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Sermon 42. Christ’s Advent to Judgement, being the fourth and last Degree of his Exaltation, illustrated and improved.
And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
Christ enthroned in the highest glory in heaven is there to abide for the effectual and successful government, both of the world, and of the church, until the number given him by the Father, before the world was, and purchased by the blood of the cross, be gathered in; and then comes the judgement of the great day, which will perfectly separate the precious from the vile; put the redeemed in full possession of the purchase of his blood in heaven, and “then shall he deliver up the kingdom to his Father, that God may be all in all.”
This last act of Christ, namely, his judging the world, is a special part of his exaltation and honour bestowed upon him, “because he is the Son of man,”, John 5:27. In that day shall his glory, as King, and absolute Lord, shine forth as the sun when it shines in its strength. O what an honour will it be to the man Christ Jesus, who stood arraigned and condemned at Pilate’s bar, to sit upon the great white throne, surrounded with thousands, and ten thousands of angels! Men and devils waiting upon him to receive the final sentence from his mouth. In this will the glory of Christ’s sovereignty and power be eminently and illustriously displayed before angels and men. And this is that great truth which he commanded to be preached and testified to the people, namely, that is it “he which is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead”.
Wherein we have four things to be distinctly considered, viz. The subject, object, fountain and truth of the supreme judiciary authority.
First, The subject of it, Christ, it is he that is ordained to be Judge. Judgement is the act of the whole undivided Trinity. The Father and Spirit judge, as well as Christ, in respect of authority and consent, but is its the act of Christ, in respect of visible management and execution, and so it is his per proprietatem by propriety, the Father having conferred it upon him, as the Son of man; but not his per appropriationem, so as to exclude either the Father or Spirit from their authority, for they judge by him.
Secondly, The object of Christ’s judiciary authority. The quick and dead, i.e. all that at his coming do live, or ever had lived. This is the Object personal. All men and women that ever sprang from Adam: all the apostate spirits that fell from heaven, and are reserved in chains to the judgement of this great day. And in this personal object, is included the real object, viz. All the actions, both secret and open, that ever they did, 2 Cor. 5:5, Rom. 2:16.
Thirdly, The Fountain of this delegated authority, which is God the Father; for he has ordained Christ to be the Judge. “He is appointed”, as the Son of man, to this honourable office and work. The word notes, a firm establishment of Christ in that office by his Father. He is now, by right of redemption, Lord and King. He enacts laws for government, then he comes to judge of men’s obedience and disobedience to his laws.
Fourthly, and lastly, Here is the infallible truth, or unquestionable certainty of all this: “He gave us commandment to preach and testify it to the people.” We had it in charge from his own mouth; and dare not hide it. Hence the point of doctrine is plainly this,
Doct. That our Lord Jesus Christ is ordained by God the Father
to be the Judge of quick and dead.
This truth stands upon the firm basis of scripture authority. You have it from his own hand, John 5: 22. “The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgement to the Son,” viz. in the sense before given. And so the apostle, Acts 17: 31. “He has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance,” &c. And again, Rom. 2: 16. “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” Three things will be opened here. First, The certainty of a judgement to come. Secondly, The quality and nature of it. Thirdly, That it is a special part of Christ’s exaltation to be appointed Judge in this day.
First, The certainty of a judgement. This is a truth of firmer establishment than heaven and earth. It is no devised fable, no cunning artifice to keep the world in awe! but a thing as confessedly true as it is awfully solemn. For,
First, As the scriptures aforementioned (with these, 2 Cor. 5: 10. Eccles. 12: 14. Matt. 12: 36. and many other, the true and faithful sayings of God) do very plainly reveal it; so the justice and righteousness of God require it should be so. For the Judge of all the earth will do right, Gen. 18: 25. Now righteousness itself requires that a difference be made betwixt the righteous and the wicked: “Say ye to the righteous it shall be well with him; woe to the wicked, it shall be ill with him,” Isa. 3: 10. But no such distinction is generally and fully made betwixt one another in this world. Yea, rather the wicked prosper, and the righteous perish, there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness, Eccles. 7: 15. Yea, not only in, but for his righteousness, as it may be fairly rendered.
Here the “wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than himself,” Hab. 1: 13. As the fishes of the sea, where the great and strong swallow up the small and weak. And even in courts of judicature, where the innocent might expect relief; there they often meet with the worst oppressions. How fairly and justly therefore does the wise man infer a judgement to come from this considerations, Eccles. 3: 16, 17, “I saw under the sun the place of judgement that wickedness was there, and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there; I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked; for there is a time there for every purpose, and for every work,” q. d. the judgement to come, is the only relief and support left to poor innocents, to quiet and comfort themselves withal. To the same purpose also is that, Jam. 5: 6, 7. “Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you; be patient, therefore, brethren unto the coming of the Lord.” It is confessed, that sometimes, God vindicates his providence against the Atheism of the world, by particular strokes upon the wicked; but this is but rare. And as the Father well observes, “if no sin were punished here, no providence would be believed; again, if every sin were openly punished here, no judgement hereafter could be expected.” Besides,
Secondly, Man is a reasonable being, and every reasonable being, is an accountable being. He is a subject capable of moral government. His actions have a relation to a law. He is swayed by rewards and punishments. He acts by counsel, and therefore of his actions, he must expect to give an account, as it is Rom. 14: 12. “So then every one of us, shall give an account of himself to God.” Especially if we add, that all the gifts of body, mind, estate, time, &c. are so many talents, concredited and betrusted to him by God, and every one of us has one talent at least; therefore a time to render an account for all these talents will come, Matth. 25: 14, 15. We are but stewards, and stewards must give an account, in order whereto, there must be a great audit day.
Thirdly, And what need we seek evidence of this truth, further than our own conscience? Lo, it is a truth engraven legibly upon every man’s own breast. Every one has a kind of little tribunal, or privy sessions in his own conscience, which both accuses and excuses for good and evil, which it could never do, were there not a future judgement, of which it is now conscious to itself. In this court, records are now kept of all we do, even of our secret actions and thoughts, which never yet took air; but of no judgement, what need of records? Nor let any imagine, that this may be but the fruit of education and discourse. We have heard of such things, and so are scared by them. For if so, how comes it to obtain so universally? Who could be the author of such a common deception?
Reader, bethink thyself a little; if thou hast a mind (as one saith) to impose a lie upon all the world, what course wouldst thou take? How wouldst thou lay the design? Or why dost thou in this case imagine what thou knowest not how to imagine? It is evident that the very consciences of the Heathens, have these offices of accusing and excusing, Rom. 2: 15. And it is hard to imagine, (as an ingenious author speaks) that a general cheat should bow down the backs of all mankind, and induce so many doubts and fears, and troubles, amongst them; and give an interruption to the whole course of their corrupt living, and that there should be no account of it? And therefore it is undoubted that such a day will come. But I shall rather chose, in the
Second Place, to open the nature and manner of this judgement, than to spend more time in proving a truth, that cannot be denied without violence offered to a man’s own light. If then the question be, What manner of judgement will this be? I answer,
First, It will be a great and awful day. It is called the “judgement of the great day,” Jude 6. Three things will make it so, the manner of Christ’s coming; the work he comes about; and the issues, or events of that work. The manner of Christ’s coming, will be awfully solemn, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air,” &c. 1 Thess. 4: 16, 17. Here Christ breaks out of heaven, with the shouts of angels, “en keleusmai”, it signifies such a shout, saith one, as is to be heard among seamen, when after a long and dangerous voyage, they first descry land, crying aloud, with united voices, a shore, a shore. As the poet describes the Italians, when they saw their native country, “lifting up their voices, and making the heavens ring again with Italy, Italy: or as armies shout when the signal of battle is given.” Above all which (as some expound it) shall the voice of the Archangel be distinctly heard. And after this shout, the trump of God shall sound. By this tremendous blast, sinners will be affrighted out of their graves; but to the saints, it will carry no more terror, then the roaring of cannons, when armies of friends approach a besieged city, for the relief of them that are within it. The dead being raised, they shall be gathered before the great throne on which Christ shall sit in his glory; and there be divided exactly to the right and left hand of Christ, by the angels. Here will be the greatest assembly that ever met. Where Adam may see his numerous offspring, even as the sand upon the sea shore, which no man can number. And never was there such a perfect division made, (how many divisions soever have been in the world) none was ever like it. The saints in this great Oecumenical assize (as the author stiles it) shall meet the Lord in the air, and there the Judge shall sit upon the throne, and all the saints shall be placed upon bright clouds, as on seats or scaffolds round about him; the wicked remaining below upon the earth, there to receive their final doom and sentence.
These preparatives will make it awful; and much more will the work itself, that Christ comes about, make it so. For it is “to judge the secrets of men,” Rom. 2: 16. To sever the tares from the wheat; to make every man’s whites and blacks appear; and according as they are found in that trial, to be sentenced to their everlasting and immutable states. O what a solemn thing is this!
And no less will the execution of the sentence on both parts make it a great and solemn day. The heart of man cannot conceive what impressions the voice of Christ, from the throne, will make, both upon believers, and unbelievers.
Imagine Christ upon his glorious throne, surrounded with myriads and legions of angels, his royal guard; a poor unbeliever trembling at the bar; an exact scrutiny made into his heart and life; the dreadful sentence given; and then a cry; and then his delivering him over to the executioners of eternal vengeance, never, never, to see a glimpse of hope or mercy any more.
Imagine Christ, like the general of an army, mentioning with honour, on the head of all the hosts of heaven and earth, all the services that the saints have done for him in this world: then sententially justifying them by open proclamation; then mounting with him to the third heavens, and entering the gates of that city of God, in that noble train of saints and angels intermixed; and so for ever to be with the Lord. O what a great day must this be!
Secondly, As it will be awful and solemn judgement, so it will be a critical and exact judgement, every man will be weighed to his ounces and drachms. The name of the judge is “Kardiognoses”, the Searcher of hearts. The judge has eyes as flames of fire, which pierce to the dividing of the heart and reins. It is said, Matth. 12:36. That men shall then “give an account of every idle word that they shall speak.” It is a day that will perfectly fan the world. No hypocrite can escape; Justice holds the balances in an even hand: Christ will go to work so exactly, that some divines of good note think, the day of judgement will last as long as this day of the gospel’s administration has lasted, or shall last.
Thirdly, it will be an universal judgement, 2 Cor. 5: 10. “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ.” And Rom. 14: 12. “Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.” Those that were under the law, “and those that having no law, were a law to themselves,” Rom. 2: 12. Those that had many talents, and he that had but one talent, must appear at this bar; those that were carried from the cradle to the grave, with him that stooped forage: the rich, and poor; the father, and the child; the master, and servant; the believer, and the unbeliever, must stand forth in that day. “I saw the dead, both small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened,” Rev. 20: 12.
Fourthly, It will be a judgement full of convictive clearness. All things will be so sifted to bran, (as we say), that the sentence of Christ, both on saints and sinners, shall be applauded. “Righteous art thou, O Lord, because thou hast judged thus.” His judgements will be as the light that goes forth. So that those poor sinners whom he will condemn, shall be first “autokatakritoi”, self condemned. Their own consciences shall be forced to confess, that there is not one drop of injustice in all that sea of wrath, into which they are to be cast.
Fifthly, and lastly, It will be a supreme and final judgement, from which lies no appeal. For it is the sentence of the highest, and only Lord. “For as the ultimate resolution of faith is into the word and truth of God, so the ultimate resolution of justice is into the judgement of God.” This judgement is supreme and imperial. For Christ is the only Potentate, 1 Tim. 6: 5. and therefore the sentence once passed, its execution is infallible. And so you find it in that judicial process, Matth. 25: ult. just after the sentence is pronounced by Christ, it is immediately added, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” This is the judgement of the great day.
Thirdly, In the last place, I must inform you, that God, in ordaining Christ to be the Judge, has very highly exalted him. This will be very much for his honour: for in this, Christ’s royal dignity will be illustrated, beyond whatever it was since he took our nature, till that day; now he will appear in his glory. For,
First, This act of judging pertaining properly to the kingly office, Christ will be glorified as much in his kingly office, as he has been in either of the other. We find but some few glimpses of the kingly office, breaking forth in this world: as, his riding with Hosannas into Jerusalem; his whipping the buyers and sellers out of the temple, his title upon the cross, &c. But these were but faint beams: Now that office will shine in its glory, as the sun in the midst of the heavens. For what were the Hosannas of little children, in the streets of Jerusalem, to the shouts and acclamations of thousands of angels, and ten thousands of saints? what was his whipping the profane out of the temple, to his turning the wicked into hell, and sending his angels to gather out of his kingdom every thing that offendeth? what was a title written be his judge, and fixed on the ignominious tree, to the name that shall now be seen on his vesture, and on his thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Secondly, This will be a display of his glory in the highest, before the whole world. For they will be present at once, and together, all the inhabitants of heaven, and earth, and hell; angels must be there to attend and minister; those glittering courtiers of heaven must attend his person; so that heaven will, for a time, be left empty of all its inhabitants: men and devils must be there to be judged: and before this great assembly, will Christ appear in royal Majesty. He will, (to allude to that text, Isa. 24:23.) reign before his ancients gloriously. “For he will come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe,” 2 Thess. 1: 10. The inhabitants of the three regions, heaven, earth and hell, shall then rejoice, or tremble before him, and acknowledge him to be supreme Lord and King.
Thirdly, This will roll away for ever the reproach of his death: for Pilate and the High-priest, that judged him at their bars, shall now stand quivering at his bar; with Herod that set him at nought, the soldiers and officers that traduced and abused him: there they that reviled him on the cross, wagging their heads, will stand, with trembling knees, before his throne. For “every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him,” Rev. 1: 7. O what a contemptible person was Christ in their eyes once? As a worm, and no man. Every vile wretch could freely tread and trample on him; but now such will be the brightness of his glory, such the awful beams of majesty, that the wicked shall not stand in his presence, or “be able to rise up,” (as that word imports, Psal. 1: 5.) “before him.” So that this will be a full and universal vindication of the death of Christ, from all that contempt and ignominy that had attended it. We next improve it.
Inference 1. Is Jesus Christ ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead? Great then is the security believers have, that they shall not be condemned in that day. Who shall condemn, when Christ is Judge? If believers be condemned in judgement, Christ must give sentence against them; yea, and they must condemn themselves too. I say, Christ must give sentence, for that is the proper and peculiar office of Christ. And, to be sure, no sentence of condemnation shall in that day be given by Christ against them. For,
First, He died to save them, and he will never cross and overthrow the designs and ends of his own death. That cannot be imagined. Nay,
Secondly, They have been cleared and absolved already. And being once absolved by divine sentence, they can never be condemned afterward. For one divine sentence cannot cross and rescind another. He justified them here in this world by faith: Declared in his word, (which shall then be the rule of judgement, Rom. 2: 16.) that “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ,” Rom. 8: 1. And surely he will not retract his own word, and give a sentence quite cross to his own statute book, out of which he has told us that they shall be judged. Moreover,
Thirdly, The far greatest part of them will have passed their particular judgement, long, before that day, and being therein acquitted by God the Judge of all; and admitted into heaven upon the score and account of their justification; it cannot be imagined that Christ should now condemn them with the world. Nay,
Fourthly, He that judged them is their head, husband, friend, and brother: who loved them, and gave himself for them. O then, with what confidence may they go, even unto his throne? and say, with Job, “Though he try us as fire, we know we shall come forth as gold.” We know that we shall be justified. Especially, if we add, that they themselves shall be the assessors with Christ in that day. And, (as a judicious author pertinently observes,) not a sentence shall pass without their votes. “So as that they may by faith not only look upon themselves as already in heaven, sitting with Christ, as a common person, in their right; but they may look upon themselves as judges already. So that if any sin should arise to accuse or condemn, yet it must be with their votes. And what greater security can they have than this, that they must condemn themselves, if they be condemned.” No, it is not the business of that day to condemn, but to absolve and pronounce them pardoned and justified, according to the sentence of Acts 3: 19. and Mat. 12: 32. So that its must needs be a time of refreshing, (as all scriptures call it,) to the people of God. You that now believe, shall not come into condemnation, John 5: 24. You that now judge yourselves, shall not be condemned with the world, 1 Cor. 11: 31, 32.
Inf. 2. If Christ be ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead, how miserable a case will Christless souls be in at that day! They that are Christless now, will be speechless, helpless, and hopeless then. How will their hands hang down, and their knees knock together! O what pale faces, quivering lips, fainting hearts, and roaring consciences will be among them in that day! O dreadful day! O astonishing sight! to see the world in a dreadful conflagration, the elements netting, the stars falling, the earth trembling, the judgement set, the prisoners brought forth; O who shall endure this day, but those that by union with Christ are secured against the danger and dread of it! Let me demand of poor Christ less souls, whom this day is like to take unawares,
First, Do you think it possible to avoid appearing, after that terrible citation is given to the world by the trump of God? Alas, how can you imagine it? is not the same power that revived your dust, able to bring you before the bar? There is a necessity that you must come forth, 2 Cor. 5: 10. “We [must] all appear.” It is not in the sinner’s choice, to obey the summons or not.
Secondly, If you must appear, are there no accusers, nor witnesses, that will appear against you, and confront you in the court? What think you, was Satan so often a tempter to you here, and will he not be an accuser there? Yes, nothing surer; for that was the main design of all his temptations. What think you of your own consciences? are they not privy to your secret wickedness; do not they now sometimes whisper in your ears, what you care not to hear of? If they whisper now, they will thunder then, Rom. 2: 15, 16. Will not the Spirit accuse you, for resisting his motions, and stifling thousands of his convictions? Will not your companions in sin accuse you, who drew or were drawn by you to sin? Will not your teachers be your accusers? How many times have you made them complain, Lord, they are iron and brass, they have made their faces harder than a rock; they refuse to return. Will not your very relations be your accusers, to whom you have failed in all your relational duties? Yea, and every one whom you have tempted to sin, abused, defrauded, overreached; all these will be your accusers. So that it is without dispute, you will have accusers enough to appear against you.
Thirdly, Being accused before Jesus Christ what will you plead for yourselves: will you confess, or will you deny the charge. If you confess, what need more? “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee,” saith Christ, Luke 19: 22. If you deny, and plead not guilty, thy Judge is the searcher of hearts, and knows a11 things. So that it will not at all help thee to make a lie thy last refuge. This will add to the guilt, but not cover it.
Fourthly, If no defence or plea be left thee, then what canst thou imagine should retard the sentence? Why should not Christ go on to that dreadful work? “Must not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18: 25. Must not you render to every man according to his deeds? 2 Cor. 5: 10. Yes, no question but he will proceed to that sentence, how terrible soever it be to you to think on it now, or hear it then.
Fifthly, To conclude, if sentence be once given by Christ against thy soul, what in all the world canst thou imagine should hinder the execution? will he alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth? No, Psal. 89: 34. Dost thou hope he is more merciful and pitiful than so? Thou mistakes, if you expect mercy out of that way in which he dispenses it. There will be thousands, and ten thousands that will rejoice in, and magnify his mercy then; but they are such as obey his call, repented, believed, and obtained union with his person here; but for unbelievers, it is against the settled law of Christ, and constitution of the gospel, to show mercy to the despisers of it. But it may be, you think your tears, your cries, your pleadings with him, may move him; these indeed might have done somewhat in time, but they come out of season now. Alas, too late. What the success of such pleas and cries will be, you may see if you will but consult two scriptures, Job 27: 8, 9. “What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble comes upon him?” No: And Matt. 7: 22. “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me ye that work iniquity.”
And must it come to this dismal issue with you indeed? God forbid it should. Oh then,
Inf. 3. If Christ be appointed of God to be the Judge of all, how are all concerned to secure their interest in him, and therein an eternal happiness to their own souls, by the work of regeneration? Of all the business that men and women have in this world, there is none so solemn, so necessary, and important as this. O my brethren, this is a work, able to drink up your spirits, while you do but think of the consequence of it.
Summon in then thy self-reflecting and considering powers: get alone, reader, and, forgetting all other things, ponder with thyself this deep, dear, eternal concernment of thine. Examine the state of thy own soul. Look into the scriptures, then into thine own heart, and then to heaven, saying, Lord, let me not be deceived in so great a concernment to me as this. O let not the trifles of time wipe off the impressions of death, judgement, and eternity from thy heart. O that long word [Eternity,] that it might be night any day with thee; that the awe of it may be still upon thy Spirit. A gentlewoman of this nation, having spent the whole afternoon, and a great part of the evening at cards, in mirth and jollity, came home late at night, and finding her waiting gentlewoman reading, she looked over her shoulder upon the book, and said, Poor melancholy soul, why dost thou sit here poring so long upon thy book? That night she could not sleep, but lay sighing and weeping; her servant asked her once and again what ailed her; at last she burst out into tears, and said, Oh! it was one word that I cast my eye upon in thy book, that troubles me; there I saw that word Eternity. How happy were I, if I were provided for eternity! Sure it concerns us, seeing we look for such things, to be diligent that we may be found of him in peace. O let not that day come by surprisal upon you. Remember, that as death leaves, so judgement will find you.
Inf. 4. Is Jesus Christ appointed Judge of quick and dead, then look to it, all you that hope to be found of him in peace, that you avoid those sins, and live in the daily practice of those duties, which the consideration of that day powerfully persuades you to avoid or practise. For it not only presses to holiness in actu primu, in the being of it; but in actu secondo, in the daily exercise and practice of it. Do you indeed expect such a day? Oh then,
First, See you be meek and patient under all injuries and abuses for Christ’s sake. Avenge not yourselves, but leave it to the Lord, who will do it. Do not anticipate the work of God. “Be patient, my brethren, to the coming of the Lord,” James 5: 7,8, 9.
Secondly, Be communicative, public-hearted Christians, studying and devising liberal things, for Christ’s distressed members; and you shall have both an honourable remembrance of it, and a full reward of it in that day, Mat. 25: 34, 35.
Thirdly, Be watchful, and sober, keep the golden bridle of moderation upon all your affections; and see that you be not overcharged with the cares and love of this present life, Luke 21: 34, 35. Will you that your Lord come and find you in such a posture? “O let your moderation be known unto all, the Lord is at hand,” Phil. 4: 5.
Fourthly, Improve all your Master’s talents diligently and carefully. Take heed of the napkin, Matt. 25: 14, 18. Then must you make up your account for them all.
Fifthly, But, above all, be sincere in your profession. Let your hearts be found in God’s statutes, that you may never be ashamed; for this day will be the day of manifestation of all hidden things. And nothing is so secret, but that day will reveal it, Luke 12: 1, 2, 3. “Beware of hypocrisy; for there is noting covered, which shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be made known.” - Thus I have finished, through divine aids, the whole doctrine of the impetration of redemption by Jesus Christ; we shall wind up the whole in a general exhortation, and I have done.
The General Use
And now, to close up all, let me persuade all those for whom the dear Son of God came from he blessed bosom of the Father; assumed flesh; brake, by the strength of his own love, through all discouragements and impediments; laid down his own life a ransom for their souls; for whom he lived, died, rose, ascended, and lives for ever in heaven to intercede; to live wholly to Christ, as Christ lived and died wholly for them.
O brethren, never was the heathen world acquainted with such arguments to deter them from sin; never acquainted with such motives to urge them to holiness, as I shall this day acquaint you with. My request is, to give up both your hearts and lives to glorify the Father, Son, and Spirit, whose you are, by the holiness and heavenliness of them. Other things are expected tram you than from other men. See that you turn not all this grace that has sounded in your ears into wantonness. Think not because Christ has done so much for you, you may sit still; much less indulge yourselves in sin, because Christ has offered up such an excellent sacrifice for the expiation of it. No, though Christ came to be a curse, he did not come to be a cloak for your sins. “If one died for all then were all dead; that they that live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him that died for them,” 2 Cor. 5: 15. O keep your lives pure and clean.
Do not make fresh work for the blood of Christ every day. “If you live in the Spirit, see that you walk in the Spirit, Gal. 5: 25, i.e. (saith Cornelius a Lapide very solidly) “Let us shape and order our lives and actions according to the dicates, instinct, and impulses of the Spirit, and of that grace of the Spirit put within us, and planted in our hearts, which tendeth to practical holiness.” O let the grace which is in your hearts, issue out into all your religious, civil, and natural actions. Let the faith that is in your hearts appear in your prayers; the obedience of your hearts in hearing; the meekness of your hearts in suffering; the mercifulness of you hearts in distributing; the truth and righteousness of your hearts in trading; the sobriety and temperance of your hearts in eating and drinking. These be the fruits of Christ’s sufferings indeed, they are sweet fruits. Let grace refine, ennoble, and elevate all your actions; that you may say, “Truly our conversation is in heaven.” Let grace have the ordering of your tongues, and of your hands; the mounding of your whole conversation. Let not humility appear in some actions, and pride in others; holy seriousness in some companies, and vain frothiness in others. Suffer not the fountain of corruption to mingle with, or pollute the streams of grace. Write as exactly as you can, after your copy, Christ. O let there not be (as one well expresses it) here a line, and there a blank; here a word, and there a blot. One word of God, and two of the world. Now a spiritual rapture, and then a fleshly frolic. This day an advance towards heaven, and to-morrow a slide back again towards hell. But be you in the fear of the Lord all the day long. Let there be a due proportion betwixt all the parts of your conversation. Approve yourselves the servants of Christ in all things. “By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness, on the right hand, and on the left,” 2 Cor. 6: 6. See then how accurately you walk. - Cut off occasion from them that desire occasion; and in well doing commit yourselves to God, and commend religion to the world. That this is your great concernment and duty, I shall evidence to your consciences, by these following considerations. That of all persons in the world, the redeemed of the Lord are most obliged to be holy; most assisted for a life of holiness; and that God intends to make great use of their lives, both for the conviction and conversion of others.
Consider, First, God has more obliged them to live pure and strict lives. I know the command obliges all men to it, even those that cast away the cords of the commands, and break Christ’s bonds asunder, are yet bound by them; and cannot plead a dispensation to live as they do. Yea, and it is not unusual for them to feel the obligations of the command upon their consciences, even when their impetuous lusts hurry them on to the violation of them; but there are special ties upon your souls, that oblige you to holiness more than others. Many special and peculiar engagements you are under. First, from God. Secondly, from yourselves. Thirdly, from your brethren. Fourthly, from your enemies.
First, God has peculiarly obliged you to purity and strictness of life. Yea, every Person in the blessed Trinity has cast his cord over your souls, to bind up your hearts and lives to the most strict and precise obedience of his commands. The Father has obliged you, and that not only by the common tie of creation, which is yet of great efficacy in itself; for, is it reasonable that God should create and form so excellent a piece, and that it should be employed against him? That he should plant the tree, and another eat the fruit of it? But, besides this common engagement, he has obliged you to holiness of life.
First, By his wise and merciful designs and counsels for your recovery and salvation by Jesus Christ. It was he that laid the corner-stone of your salvation with his own hands. The first motion sprang out of his breast. If God had not designed the Redeemer for you, the world had never seen him; he had never left that sweet Bosom for you. It was the act of the Father to give you to the Son to be redeemed, and then to give the Son to be a Redeemer to you. Both of them stupendous and astonishing acts of grace. And in both God acted as a most free Agent. When he gave you to Christ before the beginning of time, there was nothing out of himself that could in the least move him to it. When the Father, Son, and Spirit sat (as I may say) at the council-table, contriving and laying the design for the salvation of a few out of many of Adam’s degenerate offspring, there was none came before him to speak one word for thee; but such was the divine Pleasure to insert thy name in that catalogue of the saved. Oh how much owest thou to the Lord for this. And what an engagement does it leave upon thy soul, to obey, please, and glorify him?
Secondly, By his bountiful remunerations of your obedience, which have been wonderful. What service didst thou ever perform for him, for which he has not paid thee a thousand times more than it is worth. Didst thou ever seek him diligently, and not find him a bountiful rewarder? none seek him in vain, unless such only as seek him vainly, Heb. 11: 6. Didst thou ever give a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, and not receive a disciple’s reward? Matt. 10: 42. Hast thou not found inward peace and comfort flowing into thy soul, upon every piece of sincere obedience! Oh what a good Master do saints serve? You that are remiss and inconstant in your obedience, you that are heartless and cold in duties; hear how your God expostulates with you, Jer. 2: 31. “Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness?” q. d. Have I been a hard Master to you? Have you any reason to complain of me? To whomsoever I have been strait handed, surely I have not been so to you. Are fruits of sin like fruits of obedience? Do you know where to find a better Master? Why then are you so shuffling and inconstant, so sluggish and remiss in my work? Surely God is not behind-hand with any of you. May you not say with David, Psal. 119: 56. “This I had, because I kept thy precepts.” There are fruits in holiness, even present fruit. It is a high favour to be employed for God. Reward enough that he will accept any thing thou dost. But to return every duty thou representest to him with such comforts, such quickening, such inward and outward blessings into thy bosom, so that thou mayest open the treasury of thine own experiences, view the variety of encouragements and tokens of his love, at several times received in duties; and say, this I had, and that I had, by waiting on God, and serving him. Oh what an engagement is this upon thee to be ever abounding in the work of the Lord! Though thou must not work for wages; yet God will not let thy work go unrewarded. For he is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.
Thirdly, Your Father has further obliged you to holiness and purity of life, by signifying to you (as he has frequently done) thee great delight and pleasure he hath therein. He hath told you, “that such as are upright in the way are his delight,” Prov. 11: 20. That he would not have you forget to do good, and to communicate, for with such sacrifices he is well pleased,” Heb. 13: 16. You know you cannot “walk worthy of the Lord to all pleasing, [excepts ye be fruitful in every good word and work,” Col. 1: 10. And oh what a bond is this upon you to live holy lives! Can you please yourselves in displeasing your Father? If you have the hearts of children in you, sure you cannot. O you cannot grieve his Spirit by loose and careless walking, but you must grieve your own spirits too. How many times has God pleased you, gratified and contented you, and will you not please and content him? This mercy you have asked of him, and he gave it, that mercy and you were not denied; in many things the Lord has wonderfully condescended to please you, and now there is but one thing that he desires of you, and that most reasonable, yea, beneficial for you, as well as pleasing to him, Phil. 1: 27. “Only let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This is the one thing, the great and main thing he expects from you in this world, and will not you do it? Can you expect he should gratify your desires, when you make no more of grieving and displeasing him? Well, if you know what will please God, and yet resolve not to do it, but will rather please your flesh, and gratify the devil than him; pray pull off your wizards, fall into your own rank among hypocrites, and appear as indeed you are.
Fourthly, The Father hath further obliged you to strictness and purity of conversation, by his gracious promises made to such as so walk. He has promised to do great things for you, if you will but do this one thing for him. If you will “order your conversation aright,” Psal. 50 ult. He will be your sun and shield, if you walk before him and be upright, Gen. 15: 1. “He will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from him that walketh uprightly,” Psal. 84: 11. And he promises no more to you, than he has made good to others, that have thus walked, and stands ready to perform to you also. If you look to enjoy the good of the promise, you are obliged by all your expectations and hopes to order your lives purely and uprightly. This hope will set you on work to purge your lives, as well as your hearts, from all pollutions, 2 Cor. 7: 1. “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Fifthly, Yea, He hath yet more obliged you to strict and holy lives, by his confidence in you, that you will thus walk and please him. He expresseth himself in scripture, as one that dares trust you with his glory, knowing that you will be tender of it, and dare do no otherwise. But if a man repose confidence in you, and trust you with his concerns, it greatly obliges you to be faithful. What an engagement was that upon Abraham to walk uprightly, when God said of him, Gen. 18: 19. “I know him, that he will commend his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,” q. d. as for this wicked generation, whom I will speedily consume in my wrath, I know they regard not my laws, they will trample my commands under their feet, they care not how they provoke me, but I expect other things from Abraham, and I am confident he will not fail me. I know him, he is a man of another spirit, and what I promise myself from him, he will make good. And to the like purpose is that in Isa. 63: 7. “I will mention the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord; according to all that the Lord has bestowed on us, and the great goodness towards the house of Israel, which he has bestowed on them, according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie, (or fail me:) so he was their Saviour.” Here you have an ample account of the endearing mercies of God to that people, ver. 7. and the Lord’s confident expectations of suitable returns from them, ver. 8. I said, i.e. (speaking after the manner of men in like cases) I made a full account, that after all these endearments and favours bestowed upon them, they would not offer to be disloyal and false to me. I have made them sure enough to myself, by so many bonds of love. Like to which is that expression, Zeph. 3: 7. “I said, surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction.” Oh! how great are the expectations of God from such as you! I know Abraham, there is no doubt of him! And again, they are children that will not lie, i.e. they will not fallere fidem datam, break their covenant with me. Or they are my people that will not shrink, as Mr. Coverdale well translates, filii non negantes, such as will be true to me, and answer their covenant-engagements. And again, surely thou wilt fear me, thou wilt receive instruction. And shall not all this engage you to God? What! Neither the ancient and bountiful love of God, in contriving your redemption from eternity, nor the bounty of God, in rewarding all and every piece of service you have done for him? Nor yet the pleasure he takes in your obedience and upright walking? nor the encouraging promises he has made thereto, nor yet his confident expectations of such a life from you, whom he has so many ways obliged and endeared to himself? Will you forget your ancient friend, condemn his rewards, take no delight or care to please him? Slight his promises, and deceive and fail his expectations? “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this! and be horribly afraid.” Consider how God the Father has fastened this fivefold cord upon your souls, and show yourselves Christians; yea, to use the prophet’s words, Isa. 46: 8. “Remember this, and show yourselves men.”
Secondly, You are further engaged to this precise and holy life, by what the Son has done for you; is not this pure and holy life the very aim, and next end of his death? Did he not shed his blood to “redeem you from your vain conversations?” 1 Pet. 1: 18. Was not this the design of all his sufferings? “That being delivered out of the hands of your enemies, you might serve him in righteousness and holiness all the days of your life,” Luke 1: 74, 75. And is not the apostle’s inference, 2 Cor. 5: 14, 15. highly reasonable? “If one died for all, then were all dead, and that he died for all, that they which live, should not henceforth live to themselves, but to him that died for them.” Did Christ only buy your persons, and not your services also? No, whoever has thy time, thy strength, or any part of either, I can assure thee, Christian, that Christ has paid for it, and thou givest away what is none of thine own to give. Every moment of thy time is his, every talent, whether of grace or nature, is his; and dost thou defraud him of his own? O how liberal are you of your precious words and hours, as if Christ had never made a purchase of them! O think of this, when thy life runs muddy and foul. When the fountain of corruption flows out at thy tongue, in idle frothy discourses; or at thy hand, in sinful unwarrantable actions? Does this become the redeemed of the Lord? Did Christ come from the bosom of his Father for this? Did he groan, sweat, bleed, endure the cross, and lay down his life for this? Was he so well pleased with all his sorrows and sufferings, his pangs and agonies, upon the account of that satisfaction he should have in seeing the travail of his soul? Isa. 53: 11. as if he had said, “Welcome death, welcome agonies, welcome the bitter cup and heavy burden; I cheerfully submit to all this. These are travailing pangs indeed, but I shall see the beautiful birth at last. These throws and agonies shall bring forth many lovely children to God; I shall have joy in them, and glory from them, to all eternity. This blood of mine, these sufferings of mine, shall purchase to me the persons, duties, services, and obedience of many thousands that will love me, and honour me, serve me, and obey me, with their souls and bodies which are mine.” And does not this engage you to look to your lives, and keep them pure? Is not every one of Christ’s wounds a mouth open to plead for more holiness, more service, and more fruit from you? Oh! what will engage you if this will not? But,
Thirdly, This is not all; as a man when he weigheth a thing, casteth in weight after weight, till the scales are counterpoised; so does God cast in engagement after engagement, and argument upon argument, till thy heart, Christian, be weighed up and won to this heavenly light. And therefore, as Elihu said to Job, chap. 36: 22. “Suffer me a little, and I will show thee what I have yet to speak on God’s behalf.” Some arguments have already been urged on the behalf of the Father and Son, for purity and cleanness of life; and next I have something to plead on the behalf of the Spirit. I plead now on his behalf, who has so many times helped you to plead for yourselves with God. He that has so often refreshed, quickened, and comforted you, he will be quenched, grieved, and displeased by an impure, loose, and careless conversation; and what will you do then? Who shall comfort you when the Comforter is departed from you? When he that should relieve your souls is far off? O grieve not the holy Spirit of God by which you are sealed, to the day of redemption, Eph. 4: 30. There is nothing grieves him more than impure practices, for he is a holy Spirit. And look, as water damps and quenches the fire, so does sin quench the Spirit, 1 Thess. 5: 19. Will you quench the warm affections and burning desires which he has kindled in your bosoms? If you do, it is a question whether ever you may recover them again to your dying day. The Spirit has a delicate sense. It is the most tender thing in the whole world. He feels the least touch of sin, and is grieved when thy corruptions within are stirred by temptations, and break out to the defiling of thy life; then is the holy Spirit of God, as it were, made sad and heavy within thee. As that word “me lukeite”, Eph. 4: 30. may be rendered. For thereby thou resistest his motions, whereby in the way of a loving constraint he would lead and guide thee in the way of thy duty; yea, thou not only resistest his motions, but crossest his grand design, which is to purge and sanctify thee wholly, and build thee up more and more to the perfection of holiness. And when thou thus forsakes his conduct, and crossest his design in thy soul, then does he usually withdraw as a man that is grieved by the unkindness of his friend. He draws in the beams of his evidencing and quickening grace, withholds all his divine cordials, and saith, as it were, to the unkind and disingenuous soul,
“Hast thou thus requited me, for all the favours and kindnesses thou hast received from me? Have Iquickened thee, when thou was dead in transgressions? Did I descend upon thee in the preaching of the gospel, and communicate careless life, even the life of God, to thee; leaving others in the state of the dead? Have I shed forth such rich influences of grace and comfort upon thee? Comforting thee in all thy troubles, helping thee in all thy duties; satisfying thee in all thy doubts and perplexities of soul; saving thee, and pulling thee back from so many destructive temptations and dangers? What had been thy condition, if I had not come unto thee? Could the world have converted thee without me? Could ministers, could angels, have done that for thee which I did? And when I had quickened thee, and made thee a living soul, what couldst thou have done, without my exciting and assisting grace? Couldst thou go on in the way of duty, if I had not led thee? How wouldst thou have waded through the deeps of spiritual troubles, if I had not borne thee up? Whither had the temptations of Satan and thine own corruptions carried thee before this day, if I had not stood thy Friend, and come in for thy rescue in the time of need? Did I ever fail thee in thy extremities? Did I ever leave thee in thy dangers? Have I not been tender over thee, and faithful to thee? And now, for which of all these kindnesses, dost thou thus wrong and abuse me? Why hast thou wounded me thus by thy unkindness? Ah! thou hast ill requited my love! And now thou shalt eat the fruit of thy doings. Let thy light now be darkness; thy songs turned into cowlings; the joy of thine heart, the light of thine eyes, the health of thy countenance, even the face of thy God, and the joy of salvation, be hid from thee.”
This is the fruit of careless and loose walking. To this sad issue it will bring thee at last, and when it is come to this, thou shalt go to ordinances, and duties, and find no good in them; no life-quickening comfort there. When thy heart which was wont to be enlarged, and flowing, shall be clung up and dry; when thou shalt kneel down before the Lord, and cry, as Elisha, when with the mantle of Elijah, he smote the water, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” So thou, where is the God of prayer? Where is the God of duties? But there is no answer: when like Samson, thou shalt go forth and shake thyself, as at other times; but thy strength is gone; then tell me, what thou hast done in resisting, quenching, and grieving the Holy Spirit of God by impure and offensive practices? And thus you see what engagements lie upon you from the Spirit also to walk uprightly, and keep the issues of life pure. I could willingly have enlarged myself upon this last branch, but that a judicious hand has lately improved this argument, to which I shall refer the reader. Thus God has obliged you to circumspect and holy lives.
Secondly, You are under great engagements to keep your lives pure; even from yourselves, as well as from your God. As God has bound you to purity of conversation, so you have bound yourselves. And there are several things in you, and done by you, which wonderfully increase, and strengthen your obligations to practical holiness.
First, Your clearer illumination is a strong bond upon your souls, Eph. 5: 8. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord; walk as children of the light.” You cannot pretend, or plead ignorance of your duty. You stand convinced in your own consciences before God, that this is your unquestionable duty. Christians, will you not all yield to this? I know you readily yield. We live, indeed, in a contentious, disputing age. In other things, our opinions are different. One Christian is of this judgement, another of that: but does he deserve the name of a Christian that dare once question this truth? In this we all meet and close in oneness of mind and judgement, that it is our indisputable duty to live pure, strict, and clean lives. “The grace of God, which has appeared to you, has taught you this truth clearly, and convincingly,” Tit. 2: 11, 12. “You have received how you ought to walk, and to please God,” 1 Thess. 4: 1. Well then, this being yielded, the inference is plain and undeniable, that you cannot walk as others, in the vanity of their mind; but you must offer violence to your own light. You cannot suffer the corruptions of your hearts to break forth into practice, but you must slight, and put by the notices and rebukes of your own consciences, Jam. 4: 17. “He that knoweth to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” Yea, sin with a witness. Aggravated sin. Sin of a deeper tincture than that of Heathens. Sin that sadly wastes and violates conscience. Certainly, whoever has, you have no cloak for your sin. Light and lust struggling together, great light and strong lusts: these make the soul a troubled sea that cannot rest. O but when masterless lusts overbear conscience, this impresses horror upon the soul. This brake David’s heart, Psal. 51: 6. “Thou hast put knowledge in my inner part”, q. d. Ah, Lord! I went against the rebukes of conscience, to the commission of this sin. I had a watchful light set up within me. I knew it was sin. My light endeavoured lovingly to restrain me, and I thrust it aside. Besides, what pleasure in sin can you have? Indeed, such as for want of light know not what they do, or such, whose consciences are seared, and past feeling; they may seek a little pleasure (such as it is) out of sin: but what content or pleasure can you have, so long as your light is ever breaking in upon you, and smiting you for what you do? This greatly increases your obligation to a precise, holy life. Again,
Secondly, You are professors of holiness. You have given in your names to Christ, to be his disciples; and by this your engagements to a life of holiness, are yet further strengthened, 2 Tim. 2: 19. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” The name of Christ is called upon you, and it is a worthy name, Jam. 2: 7. It is called upon you, as the name of the husband is called upon his wife, Isa. 4: 1. “Let thy name be called upon us.” Or, as the name of a Father is called upon his child, Gen. 48: 16. “Let my name be called on them, and the name of my fathers. Well then, you bear the name of Christ as his spouse or children; and will you not live suitably to your name? Every place and relation, every title of honour and dignity has its decorum and becomingness. O how will that worthy name of Christ be blasphemed through you, if you adorn it not with becoming deportment? Better you had never professed any thing, than to set yourselves by your profession in the eye and observation of the world; and then to pour contempt on Jesus Christ, by your scandalous conversations, before the eyes of the world, who will laugh at it. I remember it was a momento given to one of his name by Alexander, recordare nominis Alexandri. Remember (said he) thy name Alexander, and do nothing unworthy of that name. O, that is a heavy charge, Rom. 2: 24. “Through you is the name of God blasphemed among the Heathens.” Unhappy man that ever thou shouldst be a reproach to Christ: The herd of wicked men are ignota capita, men of no note or observation. They may sin, and sin again; drink, swear, and tumble in all uncleanness; and it passes away silently; the world takes little notice of it. Their wicked actions make but little noise in the world; but the miscarriages of professors, are like a blazing comet, or an eclipsed sun, which all men gaze at, and make their observations upon; oh then, what manner of persons ought you to be, who bear the worthy name of Christ upon you!
Thirdly, But more than this, You have obliged yourselves to this life of holiness by your own prayers. How many times have you lifted up your hands to heaven, and cried with David, Psal. 119: 5. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes. Order my steps in thy word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me,” ver. 133. Were you in earnest with God, when you thus prayed? did you mean as you said? Or did you only compliment with God? If your hearts and tongues agreed in this request, doubtless it is as much your duty to endeavour, as to desire those mercies and, if not, yet do all these prayers stand on record before the Lord, and will be produced against you as witnesses to condemn you, for your hypocrisy and vanity. How often also have you in your prayers lamented, and bewailed your careless and uneven walkings? You have said with Ezra, chap. 9: 6. “O my God, I am ashamed, and even blush to look up unto thee.” And do not your confessions oblige you to greater circumspection and care for time to come? Will you confess, and sin? And sin, and confess? Go to God and bewail your evils, and when you have bewailed them, return again to the commission of them? God forbid you should thus dissemble with God, play with sin, and dye your iniquities with a deeper tincture.
Fourthly, and lastly, to add no more, You have often reproved or censured others for their miscarriages and falls, which adds to your own obligation, to walk accurately, and evenly. Have you not often reproved your erring brethren? or at least privately censured them, if not duty reproved them, (for to these left-handed blows of secret censurings, we are more apt, than to the fair and open strokes of just and due reproofs (and will you practice the same things you criminals and censure others for? “Thou that teachest another, saith the apostle) teachest thou not thyself?” Rom. 2: 21. So say I, thou that censures or rebukes another, condemnest thou not thyself? Will your rebukes ever do good to others, whilst you allow in yourselves what you condemn in them? And as these reproofs and censures can do them no good, so they do you much evil, by reason of them you are “autokatakritoi”, self-condemned persons; and out of your own mouths God will judge you. For you need no other witness than yourselves in this case. Your own tongues will fall upon you. Your censures and reproofs of others will leave you without plea or apology, if you look not to your lives with greater care. And yet will you be careless still? Fear you not the displeasure of God? Nor the wounding and disquieting your own consciences? Surely, these things are of no light value with you, if you be Christians indeed.
Thirdly, You are yet further engaged to practical holiness upon the account of your brethren, who are not a little concerned and interested therein. For if, through the neglect of your hearts your lives be defiled and polluted, this will be thrown in their faces, and many innocent and upright ones both reproached and grieved upon your account. This mischievous effect holy David earnestly deprecated, Psal. 69: 5, 6. “O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee; let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake. Let not them that seek thee, be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel,” q. d. Lord, thou knowest what a weak and foolish creature I am. And how apt to miscarry, if left to myself, and should I, through my foolishness, act unbecoming a saint; how would this shame the faces, and sadden the hearts of thy people! They will be as men confounded at the report of my fall. The fall of one Christian is matter of trouble and shame to all the rest; and, when they shall hear the sad and unwelcome news of your scandalous miscarriages, (which will certainly be the effect of a neglected heart and life) they will say as David concerning Saul and Jonathan, “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon,” &c. Or as Tamar concerning Amnon, “And we, whither shall we cause our shame to go?” And for them, they shall be as fools in Israel. Thy loose and careless life will cause them to estrange themselves from thee, and look shy upon thee, as being ashamed to own thee, and canst thou bear that; will it not grieve and pierce your very hearts to see a cloud of strangeness and trouble over the countenances of your brethren? To see yourselves disowned and lightly esteemed by them? This very consideration struck a great favourite in the Persian court to the very heart. It was Ustazanes, who had been governor to Sapores in his minority. And this man for fear denied the Christian faith, and complied with the idolatrous worship of the king. And one Day (saith the historian) sitting at the court-gate, he saw Simon, the aged archbishop of Seleucia, drawn along to prison, for his constancy in the Christian faith; and, though he durst not openly own the Christian faith he had so basely denied, and confess himself a Christian, yet he could not chuse but rise, and express his reverence to this holy man, in a respective and honourable salutation; but the zealous good man frowned upon him, and turned away his face from him, as thinking such an apostate unworthy of the least respect from him This presently struck Ustazanes to the heart, and drew from him many tears and groans, and thus he reasoned with himself: Simon will not own me, and can I think but that God will disclaim me, when I appear before his tribunal? Simon will not speak unto me, will not so much as look upon me, and can I look for so much as a good word or look from Jesus Christ, whom I leave so shamefully betrayed and denied? Hereupon he threw off his rich courtly robes, and put on mourning, apparel, and professed himself a Christian, and died a martyr O it is a piercing thing to an honest heart, to be cast out of the favour of God’s people. If you walk loosely, neither God nor his people look in kindly upon you.
Fourthly, and lastly; Your very enemies engage you to this pure and holy life upon a double ground. You are obliged by them two ways, viz. as they are your bold censurers, and your watchful observers. They censure you as hypocrites, and will you give them ground and matter for such a charge? They say, only your tongues are more holy than other men’s, and shall they prove it from your practice? They also observe you diligently; lie at catch, and are highly gratified by your miscarriages. If your lives be loose and defiled, you will not only be a shame to your friends, but the song of your enemies. You will make mirth in hell; and gratify all the enemies of God. This is that they watch for. They are curious observers of your goings And that which makes them triumph at your falls and miscarriages, is not only that deep rooted enmity betwixt the two seeds, but because all your miscarriages and evils are so many absolutions to their consciences, and justifications (as they think) of their ways and practices. For look, as your strictness and holiness does, as it were, cast and condemn them, as Noah, Heb. 11: 7. by his practice, condemned the world, their consciences fly in their faces, when they see your holy and pure conversations. It lays a damp upon them. It works upon their consciences, and causes many smart reflections. So when you fall, you, as it were, absolve their consciences, loose the bonds of conviction you had made fast upon them, and now there is matter of joy put before them.
Oh, say they, whatever these men talk, we see they are no better than we. They can do as we do. They can cozen and cheat for adventure. They can comply with any thing for their own ends; it is not conscience, as we once thought, but mere stomach and humour, that made them so precise. And oh! what a sad thing is this! hereby you shed soul-blood. You fasten the bands of death upon their souls. you kill those convictions, which, for any thing you know, might have made way to their conversion. When you fall, you may rise again; but they may fall at your example, and never rise more. Never have a good opinion of the ways of God, or of his people any more. Upon this consideration, David begs of God, Psal. 5: 8. “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies;” (or, as the Hebrew;) my observers, make thy way straight before my face. And thus you see how your very enemies oblige you to this holy and pure conversation also.
Now put all this together, and see to what these particulars will amount. You have heard how God the Father has engaged you to this purity of conversations by his designment of your salvation; rewarded your obedience; his pleasure in it; his promises to it; and his great confidence in you, that you will thus walk before him. The Lord Jesus has also engaged you thereunto by his death and sufferings, whereby you were redeemed from your vain conversations. The Spirit has engaged you, by telling you plainly how much you will grieve and wrong him, resist and quench him, if you do not keep yourselves pure. Yea, you are obliged further, by yourselves; your clear illumination; your high profession; your many prayers and confessions; your many censures and reprehensions of others; do all strengthen your obligation to holiness. Yea, you are obliged further to this holy life by the shame, grief, and trouble your loose walking will bring upon your friends; and the mirth it will make for, and mischief it will do to your enemies; who, thereby, may be made utterly to fall, where, it may be, you only have stumbled: who are justified and absolved, (as before yell heard), by your miscarriages. And now, what think you of all this? Are you obliged or not, to this purity of life? Are all these bonds so tied, that you can set loose, and free yourselves at pleasure from them? If all these things are of no force with you, if none of these bonds can hold you, may it not be questioned, (notwithstanding your profession), whether any spiritual principle, any fear of God, o; love to Christ, be in your souls or no? O, you could not play fast and loose with God? if so, you could not, as Samson, snap these bonds asunder at your pleasure.
Consid. 2. Secondly, As you are more obliged to keep the issues of life pure than others are, so God has given you greater assitances and advantages for it than others have. God has not been wanting to any in helps and means. Even the Heathen, who are without the gospel, will be yet speechless and inexcusable before God; but how much more will you be so? Who, besides the light of nature, and the general light of the gospel, have, First, Such a principle put within you. Secondly, Such patterns set before you. Thirdly, Such an assistant ready to help you. Fourthly, So many rods to quicken you and prevent your wandering: if notwithstanding all these helps, your life be still unholy.
First, Shall men of such principles walk as others do? Shall we lament for you, as David once did for Saul, saying, “There the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul; as though he had not been anointed with oil.” There the honour of a Christian was vilely cast away, as though he had not been anointed with the Spirit? “You have received an unction from the holy One, which teaches you all things”, 1 John 2:20. Another Spirit, far above that which is in other men, 1 Cor. 2:12. And as this spirit which is in you, is fitted for this life of holiness ”(for you are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works”, Eph. 2:10.) so this holy spirit of principle, infused into your souls, has such a natural tendency to this holy life, that if you life not purely and strictly, you must offer violence to your own principles and new nature. A twofold help this principle affords you for a life of holiness.
1. First, It pulls you back from sin, as in Joseph; “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And it also inclines you powerfully to obedience. It is a curb to sin, and an spur to holiness. It is impossible for all others to live spiritually and heavenly, because they have no new nature to incline them hereunto. And, methinks, it should be hard for you to live carnally, and sensually; and therein cross the very bent and tendency of the new creature, which is formed in you. How can you neglect prayer, as others do, whilst the Spirit, by divine pulsations, is awaking and rousing up your sluggish hearts with such inward motions, and whispers, as that, Psal. 27:8. “Seek my face”. Yea, whilst you feel, (during your omissions of duty), something within that bemoans itself, and, as it were, cries for food, pains and gripes you, like an empty stomach, and will not let you be quiet, till it be relieved. How can you let out your hearts to the world, as other men do, when all that while your spirit is restless, and aches like a bone out of joint? And you can never be at ease, till you come back to God, and say, as Psal. 116 “Return to thy rest, O my soul”. Is it not hard, yea, naturally impossible, to fix a stone, and make it abide in the fluid air? Does not every creature, in a restless motion, tend to its proper centre, and desire its own perfection? So does this new creature also. You see how the rivers in their course will not be checked, but bear down all the obstacles in their way, et soevior ab obice ibit; a stop does but make them raise the more, and run the swifter afterwards.
There is a central force in these natural motions, which cannot be stopped. And the like may you observe, in the motions of a renewed soul, John 4: 14 “It shall be in him as a well of water springing up.” And is it not hard for you to keep it down, or turn its course? How hard did Jeremiah and David find that work? If you do not live holy lives, you must cross your own new nature, and violate the law that is written in your own hearts, and engraven upon your own bowels. To this purpose a late writer speaks; Till you were converted, (saith he) the flesh was predominant, and therefore it was impossible for you to live any other than a fleshly life; for every thing will act according to its predominant principle. Should you not therefore live a spiritual life? Should not the law of God written in your hearts, be legible in your lives? O should not your lives be according to the tendency of your hearts? Thus he: Doubtless this is no small advantage to practical holiness. But,
Secondly, Besides this principle within, you have no small assistance for the purity of life, by these excellent patterns before you. The path of holiness is no untrodden path to you. Christ and his servants have beaten it before you. The life of Christ is your copy, and it is a fair copy indeed, without a blot. Oh! what an advantage is this, to draw all the lines of your actions, according to his example! This glorious, grand example is often pressed upon for your imitation, Heb 12: 2. Looking to Jesus, he has left you an example, that ye should tread in his steps, 1 Pet 2: 21. His life is a living rule to his people; and besides Christ’s example, (for you may say, who can live as Christ did? his example is quite above us) you have a cloud of witnesses. A cloud for its directive use, and these men of like passions, temptations, and constitutions with you; who have gone before you in exemplary holiness. The Holy Ghost (intending therein your special help and advantage) has set many industrious pens to sock, to write the lives of the saints, and preserve for your use, their holy sayings, and heavenly actions He bids you “take them for an example,” James 5: 10. Oh! what excellent men are passed on before you! what renowned Worthies have led the way! Men, whose conversions were in heaven, whilst they tabernacled on earth. Whilst this lower world had their bodies, the world above had their hearts, and their affections. Their actions, and their designs were all for heaven. Men that improved troubles and comforts; losses and gains, smiles and frowns, and all for heaven. Men that did extract heaven out of spirituals, out of temporals, out of all things; their hearts were full of heavenly meditations, their mouths of heavenly communications, and their practices of heavenly inclination: O what singular help is this! Where they followed Christ, and kept the way, they are propounded for your imitation; and where any of them turned aside, you have a mark set upon that action for your cautions and prevention. Does any strange or unusual trial befall you, in which you are ready to say with the church, Lam. 1:12, “Was there ever any sorrow like unto my sorrow?” Here you may see “the same affliction accomplished in your brethren”, 1 Pet. 5:9. Here is a store of good company to encourage you. Do the world and the devil endeavour to turn you from your duty, by loading it with shameful scoffs, or sufferings? In this case you may look to Jesus, who despised the shame; and to your brethren, “who counted it their honour to be dishonoured for the name of Christ”, as the original of the text, Acts 5:41, may be translated. Is it a dishonour to thee, to be ranked with Abraham, Moses, David, and such as were the glory of the ages they lived in? Art thou at any time under a faint fit of discouragement, and ready to despond under any burden? Oh, how mayest thou be animated by such examples, when such a qualm comes over thy heart? Some sparks of their holy courage cannot choose but steal into thy breast, whilst thou considerest them. In them, God has set before thee the possibility of overcoming all difficulties, thou seemst men of the same mould, who had the same trials, discouragements and fears, that now thou hast, and yet overcame all. How is thy unbelief checked, when thou sayest, Oh! I shall never reach the end, I shall one day utterly perish! Why dost thou say so? Why may not such a poor creature as thou art, be carried through as well as they? Had not they the same temptations and corruptions with you? Were they not all troubled with an naughty heart, an ensnaring world, and a busy devil, as well as you? Alas! When they put on the divine, they did not put off the human nature; but complained, and feared, as you do; and yet were carried through all.
O what an advantage have you this way! They that first trusted in Christ, had not such helps as you. You stand upon their shoulders. You have the benefit of their experiences. You that are fallen into the last times, have certainly the best helps to holiness, and yet, will not you live strictly and purely? still you put on the name and profession of Christians, and yet be lofty in your spirits; earthly in your designs; neglective of duty; frothy in your communications? Pray, from which of all the saints did you learn to be proud? Did you learn that from Christ, or any of his? From which of his saints did you learn to be earthly and covetous, passionate or censorious, over-reaching and crafty? If you have read of any such evils committed by them, have you not also read of their shame and sorrow, their repentance and reformations? If you have found any such blots in their lives, it was left there designedly to prevent the like in yours. O, what an help to holiness is this!
Thirdly, And this is not all. You have not only a principle within you, and a pattern before you, but you have also an omnipotent assistant to help, and encourage you throughout your way. Are you feeble and infirm? and is every temptation, even the weakest, strong enough to turn you out of the way of your duty? Lo, God has sent his Spirit to help your infirmities, Rom. 8:26. No matter then how weak you are, how many and mighty your difficulties and temptations are, as long as you have such an assistant to help you. Great is your advantage for a holy life this way also. For,
(1 ) First, when a temptation to sin presses sore upon you, he pleads with your consciences within, whilst Satan is tempting without. How often has he brought such scriptures to your remembrance, at the very opportunity, as have saved you out of the temptation? If you attend his voice, you may hear such a voice within you as that, Jer. 44:4, “O do not this abominable thing which I have!” What mighty strivings were there in the heart of Spira, as himself relates? He heard, as it were, a voice within him, saying, Do not write, Spira, do not write. To this purpose is that promise, Isa. 30:20, 21 “Thine eyes shall behold thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it? when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.” Here you have a two-fold help to holiness, the outward teaching of the word, verse 20 and the inward teachings of the Spirit, verse 21. He shall say, this is the way, when ye are turning aside to the right-hand, or to the left Alluding to a shepherd, saith one, who, driving his sheep before him; whistles then in, when he sees them ready to stray.
(2 ) Secondly, When ye walk homily and closely with God in your duties, and the Spirit encourages you to go on, by those inward comforts, scalings, and joys, you have from him at such times; how often does he entertain your souls in public ordinances, in private duties, with his hidden Manna, with marrow and fatness, with incomparable and unspeakable comforts, and all this to strengthen you in your way, and encourage you to hold on?
(3.) Thirdly, When you are indisposed for duties, and find your hearts empty and dry, he is ready to fill them, quicken and raise them; so that oftentimes the beginning and end of your prayers, hearing or meditations, are as vastly different, as if one man had begun, and another ended the duty. O then, what assistance for a holy life have you! Others indeed are bound to resist temptations, as well as you; but, alas! having no special assistance from the Spirit, what can they do? It may be, they reason with temptation a little while, and in their own strength resolve against it; but how easy a conquest does Satan make, where no greater opposition is made to him than this? Others are bound to hear, meditate, and pray, as well as you; else the neglect of those duties would not be their sin: But, alas, what pitiful work do they make of it! being left to the hardness and vanity of their own hearts, when you spread your sails, you have a gale, but they lie wind bound, heart-bound, and can do nothing spiritually in a way of duty.
Fourthly, and lastly, to mention no more, You have a further advantage to this holy life, by all the rods of God that are at any time upon you. I might show you in many particulars, the advantages this way also, but I shall only present these three to your observation at this time.
First, By these you are clogged, to prevent your straying and wandering. Others may wander even as far as hell, and God will not spend a sanctified rod upon them, to reduce or stop them; but saith, let them alone,” Hos. 4: 17. But if you wander out of the way of holiness, he will clog you with one trouble or other to keep van within bounds, 2 Cor. 12: 7. “Lest I should be lifted up, a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, was sent to buffet me.” So David, Psal. 119: 67. “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I have kept thy word.” Afflictions are used by God, as thorns by husband men, to stop the gaps and keep you from breaking out of God’s way, Hos. 2: 6. “I will hedge up her way with thorns, and build a wall, that she shall not find her paths.” A double allusion; 1. To cattle that are apt to stray, I will hedge up thy way with thorns. 2. To the sea, which is apt to overflow the country, I will build a wall to prevent inundations. Holy Basil was a long time sorely afflicted with an inveterate head-ache, he often prayed for the removal of it; at last God removed it, but in the room of it, he was sorely exercised with the motions and temptations of lust; which, when he perceived, he heartily desired his head-ache again, to prevent a worse evil. You little know the ends and uses of many of your afflictions. Are you exercised with bodily weakness? it is a mercy you are so; and if these pains and infirmities were removed, these clogs taken off, you may with Basil, wish for them again, to prevent worse evils. Are you poor? why, with that poverty God has clogged your pride. Are you reproached? with these reproaches God has clogged your ambition. Corruptions are prevented by your afflictions. And, is not this a marvellous help to holiness of life?
Secondly, By your afflictions, your corruptions are not only clogged, but purged. By these God dries up and consumes that spring, of sin that defiles your lives, Isa. 27: 9. “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away sin.” God orders your wants to fill your wantonness; and makes your poverty poison to your pride. They are God’s physic, to purge ill humours out of your souls. “When they fall by the sword, and by famine, and by captivity, and by spoil, it is to try them, and to purge them, and to make them white?” They are both purges and lavatories to your souls. Others have the same afflictions that you have, but they do not work on them as on you; they are to you as fire for purging, and water for cleansing: and yet, shall not your lives be clean? It is true, (as one well observes upon that place of Daniel,) Christ is the only lavatory, and his blood the only fountain to wash away sin: but, in the virtue and efficacy of that blood, sanctified afflictions are cleansers and purgers too.
A cross without a Christ never made any man better, but with Christ, saints are much the better for the cross. Has God been (as it were) so many days and nights a whitening you, and yet is not the hue of your conversation altered? Has he put you so many times into the furnace, and yet is not the dross separated? The more afflictions you have been under, the more assistance you have had for this life of holiness.
Thirty, By all your troubles, God has been weaning you from the world, the lusts, loves, and pleasures of it; and drawing out your souls to a more excellent life and state than this. He makes your sorrows in this life, give a lustre to the glory of the next. Whoever has, be sure you shall have no rest here; and all, that you may long more ardently for that to come. He often makes you groan, “being burdened, to be clothed with your house from heaven,” 2 Cor. 5: 4. And yet will you not be weaned from lusts, customs, and evils of it? O what mariner of persons should you be for heavenly and holy conversations? You stand upon the higher ground. You have, as it were, the wind and tide with you. None are assisted for this life as you are. Put all this together, and see what this second argument contributes toward our further conviction, and persuasion to holy life. Have you received a supernatural principle, fitting you for, and inclining you to holy actions, resisting and holding you buck from sin? Has God also set before you such eminent patterns to encourage and quicken you in your way? Doth the Spirit himself stand ready, so many ways, to assist and help you in all difficulties, and has God hedged up the way of sin with the thorns of affliction, to prevent your wandering, and yet will you turn aside? Will you offer violence to your own principles and new nature? Refuse to follow such leaders as have beaten the way before you? Resist, or neglect his gracious assistance of the blessed Spirit, which he offers you in every need, and venture upon sin, though God has hedged up your way with afflictions? O, how can you do such great wickedness, and sin against such grace as this!
Methinks, I need say no more to convince you how much you are concerned to keep the issues of life pure, none being so much obliged to it, or assisted for it, as you are. But when I remember that Joash lost the complete victory over the Syrians, because he smote not his arrows often enough upon the ground, 2 Kings 13: 8. I shall level one arrow more at this mark: For, indeed, that can never be enough pressed, which can never be enough practised. And therefore,
Consid. 3. Thirdly, It will yet farther appear to be your high concernment, to exact holiness in your conversations, because of the manifold and great uses which God has to make of the visible holiness and purity of your lives, both in this world and that to come. The uses God puts the conversation-holiness of his people in this world unto, are these among others.
First, To win over souls to Christ, and bring them in love with religion. Practical holiness is a very lovely, attractive, and obliging thing. If the heathen could call moral virtue verticordia, turn-heart, from that obliging and winning power it exercises upon the hearts of men; if they could say of it, that were it visible to human eyes, all men would adore it, and fall in love with it; how much rather may we say so of true holiness, made visible in the lives of saints! This is the turn-heart indeed. It makes the souls of men to cling and cleave to the persons in whom it is; as it is prophesied, Zech. 8: 23. of the Jews, when they shall be called, (which shall be a time of great holiness,) “in that day, ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, we will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” So much of God as appears in men, so much drawing excellency there is in them. And this is the apostle’s argument, 1 John 1:3 “That ye may have fellowship with us.” Why, what is there in your fellowship to invite men to you? “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Christ Jesus.” Who can choose but to covet their company, that keep company every day with God? Great is the efficacy of visible holiness to work upon the hearts of men; either as a concause, working in fellowship with the word, or as a single instrument, working solitarily without the word.
Where God is pleased to afford the word unto men, there the practical holiness of saints is of singular use, to assist and help it in its operation upon the hearts of men. When the lives of Christians sensibly experience that to the eyes of men, which the gospel does to their ears; when so we preach, and so ye believe and live; when we draw by our doctrines, and you draw with us by your examples; when we hold forth the word of life doctrinally, and you hold it forth practically, as Phil. 2: 16. Where is the heart that can stand before us? O! when the plain and powerful gospel pierces the ears of men, and at the same time, the visible holiness of professors shines so full in their faces, that they must rather put out their own eyes, or else be forced to acknowledge, that God is in you of a truth; then it will work to purpose upon souls. Then will Christ see of the travail of his soul daily.
Yea, if God deny the word to men, yet this practical holiness I am speaking of, may be to them an ordinance for conversion. This way, souls may be won to Christ without the word, as the apostle speaks, 1 Pet. 3: 1. Though pulpits should be silent, and vision fail; yet, if you would this way turn preachers, if your lives may but preach the reality, excellency, and sweetness of Jesus Christ and his ways; and, if you would this way preach down the love of the world, and let men see what poor vanities these are; and preach up the necessity and beauty of holiness; surely you, even you might be honoured to bring many souls to Christ, to turn many to righteousness, and cause many to bless God, on your behalf, in the day of visitation. This is the use God has for the holiness and purity of your lives, and does not this engage you strongly to it? What, not when it may prove the means of eternal the to others? Surely, if you have any bowels of mercy in you, you cannot hide from others that whereby they may be saved. How can you, instead of holding forth the word of life, (which is your manifest duty) visibly hold forth the works of death before men? Have you been beholden to others, and shall none be beholden to you for help towards heaven? Dare you say, let others shift as well as they can, find the way to heaven by themselves if they can, they shall have no benefit by your light? If you be Christians, you are Christians of a different stamp and spirit frown all those we find described in scripture. Should you not rather say as the lepers did, 2 Kings 7: 6. “Do we well to hold our peace,” whilst others are perishing? Shall the lips of ministers, and the lives of Christians, be both silenced together? Shall poor sinners neither hear any thing from us, nor see any thing from you, that may help them to Christ? The Lord have mercy then upon the poor world, and pity it, for its case is desperate. O put on, as the elect of God, bowels of mercy. Destroy not, by the looseness of your conversation, so many souls; for your scandalous miscarriages are like a bag of poison put into the spring which supplies the whole city with water.
Secondly, Another use God has for it, is to recover and salve the credit of religion, which by the apostasies of hypocrites, and scandalous falls of careless Christians, is wounded and exposed to contempt. Much reproach by this means is brought upon religion, and how shall that reproach be rolled away, but by your strictness and purity? By this the world must be convinced that all are not so. Though some be a blot to the name of Christ, yet others are his glory. The more others slur and disgrace religion, the more God expects you to honour and adorn it. I remember Chrysostom brings in the persecutors speaking to two renowned martyrs, after this manner, Nonne videtis alios vestri ordinis hoc fecisse? i.e. Why are you so nice and scrupulous? See you not that others of your rank and profession have done these things? To which they returned this brave answer, Nos hac potissimum ratione viriliter stabimus, i.e. have they done it? For that very reason we will stand out like men, and will never yield to it. There is an holy Antiperistasis in the zeal of a Christian, which makes it, like fire, burn most vehemently in the coldest weather. If men make void God’s law, therefore will David love his commandments above gold, Psal. 119: 127. If there be many Pendletons among professors who will betray Christ and his truth to save their flesh; God will have some Sanders to repair that breach, by their constancy and courage in appearing for them.
Thirdly, God makes use of it for the encouragement of his ministers who labour among you. And indeed it is of no small use to refresh their hearts, and strengthen their hands in their painful work: “Now we live (saith the apostle) if ye stand fast in the Lord,” 1 Thess. 3: 8. He speaks as if their very life lay at the mercy of the people, because so much of the joy and comfort of it is wrapt up in their regularity and steadfastness. God knows what a hard providence his poor ministers have, and how many discouragements attend them in their work; hear how one of them expresses it, “Ministers would not be gray headed so soon, nor die so fast, notwithstanding their great labours, if they were but successful; but this cuts to the heart, and makes us bleed in secret, that though we do much, yet it comes to nothing. Our work dies therefore we die. Not so much that we labour, as that we labour in vain: When our ministry petrifies, turns hearts into stones, and these taken up and thrown at us, this kills us; the recoiling of our pains kills us. When our peace returns to us; when we spend our strength to make men more nought than they were; this wounds our hearts, which should be considered by sinners. To kill one’s self, and one’s minister too, who would save them; what a bloody condition is this! Every drop that has fallen from our heart and hand, from our eye-lids and eye-brows, shall be all gathered up, and put as marginal notes by all our labours, and all put in one volume together, and this volume put into your hands at the great day, and opened leaf after leaf, and read distinctly and exactly to you.
Christians, you hear our case, you see our work. Now a little to cheer our spirits in the midst of our hard and killing labours, God sends us to you for a little refreshment, that, by beholding your holy and heavenly conversation, your cheerful obedience, and sweet agreement in the ways of God, we may be comforted over all these troubles, 2 Thess. 1: 3, 4. And will you wound and kill our hearts too? O what a cut will this be!
Fourthly, God has further use for the holiness of your lives; this serves to daunt the hearts, and overawe the consciences of his and your enemies. And sometimes it has had a strange influence and effect upon them. There is a great deal of awful Majesty in holiness, and when it shines upon the conscience of a wicked man, it makes him stoop and do obeisance to it, which turns to a testimony for Christ and his ways before the world. Thus Herod was overawed by the strict and holy life of John; he feared him, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and observed (or preserved and saved) him.
That bloody tyrant was convinced in his conscience of the worth and excellency of that servant of God, and was forced to reverence him for his holiness. So Darius, Dan. 6: 14,18, 19, 20. What conflicts had he with himself about Daniel, whom he had condemned; his conscience condemned him, for condemning so holy and righteous a person. “Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night in fastings; neither were instruments of music brought before him, and his sleep went from him. He goes early in the morning to the den, and cries with a lamentable voice, O Daniel, servant of the living God.” How much is this for the honour of holiness, that it conquers the very persecutors of it; and makes them stoop to the meanest servant of God! It is said of Henry II of France, that he was so daunted by the heavenly majesty of a poor taylor that was burnt before him, that he went home sad, and vowed, that he would never be present at the death of such men any more. When Valence the emperor came in person to apprehend Basil, he saw such majesty in his very countenance, that he reeled at the very sight of him; and had fallen backward to the ground, had not his servants stept in to support him. O holiness, holiness, thou art a conqueror. So much, O Christians, as you show of it in your lives, so much you preserve your interest in the consciences of your enemies: cast off this, and they despise you presently.
Fifthly, and lastly, God will use the purity of your conversations to judge and convince the world in the great day. It is true, the world shall be judged by the gospel, but your lives shall also be produced as a commentary upon it; and God will not only show them by the word how they ought to have lived, but bring forth your lives and ways to stop their mouths, by showing how others did live. And this I suppose is intended in that text, 1 Cor. 6:2, “The saints shall judge the world, yea, we shall judge angels;” i.e. our examples are to condemn their lives and practices, as Noah, Heb. 11:7 is said to condemn the world by building the ark, i.e. his faith in the threatening, and obedience to the command, condemned their supineness, infidelity and disobedience. They saw him every day about that work, diligently preparing for a deluge, and yet were not moved with the like fear that he was; this left them inexcusable; so when God shall say in that day to the careless world, did you not see the care, and diligence, the holy zeal, watchfulness, and self-denial of my people, who lived among you? How many times have they been watching and praying, when you have been drinking or sleeping! Was it not easy to reflect when you saw their pains and diligence, Have not I a soul to look after as well as they; a heaven to win or lose, as well as they? O how speechless and inexcusable will this render wicked men, yea, it shall not only be used to judge them, but angels also. How many shocks of temptations have poor saints stood,; whereas they fell without a tempter? They stood not in their integrity, though created in such excellent natures; how much then are you concerned on this very account also to walk exactly! if not instead of judging then, you shall be condemned with them.
And thus you see what use your lives and actions shall be put to; and are these inconsiderable uses? Is the winning over souls to God a small matter? Ii the salving the honour and reputation of godliness a small matter? Is the encouraging the hearts and strengthening of the hands of God’s poor ministers, amidst their spending, killing labours, a small matter? Is the awing of the consciences of your enemies, and judging them in the last day, a light thing? Which of these can you call so?
O then, since you are thus obliged to holiness of life, thus singularly assisted for it; and since there are such great dependencies upon it, and uses for it, both now and in the world to come, see that ye be holy in all manner of conversation. See that, “as ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so ye walk in him,” always remembering, that for this very end, Christ has redeemed, or “delivered you out of the hands of your enemies, that you might serve him without fear, in righteousness and holiness all the days of your lives,” Luke 1: 74, 75. And to how little purpose will be all that I have preached, and you have heard, of Christ, if it be not converted into practical godliness? This is the scope and design of it all.
And now, reader, thou art come to the last leaf of this treatise of Christ, it will be but a little while, and thou shalt come to the last page or day of thy life; and thy last moment in that day. Wo to thee, wo and alas for ever; if an interest in this blessed Redeemer be then to get. The world affords not a sadder sight, than a poor Christless soul shivering upon the brink of eternity. To see the poor soul that now begins to awake out of its long dream, at its entrance into the world of realities, to shrink back into the body, and cry, O, I cannot, I dare not die. And then the tears rundown. Lord, what will become of me? O what shall be my eternal lot? This, I say, is as sad a sight as the world affords. That this may not be thy case, reflect upon what thou hast read in these sermons. Judge thyself in the light of them. Obey the calls of the Spirit in them. Let not thy slight and formal spirit float upon the surface of these truths, like a feather upon the water; but get them deeply fixed upon thy spirit, by the Spirit of the Lord; turning them into life and power upon thee; and so animating the whole course and tenor of thy conversation by them, that it may proclaim to all that know thee, that thou art one who esteemest all to be but dross, that thou mayest win Christ.
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