetical perfection of this number, which is every where in scripture solemn and sacred, and with which the Spirit of God seemeth most delighted in this prophecy; and, therefore, we hear of seven stars, seven spirits, seven candlesticks, seven lamps, seven seals, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven thunders of the dragon with seven heads, the city with seven hills, the beast with seven horns; and, therefore, that the beginning of the prophecy might carry proportion with the rest of it, wherein all things are set forth under the typical figure of this number, he writeth to the seven churches of Asia. And partly because in these seven churches, which were the most eminent, there was found enough to represent the state, graces, evils of all churches in all ages; and indeed the pattern and type is so complete and perfect, that by an easy and fair accommodation it may be applied to all other churches that are not named here, for in them God was pleased to give the world a document and experience of all those judgments and dispensations which he would exercise towards other churches offending and declining in the same manner.

One question more, and we have done with this general view, and that is, Why all these epistles are directed to the several angels, or respective ministries of the churches, since the drift of them concerneth the whole body of the people? I answerEither because they were notoriously guilty of the offences charged, and so by example propagated their own taint and profaneness among the people; or through oscitancy and carelessness suffered corruptions to creep in upon others; or else because all dispensations from Christ were to pass through [[@Page: 417]] their hands to the church; and so the regular way of transmitting these epistles was by means of the angel or eldership.

Other general observations there are, but I quit them, desiring to fall upon the epistle we have in hand. The text is a part of the epistle to the church of Sardis, which was a flourishing and rich city, the seat of the kings of Lydia. In it you have:

1. An inscription: ‘To the angel of the church of Sardis,’ write. ‘You see it is inscribed, as all the rest are, to the angel of the church;’ that is, to the ministry, who, because of their subserviency to the salvation of the elect, and that resemblance that is between their function and the angel’s office, are expressed by that term, and though they were many, yet they are expressed in the singular number, angel, to note their union and combination in a body and society. To this angel write, in which word he produceth his warrant and authority. We cannot threaten churches in our own name; Christ must first say, Write. The priests under the law were to have their ears tipped with blood, Exodus 29:20. Christ must command and inspire, as he doth John here, Write. [7]

2. A description of Christ, the author of this epistle, ‘These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.’ The seven Spirits, that is, the Holy Ghost, who is called so because of the plenty, perfection, and variety of his gracious operations and influences; and, therefore, in the old hymn of the church, it was said to the Holy Ghost, Tu septiformis munere; and it is said Christ hath these seven Spirits, that is, hath power to send the Holy Ghost, who always acteth as Christ’s Spirit, with reference to his merit and intercession; therefore it is said, John 14:15, ‘He shall take of mine and show it you.’ Christ taketh this title upon him now to show that he had Spirit enough to quicken dead Sardis, seven Spirits, when he writeth to a languishing church. ‘The next part of the description is and the seven stars;’ these are expounded Revelation 1:20. ‘And the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches;’ so that the stars note the subordinate ministries which Christ is said to have, because he appointeth them, gifteth them, assists them in their office and functions.

3. The occasion of the epistle, which is taken from the state of the church, which was well enough known to God, and therefore it is prefaced thus, ‘I know thy works,’ a phrase that is used to all the rest of the churches, but is most proper to Sardis, whose crime objected is, hypocrisy and pretence. Oh! how should it startle hypocrites to hear God say, ‘I know thy works.’ It implieth Christ’s strict and severe observation of what is done among his people; his eyes are every where, but he observeth the church: Solomon’s Song 6:11, ‘He goeth down into the gardens to see the fruits of the valleys; to see whether the vines flourished, and the pomegranates budded;’ phrases which imply a narrow inspection.

The state of the church is described two ways:

[1.] By its repute and renown among other churches, they did judge and speak well of her: ‘Thou hast a name that thou livest’ — i.e., thou art reputed to be eminent for faith, piety, and the power of [[@Page: 418]] godliness, and goest for an excellent church in thine own conceit and the opinion of others; a church is then said to live when it receiveth the grace of life, and expresseth the life of grace, and name is taken for repute and renown.

[2.] By the judgment of Jesus Christ — ‘but art dead.’ Thy condition is not correspondent to the report that goeth of thee. The churches that judge well of thee are deceived; for though there be much profession, yet very little of the power of truth and godliness is found in thee, which is here expressed by death.

4. The next things observable is the counsel of Christ, and direction to this languishing church, and that is in the verse read: ‘Be watchful, and strengthen the things that are ready to die,’ &c.

In which counsel of Christ to his church you may observe:

[1.] An excitation, ‘Be watchful.’

[2.] A direction, ‘Strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die.’

[3.] A conviction to set on both the former parts, ‘For I have not found thy works perfect before God.’

The main duty is in the middle, the first part being laid down by way of preparative to it, and the third by way of reason and enforcement. Therefore, though I shall explain the whole verse, yet I shall single out the middle clause for larger and more special discussion.

[1.] I begin with the excitation, which, as I said, was laid down by way of preparation for the other duty: ‘Be watchful,’ — i.e., look to it, see whereunto these things will grow. Such sad beginnings should make you consider and observe your sins, and provide against your judgments. Holy watchfulness and observation is the first step to amendment; and when people begin to understand the approaches of wrath, they are in a fair way to prevent them. There cannot be such a grey hair, or a sadder intimation of swift destruction, than a secure and careless inadvertency. The first thing pressed is, ‘Be watchful.’

[2.] You may look upon the conviction, which is brought as a reason why they should watch, or recover their former height in godliness: ‘For I have not found thy works perfect before God.’ Whatever men think of them, they are not so holy and entire as to be able to endure my trial. Things in a scripture sense are said to be πεπκερομενα, full and perfect, when they are sincere and sound, without hypocrisy and guile; and therefore Caleb’s integrity is expressed by fulfilling after God, or following of God fully, Numbers 14:24; he understandeth such a perfect and full growth as keepeth things from languishing or dying away.

[3.] The next thing now is the direction or main duty pressed: ‘Strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die.’ There were τὰ λοιπά, some sorry remains of religion and godliness, to quicken or strengthen which he addeth a reason, ἃ μέλλει ἀποθανεῖν, which shall die. The same kind of Greek expression is used concerning the centurion’s servant, when he was at the point of death, which is expressed by ἔμελλε τελευτᾶν, Luke 7:2. They are even languishing and expiring; unless you strengthen and repair them, they are utterly lost and gone. The word that expresseth their duty is στήριξον, settle or establish them, which implieth not only a care to keep them from [[@Page: 419]] expiration, but to recover them to their former height and radiancy; and, therefore, a like matter is expressed by the apostle Paul in another word, for he biddeth Timothy anazopurein, stir or blow up the gift of God in him, 2 Timothy 1:6.

There is nothing of difficulty in the clause, only it doth not so easily appear, since they are not specified in the text, what are those τὰ λοιπά, those remains of religion, which he urgeth them to strengthen.

How shall we know what they are? Ans. It cannot be meant of persons, as some would have it, understanding it of the weak of the flock, for it is τὰ λοιπά, things, not persons; and truly it must be something concerning the vitals of religion; such, which, if revived, would make them live and flourish again in the sight of God and of the churches. Now, doctrinals it cannot be, for the reason rendered in the latter part of the text, ‘For I have not found thy works perfect before God.’ It is some decay in practicals, thy works, τὰ ἔργα; and if they had decayed in doctrinals, they could not have so much as a name that they lived. And then mere discipline it cannot be, for howsoever that be a great preservation to godliness, and a considerable stake in religion’s hedge, yet the corruption or intermission of discipline cannot so properly be termed the death of the church. It is, I remember, if some expound the place right, called the sleep of the church, Solomon’s Song 6:2, ‘I sleep, but my heart waketh.’ Brightman [8] applieth it to the church about the third century, which was watchful over doctrine; the heart waked, but carelessly digested the corruption and degeneration of discipline, and therefore she is said to sleep, but it is nowhere called death; and it cannot be mere discipline, though some regard may be had thereunto. And therefore principally it is meant of some few poor relics of languishing godliness, like sparks under the ashes which needed blowing up. [9] The sum of all is, I hope you will be stirred up by this admonition to prevent your death, and utter languishing in religion, that decayed godliness may have its former power, efficacy, and glory. I look upon the text as a counsel to a church, not to private Christians. I confess it is applied to them by most, because it yieldeth conceptus praedicabiles, as they call them, much preaching matter concerning the languishing and decay of grace in Christians.

I cannot say this is excluded, because the part followeth the reason of the whole, but I rather look upon it, and so shall handle it, in a public regard.

The point is:

Doct. That a special way to save a church and people from immi nent and speedy ruin is the repairing of decayed godliness.

It is Christ’s counsel to Sardis, lest he should come upon them as a thief, that is, bring a sudden and unthought-of destruction. Give me leave to parallel it but with one place, and then I shall proceed to the reasons. It is the counsel to Ephesus, Revelation 2:5, ‘Do thy first works, or else I will come to thee quickly and remove thy candlestick,’ &c. ‘Recovering religion to its former height is made a means of preventing God’s coming in judgment; and it is there expressed by first works.’ [[@Page: 420]] because religion at the first coming is entertained with more genuine simplicity, and zealous earnestness, as stuffs in their first making are strongly wrought, and is full of life and power; therefore do thy first works.

Reason 1. Because by this means you take away that which will be the cause of ruin. God delighteth to make the outward estate to carry proportion with the inward; as we decay in godliness, so our outward happiness languisheth, and the hand of mercy is slackened. How easily may a wise Christian read his guilt in his condition, and from his outward decays understand his inward! And truly it is so in commonwealths too, their fate followeth the state of religion. God meteth to us in our own measure; instances want not: ‘Ye have forsaken me, and therefore I have left you,’ 2 Chronicles 12:5. ‘Rulers rebel against God, and their people rebel against them, therefore is there a tumult among thy people,’ Hosea 14:10. Friends are alienated and estranged from them, because their hearts are first estranged from God; there are confusions in the church, and then what followeth? distractions in the state. It was grave advice which the English divines gave the Dutch magistrates in the Synod of Dort, [10] that they should take heed lest, by their connivance at church disorders which they could help, they did not draw on state tumults and factions, which, when they would, they could not help. Truly this is God’s course, to retaliate with the creature; and, as I said before, to make their outward condition answer their inward. Religion is, as it were, the soul of the commonwealth. Now, the state of the body dependeth much upon the good temper of the soul, it being linked to it by the affections, as so many pins and nails. A troubled soul discomposeth the body, but a cheerful mind cureth it; so religion and godliness, as it thriveth, maketh us thrive. God challengeth his people to avouch one instance when ever they lost by it, Jeremiah 2:5, ‘What iniquity have your fathers found in me?’ and Jeremiah 2:13. ‘O ye generation! have I been a wilderness or a land of darkness to you?’ Did ever godliness do you hurt? If you can, do but produce one experience! If you will believe Polycarp upon his own trialand let me tell you he was an old Mnason, and had much trial of Godhe will inform you, ὀγδοήκοντα καὶ ἐξ ἔτη δουλεύω αὐτῷ, καὶ οὐδὲν μὴ ἠδίκησεν, &c. For my part, saith he, I can speak of eighty-six years; I have been his servant so long, and he never did me harm. And truly, notwithstanding the prejudices that are abroad, we may come in with the like attestation, godliness never did us harm; when it thrived and was vigorous, we thrived, and sensibly felt the benefits of the power of it. See how God appealeth to men in this matter, Micah 2:7, ‘Are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?’ See the meaning of that place a little: ‘Are these his doings?’ Speaking of the troubles, do you think these are the fruits of religion? or of your endeavours for the advancement of it? No; your own souls know that my words have done you good, yielded you much comfort and deliverance; you were happy as long as you kept in that way. And [[@Page: 421]] therefore, now, if you would take away the cause of ruin, and redress the disorders of the commonwealth, repair the decays of religion, do what you can to restore that to its former power and efficacy.

Reason 2. Because, by outward success, God will visibly declare his delight in such eminent works as these are, and therefore setteth his heart to bless and prosper such a people, who set their hearts to repair decayed religion. And God doth it the rather, partly because of the prejudice that is upon godliness; as men cast most honour upon the parts most uncomely, so doth God most blessing and comfort upon a despised grace. Men accuse it as the only makebate, and in the world’s eye it is the cause of want, and sword, and famine, Jeremiah 44:18; and therefore God attesteth and witnesseth from heaven that it is the only pledge of a blessing; the more we are prejudiced, the more free is God in honouring it; and partly because of his own delight in it; it is a grace that giveth all to God, and therefore God doth all for it. He dealeth with it as Caleb with his dear daughter Achsah; he giveth her the upper and the nether springs, Joshua 15:19, the blessings of this life and that to come, 1 Timothy 4:8; for as all the motions and tendencies of godliness are to exalt God, so all God’s aims and dispensations are to exalt godliness, and therefore is it that we do so often hear of a blessing upon all endeavours, especially such as are eminent and public, that look that way: see Hag, 2:19, ‘From this day forward will I bless you;’ that is, from the day that they took care of the temple, God would have them observe if their hopes and happiness did not thrive from that day forward. So 2 Chronicles 7:11, ‘All that came into Solomon’s heart to make in his own house, and the house of the Lord, he prosperously effected.’ Those two cares thrive the better for one another; the Lord’s house made him prosper the better in building his own, for God is resolutely engaged to let the world know what shall be done to the grace which he will honour. So see Isaiah 4:4, ‘Upon the glory there shall be a defence.’ By the glory is meant the church reformed or made more holy, for that is the excellency and glory of it; ‘God and his people being both glorious in holiness.’ Compare Exodus 15:9, with Ephesians 5:27. ‘Now upon this glory there will be a covering or defensive shelter, as there was of badgers’ skins over the glory of the tabernacle.

Reason 3. Because this is the straightest and most direct way to safety. In all other policies there are a great many serpentine windings and intricacies, whereby the event is not half so sure and easy. In desperate cases it is best to take the ready way; and that is, the repairing of religion. It is ill when religion is but policy; but it is as it should be when our policy is religion. Though the troubles are by men, yet our work doth not so much lie with man as with God. We begin at the right end, when we begin with him; for by making God a friend you may the better get in with men. To set on this reason, take a few considerations.

1. Without God men can do you no good; dependence on the Lord is the best security, and the surest policy is trusting God rather than men. They are weak and faithless, and so will fail you when there is most need. The people are unstable as waters, and their respects are dispensed with much uncertainty: to-day they cry up, [[@Page: 422]] and to-morrow they cry down things; to secure themselves they will desert those that have done them most good: as the Keilites were ready to give up David after he had delivered them, as soon as Saul had any force in Israel, 1 Samuel 23:11. If they keep true, their power to help may be gone. God kindleth courage and quencheth it at pleasure: Ezekiel 7:14, ‘They have blown the trumpet to make all ready, but none goeth to the battle, for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.’ There were great preparations, but their hearts failed them. Truly there is nothing preserveth states so much as God’s power over the spirits of men, and nothing which you ought to regard and heed so much as that. Bodies without hearts are a disadvantage, and their hearts are in God’s hands. All outward strength and support lieth in the movable respects of the people; for so they are in themselves, it is God only that can fix and make them sure.

2. With God men can do you no harm; he is with them that are careful to establish and set up his worship, and then they need not care who are against them: see 2 Chronicles 28. There is a story of Sennacherib’s coming up against Jerusalem in the first verse; the time is specially noted: ‘After these things and the establishment thereof;’ that is, after Hezekiah had established the worship of God, which circumstance is mentioned chiefly to note the occasion of Hezekiah’s confidence; for see how he disvalues him upon this: 2 Chronicles 28:8, ‘With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God.’ When ye are thus for God, God will be with you, and then what is dust to the wind, briars and thorns to a devouring burning, an arm of flesh to the Lord our God? All the discouragements of the creature come from these things: want of care to get interest in God. and want of skill to improve it. Your grand design should be to get God with you, and truly then you may slight the most daring attempts: Isaiah 8:9, 10, Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces, gird yourselves and ye shall be broken in pieces: take counsel together and it shall come to nought. ‘Speak the word and it shall not stand, for God is with us.’ In a triumph of faith the prophet laugheth at their vain attempts. He challengeth not only single adversaries that might sooner be dissipated, but such as were strengthened by a combination of interests, and twisted into a league and association, but all will not do. ‘Ye shall be broken in pieces.’ Again he speaketh to them, Call in more strength, come with advised care, yet ye shall be broken to pieces. If you will adventure once more, and try the other fifty, as that wretched king did, 2 Kings 1, and see if heaven will smile on a third endeavour, yet still the event shall be the same, ‘Ye shall be broken in pieces.’ He addeth again, ‘Take counsel together;’ that is, recollect yourselves; summon your best wits, that you may know wherein you have failed, and play your game the more wisely the next time; yet, saith the prophet, it shall come to nought. Your deliberate and mature consultations shall have the same event with your rash and heady enterprises; that is, all shall be disappointed. ‘The prophet goeth on, speak the word, and it shall not stand;’ that is, when you have prepared the business, so that you [[@Page: 423]] think all the devils in hell cannot disappoint you, yet God can, for he supposeth their presumption grown so confident, as that they speak the word; that is, give out threats and boasts, and yet then it shall not stand. The reason is rendered in the close of all; for Emmanuel, for God is with us. Indeed, there is the ground of all. God never made a creature, or any combination of creatures, that, should be too hard for him; God with us, is enough. You do but spit against the wind when you oppose those with whom he is. The drivel will be returned upon your own face: Isaiah 54:18, Surely they shall gather together, but not by me. ‘Whosoever shall gather together against thee, shall fall for thy sake.’ There may be tumults and confusions, but being without God there is little hope, and against God there is certain ruin. The heathens were convinced of this; they would not war against a nation till they had called out their gods from them. Macrobius, in his Saturnalia, hath a chapter, De Ritu Evocandi Deos. It was upon this errand that Balaam went to Balak, to get away the God of Israel, Numbers 23. Certainly nothing goes so near to the hearts of God’s people as the insultations of their adversaries, when they have lost their shadow and the defensive presence of their God; as when David had fallen scandalously in the matter of Uriah, his adversaries boasted, Now there is no help from him in God. ‘Selah,’ Psalm 3:2; and this went to his soul. So still our scandalous miscarriages give the adversaries hope that our shadow is gone, &c.

3. In having God, you have men too; he can preserve friends, or awe enemies; and therefore, still I say, to gain the respects of men, the best way is to get in with God: Proverbs 16:7, ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, his enemies shall be at peace with him,’ Remember God’s power over the spirits of men, and then you will see that your main work lieth with him. Jacob’s hardest task was with God; he wrestleth with God, and findeth embraces from Esau. Reconcile yourselves to God, and take hold of his strength, and then he can take away the enmity of the creature. God can recover lost hearts, preserve the respects of subjects entire to the supreme powers. It is very notable that in Genesis 34:30, compared with Genesis 35:1, when the miscarriages of Simeon and Levi had made Jacob stink among the inhabitants of the land, and he was afraid the Canaanites and Perizzites would combine against him to slay him, God biddeth him go to Bethel and pay his vows. Such disasters should put him in mind of his covenant; the performing of which was the best way to support him against his present fears. Oh! consider, if any have made you stink in the land, your business is to go to Bethel and pay your vows. Force will not be so great a security as godliness. Armies make long work, but God can soon still the rage of the people; and when he doth it, it is done in a more kindly way. The door is more easily opened by a key than an iron bar, and men’s hearts sooner gained by the power of God than men. God can clear up your renown, recover your glory and esteem again, calm the people, and cause all to be still. There are two things that are of great difficulty, and they are joined in one verse, Psalm 65:7, ‘He stilleth the noise of the seas, and the tumult of the people.’ In the accomplishing of either of these things, man is at the greatest loss, either in assuaging the natural or the metaphorical waves; and [[@Page: 424]] therefore it was well done of that king who, to disprove his flatterers that had soothed him with the greatness of his command and empire, both by sea and land, caused his chair to be set near the sea-side, and the waves beating upon it without any reverence, said, Lo! as great a king; as I am, I cannot rebuke one wave. Truly no more can princes of themselves still the tumult of the people, for they are both of an equal difficulty, and must be left to the overruling power of God, the noise of the seas, and the rage of the people.

I come now to apply the point. We have found that getting in with God, by establishing religion, and repairing the decays of godliness, is a special means of preservation.

Oh! then let us consider this with reflection upon ourselves; we are concerned in it. England heretofore was compared to Laodicea for its lukewarmness, [11] it may be compared to Sardis for its languishing.

We have a name that we live. Our renown is gone into all lands, for savoury and practical truths; but, alas! our crown is like to be taken from us, and our glory laid in the dust. Religion of late seemeth to have lost all life and spirit, and godliness to degenerate into a cold form. The ordinances that erstwhile were wont to open heaven and break hearts, through the abundance of spirit that was in them, seem now to have lost all their converting power. Visions are open and few gained; Christ is crucified before our eyes, but some fatal enchantment and fascination seemeth to abide upon our congregations, for few hearts are broken, few brought into the obedience of the truth. The English Christians heretofore were famous for their severe innocency, strict walking, constant communion with God, undaunted zeal, sweet experiences, holy conferences and communications, whereas now we meet with few but such as are, like the vain men of Israel, of a light spirit, loose conversation; given to vain wranglings and disputes more than to practice and holy life, and measuring religion not so much by the power of godliness, as by form and faction, and siding with parties. God knoweth how unwilling I am to lay open our own nakedness, and to declaim against the times to which he hath disposed me. I know the nature of man is querulous and complaining; the unthankful good one will always be commending the former times, and accusing his own; it is often the voice of discontent and peevishness, ‘The former times were better than these,’ Ecclesiastes 7:10. Besides, every trifling zeal vents itself in loose invectives and flings. It is easy to rake in this puddle, and to reproach our times with such crimes and allegations, quae quisque suis temporibus objicit, as Tacitus observed, with which every one upbraideth his own age; therefore I shall endeavour to make out the conviction more particularly for our humiliation and instruction. My method is this:

First, I will show you wherein godliness is decayed.

Secondly, How it came to pass, what may be the occasions or causes of such a languishing.

Thirdly, What we shall do to repair it; every one in his place, the people in their way, the ministry in theirs, and you in that orb and sphere that is proper to you.

First, My first work is to show that godliness is decayed, and wherein. [[@Page: 425]] I shall do that the rather, partly that it may help us to put our mouths in the dust, and to lie low in the sense of our shame this day; partly because we are all apt to call our design godliness, every party like the old Rogatians, ingross it to themselves. For my part, I look upon it as the highest sacrilege and peevishness in the world for men to do so, to measure religion by their private interest and opinion, and as they thrive more or less in the world, so to judge or cry out of the rising or fall of religion. Private conceits do not deserve so glorious a name, and the godly party is of a larger extent than to be appropriated or confined within any one sect and faction. Alas! how often do we mistake self-love for zeal, and out of a blind dotage to our own opinions, think Christ standeth or falleth with our private misconceits and interests. It was but a presumptuous arrogance in Nestorius, to promise heaven and victory so lavishly to Theodosius the Emperor, if he would do as he suggested. [12] Therefore to prevent all partial claims, and to waive the suspicion of any such drift, I shall first show wherein the power of godliness is found to decay and languish, even unto death; I mean that godliness which is commended to us in the word, and is the glory of our religion and profession. The gasping of it is many ways discovered, but especially by these things.

1. By the languishing of zeal, and the neglect of public duties. Zeal is a grace so rare, that we scarce know the nature and working of it; for, alas! to what a stupidness and cold indifferency in religion are we come. Though God be dishonoured, truth violated, the Sabbath profaned, yet men are neither hot nor cold, Revelation 3:15. We content ourselves with a lukewarmness and mumbling of profession, middling it between Christ and the world; neither suffering nor doing any further than will suit with our interests, as if in hazardous cases we should look on rather than interpose. Where are those that do eTraja)v%ecr0ai, contend earnestly for the faith of the saints, the glory of God, that mind religion for religion’s sake? Jude 3. If we had more love, we would have more zeal; [13] if the heart were gained to religion, we would have more heat and power, and not give up ourselves to such a secure oscitancy. The iniquity of the times should put us forward, not make us worse. A godly man should be like fountain water, hottest in coldest weather. Dead fishes may swim with the stream, and every carnal heart walk according to the trade of Israel. It deserveth no thanks to be earnest in duties, when there is no opposition against them; but, alas! as soon as danger cometh, how are men discouraged! It should not be so. When the wicked prevail, it is said of the godly man: Job 17:9, ‘That he shall hold on his way; and he that is righteous grow stronger and stronger.’ True grace and true zeal by an antiperistasis is best in the worst times; but it is otherwise with us, for our magistrates, some of them, when the day of God is profaned, his name dishonoured, his truth questioned, are like careless Gallios, troubled with none of these things, do not come forth to the help of Christ. For our ministry, many act no further than they are encouraged, and put on by an outward power, and will not engage till all difficulties be first removed by a secular arm; others leave themselves [[@Page: 426]] at a loose liberty and indifferency to comply with all parties, and launch forth no further, than they may get to shore again if a storm arise. Our people are in an unsettled hesitation, ready to draw back upon every trouble, pleading for the stumps of Dagon, and revolting in their hearts to the old ways. And truly as yet the evil days are not fully come, so that this grace is not thoroughly exercised. However, a cold indifferency in such times will in very evil times be a flat apostasy. Certainly this is clear already, that we are much gone off from our first love. At the first breaking out of reformation, what heat and violence was there offered to the kingdom of God! what zeal against the little foxes, every modest appearance of error! what a holy forwardness! whereas now we are at a stand; the old world, like old men, every day losing more of its heat and fervour. Melancthon’s prophecy is almost verified; for he, though he were a sober and meek manand indeed his fault was too much connivance, for, by his silence, consubstantiation prevailedwas so sensible of the decay of zeal in his time, that he feared the world would come to account religion a matter of nothing, or a word-strife, not worthy men’s regard and engagement; and truly it is even brought to that pass. [14]

2. By the insipid formality and dead-heartedness that is found everywhere. We are without life in the ways of God, little beauty of holiness, little circumspection and strictness in life and conversation. Religion is like a river; it loseth in strength what it getteth in breadth. Now many come in to profess, their walkings are not so awful and severe. When it is a shame not to have some form in religion, many have but a form, and so debase the holy profession by mingling it with their pride, lust, and avarice, so that it is not so daunting, and hath no such majesty with it as formerly it had. A truly godly man is to be the world’s wonder, the world’s reproof, the world’s conviction. The world’s wonder: 1 Peter 4:4, ‘They think it strange,’ &c. You are to hold forth such mortification and self-denial that the world may wonder. You are to wean yourselves, and bind up your affections from such objects as do so pleasantly and powerfully insinuate with them, and ravish their affections. He should be also the world’s reproof: Hebrews 11:7, by building an ark Noah condemned the world. You should be mirrors to kill basilisks; and in the innocency of your lives, show them their own filthiness; in short, your lives should be a real reproof and upbraiding to them. And then the world’s conviction: 1 Corinthians 14:25, you should walk so that they may see God in you of a truth. Your conversation should be nothing else but a walking rule, and religion exemplified. But, alas! how vain, carnal, sensual, are most men, discovering nothing of the power of grace, the beauty of holiness, and the efficacy of the new nature; we may see much of man, but nothing of God in them. It is even our description: 2 Timothy 3:5, ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’ Denying the power; that is, refusing and resisting that inward virtue and force of godliness, by which the heart should be renewed or the conversation rectified. Possibly there may be more light, but less heat. What Seneca observed of his times is [[@Page: 427]] true of ours, Boni esse desierunt, sicubi docti evaserintthey were less good when they were more learned; for now we rather dispute away duties than practise them. Oh! it is sad this, when knowledge shall devour good life, and notion spoil knowledge. That of Hugo is but too just a character of us, Amant lectionem, non religionem, immo amore lectionis in odium incidunt religionis, multos video studiosos, paucos religiosos, &c. [15] Many desire to know, few to live; yea, knowledge seemeth to make men less strict and holy, for they dispute away religion the more they understand of it.

3. Loathing of heavenly manna. There cannot be a more proper discovery of spiritual languishing. Sick persons loathe their food, and feed upon ashes. Surely godliness is in the wane when a people are Christ-glutted, and gospel-glutted, and are all for ungrounded subtleties, quintessential extracts, and distillations. [16] Oh! how welcome were the first appearances of light. It is a blessing we know by the want of it. When we came newly out of darkness, whose heart did not say within him, chaire, phos, welcome, sweet light? When it was a new thing, how strangely did it affect us? But it is the unhappy fate of the word to be despised upon acquaintance: John 15:35, ‘Ye rejoiced in his light.’ πρὸς ὁρᾶν, ‘for a season,’ some small time, when he first began to shine in their borders, Solomon’s Song 1:26. To a gracious eye truth’s bed is always green; as fresh and flourishing at the last as at the beginning; but most look upon it with an adulterous eye and heart; love it whilst it is new, nauseate it after some acquaintance and knowledge of it. With what fastidious disdain do men despise sacred truths, if discovered in their own native beauty and simplicity! 1 Corinthians 2:6, ‘We speak wisdom among those that are perfect,’ saith the apostle; that is, among grown Christians, who can discern beauty in a plain ordinance. Wisdom in an evangelic simplicity, though there be no enticing words, sublime speculations, and exotic conceits. But now carnal men are all for τὰ βάθη, depths, as they say, Revelation 2:24; that is, they account them great and deep mysteries, whereas the Spirit of God accounteth them illusions of Satan. Surely God will meet with such a wanton people. The continuator of Sleidan showeth, that before the great massacre in France, the Protestants were for a luscious, wanton kind of preaching. Truly we cannot absolutely determine what will become of us, only we have cause to fear that conscientious sermons, as much despised as they are, may be a commodity dear enough in England ere long; and visions may be less open, that they may be the more precious, 1 Samuel 3:4.

4. Plain apostasy, and turning round to those things which we hated in others before. As for instance, to Arminian, antisabbatarian doctrines,’ &c., which heretofore were made the charactistic note to distinguish good persons and bad. I would not be understood as if I did think a thing simply evil because held by such men: opposition of image worship was never the worse because the Monothelites first stirred in it; [17] nor is the cross the more holy because the Messalians despised it; neither is everything evil because taught by persons whom [[@Page: 428]] religion maketh justly odious. I only speak now, as supposing other grounds by way of aggravation, and to show how inexcusable it is for us to judge others for the same things which we now do ourselves, Romans 2:3. And truly it is observable, that many, when these corruptions were set on by violence, did stubbornly enough bear up against the heat of opposition; whereas now, by erroneous insinuations, their revolt is made facile, so as they may come off from truth with the less shame and regret, and therefore do now allow in themselves those errors which formerly, with so much heat and sharpness, they opposed in others, Deuteronomy 12:29, 30. You shall see there, of all sins the Jews were to beware of the way of the heathens, whom God had cast out before them. Hear the words: ‘When the Lord thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, and thou goest and dwellest in their land, take heed thou be not ensnared by following them, after they be destroyed before thee.’ Truly we have the same nature, and having the same possessions, may be easily tempted to the same sins, as pride, looseness, ease, and error, &c. You see that is brought as a great aggravation, 2 Kings 17:8, ‘They walked in the way of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before them.’ These opinions and practices have proved destructive to others, and they will be fatal to us too. Such apostasy is a sin of a double dye, as being against former experience of God’s judgments on others, and the former judgment of our own consciences. Why were we so keen against that in them, to which we are now revolted ourselves?

5. By the wounds religion hath received in the house of her friends. Many have acted of late under the name and colour of religion, as if they went on purpose to make godliness odious, and religion stink in. the land, engaging themselves in all unwarrantable practices, odious and gross heresies, prostituting the holy profession to all kinds of impurities and injuries, whereby the mouth of iniquity is opened, the hatred of enemies justified, their reproaches made good, and a great occasion and advantage given to wicked men to speak evil of this way. It was the glory of Christianity heretofore to be hated unjustly, and that only of the worst men, which was an argument of the goodness and purity of it. That which Nero hateth must needs be excellent, [18] and the only fault that could be charged upon the primitive Christians was their Christianity, they were just and honest, good subjects, and good neighbours, saith Pliny the younger; only they had their hymnos antelucanos, their morning meetings to praise their God; and Tertullian saith, the heathens were wont to say, Caius Sejus vir bonus nisi quod Christianus,Caius Sejus was a good man, all his fault was that he was a Christian. You see still their profession was their only crime; nay, to come nearer home, the Bishop of Aliffe, in the Council of Trent, confessed that we had orthodoxos mores, but haereticam fidem, a good life, but a bad belief; and truly this was our glory when no evil could be charged upon us but our private opinion and profession. But alas! now it is otherwise;. many of those that profess religion, [[@Page: 429]] have done that which a moral heathen would scarce do. Oh! what a dishonour to Christ is this, that those that pretend to him should be less civil, just, discreet, &c.! Oh! how is the holy profession exposed to the shame and reproach of the adversaries! How is Christ crucified and put to shame again in your scandals! How will the Hams of the world laugh to discover this nakedness! Thus it hath been of old. [19] The apostle Peter speaketh of some impure deceivers by whom ‘the way of truth was evil spoken of,’ 2 Peter 2:1. Thus the ancient Christians were loaded with all kinds of scorn and contempt, and hated for the heretics’ sake, because of the Gnostics; they were called luminum extinctores, putters out of the candles, and doers of obscene things in the dark. [20] The unclean conversation of the Priscillianists made Pagans detest all Christians, and by the rage of Maximus they fared all alike; malice will know no distinction. Alas! what a sad thing is this, that religion’s own friends should betray her; that you that are called Christians should be called so to the disgrace of Jesus Christ, [21] that you should give occasion to them that desire occasion, and make good all their reproaches!

6. By religion’s being made the stalking-horse to every self-seeking design. Many hold it forth only out of a desire to advance some private ends, to get preferment and honour in the world, or some opportunity to enrich themselves with the public spoils. And truly this is very sad, that every malicious, covetous, or ambitious project should be clothed with this glorious pretence. Thus the apostle Peter speaketh of some in his days that abused their profession by making it a ‘cloak of maliciousness,’ 1 Peter 2:6. And Lactantius observeth the same also of many in his time, who wounded the Christian name and honour by using it as a cover to their sinful and corrupt practices. [22] And others show what prejudice was done to religion by the pride, desire of greatness, and contention, that was between the pastors and professors of it; insomuch that Diocletian thought that Christianity was nothing else but a wretched device of wicked men, [23] set afoot out of some private aims. Thus, also, Ignatius speaketh of some that were οὐ Χριστιανοὶ ἀλλὰ χριστέμποροι, not Christians so much as Christ-sellers, [24] like Judas, that followed Christ only to make gain of him. ‘I have brought these instances because they do but give us the description of many in our age, who make God to serve with their sins,’ Isaiah 43:24, and godliness to be only the specious outside of every unclean intent and worldly design. Thus poor religion, that delighteth to breathe in the air of self-denial, is made the usual stale to self-seeking; and godliness, that checketh carnal projects, by a vile submission is forced to serve them.

7. By the want of endeavours to propagate religion, and to diffuse it amongst others. True godliness, where it is powerful, is of a [[@Page: 430]] diffusive and spreading nature, like leaven, till it hath pierced the whole lump. Now what have we done in this, either Christians among their neighbours, magistrates in the kingdom, or masters in their families? For private Christians, they spend the heat and strength of their spirits in lesser matters, and let the weightier go; through division and strife, forget edification. Many renounce all care of them without; and whereas they might have strengthened the hands of their brethren that have acted in a public reformation, what have they done? Have they joined as far as their private principles would give leave? endeavoured to bring the kingdom onward to the way and will of Christ? And then for magistrates, have they been so zealous as they should be to propagate a religious ministry throughout the kingdom, to enlighten dark corners? There is not a better work, nor more for your safety. Austin observed [25] that the Christians tasted the violence of the Goths and Vandals, for that they were not careful to bring off the heathens from their idolatry. Such endeavours would be your defence, and in the business of religion nothing concerneth you more than this; but my chief aim under this head is to speak of the neglect of family duties, which is the great reason why religion is decayed abroad. These are the springs and fountains of the country. Churches were first in families, where the master of the house was the priest, and the beauty and power of religion is still preserved there; and therefore, next to churches, they require a chief care. Oh! how excellent is it when churches are like to heaven, the assembly below like the great congregation above, and families like churches for their religion, order, and comeliness! Hebrews 12:29. You read of a church in Philemon’s house, Philemon ver. 1. Melancthon said of George, Prince of Anhalt, Cubiculum ejus templum, academia, curia, [26] that his chamber was a university, a court, and a church; the latter because of the instructions, prayer, and worship that were there. Religion first decayeth in families before in churches; therefore when the order of houses is subverted, duties neglected there, how soon doth godliness decay abroad! I do not know any one thing that God expecteth more from a religious householderI mean in that capacity and relation than the establishment of religion in his family: Genesis 18:19, ‘I know Abraham that he will command his children and his house hold after him to keep the way of the Lord.’ Mark, God reckoneth upon it as a duty that the godly will perform, ‘I know,’ &c.; and remember disappointment is the worst vexation.

8. By opposition and snarling at piety and purity, as the purity of reformation. Men are afraid to be too heavenly, and reject government because it would cross their licentiousness; and so the purity that shineth forth in the lives of God’s servants. You heard in the morning [27] how apt an English spirit is to hate godliness under some other name, and how men that have but a form are wont to snarl at the power; and indeed the apostle Paul observeth the same thing, 2 Timothy 3:3, with 2 Timothy 3:5, ‘Having a form of godliness, despisers of those that are good.’ These two descriptions are usually coupled. Cain and [[@Page: 431]] Abel both sacrificed, only Abel’s offering was the better, and therefore Cain maliced him, 1 John 3:12. Men do not love to be upbraided by others’ righteousness; they would fain have their laziness justified by the common defects, ἵνα ἐν τῷ κοινῷ τὸ κατʼ αὐτοὺς κρύπτεται, as Nazianzen speaketh, [28] they would have none zealous and excelling; therefore those that are contented with a form will hate those that have the power. We can look for no other: Galatians 4:27, ‘He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; even so it is now.’ We may also add, And so it is now, and so it will be. Carnal Christians will have some pretence or other to persecute those that are more godly. One great design is, as you heard in the morning, to cry up a name under which this hatred may be carried on the more covertly and secretly; and usually it is taken from the party most discountenanced, or which is most publicly odious, or which hath most dishonoured their profession. Thus when the Priscillianists were generally hated, and indeed they deserved it, other Christians shared in their miseries, Sulpicius Severus speaketh of one Ithacius, a bishop whose hatred against the Priscillianists did so far transport him, that if any were of good life, studious of the scriptures, he would suspect and blast him as a Priscillianist. I have read of one Sanpaulinus, a French martyr, who, when he reproved one for swearing, was presently suspected of Lutheranism; and Bonner, if any did but mention the name of God with reverence, took it for ground enough to call him Lollard. And truly it is even thus among us. The world hath gotten some names and pretences under which they carry on their hatred against the power of godliness the more securely and with the less dread, so that it is to be feared that if any be of godly conversation, it will be enough to make him a sectary, and an enemy of the kingdom’s peace and quiet. When the name is once gotten up, mischief and malice, as I said, will make no distinction.

9. The late great increase of scandalous sins. Times of trouble are usually licentious, and when penal laws are suspended by force, wickedness groweth impudent; and truly it is even so among us, to the confronting of authority; whoring, and swearing, and drunkenness and Sabbath profanations abounding everywhere; yea, more than formerly. We looked for purging the land, and it is more defiled. When the pot boileth, the scum is discovered. Baths bring forth corruption, if it be in the body, into the skin. God hath been reforming the land, and our wickedness appeareth the more: Hosea 7:1, ‘When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria.’ God hath been correcting and amending us, and we have been the more vile and sinful. Oh! then how may the kingdom sit down like the church in Micah, and mourn: Micah 7:1, 2, I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grape gleanings of the vintage. The good man is perished out of the earth. There is none upright upon the earth. ‘They all lie in wait for blood, and hunt every man his brother by a net,’ Zeal is decayed, the power of godliness gone, the word despised, and we are even grown as the people whom God hath cast out before us. Religion hath received wounds in the house of her friends, and is made a [[@Page: 432]] pretence to every base design. Few seek to propagate it, and it meets with much snarling and opposition everywhere, and iniquity is now grown impudent.

And thus I have done with my first work, which was to show wherein religion is decayed.

Secondly, My next business is to show you the occasions and causes, how we came thus to languish and decrease, that so the guilt may lie at the right door. And truly we need not contend about that, but may every one of us smite upon the thigh, and bear the shame of our own iniquity.

Briefly then

1. For the occasions; the knowledge of them may serve to shame us with our unthankfulness. They are two:

[1.] One is the late prosperity which God of his mercy had given to his people. The church, which is the heir of the cross, [29] is seldom able to manage and wield an outward happy condition. I remember, Nazianzen observeth, [30] that it hath ever with more honour endured misery than with safety improved happiness and success; that maketh us always degenerate or divide: sometimes degenerate. When Constantine favoured religion, poison was sown in the church; Christians began to lose their ancient severity, and to look after ease and honours and pleasures in the world. When we have anything in the world, we neglect our high hopes; and so by little and little holiness decayeth and degenerateth into a mere pretence, which is only retained the better to colour over some carnal pursuits and projects; whereas those Christians that meet with nothing but hard things in the world and from the world are more heavenly and holy; for the inward exercises of mortification are much advantaged by their outward condition, and the world being crucified to them, they are the better crucified to the world, as Paul speaketh, Galatians 6:14, i.e., it neither smileth upon them nor they upon it. And as success maketh us to degenerate, so to divide, ρωσθεντες διελύσαμεν, [31] as he said, as soon as the church grew prosperous it grew factious; like timber in the sunshine, we are apt to warp and divide from one another, or like elephants returning from the heat of the battle, we tread down our own troops. [32] Prosperity begets wantonness, and wantonness novelties, and so the people of God come to be scattered, and to go into distinct herds and divisions, an evil ever fatal to religion, and yet it seemeth connatural. The apostles themselves, though oracles infallible, could not wholly prevent it in their days; outward prosperity then was a great occasion.

[2.] Another may be openness of vision. Carnal hearts are soon cloyed. I cannot tell how it cometh to pass, but so it is; the word hath less power when openly preached. A gospel-glutted stomach doth often force God to provide sharp remedies, either some great outward misery, accompanied with the want and famine of the word, and then any little thing is precious, as see two places: one is [[@Page: 433]] Zechariah 7:7, ‘Ye should have hearkened to the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, and men inhabited the south of the plain.’ Mark, there is their full condition described; the temple stood, the city flourished, the suburbs were great; but then they hearkened not, but despised the former prophets, that is, the prophets that prophesied before the captivity. But now look upon them in their emptiness: the other place for that is Ezra 9:8, ‘And now that the Lord hath showed us such grace, to give us a nail in the holy place,’ &c. Mark how welcome every little thing is to them then; a nail in the holy place is such a mercy; that is, to see one pin or nail driven into the rafters of the temple; whereas before they would not know their own mercies, while that stately edifice stood in all its glory and beauty. Times may come when these dews will be precious, and sermon showers sweet to thirsty souls; or if this be not, God may send a dark Ezekiel, when a plain Jeremiah is despised. Ordinances [[@Page: 471]] may be carried in such an obscure, notional, airy way as to yield no efficacy and comfort. These are the occasions, but

2. What are the causes of the languishing and decay of godliness? I answer:

[1.] That great division and dissentiency that is among God’s own people. When the language was divided, the building ceased; when religion is controverted, it loseth its awe and force. It is observable that, Acts 4:32, 33, when the people were of one heart and of one mind, then with great power gave the apostles witness to ‘the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’ Mark that, with power; the word came with command and authority upon the hearts of men. The world easily stumbleth at this rock of offence; the assent is more loose and doubtful when things are committed to the uncertainty of disputes, and so doth not commandingly check vicious inclinations. When the ways of flesh and blood are backed with wit and parts, and made to seem a valuable opinion, men are hardly gained.

Besides, godly men themselves, while they engage with too much heat and zeal in their particular opinions, grow cool in piety and practical duties, the strength of their spirits being diverted and carried out so disproportionably to the lesser matters. God placed the flaming sword about paradise, and the gospel calleth for violence in the matters of the kingdom, Matthew 11:12. But we usually mistake our object, and misplace our zeal upon such matters as have more of interest in them than godliness, and are rather busied in disputing much, than doing much.

[2.] The embasing and emasculating the ordinance of preaching. Hunger seeketh food, but lust dainties and quails. When preachers provide for men’s lusts rather than their consciences, religion is embased and loseth power. A ministry that stayeth in the paint of words will beget but painted grace. When we come in the demonstration of the Spirit, we come in power, 1 Corinthians 2:6, ἐν ἀποδείξει, with plain and solid conviction; this is the sin, this the curse and misery. When the thread of the gospel is so fine spun, it will not clothe a naked soul; notion eateth out all saving knowledge. The apostle speaks of a ψευδώνυμος γνῶσις, 1 Timothy 6:20, ‘Oppositions of science falsely so called,’ by which they thought to better the gospel, but did indeed debase it. [[@Page: 434]] Such niceties enervate godliness, make it weak and less in power. We must take heed then of debasing this ordinance to an effeminate delicacy. It should still be masculine and generous, full of spirit and power from on high. I would not be mistaken, as if I did plead for a lazy carelessness in managing the word. I know that God concurreth with man’s diligence; and if we would not have the people loathe the word, we should painfully provide it for them. ‘Every scribe that is instructed for the kingdom of God, that is, that would do service in the church of God, must bring forth out of his treasuries things both new and old,’ Matthew 13:52, that is, although not new truths, yet κοινὰ καινῶς, old truths in a new way, otherwise represented to the imagination or fancy, to take off that tedium or natural satiety that is in us, that we may not loathe them as coleworts twice sod, but that truths may still have a fresh look upon the conscience and affections. This may be done, but we must take heed of ungrounded niceties, subtle notions, that beget only speculation, and do not stir up to practice.

[3.] An undue preaching of the gospel. Poison conveyed in so sweet a wine maketh the cup the more deadly. By this means religion itself is made to be of sin’s side, and the grace of God pliable to carnal conclusions; and indeed, when the truths of God, that should convince of sin, are debauched to so vile a purpose as to countenance sin, men can the better overcome remorse of conscience, and do sin with the less regret, out of a presumption that the gospel is of their side, Jude, ver. 3, ‘They turn the grace of our God into wantonness;’ they debauch the grace of God, that is, the doctrine of grace, make that yield countenance to their lusts; and so men father their bastards upon the Spirit, and sin cum privilegio, by a license from heaven. When those that should have been prophets cried, Peace, peace! see what Jeremiah saith, Jeremiah 4:10, ‘Ah! Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people,’ in saying they shall have peace. It was done in God’s name by the false prophets, and they were as secure as if God himself had said so. We would willingly have the gospel over-gospelled, and hear in the ear of liberty; therefore I am persuaded there is no one thing hath hindered the power of godliness, care of duty, humbling of souls, so much as this undue preaching of the gospel.

[4.] Public liberty and connivance, that maketh sin more common, and so less odious. Outward restraints keep men that are evil from discovering of it: and though it be the privilege of divine precepts to convert the soul, Psalm 19:7, yet the commands and authority of men may much hinder the diffusion and dissemination of sin and error. It is good to observe the several guards that God hath put upon a man to keep him from sin, so prone are we to it. There are inward guards Spirit, word, and conscience; there are outward guardsthe ministry, the church, and the magistrateall which are as in his stead to be an awe to sinners; more especially it is said of the magistrate that he is the minister of God, to be ‘a terror to evil-doers.’ Romans 13:3, 4. ‘Now, when their sword is sheathed up, and nothing is settled, wicked men lose all awe and restraint, and do what is right in their own eyes,’ Judges 21:25, as it is said there they did when there was no king of Israel; that is, no exercise of government to restrain public disorders, for as yet their government was not monarchical; then all goeth [[@Page: 435]] to wreck, iniquity groweth impudent, and religion is borne down. Solomon saith, Proverbs 20:8, ‘A king that sitteth upon the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes;’ that is, when magistrates employ and draw out their power, they scatter evil as the sun scattereth mists.

[5.] Another cause may be want of catechising, by which means truths would be more revived, and kept fresh and savoury in the thoughts, and so have the more awe upon us. Martyrology and catechising were two of the most successful engines against Popery. Truths work most when we discern that cognation and kin, by which they touch and respect one another; indistinct knowledge doth but dispose to error or looseness. Sermon hints, a hint here, and a hint there, doth not so much good, for men of weaker conceits cannot so easily discern how one truth is inferred from another, and what analogy and proportion there is between them, and so are easily overcome by more subtle and stronger wits; or else, not discerning that fair compliance that is between practical and comfortable truths, grow loose. Certainly religion would be more propagated if this exercise were revived. We are debtors to wise and unwise, Romans 1:14; and Christ, that bade Peter feed πρόβατα, his sheep, bade him also feed ἀρνία, his lambs, John 21:15, 16. For want of this pattern of sound words, and these condescensions to weak ones by this exercise, many mischiefs have abounded amongst us, to the great damage of religion and godliness.

These are part of the causes; others might be mentioned, but I shall forbear. You will say then, What remedy? Therefore I shall proceed to the next thing, which is to show you:

Thirdly, ‘What we should do to strengthen the things that are ready to die,’ or to repair decayed godliness. Give me leave to speak a word:

First, To all in general, as we are Christians. Several things are necessary. Let me point at a few.

1. Oh! that we would all join together, quasi manu factait is Tertullian’s wordin a holy conspiracy to besiege heaven by prayers, until more spirit and life be poured out, and in greater abundance. ‘God hath said that he will pour out his Spirit upon all flesh,’ Acts 2:15. Oh! beg it for England; go to him that hath the seven Spirits, to look upon another dead Sardis. God must offer violence to us ere we can offer violence to the kingdom. It is the mighty quickening Spirit, that must revive us in our languishings. That which carrieth the soul to God, must come from God. Waters can arise no higher than their spring. Religion is like the pure vestal flame, which, if it went out, was to be kindled only by a sunbeam. Oh! then let us go and wait before God for those seven Spirits, those mighty and quickening operations. The Spirit came upon Christ in the appearance of a clove, to show his meekness; but upon the apostles in cloven tongues of fire, to show the might and force that is in his operations.

2. Let us study how we may more honour and adorn religion by a godly and peaceable walking before God and men. Every Christian should be the gospel’s ornament, as a hypocrite is the gospel’s disgrace: Titus 2:10, ‘Adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.’ Let the world know there is more in religion than pretence and policy. [[@Page: 436]] While hypocrites and such as seek themselves betray the honour of religion, do you advance it; let them see there are true stars as well glaring meteors. Your lives should make God glorious: 1 Peter 2:9, hold forth the praises, ta’s areta’s, of him that hath called you; let them read God in you of a truth, and be not distinguished so much by a party and profession as by holiness. Tertullian saith of the ancient Christians, Non aliunde noscibiles quam de emendatione vitiorumtheir distinction was their innocency. When divers libertines had dishonoured religion, and walked unworthily in their relations, Peter pressed the true Christians to good conscience and more honest walking, 1 Peter 2:12, and 3:16; indeed, both those chapters are to this purpose. This will be a real confutation, and then God will give you praise in the land of your shame, Zephaniah 3:19. Hair cut will grow again if the roots remain; and though the razor of censure hath brought baldness and reproach upon the head of religion, yet its good name will grow and flourish again, and they will be ashamed that falsely accuse your godly conversation. O brethren! at such times we should walk with more care. It is a smart question that, Nehemiah 5:9, ‘Ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen our adversaries?’ When your lives are thus sleek and innocent, this dirt will not stick.

3. Stir up yourselves, and provoke one another to more forwardness in dead times. We should strive who should be first, and exceed in godliness. You know that noted place, Hebrews 10:24, ‘Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works.’ This is ἀγαθὴ ἔρις, an holy contention, when we contend who shall be most forward in the matters of God. We often provoke one another to carnal strife, to excess in vanity. Oh! when do we sharpen and whet each other’s graces? The sons of the coal, how do they enkindle one another, and strengthen each other’s hands in wickedness. See how the idolaters are described: Isaiah 41:6, 7, They helped every one his neighbour; every one said to his brother, ‘Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer, him that smiteth on the anvil,’ &c. The prophet speaketh of the time when the gospel was sent to the isles, ver. 1; that is, to the European countries, which are usually expressed by isles in Isaiah. Now, as soon as they listened to this doctrine, down went the pictures and images, but there being some hope offered of their re-erection, they came and strengthened one another’s hands: ‘Be of good courage.’ They hoped to bring up their craft and way again with pomp and triumph. Oh! when they strengthen one another, will not you? Nazianzen was wont to call the enemies of the church κοινοὺς διαλλακτάς, [33] the common reconcilers, because when they unite and support one another against the church, it doth but invite the people of God to a more close union, and free communion with one another. This would be an excellent way to prevent the decays of love and piety.

4. Delight in and wait upon the powerful ministry of the word: ‘The prophets prophesy lies, and the people love to have it so,’ Jeremiah 5:31. A vain people do but encourage a vain ministry. Do not delight, then, in a glozing dispensation, it will be successless. Frothy speculations, moral strains, do no [[@Page: 437]] good; the people begin to grow weary of savoury and sound knowledge: the testimony of the witnesses was a torment to the dwellers on the earth, Revelation 11:10; powerful preaching is their burden. The lazy world would fain lie upon the bed of ease, draw the curtains and rest, and therefore light is trouble some; men begin to thirst and pant for the old unsavoury moral strains, which remain in wary generals, and do not irritate. The Lord may give you your desire; but remember that is a carnal itch that must be clawed, and the times will be sad when men cannot endure sound doctrine, 2 Timothy 4:3.

I have done with my address to the people.

Secondly, I shall speak a word to the ministry. I am the worst of a thousand to direct others, only I shall take the liberty, in all humility, to suggest my thoughts. Much may be done by you to the repairing of decayed godliness.

1. Christ must still be preached. That is the main truth that keepeth in the life of Christianity. The more evangelical dispensations are, the more powerful; our beloved must still be kept as a bundle of myrrh next our hearts, Solomon’s Song 1:13, still fresh and fragrant in the thoughts; all the comfort and support of a Christian dependeth upon that; this is the very spirit and flower of any ministry; and therefore it is said, Revelation 19:10, ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ It is not only the beauty, but the life of any dispensation. I know many think this needless, for, as I said before, the indistinct and undue preaching of Christ is the cause of all the looseness and vanity into which religion is degenerated. Ay! but I add here, that this dispensation is still needful. The foolish world is apt to fly into extremes; some are all for doctrines of Christ, others will hear nothing of him, because these sweet truths have been so much misapplied. Popery got up by this pretence; they would not open that gap of free grace to the people. Paul would preach the righteousness of Christ though many did abuse it: Romans 3:8, Some slanderously report that we say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come thereof; whose damnation is just.’ The meaning is, some gave out that Paul taught that they might sin freely, that God might have the more glory in pardoning; which is expressed there by doing evil that good may come of it. Now, saith the apostle, their damnation is just, that is, if they undo themselves with such a vile conceit, they may thank themselves; they never learned it from me. If poison be sucked out of the flower, thank the spider; and if precious liquor be soured, it is because of the uncleanness of the vessel. Musculus in one of his books had said, that no places were so profane and irreligious as those where the gospel had been preached, or words to that effect. And Contzen, a Jesuit, crieth out upon this, hi sunt evangelici doctoressee the fruit of Protestantism and gospel-preaching. [34] Many are of his spirit, malign and slander a gospel dispensation. Alas! we are not in the place of God, to prevent misapprehensions; it is our duty to keep this truth fresh in the thoughts, to offer it as a bundle of myrrh to the spouse’s bosom.

2. Humbling doctrines must be duly pressed. John the Baptist [[@Page: 438]] levelled mountains, and in his days much violence was offered to the kingdom, Matthew 11:12; and indeed, still John must go before Jesus, like the day-star before the sun. Moses led the people in the wilderness, before Joshua led them into the land of Canaan. We must awaken first by a sense of wrath, or else they will not care for a sight of mercy. The people did not desire a mediator till they heard the thundering, Exodus 20:18, 19; and it is God’s usual method to suffer us to be dead to one law, ere we are alive to another, Galatians 2:19; first to make us understand the severe obligation that is upon us by the covenant of works, ere we are brought into a better hope by Jesus Christ. God is never truly exalted in the soul till man be humbled; Dagon must fall and be broken if the ark be set up. The Lord diggeth deep when he meaneth to raise the building high, and when he will bring off the soul to Christ powerfully, he bringeth them out of themselves by godly sorrow. This is the drift and scope of the whole scriptures, and therefore I use the less of argument in this matter.

3. Among other parts of godliness, it seemeth to be most necessary now to press the duties of relations. I say, to press Christians to carry themselves holily in their civil relations. No way provideth for the discharge of the duties of relations so much as Christianity or religion; and none have failed in them so much as religious persons of late, so that a great deal of dishonour hath come to God, and a great deal of prejudice to religion, by our unworthy walking in our civil relations. The gospel or law of Christ requireth that these civil respects which we owe to men should be discharged as in and to the Lord, and that we should turn duties of the second table into duties of the first; that is, perform civil respects upon a religious ground, so that it hath been the glory and honour of religion heretofore to yield the best children, the best subjects, the best kings, the best husbands and wives in the world. Therefore Augustine maketh a challenge to all the world, dent exercitum talem qualem doctrina Cliristi milites esse jussit, [35] let all the world, saith he, yield such children, such subjects, such soldiers, such servants, such an army, such provincials, judges, kings; such faithful ones, when they have been intrusted with the public monies. But alas! the case is quite otherwise. Of late, none worse than they, none more apt to dishonour God in relations, to disturb civil peace, to resist magistracy upon every dissatisfaction, and to make every discontent the ground of commotion and disobedience. Therefore to teach men to improve their relations for the glory of God and good of religion must needs be seasonable, that, if it be possible, we may repair that incomparable loss which religion hath sustained this way.

4. Learn that holy art of compounding peace with purity, that neither may lose its due respect, that we may neither hazard religion by silence nor eager contention. Holiness and peace are daughters of the same Spirit, and may be reconciled. You find them often coupled in scripture: James 3:17, ‘The wisdom that is from above is first pure, and then peaceable.’ Purity must have the precedence in. your endeavours, but peaceableness must not altogether be shut out. So [[@Page: 439]] Mark 9:30. ‘Have salt in yourselves and peace one with another.’ Salt and peace; be savoury, but not too tart and austere. I will not direct my brethren, I do only suggest it.

Thirdly, One word now to the magistrate, and I have done. ‘Oh! consider, this matter appertaineth to you, to strengthen things that are ready to die,’ to repair decayed godliness; this challengeth a chief care; yea, the first place in your debates, as in the commandments spiritual duties have the precedency of moral. In the name of Christ, then, let me beseech you:

1. To be holy and godly in your own persons. Oh! how sad will it be for your souls in the day of the Lord, if you should be employed in the reformation of others, and not be reformed yourselves; that you should be like Noah’s shipwrights, that frame an ark for others, and perish in the waters yourselves; or like the Jews, that directed the wise men to Bethlehem, but went not themselves thither to worship Christ. Oh! consider, you are the first sheets of the kingdom; others are printed after your copy. If the first sheet be well set, a thousand more are stamped with ease. See then that the power of religion prevail over your own souls, that, after you have done good to others, you may not be cast away. How can men think that you are sincere in establishing of religion, if it hath made no impression on your own hearts? Scandalous ministers and wicked magistrates do but pull down with one hand what they set up with the other.

2. If you would repair religion, and promote godliness, give encouragement to a godly ministry. You see, when Christ writeth to the church to repair godliness, he directeth it to the angel. Oh! let there be an angel in every church. Christ’s strength lieth in his mouth, Isaiah 49:2; that is the sword by which he overcometh the world. It is the weapon he useth against Antichrist, the spirit of his mouth, 2 Thessalonians 2:11. As Gideon overcame the Midianites by lamps and pitchers, so doth Christ by lamps and pitchers; and therefore the apostle calleth it light, or treasure, in an earthen vessel. Oh! then maintain the lamps, that they may be a means in the hand of God of maintaining godliness in the kingdom. Let there be, as I said, an angel in every church, a light in every socket, a star in every orb. If you look abroad you will find many continued through favour and mediation of friends, qui nihil habent in vita angelicum, aut in doctrina evangelicum, [36] that have nothing angelical in their life, or evangelical in their doctrine.

3. Heartily establish a holy government in the church. ‘Order and discipline is the fence of religion, and a church well-governed is terrible as an army with banners,’ Solomon’s Song 6:4; that is, full of beauty and strength. Armies ordered are comely and in a capacity to fight. The present decays are by confusion. It is said, Psalm 68:35, ‘Thou art terrible out of thy holy places.’ In the order and beauty of the church, God is most terrible. When worship is pure and regular, it impresseth a dread and a reverence upon men.

4. Countenance godly persons. ‘They are a kingdom’s best security, Zechariah 12:5;’ And the governors of Judah shall say in their hearts, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the Lord of hosts, [[@Page: 440]] their God.’ Mark, you should call them your strength; they engage a blessing. When Lot was in Sodom, Sodom was in lot. This is one of your chief duties, to see that godliness live peaceably. We are bound to pray for you upon this ground: ‘Pray for them that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty,’ 1 Timothy 2:4. Oh! look to it, then, that religion may have a quiet abode, or else you will not.

5. Honour and sweeten religion by some release of the people’s burdens. Belly arguments do work much upon them: Jeremiah 44:17, ‘We will burn incense to the queen of heaven, for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.’ They measure religion by their outward concernments, and judge of ways by their burdens and troubles. The oppression of some Protestant princes in Germany was a scandal to the Reformation. Nothing stirreth up vulgar hatred and introduceth violent changes so much as this. The people are like the reed of Egypt; if we lean too hard, they do not support, but pierce; and oppression is like an iron in the fire, it will burn their fingers that hold it. I confess this is somewhat out of my way, therefore I was the more loath to speak in it; but it being for religion’s sake, I hope you will pardon a humble motion.

I shall but hint two motives to set on all, and conclude.

1. Is that in the 3d verse of this chapter: ‘Lest I come as a thief.’ Oh! consider Christ may steal upon you. When he taketh off his restraint from a people, and they break out into tumults, it is a shrewd sign. You know what faction was ruined by tumults; it is an unhappy presage.

2. The next is taken from the 4th verse: ‘Thou hast a few names that have not defiled their garments.God taketh notice of those few names that are zealous for him in dead times, that mind the advancement of piety whilst others debase it; ‘they shall walk with me in white.Either God will provide an ark of safety for you for the present, or give you heaven, which shall make amends for all.

Footnotes:

[1] Observatum sapius a Wendilino in lib. de Coelo.

[2] ‘Lactantius quasi quidaui fluvius Tullianae eloquentiae, utinam tam nostra potuisset confirmare quam facile aliena destruxit.’ Hieron.

[3] Tullius lib. de Nat. Deorum.

[4] ‘Quot verba, tot sacramenta.’ Hieron. in Praef. ad Bib.

[5] ‘Foxius in Rom.’ pag. 21:14.

[6] See Aug. de Civit. Dei, lib. xi., cap. 14.

[7] See Mr Jesop’s Sermon on the Angel of the Church of Ephesus, p. 12.

[8] Brightman in Solomon’s Song.

[9] Restaurantes zelum ardoremque pietatis, quae in vobis effrixit, et paene jam extincta est.’ Jac. Rex in Apoc.

[10] ‘Metuendum erit ne qui magistratu connivente res novas in ecclesia moliri coeperint, eodem etiam repugnante, cum occasio ferat, idem quoque in republica moliantur.’ Theol. Mag. Brit, sub fine, Sent. de 5 Art. in Hist. Syn. Dor.

[11] See ‘Brightman in Apoc.’ cap. iii.

[12] ‘Disperde mecum haereticos et ego tecum disperdam Perses,’ &c.

[13] ‘Non amat qui non zelat.’ Aug. contra Adimani, cap. xiii.

[14] ‘Metuendum est in postrema mundi aetate magis hunc errorem grassaturum esse, quod aut nihil sint religiones aut differant tantum vocabulis.’ Melanc. Postil. de Bapt. Christi.

[15] Hugo Miscel. lib. 2., cap. 52.

[16] See Shepherd’s Sound Believer, p, 250.

[17] See Paulus Diaconus.

[18] Vide Tertull. in Apol. — ‘Tali dedicatore damnatienis nostrae gloriamur, qui enim Neronem scit intelligere potest non nisi grande bonum a Nerone damnari.’ Vide Notas Francis. Zephyri ibidem. — ‘Divina providentia effectum ut Christiana religio eos haberet hostes, qui aliis virtutibus infensi,’ &c.

[19]κωμῳδία γὰρ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἡ ἡμὴ τραγῳδίᾳ, διὰ τοῦτο ἐκκλησιῶν ὀφείλομεν οὐκ ὀλίγον καὶ τῇ σκενῇ προσεθήκαμεν.’ Naz. Orat. 14.

[20] Tertul. in Apol.

[21] ‘Dicimur Christiani in opprobrium Christi.’

[22] ‘Nunc male audiunt castiganturque philosophi nostrae sectae quam tuemur, quod aliter quam sapientibus convenit vivant, et vitia sub obtentu nominis celent.’ Lact. lib. de Opificio Dei, sub initio.

[23] Euseb. lib. 8:1.

[24] Ignat. Epist. ad Trall.

[25] Aug. lib. ix., de Civitate Dei.

[26] Melanct. in Praefat. 5 tom. Oper. Lutheri.

[27] From Mr Richard Vines of the Assembly.

[28] Nazian. Orat. in Med.

[29] ‘Ecclesia haeres crucis.’

[30]ῥᾷον ἐστι δυσπραγίαν ἡ εὐπραγίαν διασώσασθαι.’ Nazian. Orat. 3 de Pace.

[31] Naz. ibidem.

[32] ‘Quam reportassent tandem coronam si perstitissent in eadem militia, nec ut efferati elephantes ab hostibus conversi contrivissent suos.’ Brightman. de Luthero et Melancthone.

[33]ὑμῖν δὴ τι τοῦτο τοῖς κοινοῖς ἡμῶν διαλλακταις, διαλλακταὶ γὰρ ἐστε, καὶ ἀκουσίως τοῦτο χαριζεσιε.’ Naz. Orat. 13.

[34] Adam Contzen in Matthew 24:5.

[35] ‘Dent exercitum talem qualem doctrina Christi milites esse jussit, tales provinciales, tales parentes, tales dominos, tales filios, tales servos, tales reges, tales judices, tales denique debitorum redditores, et exactores ipsius fisci,’ &c.Aug. ad Marcel. ep. 5.

[36] Brightman in loc. 


Vol 5.—Page 413.—England’s Spiritual Languishing; with the Causes and Cure: Discovered In a Sermon Preached before the Honourable House of Commons, on their Solemn Day of Fast, at Margaret’s, Westminster, June 28, 1648.—The Epistle Dedicatory

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:25 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:14 ]



England’s Spiritual Languishing; with the Causes and Cure: Discovered In a Sermon Preached before the Honourable House of Commons, on their Solemn Day of Fast, at Margaret’s, Westminster, June 28, 1648.

THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.

To the Honourable House of Commons now assembled in Parliament.

YOU were pleased to require my service on your late day of fast, as you had done on the same occasion just a twelve-month before. I desired to speak seasonably then, and now too. The Lord directed my thoughts then to a subject of peace,our distractions were great, and now to treat of zeal,our destruction, we fear, draweth nigh. These two things may well stand together, love and zeal; and if men were wise, James 3:18, the fruit of righteousness might be sown in peace, and such concord effected between brethren, wherein religion may not suffer. I know there are two parties that will never be accorded the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent; there will be enmity. But is not there a wise man among us? not one that shall be able to judge between brethren? 1 Corinthians 6:5. I speak not this to flatter with a general offer; I have always disliked general invectives against error, and general proposals of peace. [1] This were to deal in names rather than things, and to seduce the soul into a hope of that which is far enough from being accomplished. Neither do I speak it to cool any man’s zeal; the drift of this sermon is to kindle it. Godliness cannot be without a holy heat. Those that suffer under persecution will contend against delusion, that is but a duty; and it were to be wished it were more done, and more regularly. Certainly some have been too silent whilst the truths of God have been made void; [2] therefore, we are far from condemning any such vigorous opposition of the present errors. I only mention it as an expression of my desires and hopes.

For the present discourse, the style of it, I confess, is too turbid, and hath too much of inculcation in it to be fit for the press, and therefore I should have adjudged it to keep company with some other neglected papers, but that, in obedience to your order, and condescension to the requests of some friends, I have now made it public; and, my employment being much, am forced to send it forth without refining. I do not know what blessing the Lord, whose power is usually perfected in [[@Page: 414]] weakness, 2 Corinthians 12:9, may ordain by it. I desire to wait upon him, commending it to his grace.

In many things I have freely expressed myself, and possibly some may think, uncovered our own nakedness. The mouth of iniquity is soon opened; and it is hard to speak against the sins of religious persons without giving some advantage to religious enemies. All that I shall say to this is, that offenders give the scandal, not the reprover. I confess, I like rolling in the dust at Aphrah, Micah 1:10, that Gath may not know it; but when offences are public, it were an injury to religion to be silent. We cannot do it a greater right than to declare and witness against such miscarriages; and, therefore, when the house of Jacob offendeth, it must be told its own with a full throat. [3] It will be our honour to shake off the vipers upon a discovery, though they would still stick on. But for the enemies;

Nullane habent vitia? immo alia haud foriasse minora: [4]

are they so innocent as to be able to cast the stone at us? John 8:7. Shall they that have wounds upbraid us with scars? [5] and they that halt downright, charge us with tripping? or the blackamore object spots to a fair woman? Let them first pluck out their own beam, and then possibly they may understand what an injury it is, and a wicked malice, to throw personal guilt in religion’s face, and out of a dislike to one Mordecai, to seek the destruction of all the Jews, Esther 3:6, and to charge that upon the order which is but the just blemish of some persons sheltered under the name and pretence of it. As Nazianzen speaketh of some: οἱ καταιτιῶνται τῶν νόμον αὐτὸν ὡς κακίας διδασκάλων, καὶ μάλισθʼ ὅταν πολλοῖς ἐντύχωσι πονηροῖς τῶν προστασίας ἠξιωμένον: that for some bishops’ sake accuse Christianity itself as an evil law. [6]

For yourselves, right honourable, I beseech you, remember religion flourishing will be your defence; and that it is better to trust God with your protection, than to fly to ill counsels, [7] or condescensions, whereby you may gain the respects of men. The Lord grant that you may live up to such a principle; and in these times of violence, do nothing unworthy of God, or of his oath that is upon you. τὰ τραύματα ἔχοντες, καὶ τοὺς μώλωπας ὀνειδίζοντος, οἱ τὰ προσκόμματα διασύροντες καὶ τὰ πτώματα αὐτοὶ πάσχοντες, οἱ ἐν τὸ βορβόρῳ ενκυλινδρομενοι,

So prayeth your meanest servant in the Lord’s work,

Tho. Manton.

Footnotes:

[1] ‘Qui pacem tractat non repetitis conditionibus dissidii, is magis animos dulcedine pacis fallit quam aequitate componit.’

[2]μὴ ποτῇ καταγινώσκω μὴν τῆς θερμότητος,’ &c.Naz. Orat. de Moderat. in Disput.

[3] Isaiah 58:1, opened to this purpose by Mr Richard Vines in the morning.

[4] Horatius.

[5]τὰ τραύματα ἔχοντες, καὶ τοὺς μώλωπας ὀνειδίζοντες, οἱ τὰ προσκόμματα διασύροντες καὶ τὰ πτώματα αὐτοὶ πάσχοντες, οἱ ἐν τὸ βορβόρῳ ενκυλινδρωμενοι, καὶ τοῖς ὁμίλοις ἐμῶν ερευφραινωμενοι.’ Nazinanz. de inimicis Ecclesiae, Orat. 50:13.

[6] Naz. Orat. 14.

[7] ‘Admonendi suntpacis auctores ne dum pacem nimis diligant, et cum omnibus quaerant, consentiendo perversis ab auctoris sui se pace disjungant, ne dum humana foris jurgia metuant, interni foederis discussione feriantur.Ambros. 


Vol 5.—Page 381.—Zechariah 14:9.—In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one, (latter part).

posted 10 Apr 2014, 17:06 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:14 ]



Zechariah 14:9 — In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one, (latter part).

THE whole chapter, but chiefly the context immediately preceding, is spent in the description of a wonderful day, which, Zechariah 14:7, is said to be one day; that is, one entire period and joint of providence; for, in the manner of prophetical speech, days are many times put for years, or most usually for such whole entire dispensations and periods of providence as continue without interruption and eminent alteration, though perhaps for many years; for a day, being the natural distinction of time (those of years, hours, and months are artificial) most observed and used by the Hebrews in their computes, and that only space of time which continueth without visible alteration, is very properly used in this case. Thus why day. But then, Zechariah 14:9, it is called ‘the day of the Lord;’ it is called so because of the glorious appearances of Christ in his power and sovereignty, and because, I suppose, the evening of the day here spoken of will end with the coming of the Lord, and all his saints with him, in glory to judge the world. This day is described, Zechariah 14:6, 7:

1. By its beginning and progress.

2. By its end and close.

1. Its beginning and progress for a long while is dubiously interchangeable: ‘The light shall neither be clear nor dark; it shall be neither day nor night;’ that is, there shall be a sad conflict between truth and error, misery and happiness (for they are often expressed by light and darkness in scripture), and such a mutual vicissitude and alternate succession of each to other, that a man cannot tell which shall have the upper hand. ‘All the comfort is, this day is known to the Lord;’ that is, cometh by his appointment, and hath a special mark and seal of providence upon it; and but one day, a providence of the shortest size, sad and short, an uncertain day, a day known to the Lordand but one day.

2. ‘For the evening and close of it, it is said, in the evening it shall be light;’ that is, peaceably glorious: truth shall gain upon error, happiness upon misery, and all former distractions and miseries shall be hushed and gone, for it is light as comfortable and as much day as [[@Page: 382]] you would have it. The comfort and happiness of this glorious evening is set forth in three things:

[1] The propagation of the gospel.

[2.] The reign of Christ.

[3.] The unity of the churches.

[1.] The gospel shall be propagated and the knowledge of it diffused far and near; that is implied in Zechariah 14:8.: ‘Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem towards the former and latter sea,’ &c.; that is, gospel refreshments, the doctrine and knowledge of Jesus Christ, together with plenty of gifts and graces, shall be diffused and scattered abroad among all nations, who are here hinted at in those expressions of the former and latter sea, which allude to the watery borders of Palestina, which were the Lake of Sodom and the Mediterranean. Now it is usual in the scriptures to set out the evangelical church by terms proper to the Jewish border.

[2.] The next privilege of those times is in the beginning of Zechariah 14:9., ‘And the Lord shall be king over all the earth.’ Why! you will say, the Lord is so always; Christ was long since inaugurated into the kingdom, and hath for many ages actually administered it in the world. But the meaning is, he shall show himself to be king, he shall be known to be king; it is not spoken in regard of right or actual administration, but in regard of sense and apprehension. ‘He will show it partly by his providence and his own dispensations, partly by doctrinal discoveries in the church; men shall more distinctly hold of the head,’ Colossians 2:18; Philippians 2:10, 11; partly in the adoration and acknowledgments of men; ‘every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue and language call him Lord;’ all shall ascribe to him sovereignty; ‘the Lord shall be king,’ and, it is added, over all the earth;’ not only over a few churches, but over all nations. ‘Christ will show himself in the largeness of his power, not only as king of saints,’ Revelation 15:3, but ‘as king of nations,’ Jeremiah 10:9; as ‘head to the church,’ but ‘yet so as over all things,’ Ephesians 1:22; ruling both with his golden sceptre and also his iron mace. This will be the state and happiness of those times; you will see Christ upon his throne in all his royalty and glory.

[3.] The next privilege is the unity of the churches: in the words of the text, The Lord shall be one, and his name one.

By this view we have found the words to be the third privilege of the glorious evening. Observe in them:

(1.) The time, in that day.

(2.) The blessing, which is unity, The Lord shall be one, and his name one. Which words do hint

(1st.) The cause of this unity, there shall be one Lord, a joint subscription and submission to Jesus Christ.

(2d.) The measure of it, one name, such a unity and conspiring together in the worship of Christ, that all names and badges of distinction shall be taken away.

This resolution of the text doth somewhat open it to you. But let us go upon the words more expressly and directly.

In that day; that is, the day spoken of Zechariah 14:1, described Zechariah 14:6, 7. What this day is, is somewhat doubted. Most grant it cannot be taken properly, as if all these things could be transacted in the space [[@Page: 383]] of twenty-four hours, though indeed some be so fond as to interpret all these things in the rigour of the letter; but what is intended then?

I shall only mention the most probable opinions. Some refer it to the first times of Christianity and the dawnings of the gospel in the world; but sure that is a mistake, for it must be such a day whose morning is miserably troublous, whose evening is eminently glorious, which will hardly agree to those times. Others refer it to the day of judgment; but though the evening of this day hath no end till then, yet I conceive that is not intended, for these happinesses here mentionedof the propagation of the gospel, the acknowledgment of Christ’s sovereignty, and the peace of the churches, &c. though rare and high privileges, yet are somewhat lower than those dispensations which Christ will give out at the day of judgment. Others refer them to the times of the calling of the Jews, and the church’s recovery from the apostasy and defection of Antichrist; some more yet more particularly to the destruction of the last enemies, and those secrets about Gog and Magog. For the present, because I drive at other things, I shall forbear the thorough disquisition of this matter, and shall only generally and safely refer the words to some latter providences, probably the times most nearly preceding the day of judgment; for I conceive this text is exactly parallel to those promises that are everywhere in scripture said to be fulfilled in the latter days, and speak of so much glory and sweetness as then shall be exhibited and dispensed to the world; therefore, if we will know what this day is, let us know what is intended in that expression, ‘the latter days.’ It is used either:

1. More largely, for all that efflux of time and succession of ages between Christ’s ascension and his second coming to judge the world. All that time in scripture is looked upon as the latter days, for so the times immediately after Christ are expressly called, Acts 2:15; and I remember the apostle Paul calleth his times ‘the ends of the world,’ 1 Corinthians 10:11; the reason of which expressions is, because after Christ’s ascension there is no change of dispensations, as there was before, from the law natural to the law of tables, and from the law of tables to the gospel; but now beyond this time there is nothing but the everlasting state: ‘There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin,’ Hebrews 10:26, no other ways of salvation to be expected beyond the gospel; this is the largest sense, which not being noted, hath occasioned some mistakes.

2. More strictly for that space of time that immediately precedeth the world’s ruin, and that is to be considered in its morning and evening.

[1.] In its morning or former part, which is everywhere in scripture made to be of a dismal and doubtful appearance, and [[@Page: 384]] therefore do we so often hear of the evil of the latter timesdays full of delusion and desolation, a world of delusion and error there is then: 1 Timothy 4:1, ‘The Spirit speaketh expressly that, in the latter days, men shall depart from the faith, and give heed to seducing spirits.’ God hath expressly foretold what will be the fate of those times. So for desolation, 2 Timothy 3:1 ‘In the latter times there shall come hard or perilous times,’ καιροὶ χαλεποὶ, times of great difficulty and distress.

[2.] In its evening or latter part, which is bright and glorious, and therefore do we so much hear of the goodness of the latter days; as Hosea 3:5, ‘They shall make haste to fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.’ So of ‘safety;’ no ‘provoking briar,’ no ‘pricking thorn,’ Ezekiel 28:24. So also Isaiah 2:1, ‘The mountain of God, above all mountains, in the latter days;’ that is, above the reach of opposition and violence. Look, as there is a morning light that goeth before the sunshine, so there are some streaks of glory, and times grow better and better as they draw nearer and nearer to the great day of the Lord. I have done with that expression, in that day.

2. The next is there shall be one Lord. Hitherto there have been divers lords. The heathens had their several deities, the Turks their Mahomet, the Jews their imaginary Messiah, the Papists their lord the Pope. Many nations do not as yet call Christ Lord: ‘Other lords have dominion over them,’ Isaiah 26:13. But then Jesus Christ shall be the person acknowledged; he shall be acknowledged alone, he shall be acknowledged as Lord. All this is included in the expression, ‘that Christ alone shall be spoken of, invocated, and adored in all the churches; they shall be subjected to him as the only king, and guided by him as the only shepherd,’ Ezekiel 34:23; hold of him as the only head, and stand to his appointment as the only lawgiver, James 4:12. And, indeed, here is the ground of all; for it is unity of religion that begetteth unity of affection; the one Lord causeth the one name. When men have one king, give themselves up to the will of Christ, and have one shepherd, guided by the spirit of Christ, and have one lawgiver, are willing their opinions should stand or fall at the appointments of Christ, then will there be a sweet and happy agreement.

3. The last clause to be examined is that, his name one. At first I conceived the meaning to be that men should look only at one power and dignity whereby to endear themselves to the respects of God, and thought the expression parallel to these scriptures: Acts 4:12, ‘That there is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved,’ but only by Jesus Christ, this is the one name; or that, Philippians 2:10, ‘That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.’ But considering it more seriously, I saw the necessity of another sense, for this is but the result and effect of the former phrase. Now it seems to be added for the greater emphasis and aggravation of the mercy, that there should be not only one Lord, but one name; therefore, what is in tended? There are divers acceptions of the name of God in scripture. That which I conceive most proper is, when it is taken for worship, the way of our religion and profession; as Micah 4:5, All people will walk every one in the name of his God, ‘but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever;’ that is, several people have their several distinct ways of worship and profession, and the reason why the scripture useth this word in this matter is because men are called and named after the way of their worship and profession; thus the holy worshippers are called Christians from Christ, and Mahometans from Mahomet, &c.; and, among Christians, men are called according to their distinct way and chief opinion, as Papists, Socinians, Arminians, &c. Well, then, it is promised here that there shall be one name; that is, as one Lord, so one way of worship and badge of distinction. We see now, and we may bewail it; that among [[@Page: 385]] the holy people there are distinct names, as Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Independents; but then all these shall vanish and be no more heard of; the whole family shall be named Christians from Christ. And, indeed, this is no mean blessing; the devil gets great advantage by names, and, therefore, his instruments are busy this way, inventing such as may either tend to contempt and derision, [1] as Christians of old, Puritans of late; or to tumult and division, as those names amongst us under which the members of Christ sadly gather into bodies and parties.

I have done with the explication; I come to the points, they are two:

Doct. 1. That in the latter days there shall be great unity in the church of God.

Doct. 2. That this unity shall spring from their acknowledging of the right Lord and the right way.

Purity is the ground of this unity. I shall at this time discuss the first point, that in the latter days there shall be great unity and agreement. The main confirmation of the point lieth in promises, for that is the assurance we have of it; however, I shall forbear to heap up scriptures together. You will find many in this discussion reduced to their proper place and heads.

The reasons are these:

1. Because this will suit best with the quiet and happy estate of those times; God will usher in the glorious and everlasting estate by some preparative degrees; ‘the latter times are more blessed times, former things are to be done away,’ Revelation 21. That is, the former kind of dispensations and providences. Many promises there are which hint the great peace and rest that shall then be in the church. Now that could not be if there were divisions and distinctions; they would produce factions, and factions wars and contentions, and the contentions desolations: Amos 7:4, ‘The fire devoured the great deep;’ that is, contention brought desolation upon places and countries that are most populous. Public differences will end in public disturbances; this is all we can look for in such cases; and therefore, if there were not unity, how could the other promises be fulfilled?such as these: Isaiah 33:20, ‘Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that Cannot be taken down; the stakes thereof shall not be removed, nor the cords broken.’ It is spoken of the church in the times of the gospel, whose state hitherto hath been most disturbed and perplexed, like the ark upon the waves. It may be there hath been some relaxation and short breathing time, as it is said, Revelation 8:1, ‘There was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour;’ a little respite given to the church in Constantine’s beginning, till Licinius (because not equally prayed for and honoured by the Christians with Constantine) raised a new persecution then; and so at other times there hath been silence for the space of half an hour, but then the miseries returned again with violence enough. Only in the latter days is Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a fixed tent; then there are not such uncertain happiness, and such interchangeable removes. So Ezekiel 28:24, ‘And there shall be no more any pricking thorn, [[@Page: 386]] nor any provoking briar of all that are round about her.’ God hath promised to take away all provocation and molestation, and whatever is grievous; therefore all the cause of its difference and disagreement. Differences in religion stir up the greatest violences and most deadly hatred; that which should restrain and bridle our passions is the fuel of them. As long as there is difference in religion and worship there will be disturbances, and there cannot be that quiet and happy security which the promises do generally annex to those times.

2. Because God will then make some visible provision against the scandal of dissensions: the glory of Christ hath been mightily darkened by them; no such stone of stumbling and rock of offence to the world as the contrariety of opinions and great differences that have been among Christians. Observe and you will find it always to be the great prejudice against Christianity in the primitive times. Sozomen saith, many would turn Christians, but they were always discouraged by that dissonancy of doctrines and opinions that were amongst them. [2] And so Chrysostom speaketh of a certain Ethnick that came unto him and told him, I would become a Christian, but there is such variety of sects among you that I cannot anchor upon anything as certain in your religion. [3] Certainly nothing begets atheism so much as this. Men have suspected the gospel because there hath been such differences and strife about it, it makes them doubt of all to see distinct factions making the word of God ductile and pliable to so many several purposes. Therefore now a universal unity would much vindicate and recover the glory of Christ out of the hands of such a scandal, and be an excellent provision for the credit of Christianity. To this end Christ prayeth and urgeth this very argument to his Father: John 17:23, ‘Let them, all be one;’ and again, ‘Let them be made perfect in one, that the world may know that thou hast sent me;’ as if he had said, Father! thou knowest how easily the world do take up any prejudice against my doctrine; now, if there should be division among my worshippers, they will think the gospel. a fable, religion but a device. Oh! let them be perfect in one, that the world may know and own me for the true Messiah. Should we go to our own experiences, this we find amongst ourselves, that religion never lost its awe so much as now. God was terrible in his holy places, in the assemblies of his saints, and in the lives of his holy people, the gravity and the strictness of their conversation had a majesty with it, and did dart reverence and awe into the hearts of men; but now all this glory and power is lost, and religion is looked upon but as an empty pretence and covert to some designs. It is said, Acts 4:32, 33, ‘The multitude of believers were of one heart and one soul,’ and ‘then the truths of Christ had power,’ and ‘great grace fell upon them.’ Christianity hath more lustre when there is such a common consent and sweet brotherly accord. The truths of God have their power, and the servants of God their grace with them. [[@Page: 387]] Well, then, the scandal being so great, the prayer of Christ so urgent, God will at one time or another do somewhat eminently and visibly to right the honour of Jesus Christ, and to recover the lustre of Christianity and our glorious profession; for I take this for granted, that, at some special times, God will roll away the reproach of every imminent scandal that hath been cast upon Christ and religion. And because God loveth, like the good householder, to bring forth the best wine at last, it hath not been done hitherto, but is reserved for the latter days; for, indeed, you shall find that all the latter providences are but so many vindications and clearings of Christ from the former scandals of the world; as for the scandal of meanness hitherto, ‘not many noble, not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty are called.’ Christ’s company hath been despicable and poor, but now, in the latter days, ‘it is everywhere promised that kings shall bring their glory into the church,’ that ‘they shall hold their mouths’ at Christ, Isaiah 52:15; that is, with silence and reverence receive his commands; and the like everywhere. ‘So for the scandal of persecution, it is everywhere declared that in the latter days the enemies shall be the subjected party, glad to take hold of the skirt of a Jew,’ Zechariah 8., ‘Bow to the soles of their feet,’ Isaiah 60.; the magistrates shall call the inhabitants of Jerusalem their strength; and the like elsewhere. So, again, the church hath been under the abasure of reproaches; but ‘God hath promised a vindication in the latter days, that he will establish Zion a praise throughout the earth,’ set it as a royal diadem,’ Isaiah 62:3, with Isaiah 62:7; ‘that he will give them praise in the land of their shame,’ Zephaniah 3., proportionably to their abasures that they shall have glory. ‘So for paucity and fewness, which is another scandal, there are promises of the gospel’s being propagated, of the flowing out of living waters, of the flying in of converts like doves to the windows,’ Isaiah 60., and the like. So in this present case, because of the variance of the people of Christ under former dispensations, ‘there are promises of special unity and sweet accord in the latter days, of one Lord and one King, of one Shepherd, one Head,’ Hosea 1:11; ‘of one shoulder,’ Zephaniah 3:9; and that God will make Jew and Gentile, and all that fear him, to lie down together in peace and safety, and to be all called by one name.

3. The misery of these times doth seem to enforce the greater unity. I take this for the mariner and course of heaven, to work one contrary out of another, by the greatest distractions to make way for unity and order. It is said, Psalm 18:11, ‘He hath made darkness his secret place.’ God’s counsels are always carried under the covert of darkness; usually, when he intendeth the greatest flourishing, he worketh the greatest desolation in the earth; and when unity, he suffereth the greatest distraction (for what grounds I shall tell you by and by); hence is it that we do so often hear of the misery of the latter times, and yet again of the blessedness of the latter times; hard times, and happy times, miserable in the beginning, happy in the end and issue. ‘Hell is let loose in the latter times: they shall give heed to seducing spirits;’ and heaven is opened in the latter times: there shall be great light and rare love. When there is such a conflict and contestation between light and darkness, the light will be the clearer [[@Page: 388]] afterwards, and the more doubtful the day is, the more glorious will the evening be; for this, I say, is the law and the course of divine dispensations, after the greatest distractions to bring forth the greatest harmony, and the most blessed sweetness and accord; therefore, there being in the latter days such eminent and visible distraction, by the proportions of heaven there will be eminent and visible unity. Of this, more by and by.

To application.

Use 1, of consolation. For consolation to all them that wait or care for the consolation of Israel. Many are ready to faint and stagger at the distractions of the times: Judges 5:15, ‘For the divisions or breaches of Reuben there were great thoughts of heart,’ or, ‘as the original will bear it, great impressions.’ These things, indeed, do sadly work with a gracious spirit; the enemies warm themselves by these sparkles, and rejoice over the tire that devoureth the great deep; others, whose hearts are bathed and steeped in pleasures, or cumbered with worldly cares, have not a due sense of the times, and are not enough affected with them; but now, for the people of God, external miseries are not so bad to them, and do not so nearly reach a gospel spirit as differences in religion. Oh! it is very sad to see the roses of the valleys become pricking thorns, and saints in pretence to be devils in practice to one another, the sheep of Christ’s own fold to be like the bulls of Bashan, goring and wounding each other; and would our hearts were more affected with it! But here is comfort; God foresaw how troublous and distracted the morning of the latter days would be, and therefore, that we might not be dismayed, hath given us many a comfortable promise to support our hearts under such providences. When God framed the world there was nothing but confusion; you do not know what God can extract out of a chaos. Two things I shall urge upon you to set home this comfort:

1. Consider your hopes.

2. Know the reason of such providences.

1. Consider your hopes; your times are not to be measured and valued by appearances; it least of all becometh a Christian to observe the clouds: Romans 8:24, ‘Hope that is seen is not hope;’ that is, those that would hope are not to judge by the present face of things, but by the promises. Teach your faith to see things that cannot be seen, beauty in distractions, unity and order in violence and division: faith is exercised not when you get water out of the fountain, but out of the rock; when you make the eater give you meat, devouring differences yield comfort and hope. It is better to look to a sure word than to an uncertain providence. See what a promise you have, Isaiah 11:6-8, ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw with the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den,’ &c. I will not undertake to assign a sense to every particular expression; only in the general note, God will effect it, [[@Page: 389]] though there be no more hopes than to see lion and lamb, leopard and kid come together, and to persuade natures that are most fierce and contrary unto a peaceable and friendly cohabitation.

2. Know the reason of such providences. Men are perplexed when they do not know the reason of things; fear seizes upon us in the dark: Judges 6:13, ‘If the Lord be with us, why is all this evil befallen us?’ They did not know the reason of the matter, and therefore were troubled at it. If there be such promises of unity, why are there such sad things befallen us? such great breaches and distractions, the ball of contention bandied from one to another, clouds gathering every day thicker and blacker? You will think this is but an ill time to look for unity, such general consent and agreement. Alas! you err, not knowing the reason of your providences; God useth to bring in unity and order by confusions. There are divers reasons for it: I shall name three, which may encourage hope in the saddest times:

[1.] God doth not love to let the creature look to the end of his designs, and skill the way of his providences; therefore, he will try them by casting a veil upon his work, and hiding his glory in a cloud: Isaiah 45:15, ‘Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel the Saviour.’ He meant to be a Saviour, but they should know no such thing, a Saviour under a veil, a hidden Saviour. Providences are so disposed as if he meant to do quite otherwise; so Isaiah 48:7, They are created now, not from the beginning, lest thou shouldst say, ‘I knew them.’ God speaketh concerning the matter of Babylon and the ruin of that empire, which should be effected so strangely that none should see which way providence tended, or say, Now I know what God will do. God loveth to hide the particular way and path of his providence, so that your times shall seem not to have the least connection or respect to your hopes; it is so in all his dealings; see John 11:6. Jesus loved Lazarus, and when he heard he was sick, he abode two days; little love in that, to stand still when there was need of help; yet that stay was for the advantage of the miracle and commendation of his love. So John ii.; when Christ meant to give them wine he calleth for water-pots; for God will not have you look to the way and end of his counsels; Deus sum non sequax, as Luther seemed to hear God speak to him when he complained of some cross providences. The creatures are not to teach God how to effectuate his promises; there is encouragement enough to wait, even when the face of things doth most lour upon your expectations.

[2.] Because God will show you a point of divine skill, to make poison become your preservative, and your ruin your establishment; he will unite you by your divisions, gather you by your own scatterings. Judas’s treason was called felix scelus, a happy wickedness, because it occasioned Christ’s death. Many times God maketh contentions happy in their issue and result, and though for the present their influence is very deadly to religion, yet their effect is confirmation to the truth, and, in the end, God’s people are brought more firmly and sweetly to close with one another and their God. The noise of axe and hammers doth but square stones for the temple, that they may lie the more evenly in the buildings. Usually we find that religious controversies (like the knocking of flints) yield more light, and, by the providence [[@Page: 390]] of God, occasion more sincere love. Before we had but a negative affection to truth, and might rather be said not to hate than to love it. Every vulgar and low spirit will love truth when it is honoured and advantaged with common consent: true affections are ravished with the beauty of truth, and have some positive ground for which they can love truths; yea, and the more when they are suspected and questioned, for then they shine with the greater lustre, as being able to endure contradiction, and as being more strongly vindicated and asserted. Thus, you know, trees shaken are the more firmly rooted, and dislocated joints, if well set again, prove the stronger, as in the point of assurance. After doubtings, the soul doth most sweetly and closely repose itself in the bosom of Christ, so outwardly the more smoke there is in the temple, the greater glory afterward. In times of common consent men keep together as those that are bound with a chain; but in times of difference and dissenting, God’s people are at one with God and one another upon higher motives, and love truth for its own sake, it being, as I said, more cleared and vindicated. I have often wondered at that inference of the people of God, Micah 4:5, ‘All people will every one of them walk in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.’ That which is a scandal to the world, is to them a motive and engagement to firmness in the truth and union with one another. There are different ways and persuasions in the world, therefore let us the more cleave together in the right way; the variety that was abroad made them more at one. So at that of David, Psalm 119:126, 127, ‘They have made void thy law, therefore do I love thy commandments above gold.’ When the ways of God are questioned, nay, disannulled, exploded with contempt and scorn, the more precious to a gracious heart: therefore do I love them, saith David; that was the very motive of his affection, Psalm 119:127.

[3.] Because God loveth to bestow blessings when the creatures most want them, to give them the greatest unity after the greatest distractions, that their blessings may be according to the rate and degree of their miseries and abasement. ‘God, I say, loveth to make consolations abound,’ 2 Corinthians 1:5, in the very degree of sufferings, and therefore you may bear up in the greatest breaches. When God meant them Canaan, he would first give them enough of the wilderness, enough to carry some proportion with the future happiness: Deuteronomy 2:3, ‘Ye have compassed this mountain long enough, turn you northward.’ They had been thirty-nine years compassing Mount Seir; it might have been done in so many weeks or days, but the pillar of the cloud never went before them till now. God may make you fetch compass enough about this mountain, keep you in the wilderness of distractions, ere you can see providence before you leading of you into better times. You shall see the people of God in the wilderness did plead the equity of this rule and course of heaven: Psalm 90:15, ‘Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.’ It was the prayer of Moses in the desert, let Canaan countervail the wilderness. The longer in the distractions, the more abundance of honey and milk shall we find in that good land, more Sowings of grace, larger discoveries of the mind of God.

[[@Page: 391]]Well, then, be sensible of the evil of the times, but with comfort in the Lord, and hope in the promises.

Object. But you will say, These are generals that concern the whole church: especially at such a season, what do you say to our distempers and distractions?

Sol. Though the part followeth the reason of the whole, and God’s dispensations are alike to both the catholic and particular churches, so that what is said of the whole may be applied to a part, as many times, on the contrary, promises made to particular persons are reputed as catholic and of a more universal use, and so applied to the whole, yet I shall speak a little more expressly to our own case.

Much may be spoken in this matter about the cause and cure of our distempers, the danger of the times and the hopes. But because this would engage to too large a digression, and the discourse will rather be managed and carried on by rational conjectures than sure and theological grounds, therefore I shall wait for a more convenient season, and but a little touch upon matters that otherwise would challenge an accurate discussion.

None can be ignorant of the state of the times, — that a spirit of division and delusion is let loose and gone abroad amongst us, so that the pillars of religion are shaken, the most concerning truths questioned, nay, exploded with scorn and contempt; great agitations there are everywhere, and God only knoweth whereunto they will grow. It is a thing of great advantage and benefit to us to consider the ground and rise of our distempers, and what is the special genius of that spirit of error that worketh amongst us, and so possibly we may come to conceive some hope of the allaying and removal of it. Divers concurring causes there are that help to beget, conceive, bring forth, and midwife such foul productions into the world, and therefore, before I touch upon the hopes, I shall a little reflect upon the rise and growth of our dissentiency and division, and how it came to be thus with us as now it is. We may let pass the general causes, viz., God’s providence, who usually maketh the morning of a glorious day misty and dark; Satan’s malice, who, when his own holds are shaken, loveth to ruin all the world together with himself; the corruptions of embased nature, by which the heart is either weak, and so apt to prostitute itself to the grossest fancies if left by God, or wicked, and so naturally opposite to the truths of God, very willing to blot out those impressions and that sense that we have of them. I say, if we let pass these general causes, we shall find upon an inquiry that thus our evils grew upon us: First, they were hatched by the ignorance, iniquity, and violence of the former times (when things are very bad, men are apt to fly out into the contrary extremities), and began to break out upon this great change, which the former corruptions did even necessitate and enforce; as usually, you know, great and violent changes occasion great tumults, ill humours in the body discover themselves upon a strain. When God changed his own ordinances, erroneous spirits were busy; I mean, in the first times of the gospel. When a people begin to innovate, it is a hard matter to keep them within the bounds of any moderation; and, therefore, it is the policy of the church of [[@Page: 392]] Rome to change nothing, ne videatur errasse; reformations are very perilous, especially to corrupt bodies. Here, then, was the occasion, and indeed a sad occasion to many, who, in the extremity of opposition to antichristian ways, obtruded themselves upon as sad or worse in conveniences, going off not only from vain rites, but religion itself; and instead of leaving corruptions, left worship; and, indeed, any other thing could not be expected, if we consider how loose and slack the reins of government have been of late, with what violence and tumult this change was managed, not in the solemn, grave way of conviction and humiliation. Buildings stand whose foundations are laid in those deeps; but otherwise it will be hard to settle things; partly because till the error be rightly stated the truth is not found out; partly be cause such changes make men lose all awe and reverence in the matter of religion, and so every man digresseth into his own way, and adoreth the idol of his own brain. Usually you will find whatever is carried on by scoffs and popular tumults seldom succeedeth well. ‘I confess God loveth to pour contempt upon the sons of Levi that are partial in the covenant,’ Malachi 2:9; and, it is his way many times to cause the voice of many waters (id est, of the confused multitude) to go before the voice of mighty thunderings, Revelation 19:6 (id est, the regular act of the magistrate, whose sentences and decrees are terrible as thunder); and therefore I do adore the justice of divine providence in causing the former ministry to become base and contemptible before all the people. But, however, I cannot but sadly bewail the mischiefs that abound amongst us by the neglect of men. Though the corruptions of Episcopacy made it justly odious, yet it would have been better it had been disputed down rather than jested down; arguments would have done more good than scoffs, besides the danger of returning to folly. Do but consider the present inconveniences of making so great a change without more public and rational conviction, when things that before were of reverend esteem are of a sudden decried. What is the effect? Why! religion itself is of less esteem; men suspect all can as well scoff out truth as error. Calvin’s observation is excellent: he saith that in times of changes there are lucianici homines qui jocose etper ludibrium garriunt adversus superstitiones papatus, interim nullo tanguntur timore Dei, &c.many that are of Lucian’s temper, who, by jesting against received rites, insensibly lose all sense and awe of religion, and by scoffing at false gods, come the less to dread the true. Consider and see if the former liberty of tongues and pens hath not begotten that present irreverence and fearlessness that is in the spirits of men against things that undoubtedly are of God. But this is not all; do but consider how many are hardened in their old ways, and prejudiced against the reformers, as if they were men that did procedere non ad perfectionem sed ad permutationem, were men given to changes, Proverbs 24:21, merely to leave things out of passion and present dislike, or, which is worse, out of self-aims, and are ready to say of them, as Austin said of some one who appeared against the pagans, non pietate everterunt idola, sed avaritia — only to divide the spoil; and all this because the grounds, reasons, and necessity of the change have not been publicly enough discovered. And truly it were very well if the loose principles and in direct practices of some did not give occasion to these slanders. All [[@Page: 393]] that I shall further say is this, that to leap out of one way into another, either out of base aims or without due shame and sense of former miscarriages, will but make our own station the more questionable, for, certainly, self-respects have no majesty with them; and though we be in the right, yet having a wrong heart, God recompenseth into our own bosoms the very measure of our dealing with others. We now have found the great occasion of the spreading of those evils amongst us which were hatched under the iniquity of the former times, and possibly let alone as the last reserve against endeavours of reformation, and now meeting with a people capable of such impressions, who love to wander, Jeremiah 14:10, they are the more easily diffused and propagated. Some are ensnared by their own pride and foolish singularity; others by discontent, base aims, unworthy reflections upon their honour, profits, &c.; most by a spirit of opposition against the ministry: God hath set us out to be men of contention to the whole earth, Jeremiah 15:10. Those that are censores morum, whose office is to tax public abuses, will be looked upon as men of strife. We might justly suspect ourselves if this were not the portion of our cup. This spirit certainly acteth many: enemies will snarl when the great voice biddeth the witnesses come up hither, Revelation 11:12. Surely some do behold their late ascension and glory with envy and indignation, others possibly may be led by a desire of being somebody in the world. Simon Magus would be τις μέγας, Acts 8:9; there is a natural itch and desire after mastership in Israel. James checketh it, James 3:1, ‘My brethren, be not many masters:’ we naturally affect the honour of this chair: some bottles will burst if they have not vent, Job 32:19. Tertullian observeth that this was the reason why divers went over to the Gnostics and the opposite parties in his time: [4] young men, and men otherwise unfit, presently commenced into some esteem and mastership. Thus you see different menaced by different spirits, and all one way or another increasing the distractions of the times, which, being thus occasioned and diffused, are supported and kept up by factions and parties, men severally prosecuting their cross designs without any regard to the truth and advantage of religion; and if any party be opposed and discountenanced, their delusion is the more strong by a supposal of persecution; for, by comparing their state with the state of the people of God, who suffered under the fury of former times, their prejudices are increased, and they think it can be no less than religion, and truth of zeal for the glory of God, to expose themselves to so many hazards; and they do the more confidently believe it, because God’s witnesses have mostly prophesied in sackcloth; and hitherto Christ hath appeared for the most part against the worship and customs of nations. John saith Christ came into the world, 1 John 3:8, ἵνα ἀναλύσῃ, to unravel Satan’s webs: he hath been indeed acting the demolishing rather than the adstructive part; but therefore they go away with erroneous mistakes, as if he would never build, establish, and set up, and as if the kings of the earth should never bring in their [[@Page: 394]] glory to the church, and martyrs were made so more by the blood and suffering than by the cause. [5] 

Thus I have touched upon the causes and state of the present distempers. Much more might be said upon this subject, but now I was only willing to point at the heads of things. But you will say, Then what hopes? I answerOur wound is grievous, but not incurable; many things there are to encourage us to keep silence, and wait upon God till he ordain better things for us. Let me speak a word or two on this matter. Consider, then, errors usually are not long-lived; the next age declareth the folly of them: 1 Corinthians 3:13, ‘The day shall declare it.’ Time will show what is stubble and hay, though men have high thoughts of it for the present. We raise so much dust by the heat of our contentions that our eyes are blinded, the glory of truth darkened; but things will clear up again: we wonder at the contests of former ages, and so will they at ours. ‘When God cometh into his holy temple, all the earth will keep silence,’ Habakkuk 2:20. The nearer we approach to Antichrist’s ruin, God will give out more light, Revelation 18. Babylon fell when the earth was enlightened with the angel’s glory. Light will increase towards the perfect day; and as light increaseth, so doth love; that great unity, spoken of before, is when there shall be more knowledge, for that is the reason rendered, Isaiah 11:9, ‘For the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the world as the waters cover the sea.’ And then, again, the devil usually overacts himself by appearing in some odious delusion, no longer as an angel of light, but as a foul fiend, in such direct opposition to Christ that all good men loathe him. Usually when God maketh any great change, things come to an extremity and excess of corruption. The Arians prevailed for a long time, but being so detestably vicious and insolently cruel, they ruined their own cause. Or else Satan runneth himself out of breath in some civil commotions.

The Remonstrants in the Low Countries quite overturned their cause when they began to raise tumults and troubles everywhere; so those under the conduct of Munster, in Germany, did. but run themselves violently, like the Gadarenes’ swine, Matthew 8:32, upon their own ruin and destruction. Usually when Satan hath such great wrath, his time is but short, Revelation 12:12. God delighteth mightily to ruin him by the violence of his own endeavours.

Use 2, for exhortation. It serveth to exhort and press you to has ten and set on these hopes. Promises do not exclude action, but engage to it. Hope keepeth up endeavours; what you do in this kind will not be in vain in the Lord. The promises hold forth unity; strive after it.

1. By prayers.

2. By endeavours.

1. By prayers. When things are otherwise irremediable, here is the last refuge: Psalm 122:6, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love it.’ If you love it, that is the least you can do, to mourn over the matter to God; indeed sometimes it is all that we can do. Learned Perkins [6] said of his times, Non sunt ista litigandi [[@Page: 395]] tempora, sed orandi — prayers are fitter for these times than disputes. Carnal zeal may put us upon disputes; it is true zeal that puts us upon prayer, when we are so tenderly affected for God’s glory as that, in that respect, we can go and mourn over the matter to him. When Luther thought to redress the evils of his times, one told him, Abi in cellam et die, Miserere nostri — go and cry, Lord, have mercy upon us. Truly things seem past help and cure: I but go and urge the matter to God; that which is marvellous in our eyes, Zechariah 8:6, is not so in his; a man goeth most cheerfully to the throne of grace when he hath the encouragement of a particular promise. Here is a promise not only to the case but to the times, ‘In that day there shall be one Lord, and one name;’ and that you may not think it a casual promise and comfortable word that dropped out of the mouth of God unawares, you shall see it is a blessing full in the eye of the general covenant; for it is very observable that when the tenor of the covenant is expressed, unity is made one of the chief blessings of it: Jeremiah 32:39, ‘I will give them one heart and one way for the good of them, and of their children after them.’ Mark, he saith in the former verse that he will be their God, and they shall be his people, which is the form of the covenant; and then he undertaketh to give them one heart and one way, union in opinion and union in affections: so Ezekiel 19:11, ‘I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them.’ It is a main branch of the covenant to give them one heart, a heart united to God, and so to one another. Urge God then with his own promise and covenant; be instant and earnest with him: 2 Thessalonians 3:16, ‘The Lord of peace give you peace always, by all means;’ the Lord of peace, God that loveth it, God that worketh it; and the latter phrases, always and by all means, note the vehemency and intentness of his desires. One way or another, let God find out a means to ordain peace for you. For your encouragement consider, you do not only pray, but Christ prayeth with you; Christ intercedeth with the Father for the same thing: John 17:21, ‘That they may be all one, and that they may be perfect in one, that the world may know that thou hast sent me.’ That prayer is but the copy of his continual intercession. ‘He knoweth what a scandal it is to his name,’ &c., and therefore he saith, Let them be one. Now, this is a great comfort when Christ prayeth for the same thing for which you pray; he is worthy to be heard though you be not; God will not refuse him that speaketh in heaven, however he dealeth with poor crawling worms on earth.

2. By endeavours. Follow hard after it. I shall speak here to the people in general, then to the ministry, and then shall be bold to lay two or three considerations at the feet of this honourable assembly to help on this work.

First, To the people. Oh! that all of us would now mind the things of peace and holiness in these distracted times: ‘The great house is smitten with clefts, and the little house with breaches,’ Amos 6:11. There are divisions in cities, divisions in families, divisions in councils, divisions in the kingdom, and yet few healers of the breaches. We are already at a great distance, and yet we do in alia omnia ire, seek to go farther off from one another. Some make it a [[@Page: 396]] piece of their religion and zeal to dissent and be otherwise minded. Christ saith love shall wax cold in the latter days, Matthew 24:12; the context showeth it is meant of this dispensative love. Ludolfus said, the world was at first destroyed with water for the heat of lusts; but it will be destroyed with fire for the coldness of love. [7] Oh! that we could stir you up to endeavour peace and reconciliation. The first work is the people’s; things are most managed according to your love and hatred. Herod could do nothing to John for fear of the people, and it is said of others they could not do what they would because of the people. Oh! therefore, come, as the people did to John, and say, What shall we do?

Truly much is to be done by you. I shall touch upon a few things. Besides reconciling yourselves to God, which is the best way to make others be at peace with you, and is to be heeded in a chief place; for when you are at one with God, he will give you the one heart, and one way with other of his people: all agreement ariseth from that oneness with God and Christ; but, I say, besides this general rule, let me entreat you to mind these things.

[1.] Let every one of us mortify such ill affections as may any way engage us to a disturbance and vexatious bitterness. Ill affections do as often divide us as ill opinions; wars come from our lusts, James 4:1; distempered spirits occasion distracted times. It is observed that when there was strife among the Philippians, the apostle doth not state the controversies, but giveth rules against pride and vainglory and self-seeking, Philippians 2:3, 4. There are many evils in the heart of man. I shall instance in these: There is an itch of novelty; naturally we adore things that are new; they flocked about Paul because they supposed him a setter forth of new gods, Acts 17. Seneca observeth right, Homini ingenitum est magis nova quam magna mirari — men admire a glaring meteor and comet more than they do the glorious sun. So pride; that will make a man singular. There is a holy singularity: Proverbs 30:31, the going of the he-goat is comely; that is, as he walketh before the flock. Thus to be a leading man in religion is honourable, but pride puts a man upon an evil singularity, Colossians 2:18, intruding himself into things not seen, ‘being puffed up with his own fleshly mind.’ It puts men upon ungrounded conceits, quintessential extracts, foolish niceties. ‘So envy; that begets an evil eye upon each others’ renown and esteem: therefore, when God would reconcile Ephraim and Judah, he would take away their envy: ‘And Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim,’ Isaiah 11:13. So revenge and discontent. Porphyry and Julian, two bitter enemies, receiving injuries from the church, became atheists. The devil worketh upon stomach and discontent, thoughts of disrespect. ‘So there is self-seeking: men care not what they do so they may accommodate their own ends; they speak perverse things to draw disciples after them,’ Acts 20:30. Some men love to be in the head of a train, and therefore, if God’s truths will not serve their ends, they can easily baulk them. So self-conceit; men make idols of their own conceptions, love an opinion non quia veram sed quia suam, not because it is true, but theirs; they are angry because others dissent from them, not from [[@Page: 397]] Christ; as appeareth plainly, because those that know little or nothing of the mind of Christ make most bitter and loud outcries against errors. Men are passionate in their own cause, and would have every one embrace their fancies: pray, what is the spring of all your disputes? Self, or Christ’s glory? I cannot go over all the corruptions; only you see from small sparkles a great fire is kindled; that which goeth up in thin exhalations descendeth in great showers; that which is at first but a lust, a vain desire, a corrupt working in your own hearts, is at length a tumult and combustion in a church or state. Therefore, in the general, note that a mortified spirit is the most peaceable.

[2.] Keep yourselves pure from ill opinions. You must as carefully avoid an error in judgment as a vice in conversation; many dally with errors, not considering the danger of them. Oh! consider, God hateth filthiness of the spirit as well as filthiness of the flesh, and a vain mind is as great a judgment as vile affections, Romans 1:26, 28: Yea, certainly, to the public, errors are more dangerous than vices, for vices and gross sins are more against natural awe and shame, and so less spreading, and though we yield to sin in ourselves, yet we do not love it in others; and so among persons openly vicious there is nothing to allure and draw into a faction or party. Therefore be cautious and wary, if not for your own soul, yet for the common peace; as Tertullian said to Scapula, Si non vis tibi parcere, parce Carthagini. So, if you will not pity yourselves, pity England; a man would be careful of being accessary to a kingdom’s or a church’s ruin; where the influence of an action is so public, you had need proceed with good deliberation and advice. However, that I may not in this point seem to press too hard upon any one party, let me discover the extremities on both hands. There are two evils abroadeasy credulity and stubborn prejudice, [8] and both of them increase the differences, whilst some men’s judgments are forestalled by a tradition, others seduced by an invention; therefore it is good to take the mean between both, which is the course the apostle prescribeth, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, ‘Prove all things, hold fast that which is good;’ prove all things, that we reject not truth by over-much prejudice; hold fast that which is good, that we close not with error by over-much credulity. You owe so much to everything that pretendeth to God as to consider it. When Ehud told Eglon, ‘I have a message from God, he arose out of his seat,’ Judges 3:20. I say, you owe so much reverence to everything that challengeth descent from heaven as to weigh the claim. I do the rather urge this, because the adversaries of Christianity have been always those that have least inquired into it. Tertullian observeth it of the enemies of the truth in his days, nolentes audire quod auditum damnare non possent — they would not hear that which they had a mind to hate. [9] God, that gave man reason, never intended that he should take up love or hatred by chance; therefore it is good to try things. Sometimes a man may meet with an angel unawares, Hebrews 13:2; only, on the other hand, remember I persuade you to a [[@Page: 398]] serious search, not to an easy credulity, not to play with opinions as if there were no hurt in them, but to examine them in the fear of God, to call in the help of the Spirit, and to use all the outward helps God hath left to the church. The priest’s lips are to preserve knowledge; and the apostle saith, Ephesians 4:12, 14, that God hath given pastors and teachers, ‘that we be no more tossed about with every wind of doctrine.’ That is a help which God hath provided against this evil, and it is presumptuous arrogance to despise it.

[3.] Do not impropriate Christ to any one party or sort of professors. The apostle reproveth those that said, ‘I am of Christ,’ as well as those that said, ‘I am of Paul,’ 1 Corinthians 1:13. Those that spake as if Christ were only theirs, they were accounted a faction too. Jude wrote in times of division and delusion, and he calleth the salvation ‘a common salvation,’ Jude’s Epistle, Jude 3; mine, and yours, and theirs too. Men should not speak as if they only were holy, they only were saints, and all others but the world at the best, but civil and convinced men. Nothing enrageth more than to confine Christ to an opinion, as if all religion did begin and end with it Naturally we are apt to do so; we envy the commonness of Christian privileges; but it should not be so among the Lord’s people. There were differences at Corinth, but how doth Paul write to them? 1 Corinthians 1:2, To the saints at Corinth, and to all that call on the name of Jesus Christ, ‘theirs and ours.’ Mark that clause, ‘theirs and ours;’ he checketh this natural envy in us which would impale and inclose the free Christ, the common salvation. It was an expression Tertullian used of some in his time, illic ipsum esse est promereri — it was religion enough to be one of them. [10] Oh! certainly this is not Christian. We must own that of God that we see in them, though they do not every way come up to our mind. We prize a jewel in a toad’s head; how much more should we love grace in brethren whose blemish is only some petty dissent. Christ loved the young man, Mark 10:21, for the moral good that was in him; and I remember, in another place, he checketh his disciples for prohibiting one to do miracles in his name, because he did not follow them. It is in Mark 9:38-40, where he speaketh expressly to this very case; it is most Christian to own the work of the Spirit everywhere, wheresoever we find it.

[4.] Never serve a faction or party to the prejudice and detriment of truth and religion. Men cry up badges of distinction, and so divide Christ into different bodies and parties: 1 Corinthians 3:4, ‘I am of Paul, and I am of Apollos, and I am of Cephas;’ and so every one serveth the party upon which his interest hangeth, and hence come state broils and divisions, and discontent and quarrelling with one another, even to the apparent prejudice of religion; all acts of communion and brotherhood are forborne, and men merely condemn and oppose things because asserted or agitated by the opposite faction, blindly admire all that their own party doth, yea, and will rather give up religion and all for a prey to the enemy than lay aside their mutual animosities. Thus Eusebius witnesseth that there was great siding one against another, pastor against pastor, and people against people, some engaged in this faction, some in that, till the brethren of [[@Page: 399]] the camp brought in Diocletian’s persecution, which devoured them all. Nay, when it cometh to this, they are so sworn to their own faction and party, that they will defend the apparent and open enemies of Jesus Christ, and so as they may strengthen themselves in the lesser differences, they will hazard the main principles; as Meletius, who formerly suffered for religion, being discontented with Petrus Alexandrinus (though his difference with the church was but small), joined with the Arians, and his Meletians with him. Oh! it is sad when men, to support their own interest and faction, will call in the open enemies of Christ to their aid, and cover them under their buckler. We have an eminent instance in scripture of this matter in Acts 23:6, &c.; they looked upon Paul as a damnable blasphemer, but when once he pretended to the Pharisees, as, indeed, in the point of the resurrection he held with them, then ‘We find no fault in this man; but if a spirit or angel have spoken to him,’ &c. Many things might be spoken under this head, for, indeed, it proveth fatal to religion when once we cry up names, and those names beget parties, for then men look only to the accommodating of their own faction, though it be to the hazard of religion and public welfare.

[5.] As far as truth and conscience will give leave, there should be a profession of brotherhood, a condescension and yielding to one another in love, a walking together, or, at least, a Christian forbearance: Ephesians 4:2, ‘With long-suffering forbearing one another in love;’ the strong are to forbear the weak, and the weak the strong, to suffer them a little to walk up to their measures of knowledge; so Philippians 3:15, 16, Let us, as many as be perfect, be thus minded, and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, ‘God will reveal even the same to you; nevertheless, whereunto we have obtained, let us walk together by the same rule, mind the same thing.’ Every one hath not the same measure of grace nor degree of light; as long as they hold of the head we cannot forsake their communion. The apostle speaketh those words last quoted in reference to the controversies of those times; every one could not see so far into them as others could, as how far the law was to be left and the Mosaical rites discontinued; therefore, the apostle’s rule is, that they should walk together, go sweetly together as far as they could, and those that were grown and had most light (whom he calleth perfect) he wisheth to be thus minded, to act according to their light, but not to discourage others in their weak beginnings; and for the other sort he wisheth them to wait upon God without murmuring and contention, and they would find their hearts directed into the same truths and ways. This is the rule, you see, in such cases; but now the misery amongst us is, we keep a proud and contemptuous distance, and do not yield, not only as far as religion, but as far as our own private principles would give leave. We do not walk together in the Lord, and therefore doth Christianity suffer such loss everywhere, for we cannot be helpful to one another’s faith.

[6.] Abstain from reproaches and undue provocations, and dispense all civil respects with meekness. I put two rules together: our differences do not only unchristian us, but unman us many times: Galatians 5:15, ‘If ye bite and devour one another, take heed ye do not consume one another.’ The apostle useth such words as are proper to beasts, for [[@Page: 400]] indeed such violence is brutish: God hath armed the beasts with teeth and claws, but man with reason and judgment; to smite with the hand is beneath a man, and to smite with the tongue beneath a Christian; and yet how often is it found that Christians are guilty of both! The controversies between them degenerate into carnal strifes and debates, and are no more religious but personal, because of those mutual revilings, base and low reflections upon the name and credit of each other; every one will excuse himself for not being first in the transgression. But revenge doth not differ from injury, but only in the order; one is first, the other second. [11] ‘It was no excuse to Adam that Eve was first in the transgression: Christ being reviled, reviled not again,’ 1 Peter 2:23. It is no shame to be overcome in such an act; patient sufferings carry more majesty with them than carnal replies and defences; and therefore, though provoked, forbear reproaches. The other part of the rule is, that all civil respects must be dispensed with all meekness and sweetness. Strangeness, and distance, and incivilities do enrage; ‘we are bid to have peace with all men, if possible.’ Romans 12:18. To pursue all honest ways and means, if possible, noteth it must not be by any indirect course, otherwise we may try the utmost; for damnable heretics, and such as raze the foundation, there are other rules; we cannot, with safety, bid them God speed: 2 John 10, ‘If he do not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house, nor bid him God speed,’ John, the disciple of love, persuadeth to such strangeness in such a case; ‘so the prophet telleth Jehoram, that were it not for Jehoshaphat, he would not look towards him, nor see him,’ 2 Kings 3:14. So when Cerinthus came into the bath at Ephesus, John went away: Let us go hence. Hic est Cerinthus, hostis veritatis — here is Cerinthus, ‘the enemy of the truth,’ he having denied the Godhead of Christ. So Marcion, who denied Christ, the resurrection, in effect the whole New Testament, when he came glavering to Polycarpus with a Non agnoscis nos?Dost thou not know me? It was answered by him — Agnosco te primogenitum diaboli — I know thee to be the devil’s first-born. In these extreme cases, the servants of God have been thus austere; but in errors besides the foundation, and of a lesser consequence, the other rule taketh place, and you will find that meekness and sweetness of converse gaineth much.

More might be said, but I forbear. Oh! that that which is spoken were a little considered. None have more engagements to love than Christians; none have been more exemplary in love than Christians. Once it was said, Aspice ut se mutuo diligunt Christiani — see how the Christians love one another; [12] but, alas! a little after it was said by a heathen: There are no beasts so mischievous to men as Christians are to one another. [13] Oh! it is too often too true.

Secondly, Because of the publicness of the auditory I shall be bold to speak a word or two to my brethren in the ministry, and those [[@Page: 401]] who are to deal publicly in these matters; they may do much to the calming of the times. We are ambassadors of the Prince of peace; it will ill become us to be men of violence. Oh! that the Lord would dispose of our hearts to think of healing the breaches; the reproaches cast upon us are a hint from God to press us to the more care. I hope I shall not take too much upon me if I commend something out of the scriptures to myself and brethren. Admonitions are not accusations, and when God giveth a call, it is not too much peremptoriness to admonish: by the bowels of Christ let me entreat you to mind a few things.

1. Beware of passion in your own interests; though they may be much shaken and endamaged in the present controversies, yet self-denying patience will be the best way to settle them: the injury to us may be great, but the injury to truth is greater; we must approve our faithfulness in afflictions as well as doctrine. It is an excellent place that of the apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 6:3, ‘Giving no offence, but approving ourselves as the ministers of Christ in necessities and distresses,’ Mark, that we are to show ourselves ministers of Christ in furthering the gospel by our necessities; and sometimes it is a duty to depart from our just rights. Therefore be not too passionate in and for your own interests. The hint is not needless: Christ’s disciples, being too sensible of their own contempt, called for fire from heaven, Luke 9:54, 55. A tenderness of our own interests may soon raise us into an undue heat and rage, and in a mistake of our spirits, we may think that a coal from the altar which indeed is but taken from some common hearth. The false church hath been more zealous for interests than truths. ‘Luther might have been more quiet, if he had not declaimed against the triple crown and the monks’ bellies. Our conveniences should learn to give place to the advantage of truth. It is said of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, Matthew 12:19, ‘that he shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets,’ i.e., he shall not keep a-bustling and astir for worldly glory and great matters in this life; and truly we should learn of him. Paul would not take maintenance, because the false teachers pretended they would preach the gospel freely: 2 Corinthians 11:12, ‘But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion, that wherein they glory they may be found even as we.’ It seemeth that some, as now, to get credit and entrance, would take no relief from the churches; now, saith Paul, though I have a right, I will not make use of it, that I may not, through their glorying in this matter, disadvantage my endeavours in the gospel. Our esteem, credit, authority, must all be sacrificed upon the interest and advantage of truth. Nazianzen, in his orations and verses, doth often profess his desires of laying down his bishopric and all his church honours for the peace of the church. In one place, I remember, above all, he tells them of Constantinople, that rather than he would any way be guilty of the least concurrence to their distractions, he should count it a high mercy to go aside and spend the rest of his days in obscure silence, for he had learned to prefer Christ above all:

Οὐ γὰρ ίης γενόμην Μοίρης θρασὺς ἀσπῐδιώτης,
Οὐδʼ ἤθελον Χριστοῦ ἄλλῳʼ τι προσθῇ φέρειν,
[[@Page: 402]]Ἀλλὰ τὰς μὴν λέθης βυθός, αὐτὰρ ἔγωγε
Ἔνθεν ἀφορμηθείς, τέρψομαι ἀτρεμίῃ
.’ [14]

A good resolution and worthy to be imitated.

2. Press doctrines of Christ, and the main things of religion. Some men love to live in the fire, and to handle the red-hot questions of the age with passion and acrimony; but, alas! this doth no good. Zuinglius was once asked by a friend, Cur non contra pontificios?why he was not more keen against the Papists, and preached not oftener against them? He answered, he would first plant the fear of God, and then men would be for the cause of God. To gain men to a party before they be gained to God is not so warrantable, and to press zeal in some particular ways doth but produce blind fury, which undoeth all. Tertullian [15] noteth it as a miscarriage of the heretics in his time, that they were more for gaining men to a party than Christianity. ‘Suppose you press the truth, yet Christ telleth us that wisdom is justified of her children,’ Matthew 11:19. God’s own people are most zealous for God’s truths: Jude 4, ‘They turn the grace of our God into wantonness.’ Sense of interest begetteth the purest, freest zeal for God. The intent of our ministry is riot that we should gain men to the support of our faction and party, but to Christ and Christianity. Other differences would be allayed were it not that we do so often revive them by unseasonable agitations; and, indeed, for the lesser differences, they were better wholly laid aside than so often stirred. Calvin, after his return to Geneva, would never contend about the business of wafer-cakes, for which he was at first cast out; though he altered not his mind in it, yet would never publicly contend in that matter, only many times modestly suggested what he thought was the better way. [16]

3. When you deal with the errors of the time (for certainly that is necessary; ‘we must stablish our hearers in the present truth,’ 2 Peter 1:12), do it with a great deal of caution and wariness. Though I would not prescribe, yet give me leave humbly to offer three things, which possibly may prevent some abuses:

[1.] Beware of loose flings and general declamations against errors heresies; these do but exulcerate minds, prejudice our testimony, and much hinder it from being received. This is a miscarriage on both sides: men urge their ways in loose flings, conceited nicks, and implications, general outcries of one side against superstitious anti-Christianism and the men of the world (words soon spoken); on the other side, against errors, new lights, and new opinions. The word worketh most when it is most particular and demonstrative: thunder at a distance doth not so much startle me as a clap in my own zenith. It is good to go by way of particular proof and argument against opinions; prove them to be errors, and then call them so; otherwise loose and general invectives will make but superficial impressions. It is very observable that when James had proved that conceit of God’s being the author of sin to be an error, then he said, James 1:16, ‘Err not, my beloved brethren;’ [[@Page: 403]] he first disputeth and then dissuadeth. It is very observable too, Matthew 23:13-33., that our Saviour never denounceth a woe against the Pharisees, but he presently rendereth a reason for it: ‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widows’ houses,’ &c.; ‘Woe, for ye shut the kingdom of God,’ &c. Usually ungrounded zeal stayeth in generals, and ordinarily it is out of deceit or weakness.

[2.] Deal herein with all soberness and meekness. We should do what we can to remove prejudices; men drink in truths when they are sweetly propounded; God was in the still voice; the small rain falleth sweetly upon the tender grass; men presently engage themselves to a fervour and heat, and that marreth all; it is but as oil to the flames. I remember a speech of Darius, when one of the soldiers of the camp railed against Alexander, he telleth him, I kept you to fight against Alexander, not to rail against him: those arrows of bitter words are not the weapons of our warfare. Passion showeth we are angry more against the person than the error; too often it maketh us forsake the main controversy and go on upon a wrong scent. One saith, He that speaketh to kings must speak πήμασι βυσσίνοις, with silken words: he that speaketh to dissenters had need make his speech as smooth and soft as may be. ‘I am sure it is agreeable to the apostle’s advice, In meekness instruct those that oppose themselves,’ 2 Timothy 2:25. And in the same place he showeth that the servants of God must be gentle and patient.

[3.] Take heed of aggravating and greatening matters, making them of more importance than indeed they are; former ages were possessed with this spirit, every lesser dissent and mistake was made a heresy or error in the faith, as appeareth by their catalogues.

Tertullian had but spoken two or three words in favour of Montanus, and the priests of Home presently cried him up for a Montanist, and accordingly dealt with him, quo protinus offensus (saith he that wrote his life) [17] prorsus in Montani paries transivit. I confess it is good to be watchful to dash Babylon’s brats, and take the little foxes, Solomon's Song 2:15, i.e., to oppose the first and modest appearances of error: the party last amongst us began with words, and would have brought in things. Therefore, I say, it is good to be watchful; however this will not justify rough dealing with those that vary from us but in an expression, and straining everything to the worst sense and most odious consequences, that it may appear to be heretical. Christ’s own words were mistaken and wrested into a sense which he would not own; he said he would destroy the temple in three days, John 2:19. He meant it of his body, they accused him of the same words; and yet they are called false witnesses, Matthew 26:61, who accused him of it, because they wrested it to another sense, applying it to the material temple. Many have a faculty of turning Eloi into Elias, molehills into mountains, making men offenders for a word, and by false glosses causing innocent things to seem odious.

[4.] Let me entreat you to improve your interests for brotherly and friendly collations; public conferences cannot be had without tumult, and there is a prejudice against public sermons; and, again, private disputes are more for victory than truth; usually there is more of strife [[@Page: 404]] than love in them. Tertullian [18] saith of his private disputation with a Jew, Both drew out their reasonings, and, through the heat of contention, both went away unsatisfied. But now, if there were meetings instituted for the propounding of things rather by way of case than controversy, and matters were carried not so much in a disputative way, but by way of friendly collation and loving discourse, it would much conduce to the ending of our differences; certainly, where such meetings have been set up and wisely ordered, much good hath come by them. If we could allure Christians, the lot of whose dwellings is disposed among our churches, into these conferences, we should find them of much avail. ‘I conceive much might be said out of scripture for them; certainly we do not come together so often as we should, to comfort ourselves with the mutual faith of one another.’ Romans 1:11, 12. I believe that ἐπισυναγωγὴν spoken of Hebrews 10:25, will infer some other meeting besides the public assembly. This benefit you would find by such a course, that your own would be stablished, others would be less violent. If brought to these friendly consultations, haply it may be a business that may engage you to much labour and self-denial; but that should not sway with a Christian minister, whose work is not ended with an hour’s discourse in the pulpit. We are very often calling for power to punish heretics; but let us sadly smite upon the thigh, and consider if any of us in private have improved those loving courses to gain them that have been in our power. Luther hath a pretty saying: Igne caritatis comburendi sunt haeretici — you talk of burning heretics, burn them first in the fire of love, or, at least, burn them with the fire of the Spirit. ‘The apostle speaketh of trying the work by fire,’ 1 Corinthians 3:13. Rational and friendly conviction will do much, at least it will beget a sweet and brotherly correspondence, and it is to be hoped we shall find more meekness where things are not carried in the way of a set disputation.

I have done with my address to the ministry.

Thirdly, Give me leave to speak a word to yourselves, not as if I would prescribe to you, but only humbly offer two or three considerations to your thoughts. It may be I may not show so much discretion in it, yet, if I do affection, I have my aim, which is not so much to direct you, as to draw you into a consultation about these matters; and therefore I humbly propose the business to your care. ‘Think of the church’s unity; you have covenanted to endeavour that the Lord be one, and his name one.’ Consider, civil peace depends much upon church peace; religion is called so a religando, it being the greatest bond to link men together; contrary opinions in religion usually cause much alienation of affection, and great disturbances in the common wealth. Therefore this matter appertaineth to you in reference to unity. I humbly desire: —

1. That you would seriously do your utmost to draw things to an agreement. You have appointed a committee of accommodation already: we do not know what is done; suppose you tried once again. When the Remonstrants troubled the churches of the Low Countries, there were often collations, and they did select men once and again [[@Page: 405]] and again to consider how to compose the differences. [19] It is true, those endeavours did not succeed, because those meetings were made up of the most violent sticklers; and the Arminians, by the means of Utenbogardus, had the secret encouragement and countenance of some of the magistrates, that nothing should be done to their disservice and disadvantage, and so both parties strove to make the best of their opinion and faction. But now, if you would be pleased to try once again, God knows what will be the success. I suppose there can be no danger in trying. Call some men together, whose eminency for the power of godliness will make the matter the more venerable, entertained with the more reverence and awe. When the people smell self and interest in any endeavours, they have the less majesty with them. Call men through age and experience versed in such a work, men of a moderate and sober spirit, who prefer the interest of religion before that of a party. Blessed be God, England doth not want such! Call them together to think of ways of reconciliation. Though many thirst and pant after it, yet cannot effect it, being but private men, and so not so much regarded, and in bodies and assemblies they cannot so well drive it on. Men of middle interests, being always suspected, have a prejudice upon their endeavours; and, indeed, good men cannot be imagined to be so without all touch and sense of their own particular opinion, as not to dispute, stickle, and engage for it in such bodies and assemblies. But now, if such were called together by your authority, to make it their only work to provide for the advantage of religion, and to compose the differences, possibly, and by the blessing of God, much good might be done. However, you will manifest that you have not been wanting to your duty; and therefore weigh it in your thoughts.

2. That you would quicken your ministers and elders, in their provincial and classical meetings, by some charge and command to think of ways how best to gain and deal with dissensions. The matter is not below the care of a Christian magistrate. Histories tell us how Constantine did beseech his bishops to an agreement, oversee their counsels, travail in the peace of the churches. Socrates saith he was affected with the schisms of the church as his own calamity. [20] Well, then, if you would be pleased to quicken them by your command, and enable them by your authority to find out and to act in such ways as may tend to the ending of the differences and controversies, much good might be done. I humbly conceive the true nature and intent of such meetings is not altogether or chiefly to give laws authoritatively to the particular churches, as to consider how to compose differences that do arise in them; and it were sad if the mint and cummin were preferred above the weighty works, and the chief of their care were spent either in trivial disputes, or in making rules for their own rather than in studying all brotherly ways of gaining those that differ, and healing the breaches of the church. This, I say, were sad indeed; the true intent and nature of these meetings being to give satisfaction, and to carry things with more clearness of demonstration, and to give out the sense of the church in matters [[@Page: 406]] of difficulty: for, indeed, the less of a court and the more of a council they have in them the better; therefore, if you would command and chiefly commend these things of unity to their care and debates, some hope might arise that way.

3. That you would take care that ministers put out for scandal may not be so easily taken in again. Against those that are humbly penitent and modestly ingenuous, no man would open his mouth; but for the others, I am persuaded they are, and will be, a great means of our troubles; partly as they occasion no small offence to the godly; the dead body of Amasa in the way to discourage the people of the Lord from going on to union and accord; the sons of Eli, that cause many to abhor the offering of the Lord: partly as those that are very apt to be the cinifloes that will blow up the coals of strife amongst us. The first stirs about religion in the Low Countries were occasioned by the ministers of the old leaven, whom they were fain to take in out of necessity in that scarcity of ministers, and to allow some of them, because of their parts, in eminent places. The story nameth Wiggerus, Coelhaasius, and others, who kindled those sparks of trouble, which afterwards were blown up by James Arminius into a great flame. [21] Many observe that the Jesuits go over to the Lutherans and foment differences between them and the Reformed; and truly we may fear their influence; men that have the old malice and a new irritation will stir in a way of revenge. The Lord guide you! I am sorry to hear the complaints that are abroad.

4. In the liberty that you give, use great caution. Some things you may be forced to bear with for a time; take heed of endangering the truth of God; you ought to be tender of Christ’s little ones; woe to those that offend them, Matthew 18. But you ought to be more tender of Christ’s truths; you owe somewhat to Christ’s saints and servants, but, I say again, more to his truths. It is somewhat un heard of that these two should come in contest and competition. However, you will find Christ more jealous of his ways than of his servants, of his truths than of his saints. It is truth makes saints: John 17:27, ‘Sanctify them by thy truth, thy word is truth;’ and husbandmen are ever more careful of their seed-corn than of the increase; and, besides, we may be deceived in saintswe do not know hearts; but we cannot so easily in truths, because there is a sure standard to measure them by. Therefore, take heed of doing any thing against truth. It is a good old caution, In veste varietas sit scissura non sit — though there be divers colours, yet let there be no rent in the church’s coat. I will not take upon me to state the matter; what liberty you may give, and how far. Perhaps that may be un seasonable. However it will not, I hope, be too much presumption to present you with the most obvious miscarriages of magistrates in this matter. Three sorts of men there are in the world, and concerning every one of them we may say, ‘The way of peace they have not known.’ Romans 3:17.

[[@Page: 407]][1.] Some are of a preposterous zeal in lesser differences, and are all for extremity and violence towards those from whom they differ in the least degree and circumstances. Most of the censures inflicted by the late bishops were because of ceremonies, things not weighty in any regard, no, not in their own esteem. Some men breathe out nothing but rage and threatenings upon the least dissent.

I remember I have read of Joab, David’s general, that when his teacher had falsely vowelled one word in the Hebrew, he slew him; the place was that charge to destroy Zechar. He read it Zachar, the males of Amalek. [22] It is good to preserve truth, but small distempers will not need so violent a cure. It is as if a man should fire a house to destroy the mice in it. Union is good, but rigorous enforcements, especially in trifles, and things that lie far from the heart of religion, are not so warrantable. Paul is everywhere most zealous against errors; there is never an epistle of his but hath somewhat against them; however, none more earnest than he to bring circumcision and uncircumcision to a profession of brotherhood.

[2.] Some are for medleys and compounds of religion, as if that would be peace. Thus Charles V., thought to please all by that wicked book called the Interim; it did a great deal of harm, and did not any way heal the difference. Many of late amongst us, and in other reformed churches, endeavoured to blend us and Rome, Babylon and Zion, together. God hateth those iniquos syncretismos, profane mixtures and intermistical designs. Unity consists in an agreement in the truth, not in a coagulation of errors. Strings that are in tune must not be stirred, others must be set up to them. The disobedient must be brought up to the wisdom of the just, not that brought down to them, Luke 1:17. ‘When the language is pure’ the shoulder is one, Zephaniah 3:9. Little hopes of agreement till you set up pure doctrine, unmixed discipline. The new cloth set upon the old will make the rent the greater. The world thinks the less purity the more unity, but it is otherwise. All the troubles are because iron will not mix with clay, God’s ways with man’s inventions.

[3.] Some drive at a promiscuous leave and toleration of all opinions and differences, though never so contrary to truth, as if this were the best way to bring things to any peace and quiet. Oh! consider how great a prejudice this is to religion. This is the very way that Julian, the apostate, took to destroy it. Socrates Scholasticus, Ammianus Marcellinus, and others that write of him, say that, to ruin religion, he would equally tolerate and countenance all parties. I shall but take notice of what one saith, [23] that he was thoroughly set upon this, as knowing it to be the ready way to bring all to naught; and, indeed, it was not only the policy of this subtle adversary, but of all the enemies of truth, as the margin will inform you. [24] And, in deed, where it doth not destroy religion, it [[@Page: 408]] doth embase it, partly because men content themselves in having made a better choice than others about them; partly because men spend all the heat and first born of their strength and zeal in the contentions, and let practice go. Certainly there would be but little security to truth and its followers where there is such a promiscuous toleration. Where men are godly they cannot be so easily amassed into one body and confederacy with persons erroneous; they being bound up by conscience, and having religion on their sides, are not so flexible, and then the others cannot so well agree with them, for two different errors can better agree and cotton among themselves than one error and the nearest truth. Darkness and darkness can better agree than light and darkness: always you will find it, men hate the nearest truth as being that light by which their deeds are reproved. The Eunomians and the Arians, though they held different errors (the one denied the Godhead of the Son, the other of the Spirit), could better agree with one an other than with the orthodox. The Pharisees and Herodians, though of different principles (the one being for, the other against the liberty of the Jews), yet both could conspire together to entrap Christ. Gebal and Ammon and Amalek could better accord with one another than with Zion. In such a case truth would be worst provided for; always under fears of some Sicilian vespers or a Saint Bartholomew’s matins, some sudden eruption of violent counsels and dangers hatched against it.

Thus I have been bold to commend a few things unto you. God direct your hearts to all seasonable counsels, for his glory and the church’s good!

Object. But you will say, This a work of time. What is to be done to avoid the danger of the present distractions?

Sol. I answer — That question is to be put to God, not man: Psalm 11:3, ‘If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do,’ i.e., if religion, laws, authority, and all have lost their awe, what can they do? The answer is in the next verse: ‘God is in the holy temple,’ i.e., there is a God above, one in heaven, go to him. I suppose you are met this day, as those at Ahava, to seek a right way, Ezra. 8:21; when we are at a loss and past the help of means, the address may be the better made to God.

2. If you go to God, you must go to him in his own way. How is that? You shall see Job 34:31, Surely it is meet to be said to God, I have borne the chastisement of mine iniquity; ‘I will offend no more.’ This is meet for you to be said to God, to come before him with humiliation and reformation.

[1.] With humiliation. Sadly reflect upon your miscarriages. I would not willingly declaim upon that theme; too many do. It is natural to us to speak evil of dignities: envy would blast eminency. Some are mad upon idols; they will blemish you, for you have vexed them. Others are burdened with payments, and they will say, ‘The former times were better than these,’ Ecclesiastes 7:10. Haply Solomon relateth to his own times. They complain of Solomon’s yokes, though occasioned by the temple work in those days. Some affect the repute of bold men; it feeds the humour of the times to lay things to your charge. The Lord make others more sober, and you more humble! It is your duty to smite upon the thigh. Surely there is a cause, [[@Page: 409]] when there were such great distractions that they groped like a blind man, and could not find the way. They said, ‘Our iniquities are with us; as for our transgressions, we know them,’ Isaiah 59:10-12. When those that speak tremblings are little feared, surely there is some offence, Hosea 13:1. Commune with your own hearts; guilt works best when it results from your own consciences; being represented from without; it irritateth; sweetly arising from within, it humbleth. What is the matter then? Have you dealt with God so faithfully, with the people so kindly, as you should? Have grievances been redressed, justice executed, the glory of God’s house provided for? I remember a story in Plutarch of Demetrius, king of Macedonia, [25] who, when his subjects tendered their petitions to him of having their grievances redressed, he cast them into a river: afterward Seleucus the Great came with an army against him; not a man would stir; he was taken prisoner, and deprived of his kingdom. People will bear any thing rather than neglects of justice. Consider these things. Come with humiliation.

[2.] Come with purposes of reformation: ‘I will do so no more.Do your first works if you would recover your lost glory. You know by what insinuations Absalom stole away the hearts of the people; by those of justice and kindness. He kissed them. He did perjicere oscula, adorare vulgus, as the historian saith of Otho; and you know he said, 2 Samuel 15:4, Oh! that I were a judge in the land, then I would do them justice; and it would be sad if corruptions be found in you when distractions are upon you. ‘It is said of the assembly of the gods,that had not done justice to the afflicted, nor defended the poor widow and fatherless, Psalm 82:5, ‘That they know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness, though the foundations of the land be out of course;they continued in perverting justice and right, though God ruined the commonwealth and plucked it asunder. Oh! let it be never said of you; it shall be my prayer to God for you.

Footnotes:

[1] Ipsum nomen perperam a vobis pronunciatur Chrestianus.’Tertull. in Apol. cap. cccx.

[2] πολλοὺς Χριστιανίζειν ἀπέτρεπεν ἡ διαφωνία τῶν δογμάτων.’

[3] Venit Gentilis quidam et dicit, Vellem fieri Christianus, sed nescio cui parti adhaeream; multae enim sunt inter vos pugnae, seditiones et tumultus: nescio quod dogma eligam, quod praeferam, singuli enim dicunt, Ego verum dico. Hanc ob causam ridiculo facti sumus et Gentilibus et Judaeis, dum ecclesia in mille partes scinditur.’ &c.Chrys. in Epist. ad Galat. cap. i.

[4] Nusquam citius preficitur quam in castris rebellium, nunc neophytos collocant, nunc saeculo obstrictos, nunc apostatas nostros, ut gloria eos obligent quos veritate nou possuut.’Tertul. lib. de Prescrip. Adversus Haereticos, cap. xli.

[5] ‘Non sanguis sed causa facit martyrem.’

[6] Perkinsius Epist. ad Leot. Harm. Bibl.

[7] Ludolfus de Vita Christi, lib. ii. cap. 87.

[8] ‘Inter juvenile judicium et senile prejudicium omnis veritas corrumpitur.’

[9] Vide Tertullianum hoc fusius et eleganter persequentem sub initio Apologetici adversus Gentes.

[10] Tertull. lib. de Praescript adversus Haereticos, cap. xli.

[11] ‘Qui referre injuriam nititur, eum ipsum a quo laesus est gestit imitari; ita qui malum imitatur bonus esse nullo pacto potest.’Lactant. de Vero Cultu. lib. vi. cap 18.

[12] Tertul. ‘in Apol. cap. 39.

[13] ‘Nullae infestae hominibus bestiae ut sunt sibi ferales plerumque Christiani.’Ammia. Marcelli. lib ii. cap. 2.

[14] Nazian. in Carmine 12 ad Constantinapolitanos.

[15] ‘Hoc haereticorurn negotium est, non ethnicos convertendi, sed nostros evertendi; nostra suffodiunt, sua aedificant.’Tertull. lib. de Praescript. adversus Haereticos, cap. 42.

[16] ‘De quo postea restitutus nunquam coutendendum putavit, minime tamen dissimulans quid alioquin esset probaturus.’Beza in Vita Calvini.

[17] Pamelius in Vita Tertulliani.

[18] ‘Alternis vicibus contentioso fune uterque diem in vesperam traximus, obstrepentibus etiarn. quibusdam spectantibus singulorum nubilo quodam veritas obumbrabatur.’

[19] See the History of the Council of Dort in the Preface to the Reformed Churches.

[20] See ‘Socrates’ Ecclesiastes Hist., lib. i. cap. 7, in the Greek, et alius passim.

[21] Amabilem Belgicarum Ecclesiarum pacem atque harmoniam perturbare conati sunt olim nonnulli, qui deserto Papismo, sed fermento ejus nondum plene expurgato ad ecclesias nostras transierant, earumdemque ministerio in prima illa ministrorum inopia admoti fuerant, Casperus Coelhasius Leidae, ‘Hermanus Herbertus Goudae et Dordrecti,’ &c.Vide Historiam. Syn. Dord. in Praef. ad Ecclesias sub initio.

[22] The remembrance of Amalek, Deuteronomy 25:19.Ed.

[23] ‘Quod agebat ideo obstinate, ut dissentientem augente licentia non timeret minantem postea plebem,’ &c.Petrus Morentimus in Praefat. in Juliani miso-pugionem.

[24] ‘Passim cum omnibus miscent, nihil enim interest illis licet diversa tractantibun dum ad unius veritatis expugnationem exspirent.’Ter. lib. de Praescrip. Adversus Haeret. cap. 41.

[25] Plutarchus in Vita Demetrii.


Vol 5.—Page 379.—Meat out of The Eater.—The Epistle Dedicatory.

posted 10 Apr 2014, 16:58 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:11 ]



Meat out of The Eater; 
or,
Hopes of Unity in and by Divided and Distracted Times: 
Discovered in a Sermon Preached before the Honourable 
House of Commons, at Margaret’s, Westminster, 
On their Solemn Day of Fast, June 30, 1647.

THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.

To the Honourable House of Commons assembled in Parliament.

THAT which was preached by your command is now published. When the great voice saith, Come up hither, it is an evil modesty to hide among the stuff. In these busy times they are happy to whom God hath vouchsafed the shelter of an obscure privacy; yet, upon a call, we should not consult with our own ease and quiet. The times are violent and blasting, and this poor endeavour is likely to undergo several misconstructions; but, I thank God, lam learning to pass through good report and evil report, 2 Corinthians 6:8, and to disvalue censure when it seizeth upon me in the way of duty. I have dealt freely and impartially against the miscarriages of both parties, and, happily, [1] my liberty may displease some; others may look upon the things offered here as too low and trivial, and not weighty enough to reach the end of the design. Let them remember the intent of these proposals is only to engage to a further consultation about the matter. The entire discourse were fitter for a treatise than a sermon; and yet something is offered which, by the blessing of God, may be serviceable to reduce men from their violences and extremities to some better temper and moderation. Some possibly may dislike the whole design; spirits now are very keen and exasperated; men think it will be a cooling of their zeal if we should a little take off their edge and sharpness: fire will not be quenched without hissing. To these I shall only profess, that if I know mine heart, I abhor all such moderation and compliances as will not stand with Christian zeal, and may disadvantage truth and religion: whatever become of my own party, I would be faithful and true to that interest. I know that as it is hard to be moderate without danger, so also without sin. Men of middle interests do always displease men, and they should be careful they do not displease God. There are many counterfeits of Christian moderation; a cold, or, at best, a tepid indifferency, lukewarm Christians may easily middle it. Carnally-wise neutrality; it is no wonder to see men that observe the times neither hot nor cold. A doubtful uncertainty; δίψυχοι ἀκατάστατοι, double-minded men are unstable, James 1:8, and their compliance is promiscuously dispensed. Some possibly may have so [[@Page: 380]] much of child and self in them as to mind church-peace only as a taking theme, and speak for it rather from their brain than their heart; others may (like him in Daniel) deal deceitfully, and press a league that they may become strong with a small people, mind moderation for their own advantage; some, out of a desire of their carnal ease and quiet, may be against stirs. I foresaw these rocks, desired grace to avoid them; therefore I hope nothing will be found here to occasion any such prejudice and suspicion against this endeavour. However it speedeth abroad, you were pleased to honour it with acceptance, and to do something upon it, which I hope you will revive again when it shall comport with the times. I shall desire God to guide you in that and other your great affairs. The Wonderful Counsellor be with you in all your straits, make you understanding men of the season, careful to apply apt remedies to the distempers of it.

So prayeth your meanest servant in the Lord’s work,

Thomas Manton.



[1] That is, ‘haply.’Ed.


Vol 5.—Page 368.—Jude 25.—To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.

posted 10 Apr 2014, 16:39 by Stephen Chaffer   [ updated 14 Apr 2014, 04:10 ]



Jude 25. — To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.

The apostle in this verse goeth on with that doxology which he had begun in the former. Here you may take notice of —

1. The description of the person to whom the praise is given. He is described — (1.) By his excellency, the only wise God; (2.) By our interest and the benefit we receive by him, and our Saviour.

2. The ascription of praise, be glory, &c. There is

[1.] What is ascribed, glory, majesty, dominion, and power.

[2.] The duration, how long he would have this ascribed, now and ever.

[3.] Manner, in what fashion it is ascribed, in the particle amen, with which all is sealed and closed up.

This particle implieth — (1.) Our confidence that it shall be so; (2.) Our hearty affection that it might be so. Love saith, Let it be, and faith, It shall be; for faith is a prophetic grace. In prayer it answereth itself.

But let us go over these particulars more fully and distinctly. From the description of the person, to the only wise God our Saviour. That Christ is God we proved before on ver. 4, and that Christ is a Saviour, and how, on the same verse. I shall only now observe:

[[@Page: 368]]Obs. 1. (1.) That God is wise; (2.) That God is only wise; (3.) That Jesus Christ, as Mediator, hath a right to this attribute.

I begin with the first, that wisdom is ascribed to God. God’s wisdom is a distinct notion from his knowledge. He doth not only know all things, but hath ordered and disposed them with much counsel. The wisdom of God is asserted in the word, Job 9:4, and Job 12:13, and proved there by what he hath bestowed upon man: ‘He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?’ Psalm 94:10. Whatever man hath from God, God hath it in himself in a more eminent degree; and it is also evidenced by the works of God, as in the works of creation, providence, and the methods of his graces.

1. Much of his wisdom is seen in creation. There his wisdom is discovered in the excellent order of all his works, Psalm 104:24, 1 Corinthians 1:21. Their mutual correspondence and fitness for the several ends and services for which they were appointed. The order of the world showeth the wisdom of God, the order of placing the creatures: see Proverbs 3:19, 20, ‘The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth, by understanding hath he established the heavens, by his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.’ The earth is set lowermost as the foundation of all the rest, the sea pent up within its channels, the air above them both, and the heavens higher than all, the stars and planets placed in the firmament, and the fishes in the sea. The order of making, God proceeding from things imperfect to perfect; first the rude mass, then the heavens and the vast earth and glorious creatures, but without life; then the herbs and plants, that have life, but not sense and motion; then the brute creatures, that have sense and motion, but not reason; then man, with a reasonable soul, after his own image. In this order you may observe, first, the dwelling-place is appointed, then the food, then the creature that feedeth upon it, the beasts upon the herbs, and man upon the beasts. The Queen of Sheba was astonished at Solomon’s wisdom, when she perceived the well-ordering of his family. Certainly, if we did observe the order of nature, we would stand wondering more at the wisdom of God. Next observe the correspondence that is between all the parts of the world, compared sometimes to a building, ‘wherefore God is called τεχνίτης, an artificial builder,’ Hebrews 11:10. In this great house every part conspireth to the beauty, service, and decency of the whole. ‘The roof is heaven; and therefore the spheres are called chambers and storeys in the heavens,’ Amos 9:6. The foundation is earth, Job 38:5, 6. The stars and glorious luminaries are the windows, the sea the water-course, &c. Sometimes it is compared to the frame and structure of man’s body Hebrews 11:3, ‘The worlds were framed.’ It is in the original, κατηρτίσθαι, set in joint, as all the members of the body are tied together by several ligaments, &c. Sometimes to an army: Genesis 2:1, ‘The heavens were finished, and all the host of them.’ Order is necessary everywhere, but especially in a host. There every one must keep in his rank and station. Thus the stars have their courses, Judges 5:20, and the clouds their courses, Job 37:12, yea, the grasshoppers march in an army, Joel 2:15. The next thing that showeth the wisdom of God is their fitness for use and service. The workman’s skill is as much commended in the use of [[@Page: 369]] an instrument as in the making and framing of it. The upper heavens fitted to be the everlasting mansion of the saints, the middle heaven to give us light and heat and influence, the air, the lower heaven for breath, the earth for habitation, the seas for navigation, the herbs and plants for food and medicine, &c. Look upon the bodies of living creatures, and tell me if there be not a wise God. Galen saith there are six hundred muscles in the body of man, and every one fitted for ten uses; so for bones, nerves, arteries, and veins. Whosoever observeth their use, situation, and correspondence of them, cannot but fall into admiration of the wisdom of the maker, who hath thus exactly framed all things at first out of nothing, and still out of the froth of the blood. The wisdom of men and angels cannot mend the least thing in a fly. The figure, colour, quality, quantity of every worm and every flower, with what exactness is it ordered! as if God had nothing else to do but to bring forth such a creature into the world as the product of his infinite wisdom.

2. Providence; God’s wisdom is much seen in the sustentation and governing of all things, Ephesians 1:11. ‘He worketh all things according to the counsel of his will.’ Do but observe a little how all things are put into a subserviency to God’s purpose; sometimes the smallest things occasion events of the highest concernment. The occasion of Joseph’s greatness in Egypt was a dream; a lie cast him into prison, and a dream fetched him out. Sometimes the most casual things to us are the most necessary means to accomplish that which God aimeth at: ‘A certain man drew a bow at peradventure, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness,’ 1 Kings 22:34. Contingencies to us are infallible events as to the purposes of God. Voluntary things that depend upon the will of man, fall under the ordination of the will of God; there is more wisdom shown in ruling a skittish horse than in rolling a stone or dead thing. God showeth his wisdom in guiding the courses of the stars, but much more in disposing the heart of man, Proverbs 21:1. There is nothing so confused but if you look upon it in its result and final tendency, there is beauty and order in it; the tumults of the world, the prosperity of the wicked, carnal men think them the disgrace and blemish of providence, whereas they are the ornament of it: Psalm 92:5, ‘Lord, how glorious are thy works! thy thoughts are very deep.’ Man is discontented because he cannot fathom the deep thoughts of providence. Nothing so opposite, so bad, but God can bring good out of it; the sins of men set forth the beauty of providence, as shadows and black lines in a picture set it off the more; see Acts 4:28, and Job 5:12, 13. Christ hath been beholden to his enemies as much as to his friends; their potent opposition hath occasioned the further increase of his kingdom.

3. In the methods of his grace; so I call all the transactions of God about the salvation of sinners from first to last; the rejection of the Jews, and calling of the Gentiles: Romans 11:33, ‘Oh! the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God;’ the various dispensations used in the church, before the law, under the law, and time of the gospel, ‘these are called πολυποίκιλος σωφία, the manifold wisdom of God,’ Ephesians 3:10. ‘Redemption by Christ, the great plots of heaven, called the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery,’ and ‘without controversy [[@Page: 370]] a great mystery,’ 1 Timothy 3:16; ‘that which angels desire to pry into;’ God’s masterpiece, wherein all things by a rare contrivance are ordered for God’s glory and man’s good, the wonder of it will take up our hearts to all eternity; to see the ruins of the fall so exactly repaired, the glory of God salved, the comfort of man provided for. ὁ βάθος oh! the depths of this glorious mystery.

Again, the various acts of love whereby God subdueth sinners to himself; this taking sinners in their month, and disposing of unthought-of circumstances and passages of providence in order to their conversion. Once more, the overruling of all events to further the eternal blessedness of the saints, Romans viii, 28. In all these I have foreborne particular illustrations, that the discourse may not swell up into too great a bulk.

Now, whosoever shall seriously consider these things, will certainly conclude God is wise. But further, consider the usual concomitants of God’s wisdom, and then we may come to make some use of this meditation.

Wisdom in God is accompanied with immaculate holiness and in finite power. In the devils there is great cunning, great power, and much wickedness; in man there is much shame, little power, and less wisdom. God’s power and wisdom are often counted [1] in the expressions of scripture: Job 9:4, ‘He is wise in heart, and mighty in power;’ so Job 36:5, ‘He is mighty in strength and wisdom,’ the two formidable properties in an adversary, [2] and the desirable properties in a friend; so see 1 Corinthians 1:25. Again, it is joined with holiness; ‘he is most wise, and most holy, glorious in holiness,’ and rich in wisdom.

Use 1. Well, then, let us often admire the wisdom of God; look up to the heavens, and what do you find there? The work of a wise God, Jeremiah 10:12. Look to the structure of all things round about you, and what offereth itself to your thoughts? ‘By his wisdom he hath established the world.’ Look within you, and you cannot choose but say, ‘O God! I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,’ Psalm 139:14. Look into the scriptures, and consider the stupendous mysteries that are revealed there; of the Trinity in unity, God manifested in our flesh, a virgin conceiving, Christ dying; and can you hold from crying out, ‘Oh! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’ Romans 11:33. View these things again and again; we cannot take up all of God in one or many or all our meditations.

Use 2. Let not it be a bare speculation, but improve it. (1.) To quicken you to prayer; where should we go for wisdom when we need it, but to the wise God? See Job 28:12, James 1:5, Job. 32:9. Solomon asked wisdom and had it. (2.) Improve it to thanks, when you are able to discern your way and your work, Proverbs 2:6. (3.) Improve it to waiting: Isaiah 30:18, ‘He is a God of judgment; blessed are all they that wait for him.’ When things grow cross, let the wise God alone till you see the end of his work; will you be his counsellor, and teach him how to manage his affairs? ‘He knoweth how to deliver the godly,’’ &c., 2 Peter 2:9. (4.) Improve it to patience and [[@Page: 371]] contentation; the wise God knoweth how to make use of thee in every condition; wherever thou art, say, I am there where God hath set me. God knoweth what is better for me than I do myself. He that hath put all things in their places hath put me in this place, and here I will glorify him, 1 Corinthians 12:20. Every cross is chosen and elected as well as your persons. ‘There are secrets of wisdom’ in providence, that are not always to be found in the surface and outside of it, Job 11:6. Though it appear in a way of rigour, yet God may have a design in it of mercy to me and glory to himself.

Obs. 2. The next point is, that God is only wise: see the same expression, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Romans 16:27. Why, you will say, this is a communicable attribute; God hath endowed man with a spirit of wisdom, and human prudence is an emblem and resemblance of divine providence, how then is God only wise? I answerWisdom in God is in such an infiniteness and excess that wisdom in man is but folly in comparison of it: there is none wise as he, there is none wise but from him; in short, God in three respects is only wise:

1. Originally and independently wise, not by communication from another, but of himself. ‘Our wisdom is but a ray communicated from the father of lights,’ James 1:17, a drop from the ocean, a beam from the sun; the whole knowledge of the angels is but a spark of this light.

2. God is essentially wise, and so only wise. Do not understand God to be wise as if wisdom had made him wise, as it happeneth among the creatures; in them wisdom is a separable quality, distinct from their essence. Now God’s wisdom is himself, and himself is his wisdom. The perfections of the creature are like the gilding which may be laid on upon vessels of wood or stone, the matter is one thing and the varnish or ornament is another; but the perfections of God are like a vessel made of pure beaten gold, where the matter and the splendour or adorning is the same.

3. God is infinitely wise, and so only wise. As the candle giveth no light when the sun shineth, our wisdom is bounded within narrow limits, and extendeth but to a few things, but God’s to all things. We count them fools that can only manage petty matters, buy and sell and keep out of harm’s way. Such fools are all creatures to God, whose wisdom is unlimited and incomprehensible. They that can manage a small commonwealth with advice and counsel are cried up for wise men; but now God manageth the affairs of the whole world, both visible and invisible. He careth for all things, from the ant to the angels, nothing so small as to escape his knowledge, nothing so great as to burden his mind. The sun doth with the same easiness shine upon the whole world as upon one field, so doth God manage the government of the whole world as of one person or creature. Our wisdom is gotten by learning, but ‘who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord?’ Isaiah 40:13. Our wisdom is bettered by experience, therefore old men are most prudent; but God’s wisdom is incapable of increase, as being in an infinite fulness. We are often deceived. Men of the greatest sagacity and cunning fail in their plots and enterprises, and ‘so their wisdom is turned into folly;’ but it is not so with God, ‘his counsel shall stand,’ Psalm 33:11. There can no difficulty occur but [[@Page: 372]] what is foreseen. He goeth not upon probability and conjecture, but certain foreknowledge. Man can attend but upon one care at once; various thoughts scatter the mind, and weaken it; but God in one moment of understanding seeth all things, and wisely disposeth of all things. God’s wisdom doth not deliberate with hesitancy, or consult with doubt; his thoughts are simple, and not successive, and in the way of discourse. Thus you see what good reason there is why God should be said to be only wise.

Well, then, let not the creature seem wiser than God, and cavil at what he hath revealed, because we understand it not. We cannot know the nature of an ant, we are puzzled in the least creature; no wonder, then, if human reason grow giddy when it pryeth into the depths of God. There should be ὑπακοή πίστεως, ‘the obedience of faith,’ to all that is revealed; and divine truth, like pills, must be swallowed rather than chewed, received upon God’s single authority, when we see no reason for them, ‘for God is only wise.’ Again, when you think of the perfections of God, you must raise your thoughts above the law and manner of all created beings.

Obs. 3. The next point is, that Christ Jesus our Saviour is worthy to be accounted the only wise God. Christ is wise as he is God, and as he is man.

1. As he is God, so he is called ‘the wisdom of the Father,’ 1 Corinthians 1:24, and represented to the ancient church under this title; as Proverbs 1:20, and Proverbs 8., per totum. Wisdom is there spoken of as a person, and the descriptions there used are proper to Jesus Christ. Some suppose the heathens had some traditional knowledge of this mystery and appellation; for as Christ, the wisdom of the Father, was eternally and ineffectably begotten in the divine essence, so they worshipped a goddess, whom they called the goddess of wisdom, and feigned that she was begotten by Jupiter, of his own brain, and they called her Athene, which word is much like in sound with the Hebrew word, Adonai, Lord,

2. As he is man, he received the habits of all created knowledge and wisdom, as all other graces, without measure, John 3.; and so it is said, Colossians 2:3, ‘In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’ Well, then, since Christ hath brought down wisdom to us in our own nature, let us be more studious to get it into our hearts. As Mediator, he is fitted to make us wise to salvation, and appointed by God to be wisdom to us, 1 Corinthians 1:30.

Obs. 4. Once more note, from the other title that is here given to Christ, our Saviour. Those that have had any benefit by Christ will be very much affected with his praise. There is a double ground of exalting Christa sight of his excellency, and a sense of his benefits; and there is a double notion by which our honouring of Christ is set forthpraise and blessing. Praise hath respect to his excellency, and blessing to his benefits, Ephesians 1:3. We may praise a man for his worth, though we have no benefit by him; and so we are bound to praise God for the excellency of his nature, though he had never done us good. But now, when ‘he is our God and our Saviour,’ and hath showed us so much of his goodness and mercy in Christ, we should be ever praising him: Philippians 4:20, ‘Now unto God and our Father be [[@Page: 373]] glory for ever and ever. Amen.’ Glory is due to him as God, much more as our Father. His worth and excellency, though he were a stranger to us, doth deserve an acknowledgment; but when we consider what he is to us, and what he hath done for us, then we can hold no longer, the heart being affected with a sense of his kindness, breaketh out, ‘To our Father, to our Saviour,’ be glory for ever and ever. Well, then, consider the Lord’s excellences more, and observe his benefits, and work them upon the heart till you be filled with a deep sense of his love, and find such an impulsion in your spirits as you cannot hold from breaking out into his praise.

Obs. 5. I come now from the description to the ascription, to him be glory, &c. Can we bestow anything upon God? or wish any real worth and excellency to be superadded to him? I answerNo. The meaning is, that those which are in God already may be:

1. More sensibly manifested: Isaiah 64:2, ‘Make thy name known among the nations.’ It is a great satisfaction to God’s people when anything of God is discovered; they value it above their own benefit and safety; see Psalm 115:1. They prefer the glory of mercy and truth before their deliverance.

2. More seriously and frequently acknowledged. It is a great pleasure to the saints to see others praise God: Psalm 107:8, ‘Oh! that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.’

3. More deeply esteemed, that God may be more in request, more in the hearts of men and angels. God’s children do not count it enough that God is glorified by themselves, but they desire also that God may be glorified by others. As fire turneth all things near it into its own nature, so is grace diffusive. Good men are loath to go to heaven alone, they would travel thither by troops and in company.

But let us more particularly take a view of this ascription, and so first what is ascribed, glory, majesty, dominion, and power. Let us open these words. Glory is clara cum laude notitia, excellency discovered with praise and approbation, and noteth that high honour and esteem that is due to Christ. Majesty is the next word, which implieth such greatness and excellency as maketh one honoured and preferred above all, therefore a style usually given to kings; but to none so due as unto Christ, who is ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords.’ The third term is dominion, which implieth the sovereignty of Christ over all things, especially over the people whom he hath purchased with his blood. The last word is power, which signifieth that all-sufficiency in God, whereby he is able to do all things according to the good pleasure of his will.

From hence observe:

Obs. 6. A gracious heart hath such a sense of God’s worth and perfection, that it would have all things that are honourable and glorious ascribed to him; therefore are divers words here used. When we have done our utmost we come short; for ‘God’s name is exalted above all blessing, and above all praise,’ Nehemiah 9:5. Yet it is good to do as much as we can. Love to God will not be satisfied with a little praise: ‘I will praise him yet more and more,’ Love enlargeth the heart towards God. If there be anything more excellent he shall have it. [[@Page: 374]] Well, then, it is a sign of a dead heart to be a niggard in praises, to be sparing, careless, or cold this way.

Obs. 7. When we think of God, it is a relief to the soul to consider of his glory, majesty, dominion, and power; for this is that which the apostle would have to be manifested, acknowledged, and esteemed in God, as the ground of our respect to him. It encourageth us in our service. We need not think shame of his service, to whom glory, and power, and majesty, and dominion belongeth. It hearteneth us against dangers. Surely the great and glorious God will bear us out in his work. It increaseth our awe and reverence. Shall we serve God in such slight fashion as we would not serve the governor? Malachi 1:8. It is a lessening of God’s majesty. You do not treat him as ‘a great and glorious potentate,’ Malachi 1:14. It inviteth our prayers. To whom should we go in our necessities but to him that hath dominion over all things, and power to dispose of them for the glory of his majesty? It increaseth our dependence. God is glorious, and will maintain the honour of his name, and truth of his promises. When we are daunted by earthly potentates, it is a relief to think of the majesty of God, in comparison of which all earthly grandeur is but the dream of a shadow. Again, God, that hath a sovereignty over all things, and such an almighty power to back it, will not be wanting to do that which shall make for his glory.

Obs. 8. The next consideration in this ascription is the duration, now and ever. Thence note:The saints have such large desires for God’s glory, that they would have him glorified everlastingly, and without ceasing. They desire the present age may not only glorify God, but the future. When they are dead and gone the Lord remaineth; and they would not have him remain without honour. They do not take death so bitterly, if there be any hopes that God will have a people to praise him. And their great comfort now is the expectation of a ‘great congregation,’ gathered from the four winds, united to Christ, presented to God, that they may remain with him, and glorify him for evermore. It is the comfort of their hearts to see this congregation a-making up every day, that there are saints and angels to praise God, whilst others grieve and dishonour him. They prize their own salvation upon this ground, that they shall live for ever to glorify God for ever: see Ephesians 3:21; Psalm 41:13, and 106:48. Now this they do, partly from their love to God’s glory, which they prize above their own salvation, Romans 9:3; partly in thankfulness to God for his everlasting love to them. God is from everlasting to everlasting, and his love is from everlasting to everlasting, Psalm 103:17. He was their God, and will be their God for ever and ever, and therefore they purpose to be his people, and to praise him for ever and ever. Well, then, get these large desires for God’s glory, that he may be honoured in all ages, and in all places, Psalm 113:2, 3. What have ye done in a tendency hereunto, that posterity may praise God? Do you labour to promote the knowledge of Christ, and the succession of churches, all the ways that you can? Zeal in your place is a good argument that you are well-affected in this kind. As a master of a family, hast thou taken care to keep religion alive among thy children when thou art [[@Page: 375]] dead and gone? Genesis 18:19. As a merchant, hast thou promoted religion with thy traffic? Deuteronomy 33:18, 19. As a magistrate, dost thou take care to secure the interest of Christ to posterity, that the succession of churches may not be cut off? Ministers, have you been witnesses for God to the present age, and behaved yourselves as trustees for the next age? have you taken care that God may be honoured then? that we do not transmit prejudices against the ways of God, and corruptions in doctrine and worship to posterity? Oh! where is this affection, this wishing, ‘To him be glory, now and ever?’

The last thing in this inscription is the particle, amen, which is signaculum fidei et votum desiderii nostri; it signifieth a hearty consent to God’s promise, and a steady belief that it will continue to all generations. This word is often put at the end of prayers and doxologies in scripture; see Revelation 5:13, 14, Romans 16:27, Philippians 4:20, &c.; and sometimes it is doubled for the greater vehemency, Psalm 51:13, 72:19, 89:52; and it seemeth by that passage of the apostle that anciently it was audibly pronounced by the people in public assemblies at the conclusion of prayers, 1 Corinthians 14:16, and since that Jerome telleth us that amen ecclesiae instar tonitru reboabat — that the amen was so heartily sounded out by the church, that it seemed like a crack of thunder.

Obs. 9. Certainly it is good to conclude holy exercises with some vigour and warmth. Natural motion is swifter in the end and close; so should our spiritual affections be more vehement as we draw to a conclusion, and when the prayer is done, put out the efficacy of our faith and holy desires in a strong Amen, that it may be to you according to the requests of your hearts, and you may come away from the throne of grace as those that have had some feeling of God’s love in your consciences, and are persuaded that he will accept you, and do you good in Jesus Christ.

Obs. 10. Again observe, there should be an amen to our praises as well as to our prayers, that we may express our zeal and affection to God’s glory as well as to our own profit. Many with the lepers will say ‘amen to Jesus, master, have mercy upon us;’ but we are not as ready to say amen to this, ‘To whom be glory,’ &c. Our hallelujahs should sound as loud as our supplications, and we should as heartily consent to God’s praises as to our own requests.

Obs. 11. Lastly, in desiring the glory of God to all ages, we should express both our faith and lovefaith in determining that it shall be, and love in desiring that it may be so with all our hearts. Both are implied in the word amen; it will be so whatever changes happen in the world. God will be glorious. The scene is often shifted, and furnished with new actors, but still God hath those that praise him, and will have to all eternity. Well, then, let your faith subscribe, and put to its seal, To the glory of God in Christ; and let earnest love interpose: Lord, let it be so; yea, Lord, let it be so. Heartily desire it, and with the whole strength of your souls; set to your seals without fear, it is a request that cannot miscarry, and follow it with your hearty acclamations. The world shall continue no longer [[@Page: 376]] when God shall have no more glory by it. Here you may be sure you pray according to God’s will, and therefore may take it for granted; only follow it earnestly; say, Lord, whatever become of us and our matters, yet let thy name be glorified: Amen, Lord, let it be even so. ‘Now Blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory: amen, and amen,Psalm 72:19.

Footnotes:

[1] ‘Qu. united’?ED.

[2] ‘Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirit.


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