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The remaining Use that I intend, will be only directive.
1. To such as yet abide in this death, that have passed over all: and we have reason to apprehend that to be the case of some: and, 2. To those that have, through the grace of God, in good measure, escaped out of it,
1. To the first sort, I have a few things to recommend by way of direction. I cannot tell how to apply things to persons particularly: that you must do yourselves, as you find it to be with you. But if that be the case of any among you, that they have reason to judge so, that they abide in this death that have passed upon all, then I would have such,
(1.) To apprehend that this is the common case, and may probably be their own, as to that which is most dismal and horrid in this death, that hath hitherto passed over this world. It is (as I told you the last time) one thing to entertain a truth, as a mere notion in the mind, against which we have nothing to say, and to give but a faint negative assent to it; to wit, not to dissent or disagree to it: and another thing to receive it as a vital and practical principle, that influenceth a man’s heart, forms his spirit, and governs his course accordingly thereunto. And so is this very little apprehended to be the common case, that “death hath passed over all.” But labour you feelingly to apprehend it, as to what is most obvious every way; that is, that we are all subject to bodily distempers and diseases, which, are tendencies to, and will end in, death: why, about this, we can none of us be in any doubt. We are sensibly told it, even in our flesh and bones, from day to day. But the worst part of this death is what our flesh cannot feel; that is, a death 467upon our spirits; that our minds and hearts are disaffected to God, dead towards God, in direct opposition to what the case is with the regenerate, and which they ought to be judged and reckoned, as to themselves. “Reckon yourselves (saith the apostle, Rom. vi. 11.) dead indeed unto sin, hut alive unto God.” The death that stands in opposition to this life, is the worst and most horrid part of the death that hath passed over this world.
Labour to apprehend this to be the common case; and then consider, whether it be not your own. If the matter do look with a dubious aspect, it ought to be considered with so much the more attentiveness, and with so much the deeper thoughts. And a slight hope that there is an alteration, should not satisfy: and, indeed, you cannot reasonably think this to be a little thing, or that it should not be greatly considerable. For is it a small matter to have passed from death to life? This death passed over all; and an escape out of it, is not so little a thing, when you compare those two expressions, 1 John iii. 14. “Abiding in death;” and, having “passed from death to life:” it must be a most close and pungent question—“Which is my case? Either I have passed from death to life; or I continue still in death “And, therefore, it ought to be considered over and over, “How stands my case towards God? I have a natural life in me, in which I am capable of natural actions: but have 1 a holy life in me, by which I am capable of the actions that are suitable and proper to that? by which I can act and move towards God, not simpliciter or absolute; but quoad hoc: to that one end and principle it was made; for there is a deadness, no propension towards God, as regeneration would make it alive towards God. “How is it with me in this respect?” That ought to be deeply considered. “Is not this, the horrid, dismal death that hath passed upon all, still upon me?” And,
(2.) There is this further, that will be suitable by way of direction to that former case, to mind those things principally, that are most pertinent to it; and to be less concerned about lesser things. And pray let such take in this direction: Have you reason to apprehend this to be your case; (and a fearful case it is;) that that death, even the worst of it, that hath passed over all, remains upon you? Why, then think of those things that are most pertinent to that case; and consider less the lesser things. As to whatsoever you have to complain of besides, say with yourselves, “Aye, but all this is nothing to this death that is upon my soul;” and it looks like distraction, when men’s minds are wholly engaged and taken up about 468lesser things: but, about this greater and more important thing, they have no consideration at all. As if one should seem concerned that he hath a scratched finger; when he hath a mortal wound in his breast that he is unconcerned for: or, that he should have lost a pin, when his house is on fire; or, that a man’s head should lie easy upon the block, when the fatal stroke is just going to be given. For, do but consider what this will come to at length: this death will be eternal death. The disinclination and deadness of man’s spirit towards God, can have no other issue, finally, but “Depart from me,” if it continue, You are departing from God; you will be continually departing: why, Depart from me for ever. This sort of death upon the souls of men, it is not a distinct thing from the state of hell; it is the same thing begun: there is no further difference than between death inchoate, and death consummate. And, indeed, every thing that a man doth, and every thing that a man saith, is all idle impertinency, while this great thing is neglected. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” is the advice of our Saviour. You are seeking many other things; but have you observed the order, to seek that in the first place? Otherwise you have mistaken the order. What other things you may lawfully seek, you are then to seek, when you have begun duly and regularly, with the first. And, therefore, if another should tell you of such and such things that are not so well in the state of your case externally: such a man hath failed, that owes you money, or the like, you may answer him; “Alas! do not tell me of these things, I am dead towards God, what do you tell me of this or that? I am like to be lost forever, if grace do not give a speedy help to the sad state of my case.” And again,
(3.) Look upon this case of your’s as being, though very sad, yet not remediless, yet not incurable; look upon it as a remediable case. For it is, indeed, all one as to any thing of real gain and advantage, not to apprehend your case to be sad, and not to consider it as capable of a remedy. Upon the former supposition, there will be no care at all exercised about it; and upon the latter supposition there will be no hope. But there must be a setting of both these on foot; you must have a care about the state of your souls; and you must have hope about it too; or else nothing will be done in you, or by you, that will be of any value. You should, therefore, consider and bethink yourselves, that there is a way of escape out of so great a death; that many have escaped you know; and they can think of it with pleasure, and take delight in their knowing of God, and conversing with him. Divers that have (it may 469be) spoken to you of such things of God, as you have not found in yourselves. But that which hath been, may be: that which you see by frequent experience wrought in others, may be wrought in you. God, that hath been so rich in mercy to others, why may he not be God, rich in mercy to you also?
Thus you should consider the matter as capable of a remedy. There is a word of life sent forth; and there is a Divine Spirit breathing in this world; even upon this world that is lost in death: and it hath reached many with mighty influences. This is that which ought to be a mighty spring of hope to such as will not abandon themselves to despair. Do not say concerning yourselves, “There is a death abiding upon my soul, and therefore, it must be always so:” for that is to suppose there is no difference between earth and hell; between the state of men under the gospel, and the state of devils under an eternal doom, in the full execution of it.
I pray consider, our business is not to instruct the inhabitants of hell, but to speak to the living on this side the grave. We are teaching men, and not devils. And none should put themselves into their state and case, as if they had nothing at all to do, but merely to wait till the fulness of death should come upon them, and swallow them up. Our Lord saith, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth.” And when such a voice as this hath come into this miserable earth, no man ought but to look upon himself as concerned therein, as well as others; and not to say, “God doth not mean me; he intends no such kindness to me:” but rather, on the other hand, to say, “If a vital savour hath been diffused with that voice, with that invitation of grace, in and by the word, and its vital influences have reached many, it may also reach me.” There ought to be an expectation raised in us, that it may: and many are ruined for not expecting it, not waiting at the posts of wisdom’s door. Prov. viii. 34, 35. “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door. For whoso findeth me, findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” This, men ought to set before their eyes, in all their attendances upon God, in his ordinances; so that they may be able to give this account, if any should ask them, What are you going for? “Why, I am going to find life; wisdom saith, They that find me, find life. Here I go to seek life for my soul.”
The very order of the divine precept in this thing, is, “Hear, and your souls shall live;” which shews with what design men should hear and wait upon ordinances. “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; come ye buy and eat, yea, 470come buy wine and milk without money and without price, hear and your souls shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” “He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, (were David’s own dying words) ordered in all things and sure; and although my house be not so with God; as to domestical concernments things are not so well, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant; and this is all my salvation, and all my desire.” Now saith the prophet, in that Isaiah liii. 3. “Do you but incline your ear, and hear with expectation that your souls may live, and they shall live: and this will tend to bring you into an everlasting covenant, even the sure mercies of David.” And yet, again,
(4.) Let me further recommend this to you, to hasten your designed escape, without deliberating and pausing long upon the matter. We are to look upon this world as deluged by death and wrath, which have overspread it, as that sulphureous flood did the valleys wherein Sodom and Gomorrah stood; and when Lot was to be saved out of that ruin, in mercy to him, for this the angel hastens him, and cries out to him, “Escape for thy life.” So should you consider the exigency of your case not to be less; nay it is incomparably greater. It is not a little valley, but it is the world, that is deluged with this sulphureous flood. Here is a complication of sin and death overflowing the world; and which hath made the world a far worse region than that plain was. Now it is said to you; God doth by the voice of his word, and of his ministers, say to you, “You are to make haste and escape for your life.” How many did the fiery flood of Sodom overtake quite! Therefore, this case doth not admit of any delay: for how soon this flood may overtake you, you know not. It may, so as to overwhelm you quite: and so as to make a hopeful case a desperate one. And, therefore, consider from hence, in the next place,
(5.) Of how great importance it is for you to apply yourselves to, and gain an interest in, the favour of God. Make from hence an estimate of the divine favour, and of the necessity and value of it; for if this be your case—Death hath passed over all; if any man thinks of an escape, from thence it must come: “What can I do for my soul? How can I fetch my soul from that death that is within me; that my soul is ingulphed in r” Why, “in his favour is life.” There is no hope of life but in his favour. Look which way you will, and there is death overwhelming of all; and you are no more capable of getting out of this death of yourselves, than of touching the heavens with your hand, or seating yourselves among the stars in the firmament: therefore, it must be an all-favourable, 471and all-powerful hand, and that too, stretched out from heaven, that must save in so distressed a case as this.
Now how should this recommend to us the favour of God, as that wherein our life doth stand, when death hath thus passed over all. If you should speak to a neighbour, to a father, to any one that hath the dearest affection to you, “O! my soul is in a state of death: how shall I get it out of it?” They must all answer, as Jacob did to his wife, “Am I in the stead of God, to give thee children? Can I inspire life into thy dead soul? No; I cannot do it for thee.” This you ought to inculcate to yourselves, over and over; that your life stands in the divine favour. It is he that breathes into you the breath of spiritual life, to make yours become a living soul. They are his kind looks that carry life in them. If he will breathe upon your soul, it shall live. As that hath been his way, when souls have been wallowing in their blood, to look upon them with a kind look, and say unto them—“Live:” his look doth carry life in it. He looks life into the soul that is dead. As in that xvi. Ezekiel, in the beginning, and towards the latter end of that chapter, you will find how the matter ends: “I entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine.” He looked upon them in their blood, and said unto them—“Live;” and enclosed them in the happy bonds of that covenant, that are vital bonds; their souls being bound up in the bundle of life. And, therefore,
(6.) That I may shut up what I shall say to this sort of persons concerning that death which hath passed over all, it ought to prepare them for the reception of the gospel, wherein are discoveries of the divine favour, and the way wherein it reveals itself for the saving and renewing of souls lost in death: what a preparative for the gospel should this be! To have this in wrought into my soul, that death hath passed over all, so amongst the rest, it hath passed over me, involved me also. Then how pleasant a sound should the gospel be to lost souls! “The Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.” The forlorn and distressed estate of this world, hath been compassionately considered by the great Lord of heaven and earth; and God hath given him life, that he might give eternal life to as many as he hath given him. And when men are once prevailed upon, to give themselves to him, as the great Prince and Lord of life, who only can deliver them out of death, then, it is without question, that God hath given them unto him, and it is with that design, that he may give them eternal life. But then,472
2. As to those who through grace, have in a good measure made an escape out of that death that hath passed over all, it is obvious to yourselves, to understand wherein that death stands, which hath passed over all, and which you have made your escape from. You know, that part of it concerns the outward man; there is no escaping that which is equivalent, and more than equivalent. There is an escaping out of it; not that such shall not die, but they shall rise again: “their corruptible part, (as the apostle saith) shall put on incorruption: and their mortal part shall put on immortality; and their vile bodies shall be changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ’s most glorious body.’’ There must be a conformity between the Head and the members, so that by him they escape not from it, but out of it; emerge, get out of that state, that must sooner or later seize upon these mortal bodies.
But then, for that spiritual death that is, in this present state, naturally upon all men’s souls, that you have been actually in, that you have escaped, that there must bean escape from eternal death. Now let me ask you, Have you, through grace, been enabled to escape, in good measure, out of the worst of this death that, in the present state, men are liable to; to wit, death towards God? Then, if the matter be so, there are several things I would recommend to you, and so put an end to this discourse.
(1.) Be much in grateful acknowledgment of God’s wonderful mercy; make that much the great business of your lives, for it is a great thing God hath done for you, in that he hath delivered you from so great a death! think what the state and posture of your souls once was God-ward. “Why, let me have heard never so much of the most glorious, the most excellent of all Beings, in which all the excellencies of all beings did meet together, infinite love, and light, and life and purity, and holiness; yet, alas! I had no inclination towards him; no desire after him; no complacency in him; my soul was as a stone, or stick, or a log, without sense, without motion God-ward. I have heard (it may be) of his name often; but it never carried a pleasant sound to me. It was no pleasure to me, to go and shut up myself in a closet, and pour out my soul unto him. As for taking complacency in him as my best Good, so as to account him my exceeding great Joy; Alas! I knew not what this meant. It was a soul that might have been a stone, as w r ell as a soul as to any inclination it had Godward. But, O! blessed be God, that it is otherwise! When 473I hear of that very Sacred Name, it transports my soul, to think that All of being, and blessedness, and wisdom, and purity, and light, and love, is mine. And if all the world should frown on me, and he give me but one smile, it is as life to my soul. Now, the very seasons of my convene with him, are as my repasts. What pleasure do 1 take when the sabbath is come; when the light of that holy day doth dawn upon me! Formerly, I knew not what to design for God. Now my end is the glory of God: if I can but speak a good word for his honour and interest, it falls in with the inclination of my spirit.”
Why sure, if this be the case with you, it is the most inexcusable thing in all the world, that there should be no more of gratitude for so great a change wrought in you. Consider that God, in so altering the case, hath done that for you, which all the world could not have done. Lay all the powers of men on earth, and of all the angels in heaven together, they could never have made your hearts to love God, or desire after him, or delight in him. But he hath touched your hearts with a vital touch, and made them love him. and live to him.
When the difference is so vast (as I was saying to you lately) between abiding in death, and having passed from death to life, (and, whereas, every one must be in one of these two states; so that every one must say, either “I do abide in death,” or “I have passed from death to life,”) if we, by gracious vouchsafement, are passed from death to life, if this be our case, and we are not much in thanksgiving; O! how inexcusable is this! And, Christians, I would have you to consider this, that this it is which starves religion, and is the reason why, where it is, it languisheth; for want of this exercise of thanksgiving. And know, that where such praises are ascending to heaven, benedictions will be also descending from heaven. Were there more of these acknowledgments, how would blessings descend! O! we should be more in blessing of God for heavenly things in Christ Jesus; that we should have that opportunity, from day to day, of beholding death spreading abroad its dark shadows over all the intellectual world, to wit, over the minds and spirits of men, and, I was myself a sad instance thereof; but God hath delivered me out of this miserable state; O! not to be much in thanksgiving, is the most inexcusable temper that can be! But again,
(2.) You ought, hereupon, more to pity the miserable world that is yet in death, over which death hath passed, and in which it abides, There is altogether a fault among us upon this account; we want bowels, we have not compassions, as we ought to have within us, towards perishing creatures, 474“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” It is a great evidence of our having obtained mercy, our being merciful in this kind. But to be destitute of compassion for the sad case of dead souls, is a sad symptom. To say, I have a husband, a wife, a child, that are under the power of death, have nothing of the life of God, no favour of God, no fear of God, in them; nothing that looks like the grace of God; why, not to compassionate them, sure, such a frame as this hath in it no indication of divine life springing in us: we see them, and converse with them, but seldom have a regretting thought that toucheth our hearts: this is, sure, altogether a fault, and knows no excuse, admits of none. It argues, at least, a very great languor of the divine life in us, when we have so little a sense of so horrid a death, as lies upon the generality of the world. Those, in whom this divine life doth take place, they are regenerated after God’s own image: and that must intimate to them to be like minded with him. God hath shewed mercy unto us, and, therefore, mercy was his nature, it is in the highest perfection in him. If I am transformed after his image, I must imitate him in this. If I have nothing of the divine offspring in me, how am I his child? And, if I have, why should it not operate in me in this kind, in reference to those that were in the same case with me, before I obtained mercy. And again,
(3.) If you have, through the grace of God, in a good degree, escaped out of that fearful state of death, which abides generally upon the world, make little reckoning in comparison of what you suffer in lower kinds, and in lesser respects, whatsoever you have to complain of upon other accounts. Let not the sense of lesser evils enter deep into your souls. He hath saved you from the greater evils: he delivered you out of that so great a death, which overwhelmed you and all the world. It is then, very disingenuous to complain of lesser and smaller things, when, from the greatest evils of all, he hath saved us. As the apostle saith, 2 Tim. i. 9. “Who hath saved us and called us with a holy calling.” Saved already in a degree, and, by saving us in that degree, hath made eternal salvation as sure as if we were in heaven already. And therefore, I say, reckon little of these lesser evils that may befal you in this present state. And, in the last place,
(4.) It is very suitable to such, further to consider, that
the rest of the evils of the world ought not to be considered as
strange, when it is to be remembered, that a universal death “hath passed over all men. That such and such evils should befal
in this world, should not be thought strange, since this death 475hath passed over all. We hear of a great mortality (it may be)
in such a country, and of a great many lives cut off in a battle, in another country. There ought to be bowels of
compassion upon that account; otherwise we have put off humanity. But it is a great madness that we should make a
greater matter of these things, and, at the same time, make
nothing of that universal death that hath passed over all.
Where are our minds, that we do not weigh the difference of
things?5050 In the commencement of this subject, a III. Head was proposed—the consecution of death upon the fall—(vide page 342 and 356,)
which the Author has not discussed separately; but the attentive
reader will perceive it is kept in view in the preceding and the following Lecture.
I have one thing more, before 1 pass to the doctrine of a Mediator, and God’s method of saving souls. And I desire to speak to it from another text. And that is, to vindicate the justice of God as to this sad and calamitous state, that is universal upon mankind, by reason of the fall.476
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