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SERMON XXVIII.

James ii. 23.

And the scripture teas fulfilled winch saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.

IN recommending to you several requisites for a continual course of friendship with Christ, I did not mention that of trust, than which there is not a greater requisite to friend ship. But that I intend to be spoken to by itself. And therefore have pitched upon this text. Now to proceed gradually, and in some method. There are four previous things which I shall premise. As ]. Where do we find Abraham to be called the friend of God? for it refers to a former scripture, as fulfilled, that God did treat him as a friend. We find him expressly so called, 2 Chron. xx. 7. There was a numerous, potent enemy that did seek to keep out the people of God from possessing that land which God had given to the seed of Abraham his friend. And Jehoshaphat urgeth this to God in prayer. So we have it again, Isa. xli. 8, where there being an occasion to mention Abraham, he is spoken of also as the friend of God; “But thou Israel art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.” But 2. We are to consider and take notice under what notion Abraham is spoken of by that glorious title of the friend of God. It is true he was an eminent saint. But was this spoken of him under that notion? or is it not under a common notion as a believer? So it seems to be in the text. “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was culled the friend of God.” This is a notion common to him, and to all believers; and this still must then agree with the rest of believers. Then 3. We are further to consider what ort of faith this was in which Abraham is accounted a righteous person, and called the friend of God. It is plain that that faith did not consist only in believing the general promise of having a numerous seed. It did not terminate on God, abstractly without 376a reference to Christ. It did not stand in a cold and in effectual assent to any divine truth whatsoever—for the whole context shews the insufficiency of such a faith. But to speak to this positively, and briefly, we shall consider the object and nature of this faith. As,

1. For the object of it, is evident that it did comprehend and take in four representations of Christ. How distinct and explicit his understanding thereof was we cannot determine. But he had some notion of it: for our Lord himself saith, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad, John viii. 56. And this must be a truth with us which none can question. And we are told, that very good promised to Abraham did eminently intend that one seed, which was Christ, Gal. iii. 16. And we are there also told, verse 17, that the covenant, that was not at first made but renewed with Abraham, was the covenant of God in Christ. And we are likewise told that this seed of his was to possess the gates of their enemies; and that nations should be blessed in him. So that his mind was directed, that from this seed of his, himself should expect blessedness. And it cannot otherwise be supposed. And ergo, that as the eye was fixed upon Christ, as his seed by promise, and through that to be blessed himself. The prophets themselves did not fully understand their own prophesying of him. Some prophecies they must be supposed to have, though not most distinct and clear to themselves. So we find, 1 Pet. i. 10, 11. “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” And,

2. As to the nature or kind of that faith, in reference to the object, it must be such as, according to his understanding of the discovery he had there, must be an embracing of his heart and will towards this object. He doth close with Christ according to the representation he had of him. Christ was the sum and substance of the Gospel—faith in the mind and heart of Abraham, as far as the discovery was made to him.

And now the way is plain to that which I principally in tend for the ground of discourse from this text, to wit:

Doctrine. That there is much of friendly commerce between the blessed God and the souls of men in and about 378the production and exercise of that faith upon which he counts them righteous, and doth justify, and will finally save them. This is the substance of what I intend to insist upon from the whole of this text. I take it to be clear that Abraham’s faith was the same for kind and nature with that by which all believers are justified and saved. And he was called the friend of God. And then I say there is much friendly converse between God and souls in the production and service of that faith which justifies and saves. Now take notice,

1. That I do not consider that discovery of friendship in the single act of faith, but take a further latitude, as to the production and exercising of that faith. There is a friend ship in that whole ingratiation between God and souls, when he is about producing, and they about the exercising, of that faith. And again,

2. Take notice, that I do not speak of faith here as justifying only, but of faith as saving also, being led thereto by the context, and by my own design. By the context, which speaks of faith under both notions, as justifying, in the words next following. And as saving, in the 14th verse: Can such a faith save him? And upon account of my own design, i.e. of discovering the friendship which appears in this matter, which certainly is eminently seen at the last in salvation, as that is the result of all the transactions between God and the soul in these matters. And again,

3. Take notice that hereupon this friendship is not to be considered merely as begun, but as continued unto the last: for friendship doth not lie in a single act, but a state. And ergo, there must be a continued course of friendship, frequent repetitions of such a kind and manner as there was in the indication, the beginning of this friendship. There may be intervals of it, after some notable failure on the one part or the other. And there must be somewhat done to the keeping of it on foot throughout; for that it never be totally broken off with them whom the end, the perfection, the consummation of it, shall take place at last, to wit, their final and eternal salvation. And,

4. Further consider this, that wheresoever there is true friendship (admitting it to be called so in the best and proper sense) it must be mutual. A man cannot truly and properly be said to be a friend with an inanimate subject, and there may be a disparity both natural and moral. As I can have no friendship, or there can be no entire and full friendship between me and a stone; so neither can there 379be between me and an enemy. Though I may have friendly propensions towards such an one, yet an actual, friendly intercourse there cannot be, if there be an incapacity in the other subject, either natural or moral. Ergo, to speak to the subject of the intercourses of friend ship, that are in this transaction between God and the soul in and about this production, and exercising of that faith by which he justifies and saves, it was fit to premise these things. And these things being clear. I am to shew,

I. What there is of a friendly propension on God’s part towards the souls of such with whom he so negotiates, in the management and conduct of this matter. And the friendship herein, on his part, appears in general in these two things.

1. In friendly instructions and counsels; and,

2. In friendly performances, or actual communications.

1. In friendly instructions and counsels: so he is a wise friend; as in the other he is a powerful one. His wisdom appears in his instructions and counsels; and his power in his performances and communications; but neither of these exclusively of the other. And,

(1.) It is much of friendly propension, that God discovers to men in bringing about that faith which is justifying, in the friendly instructions and counsels he affords them in order hereunto. And we must take in this, that what as to his purpose he speaks by his word to them, he doth by his Spirit impress upon them. This is as the seal to the wax, which makes and leaves its impress thereon. What he speaks outwardly by his word, he speaks internally by his Spirit, which makes use of the word to enlighten their minds with, and begets correspondent characters on the soul, so as to make the word effectual. And,

He instructs them concerning their undone and miser able state while they remain strangers to him, and enemies against him. He speaks copiously to them of this by his word; and must be understood to speak correspondently hereof by his Spirit. Thou art in a state of separation from me, who am the Author of thy being and blessedness. Thou art insensible of this state, and thou thinkest that thou needest not God, thou canst live without him in the world. Whereas thou art lost, a guilty creature, liable to wrath: and thou art an impotent creature; thou canst not escape or deliver thyself: and what will become of thee, thou hast not righteousness nor strength! It is necessary that the soul do apprehend and feel this, and the misery of his state 380while he hath no God, no interest in him, nor righteousness to recommend him to God. Men have not a word to say for themselves in this case. The power of God is engaged against them. Against his justice they can say nothing, and against his power they can do nothing. When there is a design of friendship on foot, then God takes the soul aside, and shews it all this, to convince it. God now brings things home with a strong hand, and makes the soul consider what it may expect, if it continue in a war against Heaven. Then,

(2.) He instructs them (and there is much of friendliness in it) concerning his own reconcileableness to sinners. God declares it in his word, and he speaks it over again to their own ears and hearts. Men will not mind what i? said in the word. They might easily see that he is placable and willing to be reconciled; his giving them much of his goodness, and his exercising patience and long suffering towards them, and all this to lead them to repentance. He expostulates the matter with men on plain evidence of the things themselves: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Rom. ii. 4. But he hath spoken out to men in the gospel, wherein he opens his heart, and declares his counsels to them. But all this needs to be spoken to men inwardly. He urgeth and inculcates his mind and will to them; reasons and argues with their souls. Why hast thou not understood all this hitherto? but thou understandest it now that I am a reconcileable God, if thou now fall not in with my method for this end. This is of mighty importance for bringing about such a friendship; for while, men apprehend God to be irreconcileable, that will lead them to despair, and be an hell upon earth. But to behold a gospel of grace and reconciliation, and having it set on so as to apprehend the thing. indeed, this engageth the intention and mind to consider the terms offered. And then,

(3.) He instructs such souls about the great reconciler and mediator of their peace, into whose hands he hath put all this affair; unto whom they must be beholden, from whom they must receive all that grace that is requisite, either to the changing of the state, or the changing of the frame. And if men be not inwardly and with efficacy instructed concerning all this, the very doctrine of reconciliation itself would very slowly enter against those mighty objections, which it might meet with in a considering mind. For any 381one that understood the nature of God, and considered him as a being absolutely perfect, and so apprehended his holiness and his justice to be in the highest perfection in him, as well as his other governing attributes; if one thought should arise in the mind of such a person, about contracting a peace and friendship with his God, Oh, how shall he answer it to himself, when his own mind tells him, his nature admits of no change, and my nature, by any power of my own, admits of none. God will not change his nature, and I cannot change mine. This very nature and natural state put me into a posture of direct hostility against his sovereign authority, against his justice, and against his holiness, all at once. If a man in this case hath no way in view how God can consistently with the honour and dignity of his authority and government, and the unalterableness of his eternal law, be reconciled to a sinner, and lead him into communion with himself: here lies an objection in the mind of such an one, against the sum of the gospel, if that were held faith only in general. That is, that God is willing to be reconciled to sinners. For what? Is he willing to deny himself? To come down from his throne to quit his government? or is it possible to him to change his nature, to be less just and less holy than he essentially is? But when there cometh to be a distinct explication of the way and method wherein God can honourably, and consistently with his truth, justice, and holiness, be reconciled to sinners; to wit, by the discovery of the doctrine of the Mediator; and when this discovery is inwardly applied and brought home; that which was before a stumbling-block, and a mountain of opposition raised up in the soul against the truth and purpose of the gospel, vanished), and the way is plain, smooth, and open to it; and so nothing remains but to fall in with it. But oh, how friendly is this, not only to speak this in an unregarded, external relation, but to speak it internally to the mind and soul, and make it apprehended and understood. To shew unto man his righteousness, who it is that he must be beholden to for all that is requisite for the changing of his state, and for changing his natural frame and inclination, when he must have righteousness and strength. To declare all this by inward, internal light, oh how friendly is this converse! These things are spoken thousands of times over, to the stupid and inadvertent generally, and they never take notice of it. But when he comes to make light, and to shine through that darkness which enwrapt the heart, then 382hope begins to take place. Then saith such a soul, “I see it is a feasible thing, a practicable thing that the gospel proposes; I see God hath put the management of all these affairs into such a hand as can at once both reconcile his attributes to one another, and reconcile him to us, and us to him. And then,

(4.) He instructs concerning the way and method of coming to have an interest and part in Christ. So as to have both righteousness and spiritual life in him and by him, i.e. upon being united with him. This is the way; and he instructs the soul that there is not only a fulness of all grace in his Son, from whom they are to receive righteousness, and the regenerating spirit also; but there is a way of coming to be interested in all his fulness, and in that renovating Spirit: and, we then must be united to him. “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom.” Then we are told there must be union. And how is that to be brought about? Why, thou must be in him, in order to this interest and participation from him. This wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption, which are in Christ, are nothing to thee that hast no part in him; but his wisdom is thine, his righteousness is thine, his sanctification and redemption thine; but all this upon supposition that thou art in him. There must be such an union in order to that participation. But how is this union brought about? Why, he that is the author of the whole design, is the author of this union; “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom.” 1 Cor. i. 20. Thus this union must be of God.

But then you must consider this to be very proper and wholesome counsel to you. “Acquaint now thyself with him, and beat peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.” Job xxii. 21. Sue to him for all such counsel as anywise man would take and follow. A Luke xiv. latter end. “Or what king going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.” This is good counsel, which is secretly prompted unto that. Oh, sinner, sue for peace. Thou canst never, with thy feeble power, oppose and contend in a war against Almightiness itself, that comes armed with terror and vengeance against thee. This cannot be: it is thy way to sue for peace. And we are told, in what way God will be reconciled, if ever to 383be reconciled; that is, it must be in and by the Mediator. Here is suitable counsel given thee. He counsels thee, Rev. iii. 18. “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.” You are externally counselled to all this in the gospel. And it may be there are such direct intimations given to minds too; it is likely very often but little regarded. But that such counsel should be given is very friendly. What wilt thou do, thou undone lost creature? Thou hast no clothing, but must appear naked before the divine vindictive justice; nothing to fence thee, nothing to arm thee against the stroke of vengeance. Thou art running on blindly upon thine own ruin. I tell thee where there is eye-salve for thee, and where there is clothing for thee, and where there is every thing that thy necessitous, indigent, undone state requires and needs; I counsel thee to betake thyself to him, to apply to him. This is very friendly counsel. It is friendly in the design and aspect and tendency of it, as it presents itself to thee in the external word; but much more when it is inwardly suggested, when the thing is inculcated inwardly to the mind and heart, and thou art beaten upon by these things, thou art so and so counselled. Why dost thou not hearken to counsel? Why, in such things as these, there appears much of friendship on God’s part; that is, in the friendly instructions and counsels which he is pleased to give, especially internally and correspondently, as it must be, with the external revelation of his mind concerning these things.

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