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And the scripture was fulfilled, &c.
NOW we have spoken of the former part of God’s friendliness towards believers; and in reference thereto we have considered this friendship objectively and passively. Abraham was called the friend of God; that is, one towards whom God did express a great deal of friendship. We are now to consider this friendship subjectively on our part, as that whereof we are the subjects, if we be believers; and to consider what appearances there are in the exercise of such a faith of a friendly mind towards God.
What hath formerly been noted to you, must still be remembered, that there can be no true friendship between God and man, but with the reservation of the order of superiority and inferiority between him and us; for such friendship as shall be inconsistent with that, we must still reserve this always in our thoughts, that he is infinitely above us; and we are upon all accounts most inconsiderable, mean, and little, (next to nothing) in comparison of him; that he is a friend to us, as he is all-sufficient, in finitely full, and self communicative; but that our friendship towards him is such as belongs to indignant, craving, necessitous, empty creatures, that can at best only be brought into an aptitude to receive and take in his communications. And indeed that faith is the receptive principle upon which Abraham was said to be accounted righteous.
This must be always remembered; and being so, then I say such friendliness towards God as can consist with our state, and with a state of things between him and us, doth eminently appear in many great indications, in or about the exercise of that faith towards him, upon which he justifies, and is finally to save.
There appears to be much of a friendly mind towards him in this matter upon this account, that the world is so generally obdured and set against God by infidelity; so that such a faith in him is a very singular thing in the world. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm 420of the Lord revealed?” as the complaint is, Isaiah liii. 1, when the design was to give a representation of the Son of God in his descent into this wretched world of ours, and that low and mean state of humiliation which he submitted himself to here, when he became a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs. Here is a report to be made of these things unto the world. But who believes our report? Where shall we find those that will believe or regard it? We speak every where to deaf ears, and represent these matters to blind eyes; hearts obdured and shut up in unbelief. But where any eyes and ears are opened, hearts made attentive and flexible, though this be of God’s own promising, he looks upon it with a kind eye. Well, now I find then there are some among men that are not so under the power of a vicious prejudice, but they can hear and receive what is reported and revealed to them about those great and glorious things which the gospel contains. “They have not all obeyed the gospel,” as the apostle speaks, Rom. x. 16, referring to and quoting this passage (Isaiah liii. 1,) “For Esaias saith, who hath believed our report?” We may go whither we will, and scarce can find any one who believes what we say, though we speak the greatest and most glorious things, things of the most pressing necessity and highest importance to the persons themselves to whom we speak. If there be here and there some in a corrupt and degenerate world that will give ear and any regard to what is spoken from heaven in the name of the Lord about the great Concernments of souls, these are the persons that have found favour in his eyes; he looks upon them with a kind eye, as he did upon Noah in such a corrupt state of things. “Thee have I found righteous before me.” Therefore, for thee I am resolved there shall be an ark prepared, that thou mayest be so far subservient to that design of thine own preservation, as to be employed in preparing that ark. And whence came it that he did so? It is referred to his faith. “By faith he being warned of God, and moved with fear, prepared the ark, to the saving of his house.” Whereas ergo, it is said, Gen. vii. 1. “Thee have I found righteous before me in thy generation.” I will take care of thee; thou hast borne a friendly mind towards me, and I will do the part of a friend towards thee. I say, wherein this is said, we find wherein this faith stood. Wherein it was, (i.e. in reference to the productive principle) that Noah did come to approve himself one that bore a just mind towards God. It is referred all 421to this principle, and resolved all into this as the productive principle, to wit, “that Noah would believe God,” would take the word of God when no one else would; “all flesh having corrupted their ways;” for it is said, “he being moved with fear, and warned of God, prepared an ark.” There was the same previous warning given to the generality, of God’s intention to animadvert upon the wickedness of the world; and Noah was made use of as a “preacher of righteousness” to warn men hereof, to give them premonition; but nobody regards it but he and those few of his family that were saved with him. This, in general, God looks upon as a piece of friendliness towards him, when any (though first taught and influenced by himself) do single and sever themselves out from an infidel world, and do receive the report he makes from heaven of the great things he. hath designed, and hath put into a method in order to the recovering and saving of lost souls.
But this I do only pre-lay as a general. That I may more distinctly speak to this matter, I shall shew you what friendliness is shewn towards 6od in and about the exercise of this faith, the faith that will justify and save in such things as, 1. faith doth suppose, 2. such things as it includes, and 3. such things as it infers and draws after it. Things of all these sorts will appear to have in them great indications of a friendly mind towards God; and such as are indeed the peculiarities of those few believers, in comparison, that are to be found among men.
I. Such things as this faith doth suppose. And when I speak of this faith, I especially mean that very unitive act of faith by which the soul closeth with God in Christ, and so whereupon it is mediately in a justified estate, and entitled to a final and eternal salvation. Speaking of that very act which is formally unitive betwixt God in Christ and the soul, there are several other acts that may come under the general notion and name of faith, that are among the things presupposed unto this act, and so are to be spoken to under the head of things supposed; but I shall begin somewhat lower, and at what is more remote, as,
1. The soul’s listening and enquiring after God, which this believing in God must needs be understood to suppose, in an ordinary course at least. They that at length come to believe in him as Abraham did; they must be supposed, however inwardly and secretly prompted hereunto, to have made some inquiry after him first. The most content themselves to be as without God in the world: but when 422he hath once touched a mind with a vital touch, it begins then to rouse and stir itself. Why, what? Must it not have been some infinitely good and absolutely first Being: that hath made me and all things? Why have I lived in that contented, voluntary ignorance of him so long? The most are habitually “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” as the expression is, Eph. iv. 18.—“They are willingly ignorant of God,” 2 Pet. iii. 5.—“They like not to retain God in their knowledge,” Rom. i. 28. It pleaseth them not y it is not grateful to them; “They say unto God,. Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” Job xxi. 14. But when he secretly prompts a soul and saith to it, “Seek my face,” there is immediately an answer in the heart,—“Thy face, Lord, we will seek:” we can live without God in the world no longer; this is a wearisome, gloomy sort of life. Why, then, the soul is awakened to enquire, when it saith (what so few say) “Where is God my maker, that giveth songs in the night?” Job xxxv. 9. Here is the first appearance of a friendly mind towards God, when the soul grows impatient of distance from him, unacquaintance with him, and ignorance of him. The most can go from day to day and have nothing to do with God; they can open their eyes in the morning, when the eyelids of the morning open upon them, and never say, where is God?—walk all the day long, and never concern themselves with him, as if they were a sort of absolute beings, and that this were the sense of their hearts; “We are lords, we will come no more unto thee,” as in Jer. ii. 31. Full of themselves, and full of the emptiness and vanity of a world made subject to vanity; and so there is no room for God, and they have no business with him, Why, when this habitual aversion so far wears off, and is counter wrought, as that the soul begins, to enquire and look out and think with itself, How came I into this world? and how came there to be such a world, when neither I nor it could be without a Maker, nor that Maker without a ruling-power overall; why then, “where is God my maker?” he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things, that they might feel and find him out; and when this end in designing, and making, and sustaining such a world, and such an order of creatures in it, is so far advanced and comported with, Now, saith God, my creature begins to rouse and look after me; then, he reckons, is the first appearance of a friendly mind towards him, when souls grow impatient 423and say, I can live without God no longer. I pray you consider this: with such us never had to do with God, and never intend to have, all this will signify nothing; but with those that have such a design, and would fain have a friend ship established betwixt God and them, these things will signify much, they will have their weight; they can weigh nothing with those whom they do not concern. But who soever can apprehend these as my concernments, they are things that concern me, my soul, my life, my welfare, my eternal hope; with such, what I say will be considerable. And wheresoever there hath never yet been any friendly concern between God and the soul, it is high time to look after it; and if ever you will on your part, it must begin to express and shew itself in such a thing as this, to wish that a solicitude be awakened in you, How shall I do to find out God, that he should have given me breath and being, that I should continually have lived, and moved, and had my being in him; and yet all this while not be seeking after him, to feel and find him out? this is the greatest enmity imaginable. And ergo, to have a contrary frame and disposition of spirit beginning to express itself, must be some what of friendship.
2. There is a certain friendliness towards God in this matter, in the acknowledgment and entertainment of that revelation that he hath made of himself in his word as true and divine, upon those characters and concomitant evidences of the divinity thereof appearing and manifestly offering themselves to view. To a soul that hath been stirred up to enquire and bethink itself, How shall I come to some knowledge of him that made me and made all this world, and in whom alone that satisfying goodness is to be found that will be an adequate and suitable portion and rest for my soul! When any are awakened thus to enquire and look about, and, looking about them, to see in the midst of all that darkness that doth spread itself over all this world, a collection of divine light, shining forth as in this revelation and discovery of God in his word—Oh, how grateful is the first appearance thereof!—when the glimmerings and glimpses do shine in this discovery, this revelation of God, how grateful is it, wheresoever there is a friendly mind towards God. And if now hereupon the soul doth receive the testimony that is contained in this word, in this scripture-revelation, this God esteems friendly. The generality of men do not receive it; this is their condemnation, that “light is come into the world, [that light 424which shines in the gospel discovery] but men love darkness” more. If any do love the light more than that darkness, though it be from God, it is nevertheless kindly accepted, and taken by him as an indication of friendliness towards him. And we are to consider to this purpose, that however there be justice in this towards God, there is nothing the less of friendliness; for that wheresoever there is justice towards men, the acts and exercises thereof signify nothing if they do not proceed from love; for love comprehends all that duty that men owe towards one another, and it is “the fulfilling of the law.” If I do a just act towards a man, and do it not from a spirit of love, there is but a mere carcase of that which is really and truly a duty, the life and soul thereof are wanting. It is love that fulfils the law in the whole extent of it: love to God fulfils all the precepts that enjoin my duty towards him; and love to man, all the duties I owe to man. And ergo, do not think that is no friend ship towards God to receive the discovery he hath made of himself in his word as from him, because it is right, or because it is but justice towards God; for it must be a spirit of love that must animate all the duty I do, whether towards God or towards men; else it is all worth nothing. As there is malignity and malice in infidelity, so there is love and kindness in faith; in the assenting act of faith I mean; for the unitive act (you have been told) I am to speak to afterwards; and what I am now speaking to I put in under a distinct head of things presupposed unto that. But let it be considered that the main thing that doth keep off souls from God in infidelity, (comprised even in the nature of infidelity) is the enmity that it carries in it. How observable is the expression in John v. verses 42 and 43, compared together; “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” What is the reason of this partial disinclination to receive that testimony of God, when there is no such aversion appearing to receive and rely upon the human testimony of such, at least, as are not known to have forfeited the credit of their word? What is the reason? Why that the love of God hath no place in such hearts. They do not bear a friendly mind towards God; ergo, they can believe one another, but will not believe him: they have so much kindness for one another, that they will take one an other’s word; but they have so little kindness for God, that they will not take his word. A most horrid case; but yet 425a plain one. So it most manifestly is—“Ye will not believe my word, because the love of God is not in you.” Ergo, it is a sure indication of a friendly mind towards God, when there is any aptitude to entertain that revelation he hath made of himself and his word, and to acknowledge the characters of divinity that do appear upon it, rejoicing to behold any beams of heavenly light shot down into the midst of that horrid darkness which hath spread itself over this world. But again,
3. There is yet a further and more particular appearance of such friendliness towards God, when his reconcileableness to man declared in this revelation of his, is received as a true discovery of him. When the souls of men come to entertain such notices concerning him, that though he is offended (and most justly) against a sinful world, he is yet willing to be reconciled to sinners, bears a placable mind towards them. This is that which the most will not believe. There is such ill will towards God, as seals up the hearts of men in obduration, and ergo, this discovery Will not enter. It is one thing to have a notion of it in the mind, and another thing that it have its seat and place with effect and power in the heart; for (as there will be occasion more fully to discourse hereafter) there’s the principal seat of that faith upon which God accounts men righteous, and doth finally save them. There its principal seat is to be sought and found. Therefore, when we tell men from the word of God, and out of the gospel of Christ, that God is willing to be reconciled to sinners, they can give us the hearing, and give a faint assent; this notion is received into the mind (as a great many others are that belong both to the natural and prenatural parts of religion) without distilling any influence upon the heart and will. But if this discovery of God, that he is reconcileable unto sinners, once come to touch the heart, the reception and entertainment that is given it there, speaks the greatest friendliness towards God. It is with the heart that this must be believed, and the believing heart is in this point a friendly heart towards God. It is because this belief doth not obtain and take place there, that God hath so many irreconcileable enemies. They will not believe him reconcileable, and ergo, they will not be reconciled themselves. There is a consciousness, a guiltiness, which is seated in the natural conscience, that poisons the soul with enmity against God. Such a thing as was found in the spirit of Cain: “My sin is greater than can be forgiven.” And 426what was the product of that flat aversion from God?—self-banishment. Let me get to the utmost distance from him that I can, and keep at the utmost distance;—I have offended him, there is a nemesis, a doom, a judgment that hangs over my guilty head, and he will not be reconciled. Thou saidst, there is no hope. Jer. ii. 27. What then? I have loved strangers, and after them I will go. Because men do despair of God’s being reconciled to them, ergo, are they living a perpetual warfare and wilful wandering. I have loved strangers, and after them I will go. There is no hope in God that he will ever be reconciled to such a wretch as I, But if reconcileableness towards sinners be entertained, then that soul can be persuaded of it, that his word doth in this respect represent him truly. This is from the friendliness of his heart, that hopeth all things, believeth all things, and thinketh no evil.
As it is with love towards men, it doth not allow us to entertain suspicions and surmises concerning them that love us. It will not allow us to think them false, perfidious, treacherous, hypocritical. So much less will this love to God allow us to think so of him, that when he publishes his reconcileableness to sinners unto the sons of men, so expressly in a gospel sent into the world for that very purpose, if there be a friendly mind towards God, it will never allow a man to think he will but deceive in all this: all these are but false colours, they are but deceptive disguises that he hath put upon himself to make himself look speciously, and be well thought of in that world, that he hath even now forsaken and left. A friendly mind towards God banisheth all such thoughts as blasphemies of the divine goodness, and can allow them to have no place. And ergo, whereas his gospel proclaims “glory to him in the highest, peace on earth, and good will towards men;” a friendly disposition towards him shews itself in the joyful reception of this revelation of him, as most certainly and infallibly true.
4. And this friendliness towards God further appears in the soul’s deserting and coming off from this world, upon that discovery that God hath made of himself. As there is nothing can draw off a soul from a suitable good unto the sensitive nature that now prevails in the state of apostasy, and is growing in degenerate natures, nothing can draw it off from an adherence and addictedness to such a world, the sensible objects whereof are grateful and suitable to 427a soul lost in sense and buried in carnality, but the revelation of something greater, and better, and more suitable. And wheresoever there is faith ii: God, beginning to obtain and take place, by what degrees it doth take place in the soul the world loses its place; these two being directly opposite to one another, standing as rivals and competitors, God and this world. Therefore, by what degrees soever the soul approacheth God, it draws off from the world. And whereas the friendship of this world is enmity to God, by how much the more the soul inclineth to a state of friendship with God, so much the more it is enmity with this world, as God’s rival and competitor for the heart and soul. Under that notion it cannot endure it, but abhors from it. This friendship with God, which faith doth so directly tend to, and consist in, in so great part, must infer a continued and habitual enmity against this world, not abstractly considered in itself; (for every thing that God made is good) but as it is now become an idol of jealousy set up in opposition to God, that doth, as it were, appear as a substituted deity put in God’s room. The world and that carnality appear together, which entertains it and embraces it. They do share deity between them, which belongs only to God. Men fall into a league with this world for themselves, to gratify themselves, and their own carnal inclination out of it. But so the world and self, complicated and being in a combination, they engross the deity to themselves, which is due to the Most High. And under this notion, that when the soul begins to fall in with God, it falls out with the world; and ergo, it is expressly said in that forementioned place, that the friendship of the world is enmity against God. And so friendship with God must consequently be, under that notion, enmity against the world. But this is great friendliness too, towards God, when the soul retires and recedes from all that was dear and delightful to it before on this account. Now it finds him placable, reconcileable, willing to be at peace; I may come back to my God again, he invites me, he recalls me. What have I any more to do with idols? What is that base corruptible world now to me? It abandons all that it loved, all that it took pleasure in, upon his account, and for his sake. “We have forsaken all, and followed thee,” (said Peter in the name of the other disciples, Matth. xix. 27,) “what shall we have therefore?” It is not to be thought he could suppose that the forsaking their little all could deserve any thing, if it were a thousand 428times more than it was. But yet from the divine goodness apprehended, it raiseth expectation. Surely there is something to be got, though we have little to lose. And if we had all the world in our power, and were to abandon and throw it away, it were a contemptible, despicable nothing, in comparison of what we expect to find in him. But yet there is an expectation raised from the immense goodness and benignity of. God, that he will never permit any to abandon former enjoyments to their loss. It is a thing that in itself deserves nothing; but that doth, as it were, carry in itself a promise of much of all that can be expected and thought of, inasmuch as it hath in it a friendly mind towards God, which having to do with a being of infinite goodness, can never be without acceptance, or without its reward. Nay, by how much the more we do despise our all of this world upon this account; (and ergo, must apprehend our doing so, to have so much the less of merit in it, because the things we leave and forsake we judge at the same time to be worth nothing) yet so much the more is there of a friendly mind in it towards God; for he is so much the higher in our estimation and affection, by how much the more any thing that is opposite is lowered and depressed there. But then
5. The reception of that particular testimony that God hath given us in his gospel concerning his Son, that hath peculiarly much of a friendly mind towards God. That we entertain the discovery which he makes to us of his Christ the immediate object of that unitive act of faith which comes next to be spoken to. But this must be previous and supposed to it; i.e. that we receive the discovery that God hath made of Christ. This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased, I recommend to you, hear him as one sent forth from me. The voice came from the excellent glory giving this testimony concerning the Son of God. Now as the rest of the world who have this revelation, but believe it not, do by their unbelief make God a liar, they that do believe this testimony set to their seal that God is true: this he takes as an expression of friendliness towards him. The. rest of the world they are in a conspiracy, a confederacy to make him thought a liar, that he treats them with deceit. This notion of him men do so propagate as that it insinuates into their hearts, though in their minds they have no formal notion of it; they carry it towards him, as if they took him to be a deceiver, an impostor, one that intended to delude them by that representation, and by that scheme and model of things 429which he lays before them in the gospel of his Son. But they that receive this testimony, do now give an open proof before all the world of the regard and reverence which they have to that recommendation that God hath given of his Son to the children of men. Look to those expressions, John iii. 33, “He that hath received this testimony hath set to his seal that God is true;” (where he is speaking of the testimony given in the gospel concerning Christ.) And that other, 1 John v. 10, “He that believeth not the Son of God, hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son, (as the next verses tell us) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” So that he stands forth as a visible example and witness for God against the infidelity of a wicked world, that will not entertain this discovery which carries such bright lustre and glory with it, made unto men concerning his Son, and his design of saving sinners by him. This is friendly towards him, to give him the glory of his truth; and it will be matter of triumph and glorying at the great day, (as in 2 Thess. i. 10,) “When our Lord Jesus Christ shall appear with his holy angels, he shall be admired in his saints, and glorified in all them that believe, because our testimony was received in that day,” Upon this account will he appear glorified in the eyes of men, when he hath such a remnant to produce and shew before the world. Here are these that would believe me when the generality of men would not. These are they with whom my truth was a sacred and adorable thing, when it was turned into a lie by the wicked, infidel world. Here is a peculiar friendliness towards God in this remnant, when the minds of men are generally so disaffected towards him by that infidelity which carries dislike and enmity in the very nature of it.
And this leads to the unitive act of faith itself, wherein we shall shew there is much of friendliness towards God and his Christ essentially included.430
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