|« Prev||Lecture XLII. Preached Dec. 22, 1694.||Next »|
Thirdly.5959 Secondly, Should have been inserted at Lec. XLI. p. 532. It may be of use to us, to let us see how reasonable and righteous it is, that the conceptions and births of human creatures should be ordinarily attended, from age to age, with such dolours as we find they are. It is not to be repined at, that when such conceptions and births are in sin and iniquity, they should be also accompanied with terrors, with such pangs and agonies, as are commonly experienced. For it ought to be considered, what the productions are. What are the productions when a human creature is brought forth into this world? Why, a thing shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin. And abstractly considered, and antecedently to supervening grace, it is a monstrous production. Any such production, it is a monstrous thing. A reasonable, intelligent creature produced into being, with a radical enmity against the infinite and supreme Good, the Fountain of all excellency and perfection. Consider it, I say, antecedently to supervening grace, and every human product is a monstrous one. As reason is yet but radical and seminal, so is corruption, so is malignity against God. “Estranged from the very womb,” as that expression is, psalm lviii. 3.
Therefore, this lot is to be submitted to, with so much the more equal mind, remembering that this was part of the first sentence, when sin did first spring in the world, that conception and production should be in sorrow. That such sickness, such pangs, such agonies, should so constantly attend human conception and birth; we are not to repine at it, as if it were an unreasonable, an unrighteous thing: but we are to consider 542the reason of this and that; God will have a continual memorandum kept on for the putting us in mind, from age to age, what the nature is, that is descending and running down in this world, from age to age.
And that this should be the harder lot of that sex upon which it falls, the apostle gives this account—that that was the first deceived sex, first in the transgression, 1 Tim. ii. latter end. And the indulgence that is superadded, ought to be so much the more gratefully acknowledged; to wit, that there is so particular discovery of grace with reference to that sex: “She shall be saved in child-bearing, if she continue in faith, in holiness, in purity, in sobriety, “and in love, the immediate product of that faith; a heart united with God, by that “faith which works by love.” We read it, f( charity,” which commonly is understood to carry a reference especially unto a fellow creature. But there is no reason for that restriction in the native signification of the word itself. If she continue in faith, and love, with holiness and sobriety, she is in a safe state, notwithstanding all the pangs and dolour, and agonies, which, according to the original unreversed sentence, must be expected to be in the way. But again,
Fourthly. We may further learn, hence, by way of use, with what patience, and meekness, and wisdom; and with what considering minds, parents should observe and bear the sickness and death (when that case comes) of their children in their younger and more tender age. It requires much grace, much wisdom, a very serious and considering mind, to carry it equally and aright, in reference to such cases when they fall out: that a poor child that hath lately peeped into this world, is presently struck with some distemper or another, as soon as it breathes, it languishes, and, it may be, dies; which is, you know, a very common case: the far greater part being hardly thought to outlive infancy, who are born into this world. These languishings end in death more commonly, than in recovery and consistency in health. What is the reason of all this?
Why humanly, indeed, they are apt to think it very strange, who are short-sighted creatures, and measure all things by the short line of time, and confine all those thoughts and apprehensions of things to this present world. But we are to consider, that when such a creature appears first upon the stage, it appears a creature tainted with sin; so it brings death with it, even from its very birth, into this world. “Death passeth over all men, inasmuch as all have sinned:” and sure, infants must be included in that all; and so they must be understood 543to be sinful creatures; to wit, that this radical evil hath tainted their natures, as soon as they have the human nature.
This is a case, therefore, about which we are not to contend, but which we ought to set ourselves to improve, and turn to gain. Is such a creature, as soon as it is horn, a sinful, impure creature? Why, we must consider, that sin refers to eternity. I pray mind, that every thing of sin against God, it implies a reference to eternity, and to another world. Sin never reacheth its end and term here in this world. They that sin in this world, they are to give an account in the other: and that obey, and do comply, and fall in with the terms of the gospel, (the only prescription and relief in the case of having sinned,) they are to have their reward in another world. Sin, if it lie upon the sinner, turns to a miserable eternity in another world. Sin done away by expiation and by satisfaction, turns to a blessed eternity in another world. Do not think, therefore, that such creatures were finally made for this world. It would be an accountable riddle, that infants should but look into this world, and presently fall sick, and (as commonly it doth) that sickness end in death, if human nature were made for this world only. But this is to be considered, when such a creature comes into being, here is a production never to cease; a thing lately come into being, never to go out of being more: and that this world is only a vestibulum, an introduction into another world, which never dissolves, and wherein, whether our state be good or bad, they never change.
It ought hereupon to be considered, further, (that so such a case as this may be improved unto advantage,) it is improved to great advantage, if we consider what such a creature was made for; and considering it as a fallen creature, or sinner, what this sin it hath about it, hath reference to. It hath reference to eternity. All sin hath that reference.
But it will be of further improvement, if it be also considered by parents, in such cases, as to what tendency they usually have towards their children, when they are sick, and with what solicitude and fear they used to be vexing and disquieting their minds, lest they should die: yet they ought to be instructed, hence, to have a tenderness in reference to their spiritual maladies, and a like concern and dread of their dying eternally. Here would be a great improvement. “O! what a tenderness have I for my child when it is sick. Why, this distemper doth but attack the flesh, frail, mortal flesh, that was formed out of the dust so newly; and 544must, sooner or later, return to it again: but my child hath an immortal spirit in it too; and that is tainted with sin: it hath its worst and most dangerous distemper within, O! what cries, what supplications, should I send up to the Father of spirits, and Father of mercies, that he would cure these spiritual maladies?” And whereas, you an; afraid that your child will die; you are to be more afraid lest it should die eternally.
And labour to consider aright, the grounds you have of reasonable hope, in reference to this case. It is a case that pa rents ought not to consider with despair. Those that are themselves in covenant with God through Christ, the promise is to them, and to their seed: and they have a great deal more reason to hope, than they have to despair. And for ought I see, as great reason to hope concerning their children dying in infancy as they have to hope concerning themselves. The covenant of God in Christ doth not signify nothing. And whereas, that age is incapable of covenanting for itself, if such a one, growing to maturity, do not disclaim, but stand to the covenant of his or her parents, it holds firm and unalterable. And, in the mean time, while there is no capacity, or possibility of disclaimer, we have no reason to think there can be any failure on the other part, but, according to the tenour and constitution of God’s covenant, the infant, during its infant state, is considered as a branch in the root; and before it be capable of treating and transacting for itself with God, it is treated for acceptably and successfully by a holy and believing parent. And therefore, such a case, when it falls out unto godly pa rents to have their children languishing, even in their infancy, many times even unto death, they should consider what an admirable, strange thing it is: “This creature, as it came from me, came into this world an impure thing, a polluted thing, A child of wrath by nature; now, how is it numbered among the children of the Most High, and adjoined to the general assembly, (when it is gone from hence,) to the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect! What a change is this! So impure a creature as it came from me, is become now, all of a sudden, so glorious a creature!”
And it is further to that purpose, to be considered, What did God make such a creature for? Why, what do you think he made it on purpose to please me? If I be the parent, the pleasure I take in it, is but a collateral and secondary thing. Bat do we yet need to be taught that God made all things for himself? And that it may be good indeed, when such strokes do befal families, children lopt off, one branch after another, 545(it may be the single one,) to consider whatsoever a providence may specially animadvert upon, and if there be any thing evident in view, it ought to be considered; it ought to “be well considered and taken to heart. Yet, it is possible there may be a vulgar error incurred in this matter too: that is, in thinking that the principal design of any such dispensation was, or must be, the affliction and punishment of the holy parent. That ought to be considered, where there is no notorious delinquency to be reflected upon. I say, it ought to be considered as some end, but not as that principal end, of such a dispensation: for as the principal end of God’s making such a creature was not to please me; so the principal end of his taking such a creature out of this world, was not to displease me; but to glorify himself: and that end cannot be in this world, for which he hath made such a creature.
And it ought to be considered, that his right in it, is more than mine, infinitely. If any of you should put a child to nurse, and it grows up under the nurse’s care, and she is pleased with it, takes complacency in it; and because she doth do so, when you call for your child home, she will not part with it, because it pleaseth her; surely, you would think that your right and interest in the child are superior to her’s: and her’s (whatever it is) is not to be considered in competition with your’s; and, your’s is far less to be considered in competition with God’s; your’s is far more inferior. And therefore, there ought to be a grateful resentment, not without sense, not with stupidity; but with serious and apprehensive minds, and having the state of the case lying in view before you as it is. And therefore, I add,
Fifthly. That the miseries of this world ought not to amaze us. We are not to think it a strange thing, that this lower region should be a region of so much wretchedness and carnality, as it is found to be, from age to age: for is not every one that is born into it, born a sinner? And whereas, none can bring a clean thing out of an unclean, who can hope to bring a quiet thing out of an unclean? Purity and peace, pollution and disturbance go together. Every one brings into this world, not only that which is troublesome to himself, but that which is troublesome to others, too, with whom he hath to do. They bring that with them into this world, which must make it an unquiet, stormy region to them. Our greatest troubles (with every one) are born with us. And this is the common case, and cannot be otherwise, when we consider that sin, which every one brings with him into this world, doth dissolve the 546union between God and the soul, and breaks it off from God. A sinner, as such, is loose from God. And therefore, this would bring, from age to age, in a state of apostasy and separation from God, that which we see to be the consequent thereof, a universal confusion of our very nature within itself, and of all men (as they fall into any kind of conversation with one another) towards one another too. This cannot bat be, hereupon, a heap of confusion, a mere chaos.
How can it be otherwise with creatures fallen from God? If man that is born of a woman be an unclean thing, (as Job xiv. 4.) then, (as the 14 chapter begins,) it is not at all strange, that man that is born of a woman should be of few days, and full of trouble. So many such creatures as are produced, and brought forth into being in this world, so many fountains of misery and wretchedness are produced. Think of the vast numbers of the inhabitants of this earth, and every one, even from his very infancy, is a fountain both of impurity and misery. And therefore, it is not strange that so many fountains should deluge this world, from age to age, both with wickedness, so as that it may well be said to lie therein, and (as that which is most connatural thereunto) with misery also.
And it is, hereupon, to be the result of our thoughts, when we consider with ourselves, what a miserable region this world is: this ought, I say, to be the result of our thoughts: it is all natural, it is all most genuine; if we see early discords in families, when a family is planted, young plants springing up in it; if there are quarrellings, janglings, fallings out, perpetual animosities, even among those nearer relatives in families; as the poet observed long ago—Fratrum concordia rara, seldom is there any agreement among brethren; those that are branches of the same root. If we look further into larger societies, cities, kingdoms, or nations, they are all continually full of confusion, from age to age; and it is from hence, that the wretchedness of this world, which springs up from as many fountains as there are men and women upon earth, and these fountains, from their very infancy, are “like the troubled sea, whose waters cast forth mire and dirt,” as the prophet speaks: “There is no peace saith my God to the wicked.” That wickedness which overflows the world, cannot but make it an unquiet and gloomy region. And therefore, again,
Sixthly. We may further learn, how unreasonable and unaccountable a thing it is, that men should be in love with this present world. It is indeed, stupendous to think, that our minds should so cleave to so horrid a thing as this world is; should be 547set upon it, that they will not run from it; that here we think of taking up our rest! O! think, what we ourselves were, and what the rest of mankind is “a generation of vipers,” poisonous creatures, of an envenomed, malignant nature. If we find that we have a design, any desire, any hope or prospect of a better state, methinks, we should not affect to live among such creatures, and continue ourselves when a cure is to be hoped for; when we understand the design of grace, that it will make such as comply with its methods, pure, and holy, and glorious creatures ere it be long: but not here, but incohatively and imperfectly only. When I consider this, methinks we should be quite out of love with this world, and say with ourselves, “This cannot be our rest, for it is polluted,” as in that Micah ii. 10. O! let us be up and begone as soon as we can have a fair exit; and make it our business while we must stay here, as much as is possible for us, to keep from the corruptions that are in this World, and to get, as much as in us lies, this impure fountain of sin dried up; and to be waiting with earnest, and most desirous expectation, for a translation into that place where there shall be no more sin, but perfect purity: nothing to interrupt and hinder the closest union, and sweetest pleasures, and most delightful intercourse, between God and us. “He that hath this hope purifieth himself as God is pure:” the hope of being like God, and seeing him as he is, 1 John iii. 3. referred to the immediately foregoing verse. Which being made like God, and seeing him as he is, we know this present state admits not of.
Seventhly, We may further learn, hence, to admire the divine patience towards this wretched world, that he hath spared it so long, is so indulgent to it; while wickedness is so continually propagating an enmity, rebellion, and war, against himself, from one generation to another. We ought to consider the divine patience in this, both as great and as wise. As great, to look upon it abstractly, it is wonderful patience, that God should bear with such a world, that is transmitting continual wickedness and enmity against himself from age to age, when he hath it so perfectly in his power to put a stop and period to all this, at his own pleasure. It is great patience. It is a very great thing.
But we ought also to consider it, too, that it is the patience of a God; and then it must be wise as well as great. Wise with reference to somewhat else, as well as great in itself. It cannot be, but that the reference of this patience must be to some what else, to some God-like design; otherwise, would he sustain 548a sinful world, and let sinners beget sinners, and propagate a rebellion and war against himself, from age to age, if he had not some great meaning in all this? Why, there will be glorious results out of it, which, by how much the less our under standings are capable of comprehending it, with so much the more patience, and resignation, we should wait for it. It will be found at last a thing worthy of God, to have borne, with so much patience, the wickedness of this world so long. But then,
Eighthly. We are from hence to reckon, too, that this state of things must not last always, when this is the constant course and common case that, from age to age, impure creatures are begotten of impure creatures, conceived in sin, shapen in iniquity, we may conclude upon it, that this course will have an end. And we are not to think it strange, if it should have such an end as the Scriptures of truth, tell us, it will have; that is, that a day will come, “when the heavens shall be rolled up as a scroll, and the elements melt with fervent heat; and all things therein shall be consumed and burnt up, as it is in that 2 Peter, iii. at large. We are not to think this strange or unworthy of God, that he should design such a way, to put a period, at last, to the generations of men on earth, ‘when they are so continually, so long as they last, handing down and transmitting wickedness and war against heaven, from generation to generation. It is never to be thought, that this can last always. Therefore, how much the more wicked we observe the world to be, with so much the more awe, trembling, and dread we should consider what is coming—that day of the perdition, and of the destruction of ungodly men; this world being reserved unto tire against that day. But again,
Ninthly. We are further to learn, how admirable a thing it is, that in the mean time, God should be raising up to himself a divine offspring, out of an impure race of creatures; (Be they as they are, and as they, from age to age, are born in sin, and brought forth in iniquity, yet, saith God, “I will have my part and share among them;”) that he should have assigned to a Redeemer his seed, (“He shall see his seed,” Isaiah liii. 10,) even out of this corrupt seed, this seed of evil doers. And whereas, according to the natural state of the case, (as it is stated before,) man in his first apostasy being an accomplice with the devil, this world is entirely become the devil’s family: “You are of your father the devil.” John viii. 44. So men, morally considered, are. In respect of their naturals (it 549is true,) God is the Father of their spirits; but in respect of their morals, lapsed, corrupted man, is the devil’s seed, and so, antecedently to grace, this world was become the devil’s family: but now, that God should raise up to himself a family out of this family; that there should be a diverse and contrary seed springing up, even amidst the other, and out of it, opposite to the other, and having its particular and distinct character, this is admirable! As the apostle tells us, “Herein the children of God, and the children of the devil are manifest.” There is a manifest, discernible difference between them. There is no doubt, they must needs differ, beyond all that can be thought, who are of so vastly different parents.
But here is the wonder,—that God should design to raise up to himself such a seed, out of such a world, out of such a race! that he did not rather choose to abandon this (one) when he was gone off from him: and when he could, by a word, have raised up another pure, holy, innocent creature through out. No: but his design was to defeat the device and contrivance of the devil; he thought to have this seed, all this race of creatures entirely off from God: No, this shall not be; he was resolved he would herein deceive the deceiver; and (as to this design of his) destroy the destroyer;—destroy him that had the power of death, and make a fool of him.
This, (as I noted in the opening of the text to you) was a course most eligible to the Supreme Wisdom, not to make a direct regression of any of his works, by meeting with opposition and a design driven on against him. But he resolves to proceed in the natural course that was laid out at first, and to counterwork that arch-enemy, the first, the grand apostate; and to carry on his own design, against his design; and to turn all to honour and glory at last: even into matter of the highest triumph over the defeated and disappointed destroyer of souls. And this is that which we should consider, with wonder and reverence, that God should have such a design as this in hand, and continually kept on foot, to raise to himself a pure, and holy, and divine seed, (which shall at length be perfectly so,) out of such an apostate degenerate race. And,
Tenthly, This lets us see the necessity of regeneration. Is man such an impure creature, even from his very original, from his conception and birth? Then he must be new made. If any thing shall be made of him to good purpose, lie must be made over again. This shews us of how absolute necessity it is, that there should be not only in discourse, but in fact, that great mystery of regeneration, belonging to our religion. Is man 550now, from the beginning, such an impure thing? (the great God beholding this,) there is nothing to be made of this creature, unless he be new made. Is he born such a thing? he must be new-born. Born he is, of earthly parentage: but “he must be born from above,” as that word admits to be rendered, John iii. 5. But yet,
Eleventhly. It also shews the kindness, as well as the necessity, of this regenerating work; by how much the more necessary, by so much the more kind. How admirable grace is there in it; that when the exigency of the case required that this creature should be made and born over again; I say, when the case required such a thing, God should so graciously vouchsafe it? This is admirable grace! “We were sometimes foolish, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures;” slaves in our birth; born slaves. “But when the kindness and love of God appeared, not by works of righteousness which we had done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed upon us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Tit. iii. 4, 5. Consider the grace of regeneration, how gracious a work it is, that God, who had no need of such creatures, creatures that could add nothing to him, should condescend to such a thing, to let that holy and pure Spirit of his, come, amidst all their impurities, with his own holy light and influence, upon creatures that he might have abhorred to touch with: that the holy and pure Spirit should shed his light and influences, (so pure things amidst so much impurity,) there to regenerate, there to renew, there to form, there to reform—O what grace is this! And, lastly,
Twelfthly. We may further collect, hence, how glorious a work regeneration or renovation must be, when that shall take effect. “Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. xxi. 5. Who would expect that such a state of things as this, should come out of such a state as this world was degenerated into, when every particular creature that inhabits it, was a fountain of impurity and misery to itself, and to the rest? That there should be such a thing laid in the divine counsel—“Well, I will new make this world; there shall be such a thing as new heavens, and a new earth, wherein righteousness shall dwell:” With what wonder and transport should we think of this, that God will have so glorious a world, out of a world so lost and sunk in impurity and death, as this world is!
But thus far, we have been considering the state of the apostate children of men—the fall of the first man—551the fall state of men, and—the equity and righteousness of the divine procedure in all this. It remains, in the next place, to come now to that which I last observed, by way of use, will lead us more directly to consider; and that is, what hath been designed, and what is done, and is doing, in order to the recovery of this impure, this lost, and lapsed creature.6060 To be continued in a Supplementary Volume.
End of the Seventh Volume.
Mason, Printer, Chichester.
|« Prev||Lecture XLII. Preached Dec. 22, 1694.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version