« Prev Sermon XXXVI. Preached February 13, 1693-4. Next »

SERMON XXXVI.3838   Preached February 13, 1693-4.

James ii. 23.

And the scripture was fulfilled, &c.

THUS I have evinced the truth of the doctrine of this text, by shewing you at large what there is of friendliness in this matter on God’s part, and what there is on their part whom he brings to believe. It is the use of all which remains to be insisted upon and recommended to you. Wherein I shall not be diffuse, having had occasion to insist very largely, by way of use, upon a subject which you know was very congenerous to this, and of great affinity to it. But very instructive inferences it very obviously affords us. As,

1. We may collect hence, That bad as this world is, God hath yet some portion in it, to wit, a people peculiar to himself. Here he hath some that do believe in him, that he counts righteous, that he calls and treats as his “friends.” And these are great peculiarities. You may see it is not his design (though this world have been all in a dreadful apostasy from God) to quit his interest in it, or quite to abandon it, and lay aside all kind thoughts towards it. This, you may see, is remote from him. It is not his intention, that though all have been in transgression against him, yet that all shall be involved in one condemnation, and in one ruin. But he hath iris portion, that he doth and will exempt out of the common ruin, that shall not lie under an everlasting doom and condemnation with the rest of the perishing world. Those that “shall not be condemned with the world,” as the Scripture expression is, 1 Cor. xi. 32. He hath in this world some friends that he will treat and deal with as such, and these must not lie under everlasting condemnation. His friends are such as do believe him, and as 463believing in him are not condemned, as, John v. 24. And they “shall never come into condemnation,” for they are “passed from death unto life.” He justifies, he imputes righteousness to them, as is expressed here. And “Who is he that condemneth” when God justifies? Rom. viii. And see what triumphs are erected in that chapter to the grace of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?” No tribulation, no affliction, no principality; nothing that is present, nothing that is to come, shall ever separate them.

Methinks it is a comfortable, pleasant thought, that, taking a prospect of this world, beholding it so generally with a dark, dismal, and gloomy shadow of death; beholding it lying in wickedness, and under the power of him who is called the god of this world, that yet God should have a select and peculiar people in it. What a glorious design was this, the forming of a society out of such a world as this, as should be called the friends of God. It is pleasant, and it ought to seem a great thing to our thoughts, that it should be so. And sure it must put us upon reflection: Oh am I of that happy society, of that select society? Such a society God hath in this world, that is out of doubt; a society of men that he calls his friends, that bear his character. That (I say) is out of all doubt. Whether we be of that number or no?—it is pity that should be a doubt. And methinks it should not be very easy to our minds while it is so. While this is with us a doubtful case, and we cannot speak clearly to this question, Am I of that society justly called the friends of God? But,

2. We may further collect hence, that as God has such a peculiar people in this world, who do specially belong to him, so this people are distinguished from the rest of the world by some very peculiar excellencies. Here is not a distinction without a difference. But there is a mighty difference, not which he finds, but which he makes between man and man, that people that are peculiar to him, and the rest of the world. There are two differing excellencies by which they are distinguished in the text: Believing in God, and friendship towards him. For the matter is plain enough in itself, and you have heard it largely evinced, that this friendship cannot but be mutual; that they are not merely passive in this friendship, or the objects of it, but the subjects too. Here is this great distinguishing excellency to be found in these sort of men, that they are such as do believe in God. Abraham believed God; this is not 464spoken of him as a single person, but as the father of the faithful, as we may have occasion to take notice, the Scripture speaks expressly, again and again. And this is one of the characters of this people, the society of God’s friends: they are a society of believers. A very great excellency, in such a world as this.

Object. But some may say in their own minds, What is there in it that doth notify and signalize such a people, as if they were upon that account more excellent than their neighbours? Methinks this believing it is but a light and trivial matter, that that should be the dignification of such a peculiar people which shall be called God’s own, select and severed from all the rest of the world. What a small matter does this believing seem to be.

Ans. Indeed it cannot but seem so, according to the notion that too generally prevails, concerning believing. With many it is but a notion, an airy thing, that hovers in their minds, but makes no impression, no more alters them than a puff of wind would do a stone wall. With many others it is not so much as a notion. What multitudes are there that will be called Christians, but have no notion at all in their minds, correspondent to that name! No notion of the things they profess to believe. Their minds are wrapt up in a total ignorance of all the things that are to be the peculiar and most special matters of their faith. I do not wonder (when we consider what is made of faith in so great a part of the Christian world) that that of Solifidian should go for so ignominious and reproachful a name. Men have made so very light and small a matter of faith, that it may very well go for a very diminishing character to be a Solifidian, to be only a believer. Indeed men have reduced the business of faith to so little a trifle, that I know no reason, as to them, why Solifidian and Nolifidian should not signify alone to be only a believer, and no believer at all. Men have diminished even to nothing, a thing which with the most hath no object, and with the rest too gene rally no power, no efficacy, no spirit, no life; and it had as good be nothing, as do nothing, make no change upon their hearts.

But if it were considered what faith (the faith of the Gospel, which God calls faith, and upon which God calls believers his friends)—If (I say) it be considered what it hath in it, and what goes along with it, what it carries in it, and what it carries with it, it will appear a mighty thing, a glorious thing, and such as that one would not wonder 465that such a select peculiar people of God should be distinguished by it; that it should be the differencing thing, one of the main differences from the rest of the world. For it is such a thing as plucks a man quite off from all this world. Men are all engulphed naturally in the spirit of this world. This faith severs them, raises them quite into another sphere, into an invisible world; and it is to them (wherever it is) the substance of the things that they hope for, and the evidence of the things which they see not. It plucks men quite off from themselves. It is a self-emptying thing. Divides and severs a man from himself. It is that by which he ceaseth to trust in himself, to depend upon himself, to have any confidence in himself, and so come to think the most debasingly of himself, yea the most terribly. So that he not only despises, but he dreads himself, and flies from himself, and out of himself. And then it unites him with God and with Christ, by whom only he can take hold of God. Through Christ we believe in God. “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Faith passeth through Christ unto God, as the Spirit speaks, 1 Pet. i. 21. and John xiv. 1. It is that, therefore, whereby the soul seizes and possesses (according to its capacity) the all-comprehending good communicable, and communicated in and by Christ. That is, Christ dwells in the heart by this faith. And thereupon souls being rooted and grounded in love, are filled with all the fulness of God. If you think but of what is carried with it (the many things that were formerly instanced in) they make this faith appear to be a most glorious thing in the soul wherever it hath place. It is that by which a person commits himself, intrusts himself, wholly and entirely into the hands of another. That by which it trusts one that it never saw, even with the very soul, and all its concernments. It is a venture for eternity upon this apprehension and knowledge, that if there be error or mistake in the case, it is never to be corrected, a matter never to be. altered. It is a trusting with one’s soul one whom we know we have offended; one of the most difficult and arduous things in the world, when we know we have displeased him, yet to trust him and cast all our care upon him; yea, upon one that doth afflict us, doth things very ungrateful to us, and who we know will at last bring us down into the very dust of death. And yet the soul saith, Though he kill me, yet will I trust in him. It is such a thing as governs the whole life of them that have it; for the just do live by it. As others live by their senses, those 466live by their faith upon an invisible God, an invisible Christ, and an invisible world. We know not what belongs to believing, if we understand nothing of all this; and then this faith is a riddle. It is not to be wondered at that this should be one of the peculiar and characteristical excellencies of that people whom God doth sever and make peculiar to himself from the rest of men. And their friendliness to God is another of those excellencies. And by how much the fewer his friends are, so much the nobler and more glorious a thing is it to be one of them. To bear a friendly mind towards God in a world where he is invisible, almost forgotten, and where so few regard him, look after, or concern themselves with him, this is a very peculiar excellency. That when the generality of men have their minds and hearts, their thoughts and affections, wholly engaged and taken up about things of sense, there appears so much the more of a nobler temper and spirit in these men: No, I must have somewhat else for the object of my friendly love, the love of my delight, (which is friendly love) I must have somewhat else to delight in, and wherein to solace and finally to satisfy myself. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and whom do I desire on earth besides thee,?” Ps. lxxiii. 25. That people that do peculiarly belong to God are distinguished from the rest of the world by very peculiar excellencies.

3. We may further learn hence, that a justified state, and a state of friendship with God, are commensurate, or do measure one another. They are of equal extent; God hath no friends but whom he justifies. And he justifies none but who are his friends. That is, he doth actually account, or actually render them righteous by imputing righteousness to them who are brought into actual friendship with him. To wit, he is then statedly in friendship with them, when there is a friendship in-wrought, even in the same instant, in their hearts towards him. It is very true, indeed, we have such an expression as that of justifying “the ungodly,” Rom. v. 6. So you have abundance of expressions in Scripture which must be understood just as that must. That the blind do see, the deaf do hear, and the lame do walk, and the like. That is, they who immediately before were such, are now made capable of all these acts which do bespeak another state. An ungodly man is justified; we are told in the same context that he is justified by faith: faith is not the act of an ungodly man continuing so; but as the blind are said to see, that is, sight being given to 467them when they were immediately before blind. And the lame to walk, to wit, who were immediately before lame, but now are made to walk. So an ungodly person is justified; one that was immediately before ungodly. But in the same instant when God imputes righteousness to him, he gives light, a new spirit, a new nature to him; for he justifies him as a believer. The word rendered “ungodly” there signifies an unworking man: but faith is the highest act of worship that the human soul is capable of. For therein I actually acknowledge and adore the truth, and wisdom, and power, and goodness of that God unto whom I intrust myself. There is no higher worship than that which is carried in faith. And therefore, that such an one should be at the same time a believer and an unworshipping person, is to say and unsay the same thing with and the same breath, and even in the same words. Therefore understand the matter so, that a justified state is a state of friendship with God: which includes a friendly disposition introduced in the same instant, in-wrought into our souls, towards God. That faith being in-wrought which would take in love, which virtually comprehends love in it, so that it doth not do its first and most essential act without the ingrediency of it; to wit, unite the soul with God in Christ. When the soul comes into that union with God in Christ, that is its conversion and union at the same time. Doth it unite with him, and retain an aversion at the same time? That is impossible. But that aversion is turned into propension, and that propension is only faith working by love. “The grace of God was exceeding abundant towards me (saith the Apostle, 1 Tim. i. 14.) with faith,” &c. He being the fountain of all grace, and the object too of these graces. If any dream, therefore, of being in a justified state, while as yet they retain an habitual fixed aversion from God, and bear no friendly mind towards him, this is a very idle dream, a very delusive dream, a dream which, if a man awake not out of it betimes, will prove a delusion unto his ruin and destruction. It is a misrepresenting of the Christian religion throughout, to suppose that it should be only a provision made to change the states of men, without changing their hearts; to bring men into a justified estate, and yet to leave them in a state of enmity to God, and disaffection towards him, that they care not to come at him to know him, to converse with him.

This is the notion that hath so vastly spread through the Christian world. Men think that they are justified by 468Christ’s dying, and that they need not care, nor concern themselves, whether there he any change made in them, yea or no. But as I told you formerly upon this subject, Christ’s righteousness is never the clothing of a carcase continuing so. But when he doth clothe and invest any with his righteousness, he doth put a spirit of life into them at the same time, and that spirit of life breathes in a friendly love. Men are generally justified under the Gospel upon the same terms and in the same way wherein the great father of believers was, to wit, upon their believing God. He hereupon immediately counts them righteous, but at the same time inspiring them with that friendly love towards him which as a new vital principle habituates them and facilitates them unto all the duties and actions of that holy devoted life, that life of friendliness towards God wherein they are to spend the residue of their days.

In his first treatment with Abraham, he propounds himself to him as God all-sufficient, and at the same time draws his heart to close with him, and puts into him such a disposition with it to walk with him, and be perfect. I am God, all-sufficient, “walk before me, and be thou perfect,” or upright, Gen. xvii. 1. He doth not vary his method: this is his way of treatment with all others. As he dealt with the father of believers, so he hath with all believers besides. If once they are willing to abandon and quit all things else to which their sense had addicted and inclined their hearts, so as they now resolve on and close with the great objects of faith, they pass into that sphere that is composed and made up of invisible objects, such as faith hath to do with, and principally himself as he is in Christ: hereupon he imputes righteousness to them, that faith carrying in it that propension and inclination of heart to him, whereby they are made his friends, and inclined to all friendly deportment towards him afterwards. Therefore, take we heed lest any impose upon themselves with an imagination that they shall be justified, saved from condemnation, and entitled to eternal life, by only an external righteousness imputed to them without the concomitancy of a friendly disposition of heart inwrought in them towards God through Christ. And again,—

4. We may further collect hence, that by this measure a great many have very great cause to doubt and to dread their state; to have not only doubtful, but very dreadful thoughts concerning their state: for how plain a thing is it, 469that as God hath some friends in this world, so plain a thing is it, that he hath but few friends in this world. And then if friendship towards God and a justified state do measure one another, and are commensurate, there is too much cause for multitudes, not only to have doubtful, but very dreadful thoughts about the state of their case. They are to make their estimate by two such things as are most eminent and obvious to any one’s thoughts in friendship; that is, converse with my friend, and service to my friend: if these two things are to be the measure by which we are to make an estimate, how few friends has the blessed God in this world.

(1.) How few that care for his converse. Is not this the common account given of the temper and genius of the sons of men, and of their state together, Eph. ii. 12. “without God in the world.” Let every one consult his own heart, lay his hand upon his heart, and consider;—Is not this still my case, to be without God in the world from day to day? Do not I transact my affairs without God? Do not I begin my days and end them one after another as they pass, without God? or, if I have any thing to do with him, is it as a friend? If I have any thoughts of him, are they friendly thoughts, pleasant, complacential, and reverential ones? for I can only have such if I have those that are due towards such a friend; adoring thoughts, that are thereupon grateful and pleasant as they are full of duty towards him. Do I love his presence, delight in approaching to him? Can I please myself to shut myself up in a corner, in a closet with him, to pour out my soul to him, and to receive his communications to me? How little of this is there among us! And then,—

(2.) If we consider the other thing mentioned, most eminent and obvious in friendship, service to one’s friend. All that I can do is too little for my friend; his interest is my interest. He with whom I am entire in friendship, I cannot have a separate interest from, i cannot serve an interest of mine own with the neglect, much less with the disservice, of the interest of my friend. What expression is there among us of a friendly mind towards God in this kind! as the apostle speaks concerning Christ (and we cannot consider him but we must consider God in him)—“For me to live is Christ,” Philip, i. 21. I have no business to live in this world but for God; I have devoted myself to him, from a principle of friendly love. This world is nothing to me, but for him; I would not covet to live in it, but upon his account, that I may know him more and serve him better, 470and be more conformed to him, and fitted to dwell with him for ever. Therefore serving of his interest is your business, your life is a living to God. The whole stream of all the designs and of all the actions of your life running directly towards God, that you may live to God; which doth comprehend the whole business of life; Gal. ii. 19. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” All my life is to run into him, to terminate in him; so it cannot but be, where there is a friendly mind towards him. These are trying things, and they lie in a very little compass, so that we do not need to go far if we make our judgment or estimate by the measure that hath been mentioned, what things they arc that do distinguish the peculiar people of God from other men; certainly this will bring the matter to a very narrow and short issue. We say, none are in a justified state but God’s friends; that friendship to God cannot be an empty name; it must signify nothing if it doth not signify these two great things, to wit, a desire of his converse, and an inclination of mind to do him all the service that we are capable of doing him, from the dictate and instinct of friendly love. I cannot be kept from him, because he is my friend. I must do for him all I can, because he is my friend. Upon all this you may also gather, what in the close and conclusion of so copious a discourse I am by way of exhortation to recommend to you, to wit, these two great things contained in the text, Faith in God, and Friendship with him.


« Prev Sermon XXXVI. Preached February 13, 1693-4. Next »





Advertisements



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