|« Prev||Lecture XII. Preached March 20, 1691.||Next »|
II. But then the ineffectual believing of it is reproved and condemned; to believe it with such a kind of notional faith as the devils believe it with. The former was the main thing for which I pitched upon this scripture, but this latter I shall not overlook; it having so great an aptitude with it to help and enforce the right improvement of the former. That is,—the ineffectual belief of the Unity of the Godhead, which the apostle doth, in this expression, designedly animadvert upon, may be easily collected from this present scope, which is to shew what kind of faith that is which must justify us; not a notion al dead faith, such as lets the soul wherein it is, remain unchanged, such as works not within, such as leaves the soul just as it was. You may see his scope fully represented to this purpose in the 14th verse, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” can that idle faith, that unworking faith that effects nothing, can that save him? “I appeal to you, (as if he had said) whether it can.” He doth not say it cannot, but he doth appeal to them whether it can or no: and it is true, that manner of interrogation doth deny that it can, more pungently: that is always the intent of questions or interrogatories, put in the room of affirmations or negations, to deny or affirm more smartly or with more pungency than a bare affirmation or negation would have done. It is an appeal to the common light and conscience of the person spoken to. Can such a faith save? And then he comes at length, in prosecution of this scope, to this particular truth. I may not now run over with you the whole thread of this discourse; but immediately before the words of the text, he urgeth this, “A man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works;” that is, if thou canst shew me any thing that is worth that name. But I for my part “will shew thee my faith by my works,” as knowing it can never significantly or to purpose be shewn otherwise. And then he comes to this particular case, “Thou believest there is one God, thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble.” If thou 509hast no other faith, in this point of the one God’s existence, but the devils’ faith; nay if thine fall short of such a faith; dost thou think it will save thee? This is the meaning pursuantly to the present scope. His great question is, what faith will finally save, and for resolving of it, his great business is to evince and make out, that there must be some intervening effects in order to that final salvation for which the faith that will save must have a proportionable efficacy. If it did not work those intervening intermediate effects, it would not bring about the end, salvation. And so the truth that now remains, to be spoken to from this latter part of the verse, you have it plainly in view thus—That the ineffectual belief of the one God’s existence, or such a belief of it as doth not be get in the soul proportionable dispositions towards God, will no more save a stupid man than a trembling devil—And to speak briefly and usefully (as much as is possible) to this, it will be requisite to shew—what effects or dispositions our faith of the one God’s existence, should work in men—to open to you what it doth work in the devils, and—to shew, that if it do not its proper work upon men, it will no more, save men, than devils.
1. What it ought to work, what impressions the faith of the one God’s existence, should make upon men. The impressions it ought to make upon men, must be measured and judged of, by the state of their case, wherein it is different, and represented to them as different from that of the devils. That is, that though they have been in an apostasy from God, their sovereign and rightful Lord, as the devils have been, yet he is reconcileable to men, when he is not to the devils: and where the gospel comes, it shews distinctly how, and in what way, and upon what terms he is reconcileable. The belief then of the one God’s existence, you may easily apprehend what it effects upon this supposal of the case. There is but one to whom I owe obedience as my Sovereign, to him I must subject myself. There is but one, from whom I can expect blessedness: a portion and interest in him, I must seek. I have hitherto been in an apostasy from him, I have hereby violated the bounds of my duty to him, and forfeited all interest in him: but I find there is a remedy to be given to this case, and through the Redeemer, God is reconcileable: he recalls me to my duty, he offers to restore me to my interest. It is plain then, what impressions should be made, to wit, of “repentance towards God and (upon discovery made of him) faith in our Lord Jesus Christ:” a disposition to come back to God, through Christ, with a heart full of wonder, full of gratitude, full of love, ready to be devoted, and subject again: and so to do all, that can 510 be done on our part, or to comply, with all that is required from us, in order to the reinstating of things, between God and us, and setting all right again. But,
2. What impression is there made on devils, by the belief of the one God’s existence? That one word “tremble” tells us most significantly. They “believe and tremble.” Their belief strikes them so, that they are shaken by it: just as the sea with a violent wind, that tosses the waves this way and that. The fremitus maris is that which this word doth express, the tumultuation of the sea, as tossed by violent winds. Such an impression doth the belief of the one God’s existence, make and leave upon devils: that is, it stirs those violent passions in them, which we must suppose the view of the one God, in his terrible majesty and glory, is apt to raise in his creatures, in their state who are apostatized, and revolted from him, and know there is no redeemer for them, that God will not be reconciled to them, and they themselves have no disposition to seek reconciliation with him; that is, such passions as these; the passion of hatred: every view they have of the one God in his majesty and glory, stirs up their enmity, and the oftener they view it, the more they hate it, and especially considered under the notion of just and holy. It cannot but stir the passion of envy, looking on him under the notion of happy: it cannot but move their dread and horror concerning him, under the notion of almighty, not to be resisted, not to be withstood. And then it stirs up the passion of despair too, considering themselves as none of his match, and that they are never to expect that he will yield to them as they know they can never conquer him. But,
3. Why is a stupid man no more to expect salvation from the ineffectual faith of the one God’s existence, than a forlorn trembling devil? That men have been in an apostasy from God, as well as devils, is plain to us all. That death, that is, eternal death is the proper wages of that sin by which they have apostatized, that is plain to us all too: why should not an apostate man therefore, lie under the just wrath of God, as well as an apostate devil? All that can be said in the case is, that Christ hath died for men and not for devils: here is all that can be alleged. And so we need do no more for the clearing of this matter further, than only to consider what alteration this makes in the case, and in order thereto, I will lay down sundry things that I reckon very plain, and such as do carry their own evidence with them.
(1.) As, that there is no natural connexion between the death of Christ and the salvation of a sinner. These two things 511are not naturally connected, the death of Christ and the salvation of a sinful man. It is plain and obvious in itself, that there is no natural connexion; these things do not naturally touch one another.
(2.) Therefore there can be no connexion at all, between them but such as shall be ordinate or made, there cannot be any connexion, without its being made, between the death of Christ and the salvation of any man.
(3.) There can be no pretence of any such made connexion, but such as the gospel constitution makes, that is, made between the death of Christ and the salvation of any man, but what the gospel hath made by its constitution.
(4.) The gospel doth make no connexion between the death of Christ and the salvation of any sinner, without intervening faith. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The gospel makes no other connexion between that death to which he gave up his own Son, and our having, any of us, everlasting life, but upon the supposal of an intervening faith.
(5.) That faith which the gospel requires for this purpose, it describes and tells us what it is, it describes it by distinguishing characters; it tells us, it is such a faith as overcomes the world. 1 John v. 4. It tells us it is such a faith as by which the hearts of men are turned to the Lord; “many believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts xi. 21. It tells us, it is such a faith, as “is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen;” (Heb. xi. 1.) that faith that conquers one world, and reveals another. That faith (I say) which the gospel requires for this purpose, to wit, of the salvation of sinners, by the Redeemer, it doth also describe, and tells us what it is. Whereupon,
(6.) Not to have that faith which the gospel doth so describe is, in the gospel estimate, to have no faith. He that hath not this faith is an unbeliever, still an unbeliever. As when we speak of having any thing (whatsoever it be) that is necessary for this or that end or purpose, it is not the name of that thing, the misapplied name of that thing, that will serve the end or purpose, but it is plain, only the thing itself will do it. It is true, you may call painted bread by the name of bread; you may call the picture of a loaf, a loaf, but it is not painted bread that will nourish you, nor is it the notion of gospel faith, or the name of that faith misapplied that will save you. They who have not the faith which the gospel requires, have no faith quoad hoc, that will serve this purpose, because that faith 512 which is so and so described, it requires as necessary for this purpose of saving. And therefore,
(7.) Lastly; They which have not this faith, being thereupon still unbelievers, that is, they are unbelievers in reference to this faith; they have none of that faith that the gospel requires in order to salvation, they must accordingly have the unbeliever’s portion, and the portion of unbelievers and devils is all one. Compare Luke xii. 46. with Matt. xxv. 41. In the first it is, “Let such a one have his portion with unbelievers:” and then consider that they who fall under such a doom and condemnation at last, arc condemned to that “fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels,” as it is in the latter place. So that let a man believe never so much this one thing, (which among the rest it is needful he should believe in order to salvation,) to wit, the one God’s existence; but it doth not work upon his soul, impresseth him not; altereth him not, it can no more save him than it will save the devil.
Yea, and it might be added, that the gospel constitution, in this case, making such a faith necessary, doth not only speak the pleasure of the Legislator, but it speaks most consentaneously to the reason of the thing and with the greatest advantage. Here is reconciliation offered to sinful men; but there is none offered to the devil: in this respect then (though I do not say absolutely in all respects) their guilt is greatest. That one who is no way suitably affected with that discovery which is made to him of God. considered with reference to the state of his case, and the gospel dispensation under which he is, such a one as doth in this respect remain unchanged, his heart unaltered, not won, not turned to God; lies under greater guilt than the devils themselves do lie.
Therefore now to make some brief Use of this. Hence,
1. We learn, that it is a supposable thing, that persons living under the gospel, professed Christians, (for the apostle speaks to such here,) may be no more duly and suitably affected with the discovery that is made to them of the one God, than the very devils. This is not an unsupposable thing, that man may have the representation of God which the gospel affords, superadded to all that is natural, and be no more suitably affected therewith than a mere devil, this is a truly supposable case. And that it is a case to be supposed, a thing that may be, should strike all our hearts with just solicitude hereupon. May it be? And what! Is it not so with me? Have I not lived all this while amidst that light that reveals the one God, unaltered, unchanged, unimpressed, just as I should have been, if there had been no such light, no such discovery? And again,513
2. We may infer, that persons may be in a very great mea sure like the devil that do very seldom think of him: nay (it may be) do think there is no such creature. It is very likely that this sort of persons whom the apostle here speaks to, with such smartness and acrimony, might very little think of the devil till they met with this epistle, till they were so put in mind. This may very well be. Persons may be very much akin to the devil in the temper and complexion of their minds, when they very little think of him, or of any such matter. And they are most of all like him that are most positive in their disbelief of any such sort of creatures as devils are. That piece of revived modern sadduceism goes now, with many, for a great piece of wit and learning. And a very strange thing it is, that we should have had among us a clearer light than the greatest part of the world have had, to make us more ignorant and unapprehensive of things that are of very great concern to us; clearer than the pagan world have had, and yet how many things do we find discoursed concerning the devil, among their poets and philosophers, that there are such a sort of middle creatures between the gods (the supreme God at least) and men: and that these are distinguished into two orders of good and bad. Nothing more frequent in the writings of pagans than that there are the good genii and cacodaemones: some of them seem not to have been ignorant, however they came by the knowledge, of the apostasy of the devils, and of their being thrown down from their happy state above, into very great darkness and misery. But it seems, our having of clearer light, and more express discoveries of things relating to an invisible world, than pagans had, hath served only to make a great many of us a great deal more ignorant, and less apprehensive of these things and more insolent in the belief of them than they. But it is strange that they who are so very like the devil, should be of all others most unapt to own or apprehend that there are any such creatures, or any such sort of creatures. But,
3. We may infer, that it is not strange, when the cause is so very like between men and devils, that their doom should be so like also: that we cannot think it strange, that we should remain and be left under that doom and condemnation which sin did in itself subject them to: who when God hath made overtures to them, to distinguish them from these evil spirits, will not be distinguished, but rather choose to sort themselves with devils than with returning souls, souls that are willing to return to God through Christ.
We see the terrible estate of devils, that they cannot own the one God’s existence without trembling. A frightful thought 514 it is to them, to have the eternal Being always in view, that is, what he is necessarily, without variableness or shadow of turning: they cannot nullify his being, they cannot shake his throne, they cannot alter his nature: the glorious, bright, majestic Object is always in view, and they can never look towards it without dread and astonishment. Whatsoever little respite they may have, which those words imply, “Art thou come to torment us before our time?” it doth yet signify, that any thought of God was dreadful to them, as importing that state of torment that was approaching, was drawing on, wherein it will be let forth on them, wherein wrath will come upon them (as it must upon unreconciled men) to the uttermost. But,
5. How wonderful is the grace of God towards poor sinful men, that their case doth admit, and may admit of their owning and believing the one God’s existence, with another sort of impression than the case of the devils doth admit of. For that is plainly implied here, and therefore I make this inference and collection,—that it is expected that men should be otherwise impressed by this belief of the one God’s existence than the devils may or can. It is expected the faith of this should make other kind of work in the heart of a man that entertains this belief, than it can do in the heart of a devil. And that very intimation signifies peculiar favour and special good-will, special, if compared with them, though it be yet more special, if you compare men with one another. Such good-will is the import of those words, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will towards men.” “He took not on him the nature of angels,” or (as those words may admit to be read) “he took not hold of angels to save them; but took on him the seed of Abraham.” His design herein spoke itself, (as in that 2 Heb. 14.) “Inasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he himself did partake of the same.” Saith he, “Those that I came to save, are such as have flesh and blood in them, not devils.” And because they had flesh and blood in them, he likewise took flesh and blood that he might save such; that is, that he might die, that he might have somewhat mortal about him, somewhat that could die, that was capable of dying, and that dying he might overcome “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
6. We may learn hence, that there is not too great a stress to be laid upon the mere business of orthodoxy, or a rectitude of notions and sentiments, though about the greatest and most important things, things never so great: and you may suppose none greater than this, the existence of the one God, the certain 515existence of the unity of the Godhead. But yet, I say, a rectitude of notions or sentiments, even about so great things, or that which we generally call orthodoxy, ought not to have too great a stress laid upon them. I doubt not but that there is entire orthodoxy in hell, there is very little error in hell, very little of untrue notions, the truth of things is very clearly apprehended there, even the most terrible things; false doctrine doth not obtain there about such matters as this, to be sure: and therefore, let no man value himself too much upon this, that he understands aright, that he thinks right thoughts, doth believe that there is one God, one, and but one. He may do no more in this, than the devils do, they may be as orthodox as he; and he may therein know no more truth than they know. But we may yet further infer,
7 That it is a very dismal thing, and ought accordingly to be deplored much, that such things as we have revealed to us, concerning God, should be from time to time propounded and explained, and inculcated, and yet have no more effect upon us, than upon devils. How many a man is there, that lives under the gospel of Christ, unreconciled to God all his days? Oh, if there be any such a one in this assembly, How often hast thou been striven with to turn and live? how often invited back to God in Christ? But it hath signified as little to preach to thee all this while, as if one had preached to a devil. Oh, wretched creature, that thou wilt make thyself a devil, when God doth, not make thee such! that thou wilt sort with the devils, when. God would deal with thee, on very distinct terms from them! He would have thee come to him: he doth not invite devils back; he saith to thee, t( Return, return:” he saith not so to them. Here is the blood of a Redeemer spilt for thee, it was not for them. And if we consider this matter generally; Oh, how dismal it is to think, that the revelation of the doctrine of the very one God’s existence, should have made no more impression than it hath, to advantage the world of mankind; that the state of things should be so very much upon earth, as it is in hell! as if there were no difference in the cases of men and devils; that there should be such enmity against God, amongst men upon earth, such rage, such contempt, such blasphemy against this one existing Deity. And indeed, in this, men are worse than the devils, for the devils do hate God, but they do not despise him: here on earth he is hated and despised too: the devils hate him, but they cannot contemn him: men hate and contemn him both together. “Wherefore do the wicked contemn God?” Psal. x. 13. But lastly,
8. We further learn hence, what this doctrine is likely to effect, 516 if ever it come generally and to purpose, to be believed in the world, even this faith of the one God’s existence. What a blessed change will that infer and make generally among men; when the one God shall be represented and under stood and known with effect generally! if ever there shall be such a time. That is, there shall be a world of reasonable creatures, all centering in this one, all conspiring in the ado ration and love of this one God; all bowing to him and kneeling before him: and no contention amongst men but who shall express most of love and duty to their universal, sovereign Maker and Lord. And therefore, men are only miserable in the mean time by not having real truth impressed and inwrought into the temper of their spirits, they are only by this miserable, that they are fallen from the one God, and apprehend him not, apprehend not the unity of the Godhead in whom they all are to unite. If men were all united in God, in the fear of him, in the love of him, in subjectedness and devotedness to him, this could not but infer universal order, peace and felicity, all the world over. Men are only miserable, only unhappy, by holding the truth in unrighteousness, and such truth; for the apostle speaks of such. This is the true ground, on which “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God, is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them.” Rom. i. 17, 18. But I shall not insist further upon this.
The next thing that comes in course, to be handled, will be the doctrine of the Trinity. Having opened the Unity of the Godhead, a Trinity therein also, will next come under OUT consideration.
END OF THE SIXTH VOLUME.
Mason, Printer, Chichestcr.
|« Prev||Lecture XII. Preached March 20, 1691.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version