|« Prev||Sermon XVI. Preached April 36, 1691.||Next »|
We are saved by hope.
THERE is one, and a main thing yet behind, which I reserved to the last place, because there is most to be said to it. That is,219
(10.) That in this converting work there is a solemn closure with Christ; a passing quite into a vital union with him, so as that the soul comes thereby to be in him, and Christ comes to be in the soul. And this transaction could never be brought about but under hope. Christ will never come to be in that united state with you by your own consent and choice, if he were not eyed by you under this notion, “Christ in us the hope of glory;” Christ is to be mine, as my great hope, for eternity, and another world. And this transaction and contracting with Christ I reserved to the last place, not as if it were the last in time in the great work of conversion, but as that which I design to speak more largely unto.
As for the method and order wherein all these mentioned things lie to one another, and wherein they may be effected and wrought in the souls of men, it may vary, and not be always the same. Some thoughts may be injected into some minds first, and others first into others. And though suitable and correspondent impressions be made according to injections of thoughts, yet the Spirit doth not always keep one way; though some things must, in their own nature, precede, yet there is certainly an intention of an end always before the use of the means. With all rational agents and movements the end must be propounded that they design for; and then the way taken that is accommodated to that end. And so the eye of the soul must be towards God finally; first, as him that I am to return to, and then come to a closure with him, in whom he only is accessible. In reference to that, singly considered, that peculiar method is observed, though there are other things that have been mentioned which may partly precede, and partly follow.
But this is that I would now insist upon, and make out to you, that, as in the work of conversion and regeneration, the soul is brought to an agreement with the Son of God, as the Redeemer, Saviour, and Ruler of sinners; so it is brought to this by the influence and power of hope; and it could never come to this agreement with Christ otherwise, but as its hope doth influence it hereunto. Most plain it is, that, wheresoever a work of conversion is brought about, and any $o become Christians indeed, they are brought into Christ, they are brought to have an inbeing in Christ, (as the Scripture phrase is, and that we must keep to, and labour to understand the mind and meaning of the Spirit of God in it,) Christ is nothing to 220us, till we be in him; “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” 1 Cor. i. 30. That is, he is every thing to us that our case requires and needs, if once we he in him; and nothing if we be not in him: whereas we are foolish creatures, he is made to us wisdom; whereas we are guilty creatures, he is made unto us righteousness; whereas we are impure creatures, he is made unto us sanctification; and whereas we are enslaved creatures, he is made unto us redemption, if we be in him; but nothing of all these if we be not in him. When God deals with souls in order to the renewing of them, they are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to walk in them. Ephes. ii. 10. When he creates the new creature, it is said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are done away, and all things are become new. 2 Cor. v. 17. This is the great thing that is brought about in the work of conversion or regeneration, or the work of the new creation, which are various scripture expressions of the same thing. The giving the soul an in-being in Christ; inverting, implanting it into him, or (which is all one) bringing about an union between Christ and the soul; in respect whereof that union is so intimate, that he is sometimes said to be in it, and it is sometimes said to be in him. They are mutually in one another. This we must consider is the thing effected in conversion, and which we are to shew you, cannot be effected but by the influence of hope.
Nothing can be more suitable to the Apostle’s present scope, than to insist upon this, and evince it to you; for do but observe how he begins this chapter, and take notice how the whole series of his discourse proceeds upon the supposition of this one thing, their being in Christ; having spoken in the foregoing chapter, of the conflict, the war that is between the fleshly principle, and the spiritual principle; and the victory of the Spirit over the flesh, in all that are sincere, and where there is a thorough regenerating work wrought, thereupon he begins this chapter thus, “There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit;” whereby he plainly signifies to us, that the fleshly principle ceaseth to govern, and it ceaseth to condemn at the same time; when sin doth no longer reign, it no longer condemns. This mighty turn and change is brought about in the state of such a person, and in the frame and temper of such an one’s spirit, at one and the same time; to wit, 221he is now no longer condemned for sin, and he is no longer governed by it. There is no condemnation, and they no longer walk after the flesh, but after the spirit. But whence is it, that he hath this double privilege, or that this mighty turn and change is made in the state of his case? Why, now he is in Christ, he hath been instated in Christ, and now he is neither condemned for sin, nor governed by it.
And upon this supposition of persons being once in Christ, proceeds all the following discourse, through the residue of this chapter. So that now take such an one, suppose him giving (as it were) his account, standing on the brink of the rapid gulph, out of which he newly emergeth, and by grace enabled to spring forth, and make his escape: suppose we such an one, giving an account of his deliverance, and how it was brought about: You that were plunged in so deep and horrid a gulph, and so dreadful impurities, how comes it to be otherwise with you now? Why, I have been brought into Christ, and so, through the grace of God, is my state safe and comfortable. I was tossed in the common deluge and inundation of wickedness and wrath, that had spread itself over all this world; and this was my case, till I came to be in-arked in Christ, and so I became safe. But how came you unto him? or what made you offer at any such thing? Why, I can give you but this account in the general, I am saved by hope; if I had no hope, I had been lost, sunk, and perished for ever; but here was the offer made me of a Redeemer and Saviour, and I hoped it was by one that had no design to deceive me; and there I cast my anchor, and I am come to an agreement with the Son of God, the Saviour! And thus I come to be in this safe state. Safe I am through grace, and I own it, I am safe through hope.—I had been, lost else, if I had no hope, and should never have looked after Jesus Christ;—but I had hope when the gospel discovery and representation, and offer of Christ was made to me, that it was by one that could not fail, and would not deceive; one that was not impotent, and too weak to save me, and one that would never be false and untrue to me, if I ventured upon him; and because I had hope, therefore I ventured, and so I am come to this safe state. It is by the influence of hope, that souls are brought into that agreement with the Son of God, upon which their eternal salvation and well-being depends. This is that I have to 222make out to you, to wit, that the soul in its first eyeing of Christ, doth eye him as the only hope of sinners.
It is observable how the Apostle begins that first epistle of his to Timothy, in which a little after the beginning, he tells us in that great transport of spirit, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world, to save sinners.” But see (I say) how he begins that very chapter and epistle; “Paul an Apostle of God, and of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God, and our Saviour, who is our hope.” His heart was full of this thing,—That Christ was the great hope of sinners;—and naturally breaks forth into such expressions as those that do afterwards follow: and being replenished with this sense, having his heart full of it saith, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” He is represented and held forth in the gospel, under such a representation as doth signify him to be the great and only hope of souls: so he is closed with, so he is received, so the soul resigns and gives up itself at length unto him.
We see that under that notion, he is laid hold on. Look to that; Heb. vi. 18. “By two immutable things, by which it was impossible for God to lie, (to wit, the oath of God added to his word,) the heirs of promise might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them.” An allusion to the manslayer, one that had by casualty (but within the meaning of the law that gave immunity in such cases) slain another, for whom the cities of refuge were appointed and provided, with respect to the several tribes. This is the representation of the case of a sinner frighted and pursued by the vindicta of the divine law and justice; such have no way of escape remaining to them, but to fly for refuge to that hope that is set before them: that is, to Christ, the great antitype to those types,—these cities of refuge were so many types of him. But where is he to be eyed and followed now? He is entered as a forerunner into the holy of holies, he is gone within the veil, and thither our hope must follow him, as you may see in the close of that chapter; “Which hope we have, as an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil; whither Jesus our forerunner is for us entered.” I can have no hope (saith the pursued soul) but in Christ. But where will you find him? He is gone far enough out of sight, he 223is entered within the veil, the heavens have received him. But yet (saith the soul) I mean to follow him thither, and my hope shall enter there, even within the veil, whither Christ is for me entered; I will not beheld off from him. So this laying hold upon this hope is to be understood; hope is objectively taken there, the hope set before them; it is coming to an agreement, a contract with Christ. It is that by which we actually become entered into the covenant of God by Christ, we can take hold no other way but by the covenant; taking hold of the covenant, and taking hold of him, whom that covenant doth (as it were) enwrap and give us the hold of; they are equivalent expressions, and mean one and the same thing. But then understand under what notion is he to be taken hold of; you see that text speaks the matter plainly; he is to be taken hold of, under the notion of the hope set before them. And so when the soul comes into such an union with him, as to have his entrance into it, so as that he is said to be in the soul, to be, by an internal presence, actually indwelling in it: under what notion is that? Why, that scripture tells us, Col. i. 27. “Christ in you.” How is he in us, under what notion is he in us? As the hope of glory, he makes his way into the soul, under the notion of the soul’s hope. The soul receives him, admits him, unites with him under that notion, as its great hope; Christ who is our hope, as that mentioned introductive passage of the Epistle to Timothy speaks.
And here I must note to you, that speaking of the influence of hope, upon this great transaction of the soul with Christ, I speak not of the hope which doth follow the receptive act, or the self-resigning act, but of an hope that doth precede it. It is true, there is an hope which follows it, by which every believing soul is to continue hoping to the end; often repeating that act, through its whole after course. But there is an hope that doth precede it, of which I now speak, that is, that leads to this reception of Christ, and self-resignation to him; and under the influence whereof, the soul doth receive Christ, and resign itself and which therefore must be understood to precede: and that is only the immediate product of the gospel representation that is made of Christ; he is discovered to us in the gospel in those capacities, and under those notions, in which he is to be received. This representation of him, so believed on, I believe (saith the soul) this is true, which the gospel speaks concerning Christ, I assent to the truth of this word. 224Hence ariseth this hope in the soul, which intervenes between the assenting act of faith, and the relative act of faith; the soul having thus assented to the truth of the gospel revelation, it hereupon hopes, surely I shall run no desperate hazard if I do receive Christ, and resign myself to him according as the gospel doth direct; and so by the influence of this hope accordingly doth receive, and doth resign.
And so the matter being so far stated before us, which we are to clear to you; I shall first argue it out by some more general considerations very briefly, and shall in some particular heads that do concur in this transaction with Christ, discover to you the influence of this hope to this purpose, the bringing about such an agreement and closure of the soul with Christ.
1 It may be argued out to you, from such general considerations as these.
(1.) That the soul’s contracting, or coming to such an agreement with Christ, is most certainly a very wise act, the wisest thing that ever any soul did for itself in all this, world. As certainly they cannot but be great fools, who, when the gospel reveals a Saviour, will perish by neglect of him; will rather perish than receive him, when they have the Saviour in view, and the terms in view upon which he is to be received.
(2.) Wisdom in any such action is to be estimated by the reference thereof to the end, which is to be designed therein. There is no wise action, but is designed for some end or other, as aptly serving and contributing to the attaining of that end. That is a succedaneous consideration, which is plain in itself. And then add,
(3.) That the proper end, which in such a reception of a Saviour must be designed, is salvation. Nothing can be plainer, than that the end, I am to design in receiving a Saviour is, that I may be saved by him. What else can it be? To which I subjoin,
(4.) That there can be no design without hope. It is naturally impossible to me to design my own salvation by receiving of a Saviour, but it must be with hope of success in this way. There can be, in all the world, no such thing as a design laid without hope of compassing it; no end proposed without hope and expectation, that at last it may be brought about. It is not needful that there should be a certainty that it shall, but the*e must be an hopefulness and probability that it may, otherwise there can be no 225design at all. It is not agreeable to the human nature to design for that, of which there is no hope. These are general considerations, which do plainly enough evince, that this transaction of the soul with Christ, in order to its own salvation, must be under the influence of hope. But,
2. I shall go on to shew, from several particulars, which lie within the compass of this great work of transacting and agreeing with Christ, according to the terms of the gospel covenant; upon each of which, it cannot be, but hope must have influence. As,
(1.) In such a transaction with Christ, or when the soul is coming to an agreement with him upon gospel terms, it must renounce any other saviour or way of salvation, that either is co-ordinate with him, or much more, that shall be opposite to him; whatsoever indeed shall be subordinate, must be taken in, but to think of any thing co-ordinate, of any such thing, there must be a most absolute renunciation. The soul must speak its own sense in such words as the church speaks here; “Asher shall not save us, nor will we say to the works of our hands, ye are our gods; for with thee the fatherless find mercy.” There must be an exclusion of all things else, that shall be co-ordinately joined with Christ, or that shall be brought into any kind of competition with him, in this his saving work, and offer. I abandon all other saviours, (this is the language of the soul,) and all expectations from any other.
Now, whereas it is manifest the soul must be brought to this, if ever it come to a closure and agreement with Christ, so it can never be brought to this, but by the influence of hope concerning him. A drowning man will never let go his twig, but in order to a surer hold of something that may be stronger, and that he may better trust to it. If men have nothing else to rely upon, but their own imagined innocency, or their righteousness, or their performances, that they have performed such and such things in a way of duty, or withheld themselves, and abstained from such and such things in a way of sin. If men have nothing else to rely upon here, they will hold till they have a better hold. It must be the influence of a better hope, some better hope introduced, that must make the soul willing to let go this hold: they will never quit the twig, till they have in view somewhat better and stronger to take hold of. There must be this, in the first place, in the soul’s transacting with Christ, a renouncing of any other Saviour, or any other way of salvation.226
(2.) There must be the taking on of Christ’s yoke; in this transaction with him, the soul must agree to take his yoke upon it, submit its neck thereunto. The gospel is plain and express in this, even in those words of grace themselves, than which the gospel did never breathe sweeter and more grateful ones; “Come unto me all ye that are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you rest; learn of me, and take my yoke upon you, and you shall find rest to your souls, tor my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” But such as it is, take it you must; or you are never to expect rest from me, safety, or relief from me. If I give, you must take. If I give you pardon, if I give you peace, you must take my yoke, my burden upon your necks and shoulders: in short, the soul must submit to be governed by Christ, subject itself to his governing power, and the sceptre of his kingdom. This must be its fence. “Other lords have had dominion over me, but now I will make mention of thy name, of thine only.” It must be subject to the government of Christ, both negative and positive; that is, must submit, and be bound up from every way of sin, and it must submit and yield to be bound to every way of duty: and this is taking up of Christ’s yoke, and this it can never do but with hope, but under the influence of hope.
It is upon the declining of this, that many a soul come* to break with Christ after a treaty begun, and (it may be) carried on far: they may be content to entertain those pleasant thoughts which the gospel gives some intimation of, and by its first overtures doth (as it were) suggest and offer to the soul, of having sin pardoned, and God reconciled, and being saved from the wrath to come, and of being intitled to future felicity, and a blessed state. These are pleasant thoughts, and the first aspect of the gospel doth suggest them; and while the soul looks upon these alone, and doth not look upon what there is of conjunct duty with it, it may go on far, and there may seem to be an agreement entered, or very near to be entered, or which the soul is in a great disposition to enter into with Christ, while it is only expecting much from him, and thinks of bending itself in nothing to him. But when that part comes to be reflected on too, then the soul begins to recoil, to revolt, and to fly off. It can be content with every thing but to be yoked, to come under restraints from such and such ways; no, (saith the soul,) I will never endure to be yoked, to come under obligation to such and such 227things as have displeased me, and I could never yet like. Yes, but this Christ insists on. If ever you expect rest from me, I expect you will take on my yoke; that you willingly submit to be yoked by me; it is indeed an easy yoke, and I would have thee understand the matter so, and thou wilt find it an easy yoke, when once thou hast tried it; but a yoke it is, and as such it must be received. But here is the great matter of hesitation, the wretched soul sticks at this, No, I will not endure thy yoke! It is as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, as Ephraim is represented, Jer. xxxi. 18. and if ever they come to be made sensible, they will speak that sense truly, “I was like Ephraim, thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, I was as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” This is their sense, if ever they become truly and thoroughly sensible; but in the mean time, here is the stick, because they have not been accustomed to the yoke, and cannot endure to be yoked, therefore doth many an one part with Christ, and give up all; all treaty is quite broken off between Christ and them. And if it be, pray what is the reason of it, thou wretched soul? If one may speak thy own sense in the case, if thou wouldest but reflect and see, whether it be not so, this will prove to be it, to wit, thou hadst no hope. I believe I may speak the heart of many an one in this case, if they could but tell how to speak their own, and to observe so much of their own heart.
I would have such to consider it, as are yet in their youthful days, whether sometimes, having been struck with convictions, and having taken up thoughts of providing for their own safely, and eternal well-being, they have not thereupon come to some kind of deliberation: The gospel is plain, here I have the Redeemer fully represented to me in it. And then this hath been your sense, Lord, I begin to take up thoughts of coming to an agreement with thee upon the terms proposed to me in thy gospel. It may be, the soul hath seemed to itself willing to submit to them, rather than perish; but afterwards, through want of watchfulness, or too much self-confidence, or too little dependance upon the grace of God, a temptation hath proved victorious in some or other particular instances, and here hath been a relapse into somewhat (it may be) of a gross sin; I inquire of such, whether this be not the truth of the case, whether hereupon their souls have not grown hopeless? Well, I shall never overcome; here are my corruptions that are 228too hard for me, and I shall never prevail! It may be, thoughts have been resumed, and trials have been renewed again and again, and returning temptations have prevailed, and got the upper hand. Well, saith the soul, [ snail never do any good at it, I shall never make any thing of it: and thereupon all hath been given up, and the reins have been laid freely on the neck of lusts, and that resolution hath been taken, “I have loved strangers, and after them I will go;” and why it was taken, so that text tells us, Jer. ii. 29. Thou hast said, there is no hope; and what then? “I have loved strangers, and after them I will go.”
So very contiguous and bordering, are despair and presumption upon one another, when the soul absolutely despairs, then it most highly presumes. There is no hope; well, what then? “I have loved strangers, and after them I will go;” I will let corruption and sensual inclinations have their swing, I will obey the lusts of it, for there is no hope. And then, how lamentable a thing is it, that a soul should be lost so; for if there be no hope in the case, there will be no repetition of endeavours, no further strugglings, no further contests: and then, all is lost, all is gone, which is the forlorn case of those (as I have had occasion at large to shew) who had in some measure escaped the corruptions of this world through lust, by the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and are again entangled therein and overcome; their latter end with them is worse than the beginning. And whence is this? Because they have been entangled and overcome, therefore they throw away all hope. They should indeed, throw away all hope of being saved, while they are overcome, and remain so, and are slaves, vassals, and captives, to corrupt inclinations; they should throw away all hope of ever being saved in this state; but they should not throw away all hope of being saved out of it. They should throw away hope of being saved without overcoming; but they ought to entertain hope that they shall overcome; that yet they shall overcome, if yet they watch, and yet strive, and yet pray, and yet depend; and there is no other thing to be done. It is not to lie down and perish thus, and say there is nothing more to be done. That is another thing to be done in this coining to an agreement with Christ, upon which hope hath influence, namely, taking on his yoke. And,
(3.) Taking up his cross, that must be done too; and you can never come to a closure with Christ, to an agreement with him upon other terms; you cannot without it be a 229disciple, Luke xiv. 20. that is, cannot be a Christian; he only makes feint offers at being a Christian, but is none till he comes to this, to take up the cross, that is, willingly to submit to these terms, that it shall be laid upon him whenever Christ pleaseth, whenever his word and providence together so state the case, that either I must embrace sin or the cross.
And as it is plain, that thus it must be whensoever the soul transacts with Christ, so it is most highly reasonable that thus it should be. Do not murmur at it, do not think it hard that you are to go (if Christ will have it so) a suffering Christian to heaven and glory; for pray, did he not bear a worse cross for you? and do not you expect to be saved from worse things by him? Did not the death that he suffered upon the cross import unspeakably more of grievance and of horror, than any thing you are capable of suffering in this world? And as to what you are capable of suffering for him, and upon his account, is it at all comparable to the sufferings you expect to be delivered from by him? Is it not reasonable then, that a state of most absolute devoting to him all your external comforts, and your very life itself, (if it should be called for,) should come in, and be made part of those terms, upon which Christ will conclude with you, that you shall be his, and he will be yours? Never mutter at it, the reason of the thing speaks itself, that you in coming to him say, Lord, I am come to make a most absolute contract with thee; take me, my life, my estate, my concernments, all that is dear to me in this world, I am willing should become a sacrifice to thee; do with me, and what belongs to me, as thou wilt, only save my soul; it is for eternal life I am come to thee, and for no temporal immunities or enjoyments.
(4.) Another thing considerable in this contract and agreement with Christ, and which is the essential thing, is the vital union that the soul must enter into with him. If ever you come to an agreement with Christ, you must be vitally united. There must be that union of life between him and you, as whereupon spirit may be said to touch spirit, and life, life; as in that 1 Cor. vi. 17. “He that is joined to the Lord, is one spirit.”
Oh! that this might be understood, and enter into all our hearts! I am much aware of it, how easy a thing (in comparison) an external and outside Christianity is, and how apt men are to take up with that. A religion, a Christianity, that consists but in externals, or any thing of that kind, 230is incomparably easier than this venturing, or adjoining of ourselves with Christ. The affrighted soul when once it is awakened in any measure, and apprehensive of the danger of its case, it readily submits to any thing but this, which is a thing partly not understood, and partly irksome and grievous to flesh and blood: it recoils at the very thought of it. Any thing is easy in comparison of this: any thing that shall only be an exercise to the outward man, or (as I may say) to the surface of the inner, to wit, the soul when it is under an affright, then it may yield: I will comply with any external abstinences, I will submit to any external performances, I will abstain from, what you will have me, I will perform what you will have me, as to the outward man, only let me be excused from such efforts of the inner man, as I partly do not understand, and partly as I do understand them, I cannot but regret, and have an aversion to them.
Here it is that many an one breaks with Christ, because they will not endure those paroxysms, which they must pass through in passing from death to life; in turning the very vertical point. It is being created in Christ, coming to a vital union with him, that is the great thing at which the heart startles and revolts. This was the very case we read of in that 6th chapter of John, when our Saviour had said and inculcated again and again, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” And he observes the tumultuations and mutinies of their minds at the spiritualities of his foregoing discourse: there upon saith he, Do not murmur at this, for I tell you, that “No man can come to me, except the Father draws him.” And in the sequel of that discourse, (verse 65th,) Did not I tell you before, “no man can come to me except it be given him of my Father?” They were willing to comply far in externals; you see they followed Christ from place to place, with mighty complacency attended upon his gospel, were pleased with his doctrine; when they miss him in one place they run to another part of the country, they take ship and follow him; when they understood he was gone to the other side of the sea of Tiberias they throng after him in great multitudes; they leave the affairs of their callings to go from place to place after him; but yet, when they heard this from him, many went back, and walked no more with him. This is the sense of many an one towards Christ; Lord, we will follow thee all the country over; we will go from place to place, wheresoever we may meet thee, or 281hear any thing of thee. And these persons, while they did thus much externally, did also abstain from much, you may be sure, where they could have no opportunity of indulging and gratifying their appetites; being thus hurried from place to place, pursuing and following Christ; yet they did it. So it may be with many an one besides, in our days, when they are awakened, and in some terror, there are no external abstinences that we think or know will offend; we will no more be drunk with the drunken, nor scorn with the scorners; no, by no means; we will undergo any restraint and severities in this kind, rather than run the hazard of our souls; and we will stick at no external performances; nothing that hath but bodily exercise in it. We care not how many sermons we go to hear; we will go any where to the church, or to the meeting-place, where we may hear the most serious ministers; we will be sure always to stick close to the honest side, and to the best cause; we will be true to the last, to the protestant religion and government, and to that party that adhere thereto. All this is fairly and well overtured; but tell them, that besides all this you must have a work wrought in your heart and soul, which is to be done by a divine power. By a divine power, say ye? Then where are we? Can we command the divine power? This is the foolish cheat and deceit that many put upon themselves; and they make the matter to be hopeless from such expressions; “No man can come to me, except the Father that hath sent me draw him,” and “except it be given him of my Father.” Here are true and just premises, from whence many times men allow themselves to infer the falseth conclusion imaginable. That, therefore, they have nothing to do, and therefore they have nothing of hope remaining to them; considering that which is only in the power of another, not in their own. But upon serious and sober thoughts;—is it not all one, whether you have that power of your own, or may have it from another, if it be duly sought in the prescribed way that plainly lies in view before us all? Doth not the same gospel, the same word that saith, “no man can come to me except the Father that hath sent me draw him,” or “except it be given him of my Father,” say also, that he “will give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him,” as readily as parents will give bread to their children rather than a stone?
This doth not difference the case; it is only a reservation that the great God doth think fit to keep to himself, as 232suitable to the majesty of a God in the way of his dispensations towards perishing creatures, offending creatures. Mercy you shall have; help you shall have; power you shall have to do what is necessary to be done in order to your being made safe and happy. But you shall know you are to receive it; you are to seek it; you are to come upon the knee for it; you are to be in the dust for it; to wait, and be prostrate at the foot of a mercy-seat, and before a throne of grace. This is suitable to God, and it is suitable to you; to an offended Majesty, and to offending creatures; but it doth not infer that there is therefore no hope, because there is such a vital union to be brought about with Christ, as can only be brought about by a divine power; for there is still hope that you may have that power afforded you, and exerted in you, both from the gracious nature of God, to which it can never agree to let a soul perish that is aiming at a compliance with him, in his own way, and upon his own terms. And there is encouragement from most express words of scripture, that carry such sweet alluring breathings of grace in them; “Turn ye at my reproof; I will pour out my Spirit upon you; I will make known my words unto you.” Prov. i. 28. And do you think these words signify nothing? “As I live, saith the Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die, O house of Israel? Turn, and live.” There must be offers of turning, aims to turn, aimings to come to his closure, reachings forth of the soul towards Christ, to come to a living union with him; and in that way you are to expect help.
Objection 1. But it may be said, what hope yet can there be, when, upon the whole matter (as we have lately been taught) there are very few that are saved, and when it is so apparent that the generality do perish, do walk on in destructive ways,—ways that take hold of hell, and lead down to the chamber of death? What hope is there for us, that we that are here in this assembly, when there are so few that are saved; what hope (I say) can there be given to us, that we shall be of those few?
Answer. To this let me say but thus much at present; that, as few as they are, who have you heard of concerning whom you have ground to think, to admit a thought, that they did perish, or were in likelihood to perish, taking the course that hath been directed? That is, having the terms of the gospel in view before them, and aiming and striving to their uttermost, and accompanying their endeavours 233with earnest supplication to the God of all grace, for help to comply with those terms, and come up to them? As few as they are that are saved, they are certainly much fewer that ever perished this way, if ever you can suppose that any one perished that doth thus. If there are few that shall be saved, do but consider how much fewer a number you have here to oppose of such as perish in such a way, and upon such terms: incomparably fewer, if ever it can be thought that any at all have thus perished. And no more needs to be said to this now.
Objection 2. But it may perhaps be said,—it seems, how ever, a very mean thing, that the soul, in coming to a closure with Christ, should be influenced hereunto only by the hope of being saved; I come to him, because I hope I shall be saved by him; I have terrible destruction in view, and I find myself beset with dangers and deaths, and I have no other way to escape; but the hope of escaping brings me to Christ. This (it may be said) is mean.
Answer. Mean, say ye? And to whom is it mean? Is it mean to you, or is it mean to Christ? It is very true indeed, to you it is mean, and it is fit it should be so; for a company of offending creatures, must they stick at any thing that may be mean to them in order to their being saved? Why, man, it is in order to thy being saved from, eternal death and destruction; and wilt thou grudge at any thing, because it is mean, that tends and is necessary to the saving thee? No; it is fit for us to put our mouths in the dust, (as was said,) “if there may be any hope.” They that have forfeited their lives, and deserved a thousand hells, is it for them to stick at any thing because it is mean? But when to you it is mean, to Christ it is not mean; that he should be the hope of sinners, to him it is honourable; to him it is glorious. And by how much the more it is debasing to you, it is so much the more exalting to him, magnifying of him in his office, and magnifying of him in the great and high excellencies of his nature and person.234
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