« Prev Sermon XXIX. Preached 24th Sep. 1693. Next »

SERMON XXIX.3131   Preached 24th Sep. 1693.

James ii. 23.

And the scripture was fulfilled, &c.

2. THE friendship of God appears in his friendly performances and effectual communications. We are to know that his friendly design towards souls doth not terminate here; it reacheth further. That is applicable enough in this case which is spoken in reference to lower and inferior cases in the 15th and 16th verses of this same chapter: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of food, and one 384of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?” It would profit as little if God should himself but at the same rate treat men’s souls; give them good words, though very apposite and suitable to their case; say to them, Be warmed, be filled, but not give them the things requisite to their souls, what would that profit them? Compare that with 1 John iii. 17, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” What he may shew of kindness and good-will is nothing like the love of God. God’s friendly propension towards miserable, necessitous souls, did shew itself at another rate than merely in advising and counselling them, or seeming to wish them well: his friendship exercises itself in the most considerable acts of external benefaction, in doing them good, and rejoicing over them to do them good, “with all his heart and with all his soul,” as the expression is, and his own words are. But as to this also, I shall give you instances how this kind of friendship, by way of communication and performance, on God’s part appears. As

(1.) That he ingenerates this faith; he works it in us. It is called a “fruit of the Spirit.” Gal. v. 22. And it is said to proceed from the “Spirit of faith.” 2 Cor. iv. 13. We are told that “by faith we are saved, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.” Eph. ii. 8. That faith we are not to take separately and alone: but it heightens the love and gift, that we do believe and are saved by faith, “and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.” It is by this faith that the soul is brought into union with his Saviour; by it, it comes to him; by it, they receive him, John i. 12, and it is by this they come to the Son, and to have life. 1 John, v. 11. It is in order hereto, that God the Father is said to draw souls to Christ, and they are said to come to him. John vi. 44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him.” What friendliness is this to induce and draw souls to Christ! We must understand that drawing aright. It is not dragging by violence, but as himself expresses it, that, (Hosea xi. 4,) “1 drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.” It is by a gentle but effectual allection, drawing you to him, making it by reason and love in conjunction, 385to appear to be your interest and concern; and so working on love to yourselves that it may be improved into a love to him too. When they are brought in with a love upon indigency first, they may grow into a love of complacency and highest delight afterwards; one love being the loadstone of another—loving because you are first loved. But look into these acts, and you will see what a friendly design there must be in faith which is produced by union with Christ. By the result of that faith, you will see the kindness of it. There must be friendship in him that will engage my trust when it is nothing to him; he gains nothing by it, but it is necessary and beneficial to me. I do in this case take pains with myself to trust in him, working, but only so as one man may upon another in order thereunto; for they cannot immediately touch, and attract, and turn, and draw hearts. They can but use apt and suitable methods in order hereunto; but if they do that, there is much of kindness in the design: when one takes great pains, and uses industrious endeavours to induce to trust in him, he himself having no advantage by it, but I gain by it the greatest things. That the blessed God should induce and engage souls to trust in him, when it can be of no advantage to him; but he knows that without it they must perish and be lost; when he doth not only invite them to trust in the Lord, stay themselves upon their God, rely upon him and upon that truth and fidelity that never failed any; how friendly is this! To insist on it from time to time, not to give over the soul that hath often neglected him in making these overtures; this is wonderful friendly. To draw the soul into union with Christ, and with himself in and by him; this is to bring such into a state of blessedness. “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus,” &c. You are foolish creatures, but he will be wisdom to you; you are guilty creatures, but he will be righteousness to you; you are impure creatures, but he will be sanctification to you; you are enslaved creatures, but he will be redemption unto you: all this is of God. And whereas he doth manifestly design to reunite souls to his Son, and by him to himself; how friendly is this design. He intimates hereby that such and such can never be too near to him, or he too close with them. But,

2. This divine friendship appears in his hereupon counting them righteous, and imputing righteousness to them, as the text expresses it: “he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” This faith was given Abraham, and thereupon God counts him righteous; and 386so he does every believer besides. And is not this a most friendly estimate? is it not to count as a friend, to count us righteous who were far from righteousness? He not only pardons, but accepts as righteous. We should count this wonderful friendship, when we consider our state; we were creatures under a law that cursed every one that “continued not in all things written therein to do them:” and we had broken that whole law, in every part of our duty as to love of God, and our fellow-creatures of the same order. From the depraved nature of man, being carnalized into enmity against God, and hatred one of another, “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” Rom. viii. 7. This is more than the breach of every command; for my quarrel is not against this or that precept, but against subjection; and so my design is against the divine government: now, is not this friendly when he will thus give faith to such, and reckon and impute righteousness to them? I know there is, as to this, commonly introduced a very unnecessary and trifling dispute. What it is that is counted for righteousness? When the matter comes to be thus stated—is it the act of believing or the object believed on? and the question will be easily answered by putting another question:—Suppose it be asked, What is that which clothes a man?—is it his garment, or his putting it on? Sure, a very ordinary understanding would find no difficulty to answer it. The garment would never clothe a man, if it were not put on: and the action that a man uses in putting on a thing would not have clothed him if he had not the garment: and ergo, these two must contribute together for this end, of being clothed, but in different kinds—it is the garment when put on that clothes him, and the action that is used in putting it on is no part of the clothing, but it was requisite thereunto, and that without which he could not have been clothed. All this is so obvious, that I might save the labour of applying it to the case in hand. What is it upon which a man is counted righteous in the sight of God? Why, he puts on the Lord Jesus Christ, and God puts him on, as it were, so that the scripture phrase is intelligible enough. It is that which is put on which is the matter of this clothing, and the action that is used here is no part of that matter, and yet it is such a requisite as without which he would never be clothed.

What is it upon which a man is counted righteous before God?—why he puts on the Lord Jesus Christ, as was said. But how friendly is it that such men should upon such 387terms, and in such a way and method, be brought into that state of righteous persons, when, if they were not so clothed, they stood exposed and naked unto vindictive justice, armed with power even to the highest. But now the sword of vengeance cannot touch them; otherwise, thou wert every moment liable. Oh, what friendliness is there in all this! Again,—

3. This friendship appears in this matter herein, that when God imputes righteousness to the believer, he imparts his Spirit: and this is wonderful friendliness, if the distress of the case be considered. Plain it is, that the miserable sinner did need somewhat else besides clothing, and without it he must have been miserable for ever. And most certain it is, that the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ was never designed to be the clothing of a carcase. The soul that was “dead in trespasses and sins” is made alive when made righteous. There is no need of disputing about priority here: the righteousness and Spirit of Christ are given together; they are simultaneous gifts: he doth not give life by the Spirit to such souls because he hath made them righteous; nor doth he make them righteous because he hath given them life, or given his Spirit: but these are co-ordinate streams from the same fountain of divine grace. “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. vi. 11.—.And a horrid catalogue of wickedness was recited in the foregoing 9 and 10 verses, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,—nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Righteousness and Spirit are given together; and should we suppose these gifts to be separate, the former would avail little without the latter; for heaven would never be heaven to a dead soul: if it were possible for such a soul, upon the account of Christ’s righteousness, to be admitted into heaven, what would a dead soul do there? There fore, they are gifts of divine grace conferred together. It would be an horrid reproach and contempt that the righteousness of the Son of God should be made a covering for continuing the deformity and loathsomeness of a carcase that should be only hid, and not cured. This is a most unsupposeable thing, and, than which, nothing would be more ignominious, not only to the wisdom of God, but to his 388grace too; for sure it is more abundant grace to cure these two evils together, than one alone; to heal him inwardly and clothe him outwardly at the same time. And again,

4. This friendly inclination on God’s part doth further appear in giving repentance to the sinner, which is comprehended in the gift of the Spirit, as every other grace is; only here I must, before I speak more distinctly to this of repentance, enlarge somewhat to shew you under what distinct considerations we are to look on this gift of the Spirit that comprehends all the rest.—The Spirit is given in order to its first working, and in order to its after employment and work that it hath to do in the souls of men. It is not otherwise capable of being given at all, than only relatively and effectively in respect of the relation and effect. But it is not hard to understand in what sense (when a person is the thing spoken of) one can be said to be given to another: it is not the one’s being made the other’s being: there is nobody so absurd as to understand the matter so: but only such an one becomes related who was unrelated before, and upon that relation doth such works to which relation obligeth, and that he was not obliged to do before. This is the meaning of giving one person to another, in common language amongst men; and so must be the meaning of the Spirit’s being given to any of us, that is, that it becomes now related by covenant to us, having been unrelated before; for, when by covenant we take God to be our God, what do we take? not the essence of God abstractly, but we take God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, who all become related to us for several purposes—God to be the prime author of being to us, Christ to be our redeemer, the Spirit to be our enlighteuer and sanctifier; and all as comprehended in the covenant by which God is said to be our God and we to be his people; as is sufficiently and expressly enough signified by the baptismal form; which baptism brings a signal, a token, a seal, of this covenant. We are ergo baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be continually our God. And now hereupon the Spirit becomes ours by covenant, or, we having a covenant interest in him, he comes to do such work, or to work such effects in those to whom he is now become so related, as he works no where else. And so he is with them, and in them, to that very purpose. It is true, the Spirit is all the world over in every man, in every creature, in every thing: “Whither shall I flee from thy Spirit?” Psalm cxxxix. 5, But he is in such as these, for such 389and such special gracious purposes as he doth not effect and bring about in any others, but those to whom he is in covenant so related. And this being so far clear, then we must distinguish between his first operations upon souls, and the consequent operations for which those former do prepare and make way. Whatsoever was necessary to be done previously, all that enlightening, all that conviction, which must immediately accompany and, in some respects, in order of nature, but not of time, be before saving faith, if these do come within the compass of saving grace (for there are operations that be only within the compass of common grace, which may be before, and long before, in time.) But whatsoever lies within the compass of saving grace, they are all at once. There must be very great exertions of the power and influence of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to believe; and in doing so he does, as it were, work as a visitant, but after wards he works and operates as an inhabitant; having by his former operations prepared his own habitation, built his temple, now he comes to inhabit this temple, to dwell in it, and to exert himself in all suitable communications and operations from time to time there; as in that 1 Cor. iii. 16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” There never would have been any act of saving grace at all without his Spirit; but there be such acts as are antecedaneous to its indwelling presence, and which he doth as a visitant: whereas there are continual exertions of the grace and power of the Spirit to be done by it afterwards. And how marvellous friend ship is this, that God should give his own Spirit to inhabit (with kind designs, and in order to such gracious purposes and ends) such wretched creatures as we. Of all ways you “cai think of whatsoever to express friendship to another, if it were within the compass of your power it would be in giving them the same mind, the same spirit, the same sentiments of things that you yourself have, wherein you suppose them to be right; you would have them to have every thing of your mind and your spirit (except what you could of yourselves apprehend to be imperfection, infirmity, and defect:) and there was no possible way, if that were in our power, to express kindness and friendship so significantly as this way. If a wise man, a good man could convey to a son, not only his lands, his tithes, his honours, his dignities, but could convey his wisdom, his goodness, his integrity, certainly here were the greatest kindness shewed in this, that 390it were possible for a creature to express. If I would do the part of a friend to the uttermost (and this lay within the compass of my power), wherein I thought my friend and my spirit to be right, I would impart to such an one my mind and spirit, that he may be of the same mind. Herein would be the truest friendship; for where there is the truest friendship, and there is the most agreement in minds, they do insensibly mould and form one another, and impress one another. But hereunto there must be a divine power, according to which all things are given pertaining to life and godliness, and the participation (comprehensive of all the rest) of the divine nature, as it is expressed, 2 Pet. i. 3, 4. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” There is a divine Spirit, and thereby we are made partakers of the divine nature,—of all gracious principles and dispositions of one kind and another. How admirable friendship is there in this, that the holy God should give into the breast and bosom of a man, that pure and holy Spirit, to be an inhabitant and indweller there, to chase away the darkness that enwrapt that wretched soul, to inspire it with a new and holy life, to implant the principles most connatural to such a life, and which are to have their constant exercise through the whole of a man’s course. Oh! the friendliness that doth appear in this! But when all this is done, and the soul is made capable of acting, here cannot but be, as I said, in the fourth place—


« Prev Sermon XXIX. Preached 24th Sep. 1693. Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |