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Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.—Ver. 1.
THIS epistle, as others, beginneth with usual Christian salutations; these are continued through the two first verses, in which you have:
1. The person saluting, Jude, the author of the epistle.
2. The persons saluted, the believers of that age.
3. The form of salutation, ver. 2, mercy, and peace, and love be multiplied.
This first verse presenteth us with the two first circumstances, the saluter and the saluted. (1.) The saluter is described by his name, Judas; his office and condition of life, the servant of Jesus Christ; by his kindred and relation, and brother of James. (2.) The saluted, they are described—(1st.) By their condition, κλήτοις, called, that is to read first, as Beza. (2d.) By the effects and manifestations of it, which are two: First, sanctified by God the Father; secondly, preserved in Jesus Christ. These are the parts: I shall explain them branch by branch in the order propounded, with practical hints from each, which I shall handle in no fuller latitude than the present text will allow.
1. The saluter, and there his name, ‘Judas,’ called also ‘Thaddeus,’ Mat. x. 3, and ‘Lebbaeus;’ these several names implying the same thing, and were given him either by the people or the disciples, partly to distinguish him from Judas the apostate, partly to note his constancy in confessing and praising God; for so it signifieth, as you may see, Gen. xxix. 35, ‘Now Leah said, I will praise the Lord, therefore she called his name Judah.’
Obs. Divers note hence—(1.) That Christian names should be significant, such as may remember us of duty. (2.) That it is lawful to divulge or conceal our names in our writings, according as it may make for the glory of God to do either the one or the other. Jude mentioneth his name, but Paul doth not, or whosoever was the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (3.) That godly men and wicked may both be called by the same name; so Judas the apostle and Judas the apostate; there was Enoch, Cain’s son, Gen. iv. 17, and Enoch, Seth’s 10son, of the church line, that ‘walked with God,’ Gen. v. 22. But to mention these things is more than enough; the next circumstance will afford us more.
2. His office and condition, ‘the servant of Jesus Christ.’ It is a thing usual with the apostles to prefix this among other their honorary titles; as Rom. i. 1, ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ;’ so Phil. i. 1. The greatest honour that he would put upon himself and Timothy was this, ‘Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ.’ This term, a servant of God or Christ, in the use of scripture, is several ways applied. (1.) It may be understood of any kind of subserviency to God’s will and secret counsels, or instrumentality in the execution of his decrees; so wicked men may be said to be God’s servants, so far forth as he serveth his designs of their endeavours; as Cyrus was God’s servant, because he should perform all his pleasure; so Nebuchadnezzar, Jer. xxvii. 6, ‘These things have I given into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, my servant,’ (2.) It noteth a pious care to perform God’s revealed will; they that out of a sense of his love resign up themselves to do his will are called his servants: so ‘he that is called in the Lord,’ whether he be bond or free, is said to be ‘Christ’s servant,’ 1 Cor. vii. 22. So godly masters are said to have the Lord for their master: Eph. vi. 9, ‘Knowing that your master is also in heaven,’ In the former place he saith a servant is God’s freeman; and here, that a master is God’s servant. (3.) It noteth designation to any public office for God’s glory; those that do more eminently or more nearly serve God in some peculiar office are called his servants; as magistrates: Rom. xiii. 4, ‘He is the minister of God for thy good;’ and ver. 6, ‘God’s ministers attending continually for this thing.’ But yet more especially they are called ministers and servants who sustain the public offices of the church; as 2 Tim. ii. 24, ‘The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, patient,’ meaning one employed in the public ministry. So the priests of the Old Testament were called the Lord’s servants; as Ps. cxxxiv. 1, ‘Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.’ He speaketh to the priests that were to watch in the temple; and in this sense it is said, Amos iii. 7, ‘I have sent my servants the prophets.’ But now among these ministers and officers of the church the prophets and apostles are styled so by way of eminency. Yea, yet further, Christ, because of his office of Mediator, which is the highest office, and proper to the head of the church, is called God’s servant; as Isa. xlix. 3, ‘Thou art my servant;’ and Isa. liii. 11, ‘By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.’ To apply all now to the case in hand: Jude is called ‘a servant of Jesus Christ,’ not only as one that had given up himself to do his will as a Christian, but as an apostle.99 See my Exposition on James i. 1. Let us now observe something hence.
Obs. 1. Observe, first, that Jude placeth his service among his titles. He might have urged other things to render himself honourable to the world, but he doth not stand upon those things; it is enough for him to say, ‘Jude, a servant.’ As Jude, the Lord’s cousin, calleth himself his servant, so doth Mary, the Lord’s mother, style herself his 11handmaid: Luke i. 38, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.’ And the apostles generally urge it as one of the fairest flowers in their gar land, the honour of being Christ’s servants; yea, Christ himself counteth it no dishonour to be styled God’s servant. The meanest offices about princes are accounted honourable; to be a groom there is better than to be a lord elsewhere. Servire Deo regnare est—it is royal and kingly to be God’s servant; indeed, every servant there is a king, 1 Peter ii. 9, Rev. i. 6; as Zeba and Zalmunna said of Gideon’s brethren, ‘They each one resembled the children of a king,’ so all these are spiritual kings, that live the noblest and freest life in the world. And as we have a glorious master, so consider your fellow-servants, the glorified saints and we make but one family, Eph. iii. 15. And the angels themselves are called his ministers: Ps. ciii. 21, ‘Ye ministers of his that do his pleasure;’ they are a part of God’s attendance, and wait upon their master’s person. When we have such fellow-servants, we should not count our work a slavery and baseness; it can be no disparagement to us to be in the same rank and order with the angels and saints departed. Well, then, learn to value the honour that you have by Christ’s service; as that emperor counted it a greater privilege to be a member of the church than head of the empire. Look upon duty as an honour, and service as a privilege: honorabilia legis, Hosea viii. 12, so the Vulgar. And if ever you be put to your choice, either to enjoy the greatest outward honours, or to serve Christ with disgrace, choose the latter. Moses ‘refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter when he came to age,’ Heb. xi. 24. 25. Galeacius Carraciolus left the honour of his marquisate for an obscure life and the gospel at Geneva. Indignities and dishonours done you in the way of duty are honours; ‘reproaches for Christ’s sake’ are treasure, Heb. xi. 26. One of Paul’s honorary titles is, ‘Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ,’ Philem. 1; and elsewhere he holdeth up his chain in a kind of triumph: ‘For the hope of Israel am I bound with this chain,’ Acts xxviii. 20. Whatever befalleth us in and for our service to Christ, be it never so disgraceful, it is rather a mark of honour than a brand of shame.
Obs. 2. Observe, again, his relation to Christ is expressed by service; as he describeth himself to be James’s brother, so Christ’s servant; by that means he was entitled to Christ; if we would be Christ’s we must do his will: our relation ariseth from service, John xii. 26. Therefore I shall here take occasion to show you what it is to be Christ’s servants. (1.) Whoever is Christ’s servant must resign and give up himself wholly to the will of Christ; for he that is Christ’s servant, he is so by covenant and consecration. We are indeed Christ’s by all kind of rights and titles; ‘he made us, and not we ourselves;’ no creature is of itself, and therefore it is not its own, but another’s. It is God’s prerogative alone to love himself and seek himself, because he alone is without obligation and dependence; but we owe ourselves to him, and therefore cannot without robbery call ourselves our own. Your tongues are not your own to speak what you please, Ps. xii. 4, nor your hearts your own to think what you please, nor your hands your own to do what you please; by virtue of your creation you are another’s, and are bound to live and act for another, according to his will, for his 12 glory. But this is not all; by redemption you are Christ’s: ‘Ye are bought with a price,’ 1 Cor. vi. 20, as the redeemed are bound to serve him that ransomed them. If a man had bought another out of captivity, or he had sold himself, all his strength or service belonged to the buyer. Christ hath bought us from the worst slavery, and with the greatest price; no thraldom so bad as bondage to sin and Satan, no prison so black as hell; and certainly Christ’s blood is better than a little money. So that to live as if we were at our own disposal is to defraud Christ of his purchase. Thus we are Christ’s by creation and redemption; but now, if we would be his servants, we must be his by voluntary contract and spiritual resignation: ‘Yield up yourselves,’ &c., Rom. vi. 13. Christ loveth to have his right and title established by our own consent. We take Christ for lord and master, and give up ourselves to him, that we may be no longer at our own disposal, and therefore it is not only robbery, but treachery and breach of covenant to seek ourselves in anything. This resignation must be made out of a sense of Christ’s love to us in his death and sufferings: 2 Cor. v. 15, Christ died, ‘that they which live should not henceforth live to themselves, but unto him that died for them.’ We enter upon other services out of hopes, but we enter upon Christ’s service out of thankfulness. Again, this resignation must be universal, without reservation of any part. You must have no other master but God: Mat. vi. 24, ‘Ye cannot serve two masters, ye cannot serve God and mammon.’ Usually men divide themselves between God and the world; they would give their consciences to Christ, and their hearts to mammon. The devil pleadeth for a part, for by that means he knoweth that the whole will fall to his share; therefore all, the whole man, in vow, purpose, and resolution, must be given up to God. (2.) Having given up yourselves to God’s service, you must walk as his servants; that is, not as you list, but as the master pleaseth. The angels are God’s ministers, ‘doing his pleasure,’ Ps. ciii. 21. A servant hath no will of his own, but hath given up his liberty to the directions and commands of another; therefore, if you be God’s servants, you must earnestly desire the knowledge of his will, and readily comply with it; you must not do things as they please self and flesh, but as they please God. David beggeth for knowledge as God’s servant: Ps. cxix. 125, ‘I am thy servant, grant me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.’ A faithful servant would not willingly offend his master, and therefore would fain know what is his will. They plead with God, and search themselves, Rom. xii. 2, and all to know his pleasure; and not only to know it, but to do it, otherwise they are worthy of many stripes by Christ’s own sentence. The master’s will should be motive enough, 1 Thes. iv. 3, v. 13; 1 Peter ii. 15. If God will have it so if Jesus Christ will have it so, it is enough to a faithful servant. I he very signification of God’s will carrieth with it reason enough to enforce the practice of it. Yea, you must equally comply with every will of God, not only with the easy and pleasant ways of obedience, but such as cross lusts and interests. When two men go together, a man cannot tell whom the servant followeth till they part. When God and our lusts or our interests command contrary things, then you are put to the trial whether you are God’s servants.13
Obs. 3. Again, observe from the proper acception of the phrase, as it is applied to those that stand before the Lord in some special office and ministration; as to the apostles, and by consequence to the ministers of the gospel. The note is, that ministers are servants of Jesus Christ; Paul a servant, and Jude a servant. We are to deal between God and the soul, factors for heaven. There is many a good inference may be collected from this notion. I shall refer all to two heads, the ministers’ duty and the people’s. (1.) It hinteth duty to ministers; it teacheth us diligence in our Lord’s work, for we are servants, and must give an account, Heb. xiii. 17, what good we have done in our places, how we have employed our parts, improved our interests, for his glory: Mat. xxv. 19, ‘After a long time the lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them.’ We are entrusted with the talent of gifts, with the talent of office and authority in the church; now God will see what we have done for his glory, whether we have beaten our fellow-servants, or helped them in the way of salvation; whether our pound hath been hidden in a napkin, or laid out for the gain of souls. Again, it hinteth faithfulness. We are not to trade for ourselves, and to drive on our own designs of credit and advantage; we are servants, employed for the master’s uses: Gal. i. 10, ‘Do I yet please men? If I pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.’ A man that sets up for himself is to trade for himself; but all that a servant doth should be for his master’s honour and profit. (2.) It hinteth duty to the people. Regard ministers as servants of Christ, that you may give their persons all due honour. Consider, God hath retained them as for a nearer service to himself: 1 Cor. iv. 1, ‘Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of the gospel.’ The world counteth the calling probrosum artificium, a sordid artifice and way of living, whereby men set their tongues and parts to sale, and think that of all callings this can best be spared, therefore it is high time to assert the dignity of the office. Men should not think so basely of those who are Christ’s servants, not only to do his business, but to wait upon his person, his special attendants; nay, ambassadors, that impersonate and represent their Master, 2 Cor. v. 20. Again, bear our doctrine with meekness and patience; we are but servants. If the message which we bring be displeasing, remember it is the will of our master; it is not in our power to comply with your lusts and humours, if the scripture doth not. As God said to Jeremiah, Jer. xv. 19, ‘Let them return unto thee, but return not thou to them.’ So you should comply with the word; we cannot comply with you. The false prophets returned to the people, complied with their humours. We must deliver our message, pardon to whom pardon, terror to whom terror is due: servants must be faithful. Thus must you look upon them as servants, yet but as servants, that you may not fondly idolise their persons: ‘What is Paul and Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believe?’ 1 Cor. iii. 5. It is the old way of flesh and blood to sacrifice to the next hand. And that you may know to whom to go for the fruit of the ordinance, when we have done our work, ‘there is one that cometh after us who is mightier than we,’ Mat. iii. 11, who ‘giveth the increase’ to what we have ‘planted and watered,’ 1 Cor. iii. 6.
3. The author of the epistle is described by his kindred and relation, 14 and brother of James. There were two in the college of the apostles of that name, James of Zebedee, and ‘James the son of Alpheus,’ who was also called ‘the brother of the Lord,’ that is, his cousin-german, who is the person intended, for Jude was his brother, as Mat. xiii. 55, ‘Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?’ Now this clause is added, partly to distinguish him from the other Judas, called Iscariot, who betrayed our Lord.
Obs. It is good to prevent all visible scandals and exceptions against our persons. I observe this, because the scripture doth elsewhere: John xiv. 22, ‘Judas saith unto him, not Iscariat, How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world?’ The scripture would not have you mistake him that said so. Men drink less freely of a suspected fountain. Partly because this would make the epistle the more welcome. James was of great credit and repute, reckoned by Paul among ‘the pillars,’ Gal. ii. 9. From whence observe:—
Obs. 1. That it is lawful to use the credit of others, for the advantage of the truth. In the 15th of the Acts, the apostles might have deter mined the case by their own infallible spirit, but for the greater credit sake they take in the consent of others: ver. 23, ‘The apostles, and elders, and brethren,’ &c. Paul, dealing with heathens, quoteth the sayings of their own writers in divers places, which may justify the unaffected use of sentences and passages out of the ancient writers of the church. It is good to bait the naked hook of truth sometimes with the advantage of carnal credit. Again, observe:—
Obs. 2. That we should walk so that we may be an honour to our relations. This is one of Jude’s titles, ‘the brother of James.’ He took it for an honour to. be related to so eminent an apostle. Worthy men reflect a credit upon their families. To be brother, father, son, to such as have deserved well of the church, is no mean honour and engagement to virtue. Well, then, live so that you may not disgrace your lineage; and you that come of worthy ancestors, walk answerably to the dignity of your extraction. The images of your progenitors are not more sullied with dust, and smoke, and age, than they are with your vices. The Spirit of God brands a degenerate issue for walking unworthy their birth and the privileges of their blood, 1 Chron. iv. 22, 23. Vide Junium et alios in locum. So much for the saluter.
Let us now come to the saluted; they are described by their condition, called; by the effects and manifestations of it, which are two, sanctification and preservation.
1. Their condition, called, for that both in the construction of the words, and the order of nature, is to be read first. There is an outward calling, and in that sense Christ speaketh, Mat. xx. 16, ‘Many are called, but few are chosen;’ that is, outwardly called in the invitations of the word; so all wicked men that live within the hearing of the gospel; but it seemeth they are only called obiter, by the by, as they live among the elect: those are called κατὰ πρόθεσιν, ‘according to purpose.’ Rom. viii. 28. But there is an inward and effectual calling, by the persuasion of the Spirit, or ‘the voice of the Son of God,’ which causeth life, John v. 25. The apostle speaketh here of 15the ‘called according to purpose,’ and that by an inward and effectual calling. Whence note:—
Obs. That it is the condition of the people of God to be a called people; this is first in their description: see Rom. i. 6, ‘Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.’ So the Corinthians are said to be saints by calling, 1 Cor. i. 2, and Heb. iii. 1, ‘Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling.’ Now the saints are a called people, first, because all they have and enjoy is from God’s calling; a Christian is nothing and hath nothing but what God is pleased to work in him by his creating word: ‘Calling the things that are not as though they were.’ Rom. iv. 17. Now God is pleased to work this way, partly to give us a warrant, that we may possess our privileges in Christ without intrusion and usurpation: ‘No man taketh this honour upon him till he be called of God,’ Heb. v. This is that they have to show to conscience, that we do not presume and usurp; we have a calling so to do. Why dost thou, vile wretch, go to God in the name of Christ? How dost thou that art a sinner look him in the face, lay hold of Christ, hope for glory? Still the call is our warrant and title. If it should be asked of the guests that came in a wedding garment, Friends, how durst ye come hither, and approach the presence chamber of the king’s son? they might answer, We were bidden to the wedding, Mat. xxii. So in Mat. xx., ‘Why do not you go into the vineyard?’ Their answer was, ‘No man hath hired us;’ they had no calling. Partly to give us encouragement: we need not only leave to come to God by Christ, but also quickening and encouragement, for we are backward. In other preferments there needeth nothing but leave, for there men are forward enough; but here guilt maketh us shy of God, and God is forced to call and holloa after us. By nature we are not only exiles, but fugitives. Before God banished Adam, he first ran away from him, he ran to the bushes, and then God called him, ‘Adam, where art thou?’ Gen. iii. 9. How often doth God holloa after us in the word before we return and come out of the bushes! He maketh proclamation, Isa. lv. 1, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth,’ &c. We are under spiritual bondage, as the Israelites were in Egypt under corporal bondage, and God sendeth again and again, and out of very anguish of heart we will not believe him; therefore he calleth and crieth, Sinners, where are you? why will you not return unto me? God’s outward call is managed by men, and therefore it is very hard to persuade them to discern the voice of God; as Samuel would not be persuaded but that it was Eli called him, when it was the Lord. We think it to be the charity of the minister, and will not easily acknowledge a call from God, and therefore do not only need leave, but encouragement. Partly because God will work in a way suitable to his own nature and ours; fortiter et suaviter, strongly like himself, and sweetly with respect to us; and therefore he doth not only draw but call; not only put forth the power of his Spirit, but exhort and invite by the word. The efficacy of divine grace is conveyed this way more suitably to the nature of man; there is grace offered in the gospel, and the Spirit compelleth to come in. In all the works of God, there is some word by which his power is educed and exercised. In the creation, ‘Let there be light,’ &c. At the resurrection there is a trump, and the voice of an archangel, 16‘Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment.’ In all Christ’s miraculous cures there are some words used, ‘Be thou clean,’ and ‘Be thou whole,’ and ‘Be thou opened;’ and to Lazarus in the grave Christ useth words of ministerial excitation, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ So in converting a sinner, there is not only a secret power, but a sweet call and invitation; some word by which this power is conveyed and represented in a way suitable to our capacity. For all these reasons doth God work grace by calling.
Again, God’s people are well styled a called people, because they are so many ways called: from self to Christ, from sin to holiness, from misery to happiness and glory. They are called from self to Christ: Mat. xi. 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden.’ The main end of a call is to bring Christ and the soul together; every dispensation of God hath a voice; and God speaketh to us by conscience, by his works, by benefits, by crosses, but chiefly by his word, the application of which by the Spirit is, as it were, an awakening call; but the chief call of God is by the voice of the gospel, wherein the offers of grace are discovered to us: Come, poor wearied soul, come to Christ, and thou shalt find ease and comfort. Again, they are called from sin to holiness: 1 Thes. iv. 7, ‘God hath not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness.’ Though the immediate end of divine calling be faith, yet the intermediate end is holiness, as the ultimate end is glory. Thus we are called out of Babylon into Sion, from the tents of Kedar into the tents of Shem, from nature to grace, and the power of Satan into the kingdom of God; in short, this call is a separation from uncleanness, and all common and vile uses. Again, they are called from misery to happiness and glory, from aliens to be friends, from darkness to light, 1 Peter ii. 9, from being enemies to be reconciled, from bastards to become sons, from vessels of wrath to be heirs of glory. With respect to all these sorts of calling it is termed sometimes ‘a high calling,’ Phil. iii. 14; sometimes ‘a holy calling,’ 2 Tim. i. 9; and sometimes ‘a heavenly calling,’ Heb. iii. 1. It is ‘a high calling,’ because of the honour and dignity of it; it is no small matter to be children of God, John i. 12; co-heirs with Christ, Rom. viii. 17; kings and priests to God, Rev. i. 6. Many are lifted up because they have borne offices, and are called to high places in the world: a Christian hath a calling more excellent, he is called to be a saint, a spiritual king, a holy priest to God. It is ‘a holy calling,’ because of the effect and purpose of it. Man’s calling may put dignity and honour upon us, but it cannot infuse grace; it may change our condition, but not our hearts. It is ‘a heavenly calling’ because of the author of it, God by his Spirit; and because of the aim of it; the grace whereby we are called came from heaven, and its aim and tendency is to bring us thither. See 1 Thes. ii. 14; 2 Peter i. 3, ‘Called us to glory and virtue,’ &c. We are first called to grace, and then to heaven; first the sweet voice saith, ‘Come unto me,’ and then the great voice, ‘Come up hither:’ from self, sin, and the world we are called off, that we may enjoy God in Christ for evermore. You see the reasons, let us apply it now.
Use 1. First, It serveth to press us to hearken to the Lord’s call. Many are kept off by vanity and pleasures, others by their own fears. 17To the first sort I shall only represent the danger of neglecting God’s invitation, and slighting a call: Prov. i. 25, 26, ‘Ye have set at nought my counsel, therefore I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.’ God’s wrath is never more terrible than when it is stirred up to avenge the quarrel of abused mercy. Men cannot endure that two things should be despised—their anger or their kindness. Nebuchadnezzar, when he thought his anger despised, he biddeth them heat the furnace seven times hotter; and David, when he thought his kindness despised, threatened to cut off from Nabal ‘every one that pisseth against the wall.’ Certainly the Lord taketh it ill when the renewed messages of his love are not regarded; and that is the reason why where mercy is most free, God is most quick and severe upon the refusal of it: the Lamb’s wrath is most terrible, Ps. ii. 10; no fire so hot as that which is enkindled by the breath of the despised gospel. What a terrible threatening is there in the place alleged! ‘I will laugh at their calamity.’ It is the greatest happiness when the Lord ‘rejoiceth to do us good,’ and the greatest misery when he rejoiceth to do us evil: God’s laughing will certainly be the creatures’ mourning. Consider, then, what an affront you put upon grace, when every vile thing is preferred before it. When the Lord offered Canaan to the Israelites, and they preferred Egypt before it, he swore, ‘They should not enter into his rest,’ Ps. xcv. 11; and those that preferred a yoke of oxen, a farm, or marriage, before the king’s feast, the king protesteth against them, Luke xiv. 24, ‘None of those that were bidden shall taste of my supper.’ Whoever have glory and grace by Christ, they shall have none.
For the other sort, that are kept off by their own fears, they are wont to allege, It is true there is mercy in Christ for sinners, but Christ doth not call them. My brethren, what do you look for? an audible voice to speak to you, Thou John, thou Thomas, &c.? In the tenders of the gospel you are included as well as others, and why will you exclude yourselves? If God say sinners, you should subsume and reply, ‘I am chief.’ I remember it is said, John x. 3, Christ ‘calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them forth.’ How doth Christ call them by name? By speaking expressly to their case, as if he did strike them upon the shoulders, and say; Here is comfort for thee. As at a feast, when there is a dish that we affect set upon the table, though all the company be free to make use of it, yet we say, Here is a dish for me. So should you apply and take to yourselves your own portion; though it be propounded generally, yet when God directeth the tongue of his messengers to speak so expressly to your case, that is all the calling by name which you can look for, since oracles are ceased, and therefore you should say, This was a dish provided for my hungry conscience, intended to me, &c. But they will reply, Sure there is no mercy for me, I am so unworthy. I answer—The invitation taketh no notice of worth, but of thirst: Rev. xxii. 17, ‘Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely.’ Thou art not worthy, but thou art thirsty, or else whence come these groans? And by the way take notice of the pride that is in legal dejection. Men are loath to be beholden to Christ; they would be worthy before they will come to him; and therefore the 18apostle useth that expression, οὐχ ὑπετάγησαν, Rom. x. 3, ‘They have not submitted to the righteousness of God.’ A proud creature would fain establish a righteousness in himself, and is loath to submit to take all from another; as an outward proud man preferreth a russet coat of his own before a silken garment that is borrowed or given him by another. But they are such sinners, &c. Ans. The more need to come to Christ; he came to ‘call sinners,’ Mat. ix. 13. It is no matter what thou hast been, but what thou wouldst be; Christ doth not call us because we are holy, but that we may be holy. Is it a rational plea in outward cases, I am too poor to take alms, I am too filthy to go to the water to be washed? But they have stood out against so many calls already, and scorned God’s counsel. Ans. Wisdom calleth scorners, Prov. i. 22, ‘Turn ye scorners; how long will ye delight in scorning?’ It is a mercy that thou hast one call more; do not increase the guilt that thou complainest of. But I know not how to come to Christ. Ans. The blind and the lame are invited to the wedding, Mat. xxii., and wisdom calleth fools, Prov. ix. 4, ‘Whoso is simple,’ &c. The stray lamb is brought home upon the shepherd’s shoulders, Luke xv. Oh! that these words might be spirit and life to you!
Use 2. Again, it presseth us to ‘make our calling and election sure,’ 2 Peter i. 10; that is, to evidence our election by our calling; for calling it is but election put in act. Election is nothing but God’s love and intention to bestow saving grace upon such and such persons; and calling is nothing but the actual manifestation of God’s love, or the application of saving grace: Rom. viii. 30, ‘Whom he hath predestinated, them he called.’ Calling is the first and immediate fruit of election, by which it springeth forth, and is exercised on the vessels of mercy: So 2 Thes. ii. 13, 14, ‘God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through the sanctification of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth, to the obtaining of the glory of God, whereunto he hath called you by my gospel.’ Here is the whole method of salvation. The first rise and spring of mercy was at election, which breaketh out by effectual calling, and so floweth down in the channels of faith and holiness, till it lose itself in the ocean of everlasting glory. So that by calling, God executeth in time what he decreed before all time; and he that is called, may look backward upon eternal purposes of grace, and forward upon an eternal possession of glory. Well, then, if we would get any assurance of God’s favour, or of our interest in everlasting glory, the great business we should labour in is to clear up our calling; it is the freest and surest discovery of God’s love, and so fittest to bottom a confidence or assurance. In elective love, we have the best view of mercy, and a call is the first discovery and copy of it; for it is an act of God, which ariseth merely from his choice, preventing and anteceding, not only the merit, but the acts and industry of the creature: see 2 Tim. i. 9. Other acts of God’s bounty follow the acts of the creature, but this is the first motion God maketh to the soul; he accepts us when we come, but he called us when we did not think of coming. In short, calling is the key of the gospel, the plank that is cast out to save a sinking sinner, a sure pledge of glory, which is therefore called ‘the high prize of our calling,’ Phil. iii. 14. Once more, here we have the clearest and most sensible experience of the work of grace. After conversion, the work may be carried on tacitly, and with more silence; but in calling and conversion, as in all changes, the operations of grace are more sensible; we may grow insensibly, as a plant doth. The step from sin to grace is a work of greater difficulty and power than to go on from grace to grace; as the apostle maketh it a matter of more ease to save a saint than to gain a sinner, Rom. v. 8-10, and therefore degrees cannot be alike sensible as change of state. The apostle, speaking of the first conversion of the Thessalonians, he saith, 1 Thes. i. 9, ‘Ye know what manner of entering we had unto you.’ The first approaches of God’s power and word to the soul, as they meet with more opposition, so they cannot but be more sensible, and leave a greater feeling upon us. It were strange if an almighty power should work in us, and we no way privy or conscious to it, and all done as in our sleep; to think so were to give security a soft pillow whereon to rest, and to suffer men to go away with golden dreams, though they feel no change in themselves, pleasing themselves with the supposition of imaginary grace, wrought without their privity and knowledge. I would not press too hard upon any tender conscience. I do foresee the objection that may be made, namely, that if calling giveth such a sensible experience of the work of grace, how cometh it then to pass that so few of God’s children have assurance or any sense of their conversion? I answer—(1.) It is possible God’s power may work in us, and we not be sensible of it. There is a difference between our outward and inward senses: we may lose our spiritual feeling; and inward sense doth not so clearly discern its object, because of the way in which God conveyeth His power; it is strong, but sweet; like the influences of the heavens; of a great efficacy, but scarce discerned: as there was a great power wrought in the Ephesians, but they did not discern it so sufficiently, Eph. i. 18, 19. (2.) It is the fault of God’s children not to be sensible of the power that worketh in them; sometimes it is their carelessness, sometimes their peevishness. Their carelessness in not observing the approaches of God, and how he worketh and breaketh in upon their hearts in the word; so that ‘the time of love ‘is not marked when it is present, nor remembered when it is past. As God said of Ephraim, Hosea xi. 3, ‘When Ephraim was a child, I taught him to go, taking them by the arms, but they knew it not,’ that is, did not observe it. So God communicateth grace to his people, giveth in help and supports, but they observe it not. Sometimes it is peevishness and perverseness of judgment: sense of sin, and many weaknesses, like a thick cloud, hinder their clear discerning. God hath called them, but they will not own and acknowledge it, and so underrate their spiritual condition. (3.) God doth not call every one in a like violent and sensible manner. Some men’s conversion is more gentle and silent; whereas, to others, Christ cometh like a strong man armed, and snatcheth them out of the fire: some are drawn they know not how, and love, by a gentle blast, sweetly and softly bloweth open the door: ‘Ere ever I was aware,’ &c., Cant. vi. 12. Upon others the Spirit cometh like ‘a mighty rushing wind,’ and they are carried to Christ, as it were, by the gates of hell. As in the natural birth, 20some children are brought forth with more ease, others with greater pains and throes, so the new birth in some is without trouble and delay. ‘God opened the heart of Lydia,’ we read of no more, Acts xvi.; but others are brought in with more horror of conscience, extreme sorrow, and desperation. God biddeth men ‘put a difference,’ Jude 22, 23; so doth God himself. (4.) This different dispensation God useth according to his own pleasure; no certain rules can be given. Sometimes they that have had good education have least terrors, as being restrained from gross sins; sometimes most terrors, because they have withstood most means. Sometimes they that are called to the greatest services have most terrors, that they may speak the more evil of sin, because they have felt the bitterness of it; sometimes it is quite otherwise; those that are not called to such eminent service drink most deeply of this cup, and taste the very dregs of sin, and serve only as monuments of the power of God’s anger; whereas others are spared, and public work serveth instead of sorrow and trouble of conscience. Again, sometimes men and women of the most excellent and acute understandings are most troubled, as having the clearest apprehensions of the heinousness of sin, and terribleness of wrath. Again, at other times it cometh from ignorance, as fears arise in the dark, and weak spirits are apt to be terrified: sometimes these terrors fall on a strong body, as best able to bear it; sometimes on a weak, the devil taking advantage of the weakness of the body to raise disturbances in the mind. Many times in hot and fiery natures their changes are sudden, and carried on in an extreme way; whereas soft natures, whose motions are slower, are gently and by degrees surprised; they take impressions of grace insensibly. Thus you see no certain rules can be given; only in the general way we may observe, that this different dispensation maketh the work of God in calling more or less sensible. Those that are brought in by the violent way and roughly, must needs be sensible of that omnipotent pull by which their hearts are divorced from their corruptions, and can discourse of the time, the means, and the manner, and all the circumstances of their calling with exactness: as Paul, 2 Cor. xii. 2, ‘I knew a man in Christ fourteen years ago,’ &c. Now, every one cannot deliver a formal story, nor tell you the exact method and successive operations of grace in conversion. (5.) Though there be a different dispensation used in calling, yet there is enough to distinguish the uncalled from the called; partly because though God’s call be not discerned in the acts of it, yet it may be discerned in the effects of it. Conversion is evident, if not in feeling, yet in fruit. Many works of nature are for the convoy of them insensible, but the effects appear: Eccles. xi. 5, ‘We know not the way of the spirit, nor how the bones grow in the womb.’ We know not the manner, point of time, but yet the birth followeth. They are not Christ’s that neither know how they are called, nor can give any proof that they are called. The blind man, John ix., when they asked him, ‘How did he come to open thine eyes?’ answered, ‘How he did it I cannot tell; but this one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, I now see.’ Early or late the soul will give this testimony, How I got him I cannot tell, but I am glad I find he is here. Partly because where conversion and calling is carried on more tacitly or silently, there will be something 21felt and found in them; there is at least an anxiousness about their everlasting estate. Every soul doth not walk ‘in the region of the shadow of death,’ but every soul first or last is brought to What shall I do? which is usually upon some secret or open sin into which God suffereth them to fall against conscience: there will be care, though not horror; and solicitousness, though not utter despair. No soul ever came to Christ without a load upon his back, though every one be not ready, with the jailor, to kill himself for anguish. You will be at a loss sometimes; it is easy security that goeth on from the cradle to the grave in the same tenor of hope without variation. There will be a time when you will ‘smite upon the thigh,’ and cry, ‘What shall I do?’ And as there will be some trouble found in them, so some change; all are not converted from profaneness to religion, some from civility to religion, from profession to sincerity, from servility to ingenuity. Time was when they were careless of communion with God, prayed now and then out of custom, had no delight in the Almighty, but now it is otherwise. Partly because there is a constant calling, so that first or last we shall be sensible of the motions of the Spirit, and the heart’s answer: to some God speaketh in thunder, to others in a still voice, but to all he speaketh; therefore did you ever discern God’s calling and your answering? Ps. xxvii. 8, ‘The Lord said, Seek ye my face; my heart said, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’ There is no gracious heart but they are often sensible of such a dialogue between God and the soul. This discourse is constant; he speaketh to us by the injection of holy motions and the actual excitations of his grace, and we speak to him by serious promises and resolutions of obedience. God calleth us into his presence often, and the heart echoeth, ‘Lo, I come.’
Well, now, upon all these considerations labour to get your calling evidenced. That will clear up your title to the great privileges of grace. By it you may rebuke your doubts and fears. When conscience asketh, What have you to do with these comforts, to look upon yourselves as objects of God’s election, as heirs of glory? you may answer, I did not take this honour upon me. I was called of God. But you will say, What are the infallible notes and marks of effectual calling? I answer—These. I shall contract larger discourses. You may know your effectual calling partly by the preparations made for it. Though the work itself be done in an instant, and many times when we least think of it, yet usually God maketh way for his mighty work. As the husbandman harroweth and breaketh the clods before he throweth in the seed, so by some preparative conviction God breaketh the heart, and maketh it meet to receive grace. Redemption needed no preparation, but conversion doth. Look, as Moses brought them to the borders, but Joshua led them into the land of Canaan, so usually there is some foregoing law work, though we are called properly by the gospel: 2 Thes. ii. 14, ‘Called by my gospel.’ The law driveth us out of ourselves, but the gospel pulleth in the heart to Christ. Look, as in outward generation the matter is gradually prepared and disposed, so is the soul for the new birth. A man is awakened by the sight of his own wretchedness, convinced of sin, and the evil consequences of it; and then the work is done by the mild 22voice of the gospel, Hosea ii. 14; Gal. iii. 1; as manna came down in sweet dews. It is God’s way to speak terror before he speak comfort. Christ showeth the method: John xvi. 8, ‘The Spirit shall convince of sin.’ The word ἐλέγξει is notable. To convince is to show a thing to be impossible to be otherwise than we represent it.1010 ‘Τὸ μὴ δύνατον ἀλλώς ἐχειν, ἀλλ᾽ ὃτως ὡς ἡμεῖς λέγομεν.’—Arist. So the Spirit convinceth, and maketh the person yield, and say, Certainly I am a sinner, an unbeliever, a very wretch, that hath no interest in Christ. This is God’s method. We come to some certain issue about our being in the state of nature, before we come to some certain issue about our being in the state of grace. The soul saith, Surely I am stark naught, in a deplored lost condition. Well, then if you had always good thoughts of yourselves, or only a slight and general knowledge, we are all sinners, &c, you are not prepared. The blind man, John ix., could say, ‘I was blind.’ Were you ever brought to say, I was a wretch, a miserable, forlorn creature out of Christ? This feedeth presumption and security, because we never bring the debate to an issue concerning our being in either of the states, but content ourselves with blind guesses and loose acknowledgments that we are all sinners, and Christ must save us, &c. This is not enough; there must be a particular and humbling sense of sin. Unworthiness and wretchedness felt is the first occasion to bring us to Christ. Never a poor soul that taketh sanctuary at the throne of grace but he standeth guilty there, Rom. iii. 19; Heb. vi. 18; and in danger of damnation.
2. Again, the next note or occasion of discovery may be taken from the instrument or means by which God hath called us, namely, the word: 2 Thes. 14, ‘By my gospel.’ Oracles and audible voices are not his usual course. Some Christians talk of such things, but, to say the least of the mistake, they are but the suppositions of an over-troubled fancy, delusions which God, who bringeth light out of darkness, may at length order for good, and in the wisdom of his providence make use of them to bring off his people from their discouragements.1111 I suppose Austin’s Tolle et Lege was of this nature. But usually God’s way of calling is by the word, and most usually by the word preached, seldom otherwise; for God loveth to own and honour the means of his own appointing with a blessing. I suppose scarce an instance can be given of any converted by reading or meditation that neglected prophesying where it was to be had. I confess the word may not work always in time of hearing. There is a notable instance, Cant. v. 6, ‘My soul failed when he spake;’ or rather, it may be rendered, ‘because of his speech.’ Now compare it with the time of Christ’s visit, ver. 2, 3, ‘Open, my sister, my dove,’ &c. While Christ was speaking she is careless and sluggish, ‘I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on?’ You see her heart was far from failing then; but when she remembered it afterward, then her bowels were troubled. As Peter also was wrought upon by the remembrance of Christ’s words a great while after they were spoken, Mat. xxvi. 75. Thus many times God reviveth old truths, and maketh them effectual long after the time of delivery. The word worketh, then, either in the hearing or in the remembrance or deep meditation upon it. Well now, can you remember such an experience 23when God called you by his word, and ‘spake comfortably to your hearts?’ Did he ever move you to go aside into the closet, that you might be solitary and serious, and consider of your condition? Usually at our first call we are moved to go aside, that God and we may confer in private; as Hosea ii. 14, ‘God calleth into the wilderness, that he may speak to the heart.’ And Ezekiel was called ‘into the field,’ that God might more freely talk with him: Ezek. iii. 22, ‘Arise, go forth into the plain, that there I may talk with thee.’ So Cant. vii. 11, ‘Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields,’ &c. Usually his first motions are to go aside and consider. Christ is bashful before acquaintance, and doth not speak to us in company, but in private. Did he ever thus invite you into secret places? did he ever call thee by name, speak so expressly to thy case, as if he had said, Here is mercy for thee, comfort for thee; here is thy portion? First or last God’s children have such experiences. There is a ‘time of loves,’ Ezek. xvi. 6, 7, which they cannot forget; at least a time wherein ‘the master of the assemblies’ fastened a nail in their hearts. God’s people are wont to talk how seasonably and yet how strangely providence cast them upon such opportunities; as David, Ps. cxix. 93, ‘I shall never forget thy precepts, for by them thou hast quickened me.’ Oh! I shall never forget such an ordinance, such a sermon, wherein the Lord was pleased to take notice of me, and to speak to my heart. Weak impressions are soon razed out, but powerful effects of the word leave a durable mark and character that cannot be defaced.
3. The next mark may be taken from the formal answer or correspondent act of the creature to the call of God, for that is it which sealeth our election; for otherwise ‘many be called,’ but they are ‘not chosen,’ unless the heart be prevailed with to obey the call. Yea, the notion of vocation in its full latitude implieth not only God’s act, but ours, our answer to his call: ‘Christ’s sheep hear his voice.’ When Christ saith, ‘Mary,’ she answereth, ‘Rabboni,’ my Lord, John xx. 16. God’s call is the offer of grace, our answer is the accepting of grace offered; there must be receiving as well as offering; vocation is not effectual unless it end in union; it is receiving that giveth us interest, John i. 12. The scriptures do everywhere imply and signify this answerable act of the creature to the call of God. God saith, ‘Seek ye my face,’ and the soul, like a quick echo, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek,’ Ps. xxvii. 8. So Jer. iii. 22, ‘Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal you;’ and then, ‘Behold, we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God.’ The soul is enabled to do that which it is exhorted to do. God saith, Come to Christ, and the soul saith, Lord, I come. Well, then, is the call obeyed? do you receive Christ for your Lord and Saviour? The proper answer of the call is the consent and full purpose of the heart to take Christ; for offering is the call, and receiving is the answer. Have you subscribed and consented to take Christ upon his own terms? as the prophet, when he was to take a wife, maketh an offer, Hosea iii., ‘I will be for thee, and thou shalt be for me.’ Are you content? Christ will be for you in all his graces, merits, benefits, if you will be for him in all your motions, tendencies, aims. Alas! your hearts know that you are for yourselves, lusts, interests, &c.24
4. Again, you may know your calling by the concomitant dispositions of the soul that go along with such a return and answer. Wherever Christ is received, he is received with worthy and suitable affections; these are most notable:—(1.) Godly sorrow: Jer. xxxi. 9, ‘They shall come with weeping and supplication, and I will lead them.’ It is spoken of the Jews’ conversion; when God cometh to lead them, they shall bewail their hardness of heart and unbelief. Such kind of workings there are in the heart of every returning sinner; as, that God should look upon such a worthless creature as I am, that have all this while gainsayed and stood out many an invitation! that ever God should care for such a vile and stubborn wretch! seek to reclaim such a wayward heart! Usually there are such mournful and self-humbling reflections that get the start of faith and comfort, and do more sensibly bewray themselves. Never did any child of God get home to him, but smiting on the thigh, Jer. xxxi. 18, and complaining of themselves before they could take comfort in God. (2.) Holy wonder, which ariseth from comparing their own wretchedness with God’s rich mercy in Christ; and therefore the apostle saith, 1 Peter ii. 9, ‘Who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light;’ implying that God’s grace is most wonderful at first conversion, as light is to a man that cometh out of a dungeon; woful darkness maketh it marvellous light. In this change there is nothing but what is wonderful; both the sweetness and the power of that grace by which it is wrought. The sweetness of grace: When God came to offer Abraham the grace of the covenant, he fell upon his face, Gen. xvii. 3, in a humble adoration and reverence. The power of grace: If Peter wondered at his deliverance by the angel out of that strong prison, we have much more cause to wonder that the yoke is broken, and that we are set free by Christ; the sweet effects of this grace cause wonder: ‘The peace of God, which passeth all understanding,’ &c. (3.) A free resolution and confidence; come whatever cometh, they will obey God; as ‘Abraham, being called, obeyed God, not knowing whither he went,’ Heb. xi. 8. So when they have a warrant, they will make adventures of faith, though they know not the success; as Peter would cast out the net at Christ’s command, though there were little likelihood of taking fish: ‘Howbeit at thy command,’ &c., Luke v. 5. So it is unlikely God will receive me to grace, yet I will adventure; I know not what will come of it. Where faith is sensible of a command, it doth not dispute a duty, but accomplish it. The Spirit speaketh to the soul as the disciples did to the blind man, Mark x. 49, ‘Be of good comfort; rise, because the master calleth thee.’ I instance in these dispositions because they are most sensible.
5. It may be evidenced by the fruits and effects of a call; the call inferreth a change of the former estate, both in heart and life.
[1.] There will be a change in the whole heart. In the mind and judgment; there the activity of the new nature is first discovered: Eph. iv. 23, ‘Renewed in the spirit of the mind;’ in that which is most intimate and excellent there. In our discourse and reason; all the discourses, debates, purposes, and cares of the soul will be to please God. The mind is made a forge for holy uses, wherein to debate and contrive how to carry on the work of grace, how to glorify 25God in our relations, concernments; certainly this will be found in all those that are called and converted. So in the will and affections there will be a constant inclination towards God as the chiefest good: Ps. cxix. 57, ‘Thou art my portion, Lord; I have said that I will keep thy words.’ The soul is resolved; there is a decree issued forth in that behalf to dedicate itself to God and his will. This is the great difference between men and men in fixing their chiefest good and utmost end. The soul, finding comfort in God, setteth the whole bent of her endeavours towards him. So for the other affections which attend upon the other act of the will, aversion and loathing; a soul that is called and converted hateth sin, its own beloved sin, as the greatest evil: Hosea xiv. 8, ‘What have I any more to do with idols?’ Isa. xxx. 22, ‘Thou shalt say to it as to an abominable rag, Get thee hence.’ A keen displicency and hearty indignation is kindled in the soul against sin: when God changeth a soul, he putteth a disposition into it somewhat like his own nature. God cannot abide sin, and a sanctified heart cannot abide it; ‘Get thou hence,’ &c.; the new life hath an antipathy to that which is contrary to it.
[2.] In the life there will be a change; men will walk worthy their calling, not disgracing it by scandals or unseemly practices: Eph. iv. 1, ‘I beseech you, brethren, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called;’ that is, suitable to the purity, suitable to the dignity of it. When David was a shepherd, he thought of nothing else but keeping his father’s sheep; but when God called him to be a shepherd of the people, then he had other projects, and was of other manner of behaviour. A new calling requireth a new conversation: so 1 Thes. ii. 12, ‘Walk worthy of God, who hath called you to his kingdom and his glory.’ The divine calling puts an honour upon you: it is not for princes to ‘embrace the dung,’ nor for eagles to catch flies; to be vain, voluptuous, carnal, and worldly, as others are: you are called to the fellowship of saints and angels; will it become one of your hopes to drive on such a low design as a worldly interest? If you saw a man labouring in filthy ditches, and soiling himself as poor men do, would you believe that he were heir-apparent to a crown, called to inherit a kingdom? Who will believe your calling when you stick in the mud of pleasures, and are carried on with such a zealous respect after secular interests? The apostle reproveth the Corinthians for ‘walking as men,’ 1 Cor. iii. 3. Some walk as beasts, others are of a more civil strain; but this is but as men: you should walk more sublimely, above the ordinary rate of flesh and blood. When Antigonus was going into the house of a harlot, one told him, Thou art a king’s son. Oh! remember your dignity, and walk worthy of your high calling; walk as having the world under your feet, with a holy scorn and contempt of sublunary enjoyments. And as you should walk worthy of the dignity of your calling, so of the purity of it: ‘He that hath called you is holy,’ 1 Peter i. 15; and your condition is a ‘holy calling,’ 2 Tim. i. 9; and the end of your calling is holiness: 1 Thes. iv. 7, ‘God hath called us unto holiness.’ All which are so many engagements to urge us to the more care. A filthy, loose conversation will never suit with this calling; you are a shame and a stain to him that calleth you if you walk thus: as some in the prophet are said to pollute 26God, Ezek. xxxi. 9, namely, as their pollutions were retorted upon God.
Let us now come to the manifestations and effects of this calling; and the first effect mentioned is sanctification, sanctified in God the Father. Where you may note two things:—(1.) The state, sanctified; (2.) The author of it, by God the Father.
1. The state, ἡγιασμένοις, ‘to them which are sanctified;’ instead of which some copies have, ἠγαπημένοις, ‘beloved by God the Father:’ but let us keep to our own reading, the other being a mistake, and in few Greek copies. The note is:—
Obs. That God’s people, whom he hath called out of the world to himself, are a sanctified people. I shall show you—(1.) What it is to be sanctified; and then (2.) Why God’s called people must be sanctified.
First, What it is to be sanctified. There are many acceptions of the term; the most famous are two—to sanctify is either to set apart, or to cleanse. These two notions will be enough for our purpose, if in each of them we suppose both something privative, and something positive; as when it signifieth to set apart, you must conceive not only a setting apart from common use, but a dedication to holy uses, or a setting apart for God, which is the most proper acception of the word. So when it signifieth to cleanse, you must not only conceive a purgation from filthiness, but a plantation of seeds of grace; not only an abolition of natural corruption, but a renovation of God’s image. In this method let us a little consider the thing in hand.
1. To sanctify is to set apart and dedicate. Now, God’s people are set apart by God, Ps. iv. 3, and they dedicate themselves to his use and service: 2 Tim. ii. 21, ‘Vessels of honour for the master’s use.’ They are set apart by God both in time and before time. Be fore all time they are set apart by God’s decree, to be a holy seed to himself in and by Christ, separated from the perishing world to be vessels of honour; as the reprobate are called ‘vessels of wrath and dishonour;’ thus we are said to be ‘chosen to be holy,’ Eph. i. 4. But then in time they are regenerated, and actually set apart. Sanctification is an actual election (as before) by which we are set apart from the perishing world to act for God, and to seek the things that make for his glory. Thus we are called God’s ‘first-fruits,’ which were the Lord’s portion, James i. 18, and is there made a fruit of regeneration. And thus we are said to be ‘a holy priesthood,’ 1 Peter ii. 9, the priests being men set apart to minister in God’s presence. Now, this consecration inferreth a holy preciseness and singularity in the godly, that they may ‘keep themselves unspotted from the world,’ James i. 28, as holy things were to be kept from a common use;1212 It was a profanation in Belshazzar to drink in the cups of the temple. and it implieth that every sin is a kind of sacrilege, it stealeth a holy thing from God. But over and above all this, they dedicate themselves, or set apart themselves, by the consent of their own vows: Rom. xii. 1, ‘Present yourselves,’ &c., as every man was to bring his own sacrifice; and for this dedication the Lord calleth when he saith, ‘My son, give me thy heart;’ because God loveth to put the honour upon us of a gift, when it is but a debt; and because our voluntary consent to this surrender is a necessary fruit of grace, and the immediate effect of his own choice.27
2. To sanctify is to cleanse, together with its positive act, to renew and adorn with grace.
Let us first speak of the privative or cleansing work; this notion is necessary to be added to the former. They that are sanctified must not only be separated to a holy use, but must also be cleansed: as to sanctify signifieth to separate, so there is a difference between them and others; and as it signifieth to cleanse, so there is a difference between them and themselves. They differ from others, because they are a people set apart to act and live for God; they trade for God, eat for God, drink for God, more or less, all is for God’s glory, 1 Cor. x. 31, and so are a distinct company from the men of the world, who are merely swayed by their own interests, a company that merely act for themselves in all that they do. And then there is a difference between them and themselves, for sanctification is the cleansing of a thing that was once filthy: 1 Cor. vi. 11, ‘Such were some of you, but now ye are washed, but now ye are sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God;’ they are not the same men they were before. We all come into the world polluted with the stain of sin, which is purged and done away by degrees, and at death wholly, and never before. When Christ cometh to bring us to God as the fruits of his purchase, then we are ‘without spot and blemish,’ Eph. v. 27. The Papists cavil, yea, trifle, when they argue from that place, that either we must grant a perfection in this life; or a purgation after death, or how else cometh the soul to be without spot and blemish? I answer—That place asserts the thing to the comfort of the elect, that once they shall get rid of the filthy spots of sin; but for the time, most probably in the moment of expiring. As the soul in the very moment wherein it is joined to the body becometh sinful, so in the moment wherein it leaveth the body it is sanctified, and presented by Christ to God; as many pious souls breathe out their last with the profession of this hope. Then we shall be cleansed indeed; now the work is in fieri, it is a-doing. The work of grace for the present consists in rubbing away the old filth, and weakening original corruption more and more;1313 So obstinate is man’s heart, that that is all that can be done; the weakening of sin, but not the destruction of it. as also in washing off the new defilement which we contract every day by conversing in the world. See John xiii. 10, where our Saviour alludeth to a man that hath been bathing himself, but after his return by treading on the ground again staineth his feet, and needeth another washing, of his feet at least. So by conversing in the world, there are stains and spots contracted, which must always be washed off by daily repentance, besides our general bathing at first conversion or regeneration, Titus iii. 5. I have no more to say to this cleansing work, but only this, that it is not merely like the washing off of spots, but like the purging of sick matters or ill humours out of the body; it is a work done with much reluctation of corrupt nature, and therefore it is expressed by ‘subduing our iniquities,’ Micah vii. 19. In outward filthiness there is no actual resistance, as there is in sin.
But to speak now of the positive work, or the decking and adorning the soul with grace. As the priests under the law, when they came to minister before the Lord, were not only washed in the great laver, 28but adorned with gorgeous apparel, so to be sanctified is more than to be purified; for besides the expulsion of sin, there is an infusion of grace, a disposition wrought clean contrary to what we had before, therefore called ‘a new heart and a new spirit;’ see Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27; from whence also there floweth newness of life and conversation; there is a new heart or conformity to God’s nature, and a new life or conformity to God’s will. The pattern of that sanctification which is wrought in the heart is God’s nature or image, 2 Peter i. 4, Eph. iv. 24; and the pattern of that sanctification which is wrought in the life is God’s law or revealed will, 1 Thes. iv. 3; the one is our habitual holiness, and the other our actual.
[1.] For habitual sanctification, or that which is wrought in the heart, I observe, that it is thorough but not full; there must be all grace, and every faculty must be adorned with grace:1414 As a child is true man, though not a perfect man, as soon as he is born; he hath all the parts, though not the growth, and strength, and stature.1 Thes. v. 23, ‘The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless until the coming of Jesus Christ.’ All of man is made up of spirit, soul, and body; that is the theological distinction of the faculties:—the spirit, that is the more rational and angelical part of the soul, understanding, conscience, will; and then there is soul, the lower part, the more brutish and sensual affections and desires; and then body, the outward man, the instrument of soul, which needeth to be sanctified, that is, kept in a good order and frame, that it may not rebel, or disobey the motions of the better part. You see, then, every faculty must be seasoned with the new nature;1515 All was depraved by Adam, and all is renewed by Christ. this leaven must get into the whole lump; the mind, memory, conscience, will, desires, delights, all must be brought into conformity to the image of God. And as every faculty must be sanctified, so there must be every grace. In conversion there is introduced into the soul a stock of truth, and a frame of grace, called in other terms ‘the anointing,’ 1 John ii. 27, and ‘the seed of God,’ 1 John iii. 9. There is a stock of truth brought into the understanding to season that; not that every one that is regenerate doth actually know all truths, but there is a saving light and knowledge of things necessary; they see enough to avoid courses of damnation, and to cleave to the ways of God: and there is an inquisitiveness after truth, and a suitableness to them when they are revealed; they are teachable, though actually ignorant; there is something in their hearts that carrieth a cognation and proportion to every truth, and claimeth kin of it whenever it is revealed. And then there is a frame of grace; for the mind is not only enlightened, but the will and affections are sanctified, and the heart inclined to choose the ways of God, and to obey him whenever occasion is offered. The habits of all grace are brought into the heart by regeneration, as original sin containeth the seeds and habits of all sin: though there be not explicit workings of all graces at that time, yet they are introduced, and make up one sincere bent of the soul towards God, called ‘Holiness in truth,’ Eph. vi. 24. Thus you see the new creature doth not come out maimed; the person sanctified hath all the parts of a new man, not one member is 29wanting. But now though this sanctification be thorough, yet it is not full and complete for degrees; every part is sanctified, but every part is not wholly sanctified. In the most gracious there is a double principle—hell and heaven, Adam and Jesus, the flesh and the spirit, the law of the members, and the law of the mind. Such a medley and composition are we during the present state! ‘We know but in part,’ and we are sanctified but in part, and there being such a mixture in the principles of operation, every action is mixed. It is notable, that there is no commendable act in scripture recorded but there is some mixture of corruption in it, even in the most heroical exercises and discoveries of faith: Moses believeth, and therefore smiteth the rock, but he smiteth twice; Sarah believeth the promise, but giveth her maid to Abraham; Rebecca was told that the elder should serve the younger, and believeth it, but yet she sets Jacob a-work to get the blessing by a wile; Rahab saveth the spies, but maketh a lie, &c. Thus is our wine mingled with water, our honey with wax, Cant. v. 1, and our silver with tin. All the trial is, that the better part prevaileth; and that we are still growing and hasting on to perfection, as the morning sun doth to high noon, Prov. iv. 18.
[2.] For actual sanctification, which standeth in a conformity to God’s will, when the heart is changed so as the life, thoughts, words, actions, all are sanctified: there is a spirit of holiness working within, and breathing without, in sanctified discourse and holy exercises; all the actions savour of grace. Now our actions are sanctified and savour of grace when they are performed upon new principles and new ends.
(1.) New principles: Duty swayeth the conscience, and love inclineth the heart, 1 Tim. i. 5, ‘The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart and good conscience, and faith unfeigned.’ No act is gracious and an act of pure obedience, unless it have these qualifications. It is not the matter that maketh the work good, but the principles: all that we do must come from a principle of faith, love, and obedience. Obedience respects the command, love the kindness and merit of the lawgiver, and faith his bounty and reward: the first swayeth the conscience, the second inclineth the heart, and the third giveth encouragement. This is to do duties with a gospel frame of spirit; obedience takes notice of the laws of God, love of the kindness of God, and faith of the rewards of God; and so obedience showeth us the matter of the duty, and faith the encouragement; so that whatever is done as an act of the new nature or sanctified estate, it is an act of obedience, out of gratitude, upon the encouragement of our glorious hopes and advantages in Christ. As if it be asked, Why do I do it? God hath commanded it, 1 Thes. iv. 3, and v. 18; His will is motive enough; God will have it so. Why with such strength of affection and earnestness? God hath deserved it, because of his love and bounty in Christ, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15; Titus ii. 11-14. Conscience is sensible of the obligation, and love and hope sweetens the duty. There is a natural conscience of good and evil, which is known by legal aims and carnal motives. What is done out of natural conscience is not done out of obedience and thankfulness, but out of bondage, and with a servile frame of spirit; like fruits that are ripened by art and force, not naturally nor kindly.30
(2.) New ends. Here indeed the discovery is most sensible; principles are more hidden, and discovered mostly by ends. Now the only end must be God’s glory. All that is done in the spiritual life, be it an act of piety, justice, temperance, or charity, it must be done with this aim, that God may be glorified by our obedience to his will: I owe this duty to God, and I must do it for God’s sake; be it a duty of worship, or in your civil relation and traffic; as if I pray, the last end of prayer must be God’s glory, whether I seek grace and pardon, or the conveniences and supports of the present life. Grace still sublimateth the intention of the creature, therefore carnal men are taxed for praying out of self-interests: Hosea vii. 14, ‘They have not cried unto me when they howled upon their beds; they assembled themselves for corn, and wine, and oil.’ It is but a brutish cry when men seek only their own commodity and welfare; as beasts will howl when they are sensible of any smart and injury; dogs or any brute beasts may do the same; there is no act of grace in it. So in charity, many men make it a kind of bargain and traffic; they do it ‘to be seen of men,’ Mat. vi. 2, to gratify their wordly interests, not to please God or honour God, for their credit and repute, to be well thought of; and there Christ saith, μισθὸν αὐτῶν ἀπέχουσιν, that is, they have that which they look for; for other things they give God a discharge and acquittance. Briefly, the aims of men not regenerate or sanctified are either carnal, or natural, or legal. (1st.) Carnal, when men make a market of religion, their worship, righteousness, and charity is set to sale, and by a vile submission made to stoop to their own private interests; as the Pharisees made long prayers to devour widows’ houses, that is, to beget a fame and repute of honesty, that they might be intrusted with the management of their estates. So some may pray to show parts, preach out of envy, and to rival others in esteem, Phil. i. 15. Often is this vile scorn put upon God, that his worship is made a cover and pretence to unclean intents; which is as if a cup of gold, made for a king to drink of, should be filled with excrements; or as if we did set up another god beside him; for that which we make our utmost end, we make it our God; as false teachers are said to make ‘their belly their God,’ Phil. iii. 19, because all that they did was for belly cheer, to flow in abundance of wealth and worldly pleasures, by this means setting up the belly, and the concernments of the belly in God’s stead. (2d.) There are natural ends. It is grace, as I said, that sublimateth the intention of the creature. A carnal man can go no higher than self, as water cannot ascend beyond its spring. Now all natural men are not hypocrites, to put on a pretence of strictness out of design: the apostle saith, ‘They do by nature the things contained in the law.’ Rom. ii. 14; that is, upon the impulses of natural conscience, they avoid such sins as nature discovereth, upon such arguments and reasons as nature suggesteth. If they worship, it is to satisfy their own consciences; if they be strict and temperate, it is not out of reasons of obedience, but because the matter of carnal pleasure is gross and burdensome, and hindereth the free contemplation of the mind; or because these pleasures emasculate and quench their natural bravery, and so hinder their reputation in the world. If they be just, it is to 31maintain commerce between man and man; if they be kind in their relations, it is for their own peace and quiet; nothing is done as in and to the Lord, as the apostle enjoineth, Eph. v. God is neither at the beginning nor at the end of any of these actions; the love of God is not their spring and rise, nor the glory of God their aim. If they pray, there is no intention beyond self, and the welfare of their own natures; the matter is but the outward work of the law, ἔργον νόμου, Rom. ii. 15, and their aim is but the freedom and welfare of nature. (3d.) There are legal ends. When wicked men are most devout, it is but to quiet conscience, to satisfy God for their sins by their duties; they would fain buy out their peace with heaven at any rate: Micah vi. 6-8, ‘Wherewith shall I come before him? what shall I give for the sins of my soul?’ They are devout, charitable, that by diligence in worship, and exceeding in charity, they may expiate the offences of a carnal life. If peace of conscience were to be purchased with money, they would not spare; they would rather part with anything than their corruptions, because nothing is so dear to a carnal heart as sin. So that you see devout nature is very corrupt and perverse, and therefore all its actions are justly hated of God: Prov. xxi. 27, ‘The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he offereth it with an evil mind?’ that is, to buy an indulgence in other sins, that he may sin them freely and with leave from heaven. In short, all their duties of worship and charity are performed as a sin-offering, and not as a thank-offering; to satisfy God, not to glorify him; usually they are extorted from him in a pang of conscience, as a mariner casts out his goods in a storm, or a traveller yieldeth his money when beset with thieves; there is no true delight in God or in obedience. And thus I have showed you what it is to be sanctified in heart and life, which was the first thing propounded.
Secondly, Let me now show why God’s called people must be sanctified, and that briefly and in few words.
1. For the honour of God, of every person in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit. For the honour of the Father, that his choice may not be disparaged: Eph. i. 4, ‘He hath elected us to be holy;’ 2 Thes. ii. 14, ‘Chosen to the sanctification of the Spirit.’ There is some conscience in the world that maketh them adore strictness; mere morality hath some majesty with it in the eye of nature, but especially gospel holiness; whereas looseness is looked upon with scorn and contempt; so that his chosen people would be a dishonour to him if they were not sanctified. Therefore God the Father aimeth at it in all his dispensations; he chooseth us that we may be of a choice spirit. As when Esther was chosen out among the virgins, she was purified and decked with ornaments, and had garments given her out of the king’s wardrobe, so we are made holy, being chosen of God. And then he calleth us, that he may put this honour upon us in the eye of the world, to make us like himself: ‘Be ye holy, as he that hath called us is holy,’ 1 Peter i. 15. It were monstrous that God should set his affections upon a people altogether unlike him;1616 ‘Ea demum vera est religio, imitari quem colis.’—Lactant. that he should call them to be so near himself that continue corrupt and carnal. It is 32 the aim of his providences as well as his special grace; we are afflicted ‘that we may be partakers of his holiness,’ Heb. xii. 10; threshed that our husk may fly off. God certainly delighteth not in the afflictions of his people; no, he ‘loveth the prosperity of the saints,’ Ps. xxxv. 27, but he had rather see them in any condition than see them sinful. Again, it is for the honour of God the Son, whose members we are. Head and members must be all of a piece, like one another. It were monstrous that Christ should have such a body as Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, where the head was of pure gold, and the thighs brass, and the feet iron, &c.; and it were an odd sight that a face of Europe should be put upon the body of a negro or Ethiopian; and as strange and odd it is that Christ should have a disproportioned body, quite unlike himself; yea, it is little for his honour that he should be the head of an ulcerous body, as well as a monstrous body. So much of sin as you continue, so much you disparage your Redeemer and put him to shame; therefore all Christ’s aim is to make us holy; for that end he redeemed us, that he might sanctify us, and make us a glorious church, without spot and wrinkle, Eph. v. 26, 27. When Christ was upon the cross, in the height of his love, he was devising what he should do for his church to make her honourable and glorious, and he pitched upon sanctification as the fittest blessing that he could bestow upon us. Every distinct society must have some distinct honour and privilege; now Christ had set apart the church as a distinct society to himself, and therefore he would not bestow upon her pomp and worldly greatness—other societies had enough of that—but holiness, grace, which is our splendour and ornament: Ps. xciii. 5, ‘Holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever.’ And indeed this was a far better gift than any outward greatness and excellency could be; for moral excellences are far better than civil and natural. It is God’s own honour to be holy, therefore it is said that he is ‘glorious in holiness,’ Exod. xv. 11. He is elsewhere said to be ‘rich in mercy.’ Rom. x. 12; Eph. ii. 4; but here, ‘glorious in holiness.’ His treasure is his goodness, but that which he accounts his honour is his holiness or immaculate purity; as you know among men their wealth is distinguished from their honour. But in this gift Christ hath not only respect to the excellency of it, but to our need and want. Christ was then repairing and making up the ruins of the fall. Now we lost in Adam the purity of our natures as well as the favour of God; therefore, that the plaster might be as broad as the sore, he would not only reconcile us to God, but sanctify us; his blood was not only λύτρον, a price, but λούτρον, a laver, wherein to Wash us and make us clean: as under the law there was in the tabernacle a great laver as well as an altar, to show we must be washed and sanctified as well as reconciled to God; and Christ came not only to abolish the guilt of sin, which is against our interest, our peace and comfort, but also to destroy the power of sin, which is against God’s glory. And as this was Christ’s aim in redemption, so also in the gospel, and all the precious promises of it: he died that ordinances might be under a blessing, and conduce to the promotion of holiness; for so it is there in Eph. v. 26, ‘That he might sanctify us by the washing of water through the word.’ There is a treasure of grace purchased, and left 33in the church to be conveyed to us by the use of these ordinances. So John xvii. 19, ‘I sanctify myself for their sakes, that they may be sanctified through the truth.’ Whenever we come to the word, or enjoy the use of the seals, we may expect to reap the fruits of Christ’s purchase. Celsus objected against Christianity that it was a sanctuary for villains and men of a licentious life. Origen answered him, that it was not a sanctuary to nourish them in their evil practices, but an hospital to cure them. As under the law all the cities of refuge were cities of Levites and schools of instruction, so Christ hath made the church a school wherein to learn the trade of holiness; and the word and the seals, and all the ordinances, look that way. Lastly, it is for the honour of God the Spirit that the called people should be holy, because they are his charge, in pupilage to the Holy Ghost, for this end and reason, that they may be sanctified. Sanctification is made his personal operation: ‘The sanctification of the Spirit,’ 2 Thes. ii. 14, and 1 Peter i. 2. He is to shape and fashion all the vessels of glory, to deck the spouse of Christ with the jewels of the covenant. This is the great advantage that we have in the economy and dispensation of grace, that we have God to purpose it, God to purchase it, and God to work it; the Father, Word, and Spirit, who agree in one, to sanctify the creature and make it holy. Now it is a great grief to the Spirit when the work doth not go on and prosper in the soul; for he ‘worketh us to this very thing,’ and is therefore called ‘the Spirit of holiness.’ It is not for his honour to dwell in defiled temples, and to let the called people go naked and without their ornament. Well, then, you see, God, for his honour’s sake, will have his purposes accomplished for which he chose us, and Christ his purchase made good, and the Spirit who is left in charge to see all accomplished, he goeth on with the work.
2. Another reason why we must be sanctified is, because of the hopes to which we are called and the happiness which we expect. Now we cannot have it unless we be holy: Heb. xii, 14, ‘Without holiness no man shall see God.’ We are bidden in that verse to ‘follow peace,’ but chiefly ‘holiness;’ for it is not said that without peace no man shall see God.1717 Χώρις οὗ; the masculine article showeth that it is to be referred to ἁγίασμος. Peace may be often broken in the quarrel of truth and holiness, and so God’s children may be passively men of contention. Ay! but for all that they shall see God: but those that are not holy he cannot endure their presence, and therefore they shall never see his face, and enjoy him hereafter. Usually by a fond abuse we restrain the word saints to the saints departed. Ay! but we must be saints here, or else we shall never be saints hereafter. I mean true saints; for by another abuse the word saints is made matter of pretence in some, and matter of scorn by others; but to be saints indeed, that is all the evidence you have to show for your interest in your glorious hopes. What should others do with heaven that are not saints? How can they see God that have not a pure eye? A dusky glass cannot represent the image: the degree of vision is according to the degree of sanctification.1818 Κατὰ τὴν ἀναλογίον καθαρότητος. And what should a carnal heart, that knoweth no other heaven but to eat, drink, and sleep, and wallow 34in sensual delights, do with ‘the inheritance of the saints in light?’ The apostle saith, we must be ‘made meet’ for such a state, Col. i. 12. The vessels of glory are first seasoned with grace. Alas! otherwise carnal men can no more tell what to do with heaven than swine with pearls. We do not look for a Turkish paradise, but a sinless state; not to bathe our souls in carnal pleasures, but to be consorts of the immaculate Lamb. Our hopes engage us to holiness: 1 John iii. 3, ‘He that hath this hope purifieth himself, as Christ is pure.’ If his heart be fastened upon such a hope as to see Christ as he is, and to be like him both for temper of soul and state of body, certainly he must needs be a holy man; he will be practising and trying here upon earth how he can conform to Christ, and begin his happiness as well as he can. Certainly he that expecteth that his body shall be ‘like to Christ’s glorious body,’ he will ‘possess his vessel in sanctification and in honour.’ He cannot use his body, that is under so great hopes, merely as a strainer for meats and drinks, and a channel for lust to pass through; his mind, that shall see God, he cannot fill it with chaff, or suffer it to be occupied with vanity, toying thoughts, and vile cares and unworthy projects; and his affections, that should cleave to God inseparably, to be prostituted to every base object. Thus, with respect to our hopes, we must be sanctified; the foundation and seed of glory is laid in grace, and that life begun which we must live for ever.
Use 1. It serveth for conviction. If God’s people are a sanctified people, then here is but sad news for two sorts of persons. (1.) The profane, that care not for holiness; God hath no birthright for such Esaus; the portion of the Lord are a holy portion, but these have ‘a spot that is not as the spot of his children,’ Deut. xxxii. 5. See what John speaketh of such persons as wallow in their filthiness: 1 John iii. 8, ‘He that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning,’ ὁ ποιῶν ἁμαρτίαν, he that tradeth in sin, and maketh it his work and business. You may presume that you belong to God, but you are of the devil; you have not, indeed, the least pretence of a claim, and do not go so far as hypocrites, being so little careful to be holy, that you are not moral. Are you called? from what? where is the least evidence of it? Ay! but our hearts are better than we show for.1919 Caspar Stres. in Miscellaneis; ‘Multi gloriantur cor suum bonum esse, etiamsi extus vita non respondeat; decipiuntur isti homines, nam si candela intus accensa est, lucerna extus necessario lucet et splendet; posito quod cor tuum bonum est, tamen damnaberis, quia Christus non judicat secundum cor sed secundum opera.’ If the Israelites had slam and eaten the Passover, yet if the door-posts were not sprinkled with blood, the angel would not spare them. This is to appeal to a witness that cannot be found; it is all one as if a man should claim to another’s land, and pretend that he hath lost the evidences. Your guilt is written in legible characters, that he that runneth may read it. (2.) It convinceth persons that scoff at holiness. Scoffing is the overflow of gall and malice, and a black mark, let it be found where it will. In the general it argueth a bad spirit, but especially when religion is made a byword and a reproach. When you deride men for their holiness, you deride them for that which is the express image of the glorious God, and so deride God himself. Holy brethren, as the saints are styled, Heb. iii. 1, should no more be a disgrace than holy Father, as God himself is styled, John xvii. 11. 35You hate God more than you do the saints, if you hate them for their holiness, which shineth in them with a faint lustre, but is infinitely and originally in God. Take heed of ‘the chair of scorners.’ Those are dogs that are without, Rev. xxii. 15, that bark at the splendour of God’s image, that make saints a word of disgrace. Scoffing Ishmaels that will be mocking are sure to be cast out, Gen. xxi. 9; they do not belong to God. The apostle interprets that mocking to be persecution, Gal. iv. 27; so it is in God’s account; and yet it is always found in those that are ‘born after the flesh,’ Profane spirits think religion a matter of nothing; and men are wont to mock at those which make a great matter of what they account nothing. Oh! remember, holiness is the badge of those which are the Lord’s called people, and it should be a matter of reverence, not reproach.
Use 2. Again, it serveth for caution, to prevent mistakes. Christians, look to your sanctification: Ps. iv. 3, ‘Know that God hath set apart him that is godly for himself.’ The beast’s worshippers have the beast’s mark, Rev. xiii. 16. So also God’s children are stamped with his seal and impress: 2 Tim. ii. 19, ‘The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal,’ &c., they are sealed with a mark of preservation, ‘The Lord knows those that are his;’ and they are sealed with a mark of distinction, ‘Let every one that nameth the name of God depart from iniquity.’ As Cain is stamped on both sides, so hath God’s seal a double motto—one that noteth his owning the saints, the other that noteth their temper and disposition; they depart from iniquity. Take heed, then, have you this seal and impress? There are many things that look like sanctification, but are not. I shall touch upon four—civility, formality, restraining grace and temporary grace.
1. Civility, which is nothing else but a fair demeanour in the world, or, in the apostle’s expression, ‘a fair show in the flesh,’ a darker representation of holiness, rather heathenish strictness than Christian. You may descry it by these notes:—(1.) It is usually accompanied with ignorance, and little knowledge of God’s institutions. Men live well, are no drunkards, no swearers, but know little of God, have no insight in matters of religion; like Nicodemus, a strict Pharisee, but grossly ignorant, John iii. 10. Spiritual life beginneth with knowledge, and endeth in a rational strictness, and what they do, they do upon principles. Conscience is swayed by the acknowledgment of God’s will. Others live plausibly, but know not the ground and reason of their actions, and therefore are soon satisfied; never troubled about imperfections, because where there is no light there is not that tenderness which is found in real Christians, who look into the purity of the law, and are troubled because they know so much of the will of God, and do so far come short of it, as in a clear glass the least mote is soon espied. (2.) There is little of Christ in such souls; for a man that is satisfied with his own righteousness doth not prize Christ. Paul, a Pharisee, counted his works ‘gain,’ which afterward he found to be ‘loss,’ Phil. iii. 7. By gain he meaneth an advantage to procure the favour of God. Self is wont to take up all their thoughts, and therefore moral strains suit more with them than gospel comforts, and doctrines that breed faith. The law is more natural to men than the gospel, and therefore with those that are of a moral disposition, and no 36more, it findeth better entertainment and welcome than the gospel doth. There is no ‘hungering and thirsting’ after Christ; they do not see the need of the sweetness of his grace, of the help of his Spirit, going on in a plausible, moral course, without rub or difficulty. Whereas, in the spiritual life, Christ doth all, and every day they see more cause to bless God for him, Gal. ii. 20. (3.) Usually there is some great prevailing sin. Civility is but a freer slavery; one way or another Satan holdeth them captive, and their honesty and fair show to the world is but to serve their carnal interests, to hide a lust or feed a lust, and most commonly this sin is worldliness. Christ’s young man, that had ‘kept all those things from his youth,’ had ‘great possessions,’ and they were a great snare to his heart, Mat. xix. 22. The sin of the Pharisees was vainglory and ambition. Some morsel there is reserved under the tongue, some sin kept with the greater allowance from conscience, and the less shame from abroad, because otherwise the life is fair and honest. (4.) There is a greater care about actions than lusts. Wrath, and pride, and wanton thoughts, are digested, because there is no violence and uncleanness in the conversation. Civility is all for the carriage, nothing for tempering the affections to such an order and moderation as becometh grace. Paul complaineth of his lusts, and the law of sin within, Rom. vii.; yea, of such sinful workings as do not fall under the cognisance and discovery of the light of nature, Rom. vii. 7, the first risings and stirrings of sin forbidden in the tenth commandment, the least rebellion of nature. Thus for civility.
2. Formality, or pretended grace: you may be deceived in that; and therefore the apostle speaketh Of a ‘true holiness,’ ἐν ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας, Eph. iv. 24, in opposition to that which is feigned and counterfeit. Now, false grace is always acted by foreign and external considerations; as pupils2020 Qu. ‘puppets’?—ED. have not a principle of life within them, but are moved by an external force. The hypocrite’s principles of motion are without him, as carnal respects, self-ends, &c. True grace hath an inward propensity to comply with the will of God; there is a ‘law upon their bowels;’2121 Ps. xl. 7, marg.—ED. by-ends work by constraint, and carry the soul contrary to its native inclination; a man would not do such a thing, were it not for such ends; therefore the apostle saith, 1 Peter v, 2, ‘Feed the flock that is among you, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.’ When a man acteth genuinely in a work; his own heart carrieth him to it more than all outward encouragements. Again, false grace is shy of God’s presence and sight: pretences are to deceive men; therefore such persons strive to get God out of their thoughts, they know his eye will find them out. But now truth of grace is ready to draw everything into God’s sight; though they tremble to think what defects God can find in them, yet they appeal to him for the sincerity of their hearts: John xxi. 17, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things, and thou knowest that I love thee.’ He would not excuse miscarriages; yet, for the general temper and bent of his heart, he referreth himself to God’s omnisciency. So Job xxxi. 6, ‘Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity;’ and yet elsewhere he saith, Job xlii. 5, 6.’ Mine eye seeth thee, and therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes,’ in the 37one place he appealeth to God, for he was confident that his integrity would hold weight; and yet in the other he could even loathe himself when he thought of God, because of so many defects and failings. So David, Ps. cxxxix. 23, ‘Search me, O Lord, and know my heart,’ &c. No doubt David was sensible that God could find enough in him; but Lord, search, see if anything be allowed with full leave of conscience. Again, false grace doth not grow, unless it be worse and worse. Pretences wither rather than thrive: God complaineth, Jer. vii. 24, that ‘they went backward rather than forward.’ False grace is always declining till it be wholly lost; like bad salt, that loseth of its acrimony and smartness every day till it be cast to the dunghill. But now true grace, from a grain it groweth into a tree, Mat. xiii., from a morning glimpse to a perfect noon, Prov. iv. 18, from smoking flax it is blown up into a flame. The least meal in the barrel, and oil in the cruse, when it is fed with a supply from heaven, shall prosper into abundance. Nicodemus, that at first came to Christ by night, after boldly declareth himself for him, John xix. 39. Grace gets ground upon the flesh, and holiness by degrees advanceth into a triumph. Examine, then, whether you increase or decrease: if you go backward from zeal to coldness, from strictness to looseness; if you lose your care of duty, and choiceness of spirit, and there be no complaining, it is a sign grace was never wrought in truth. Once more, false grace is not accompanied with humility. When men, the more they profess, the prouder they grow, and more self -conceited, there is cause of suspicion. With true grace there always goeth along a spiritual poverty, or a sense of our spiritual wants; the more knowledge, the more they discern their ignorance; compare 1 Cor. viii. 2, with Prov. xxx. 2, 3; the more faith, the more they bewail unbelief, and see a need of increase and further growth: Mark ix. 24, ‘Lord, I believe, help mine unbelief.’ Oh! I want faith, what shall I do? still I am haunted with prejudicial and lessening thoughts of God’s all-sufficiency and goodness. It is excellent when the soul is thus kept hungry and humble under our enjoyments, and we ‘forget the things that are behind,’ because ‘the things that are before us,’ or not yet attained, are much more, Phil. iii. 13.
3. The next thing is restraining grace,2222 See Mr Lyford’s Catechism, last edition, pp. 308, 309. which is nothing else but an awe upon the conscience, inclining men to forbear sin, though they do not hate it. Now you may discern it, partly because love is of little use and force with such kind of spirits; they are chained up by their own fears. The great evangelic motive is mercy: Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God.’ The heart is most ingenuous when it yieldeth to such entreaties. It is good to serve God with reverence, but a servile awe hath little of grace in it. It is true, in deed, it is better to have a slavish fear than none at all; therefore David saith to them that would be held in with no other restraints, Ps. iv. 4, ‘Stand in awe, and sin not.’ To cool and charm their fury he maketh use of the argument of God’s vengeance; though this is also the fault of slavish spirits, that carnal respects and thoughts of outward inconvenience do equally sway them, as a servile fear of God’s judgments. Again, you may know it, because it doth not destroy sin, 38but only prohibit the exercise of it. Abimelech’s lust was not quenched, yet God withheld him from sinning against Sarah, Gen. xx. 6. The heart is not renewed, though the action be checked; as Israel had an adulterous heart towards God, when ‘her way was hedged up with thorns,’ Hosea ii. 6. Again, it is their trouble that they are held in the stocks of conscience; they would fain be enlarged and find out their own paths.
4. The next thing that looketh like sanctification, but is not, is common grace. This is a distinct thing from all the rest, yet I call it common grace, because it may be in them that fall away and depart from God. It differeth from civility, because it is more Christian and evangelical; from formality, because that is only in pretence and show, whereas this is a real work upon the soul; from restraining grace, because that is only conversant about sins and duties out of a servile awe of God, but this seemeth to carry out the soul with some affection to Christ. It is a common work, good in itself, which God ordaineth in some to be a preparation and beginning of the work of grace. Of this the apostle speaketh, Heb. vi. 4, 5, where he calleth it ‘an enlightening,’ ‘a taste of Christ and of the powers of the world to come,’ and a ‘partaking of the Holy Ghost;’ meaning the gifts of the Spirit, abilities for holy duties, &c., of all which elsewhere; only now let me note three things:—(1.) That the light there spoken of is not humbling; (2.) The taste is not ravishing, and drawing out the soul after more of Christ; (3.) Their gifts are not renewing and sanctifying.
[1.] That light is not humbling. He saith, they are ‘enlightened,’ but he doth not say they are humbled. Foundations totter that are not laid deep enough. The more true light a man hath, the more cause of self-abasement will he find in himself. You can never magnify Christ enough, and you can never debase self enough; and certainly Christ is most exalted when you are most abased, Isa. ii. 19. Dagon must fall upon his face if you mean to set up the ark; and if Christ shall be precious to you, you must be vile in your own eyes; none have such true revivings as the humble, Isa. lvii. 15, 16. True humiliation is far from weakening your comforts, it maketh them more full and sure; therefore a main thing that was wanting in those spoken of in Heb. vi., was humiliation, and their fault was a rash closing with Christ in the pride of their hearts.
[2.] Their taste was not ravishing and affecting the heart so as to engage it to seek after Christ; they had but loose and slight desires of happiness, glances upon the glory of heaven and the comforts of the gospel, which possibly might stir up a wish, ‘Oh! that I might die the death of the righteous,’ &c. They were not serious and holy desires after Christ, after grace and strength to serve him. The saints, that have a taste, groan after a fuller communion in his graces as well as comforts, Rom. vii. 24, Ps. cxix. 5; that experience which they have had of Christ maketh them long for more. But now in temporaries there is a loose assent and slight affection, a taste enough to prevail with them, to make some profession for a while, a rejoicing for a season, &c.
[3.] Their gifts are not renewing and sanctifying; such possibly as may make them useful to the church, but do not change the heart. 39The apostle saith, they were made ‘partakers of the Holy Ghost;’ that is, had some share—it may be a plentiful share,—of church gifts, so as to be able to carry on duties to the edification and comfort of others. But, alas! what is a man the better, if the heart be oppressed with sins in the meantime, and be not upright with God? 1 Cor. xiii. 1, ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become but as a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.’ Though you can speak of the things of God with much enlargement and affection, pray sweetly, all is but as tinkling with God, if there be not saving grace. It is a great evidence that we are such as the apostle speaketh of, when the affection doth not answer the expression of a duty, nor the life our knowledge, and gifts have not a proportionable influence upon practice. So much for that point.
Having spoken of the state, I come now to speak of the author of it, God the Father. But why is it so distinctly attributed to the Father? Is not Christ ‘our sanctification?’ 1 Cor. i. 30, and is it not called ‘the sanctification of the Spirit?’ 2 Thes. ii. 13. The answer shall draw out the strength of the phrase in these propositions. (1.) It is true that the whole Trinity, one way or other, concurreth to the work of holiness; those works ad extra are indivisa, common to all the persons—the Father sanctifieth, the Son sanctifieth, and the Holy Ghost sanctifieth: the same may be said of preserving and calling. (2.) Though all work jointly, yet there are distinct personal operations, by which they make way for the glory of each other; the love of the Father for the glory of the Son, and the glory of the Son for the power of the Spirit. See how the scripture followeth these things. You shall find first, that no man cometh to the Son, but from the Father, by election: John vi. 37, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me:’ so ver. 65, ‘No man cometh unto me, unless it be given him of my Father,’ Look again and you shall find that no man cometh to the Father from the bondage of sin and Satan, but by the Son, through his redemption and mediation: John xiv. 6, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ Again, you shall see no man is united to the Son but by the Holy Ghost, who worketh in those whom the Father did choose, and the Son redeem; and therefore ‘the sanctification of the Spirit’ is as necessary as ‘the blood of Jesus,’ 1 Peter i. 2. So that you see all have their distinct work; the inchoation is from the Father, the dispensation by the Son, and the consummation by the Spirit: from the Father, in the Son, and through the Spirit. There is God’s choice, Christ’s purchase, and the Spirit’s application; all are joined in one verse,—for indeed they must not be severed,—even in the place last alleged, 1 Peter i. 2. (3.) Because the first distinct operation is the Father’s, therefore the whole work in scripture is often ascribed to him. He is said to justify;’ the justifier of them that believe in Jesus,’ Rom. iii. 26. So he is said elsewhere to purge: John xv. 1, 2, ‘I am the vine, and my Father is the husbandman; he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ All dependeth upon the decree of his love. Christ doth not work upon a person, unless he be given to him by the Father; and, therefore, he being first in order and operation, the whole work is made his work: ‘Sanctified in God the Father.’ Observe:—40
Obs. 1. That sanctification is God’s work, wrought in us by the Father. To cleanse the heart is beyond the power of the creature; it can no more make itself holy, than make itself to be. We could defile ourselves, but we cannot cleanse ourselves: as the sheep can go astray of itself, but it can never return to the fold without the shepherd’s care and help.2323 ‘Domine, errare per me potui; redire non potui.’—Aug. Meditat. Lusts are too hard for us, and so are the duties of obedience. God, that gave us his image at first, must again plant it in the soul.2424 ‘Non potest reddi nisi ab eo a quo potuit dari.’—Aug. Who can repair nature depraved, but the author of nature? When a watch is out of order we send it to the workman: ‘We are his workmanship in Christ,’ Eph. ii. 10. God taketh it to his prerogative: Lev. xxi. 8, ‘I am the Lord that sanctifieth thee.’ Grace is his immediate creature; man’s will contributeth nothing to the work but resistance and rebellion; and outward means work not, unless God put in with them; else why should the same word preached by the same minister work in some and harden others? All the difference ariseth from God’s grace, which acteth according to pleasure. Well, then:—
Use 1. Let us wait upon God till the work be accomplished. Our wills are obstinate and perverse, but God never made a creature too hard for himself; he is able to do this thing for us, and it is our comfort we have such a God to go to. The heathens, that groped and felt after God, were to seek of a power to quell their lusts, and therefore were put upon sad remedies: whereas all is made easy to you in the power of God through Christ. Crates gave this advice to one that came to him to know how he should subdue the lust of uncleanness; he answered, that he should either famish himself or hang himself;2525 ‘Primum famem suasit, deinde laqueum.’—Tertul. in Apol. they knew no remedy but offering violence to nature, or else death and despair. Democritus blinded himself, because he could not look upon women without lusting after them. Now God teacheth us to put out the eye of our lust, not of our bodies.2626 ‘Christianus salvis oculis foeminam videt.’—Tertul. ib. Bless God that you know whose work it is, and to whom to go for sanctification.
Use 2. Praise the Lord whenever this work is accomplished. Not I, but grace; it must not be ascribed to our works, or to any power that is in ourselves, but to God’s mercy, Christ’s merits, and the Spirit’s efficacy. There is God’s grant: ‘To her it was granted to be covered with fine linen, the righteousness of the saints,’ Rev. xix. 8. God the Father giveth leave or issueth forth an authentic act and decree in the court of heaven; as Esther by the grant of the king was supplied out of the king’s wardrobe. Then there is Christ’s merit; the stream wherein we are washed floweth out of Christ’s own heart: 1 John i. 7, ‘The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin.’ Then there is the Spirit’s efficacy; no less power will vanquish the proud heart of man. It is notable, that grace is expressed not only by the notion of creation, Ps. li. 10; Eph. ii. 10; 2 Cor. iv. 6, which is a making things out of nothing, but also by victory, Luke xi. 21, 22; 2 Cor. x. 5; 1 John iv. 4, or a powerful overcoming of opposition. In creation, as there was nothing to help, so there was nothing to resist and 41hinder; but in man there is, besides a death in sin, a life of resistance against grace; therefore sanctification must entirely be ascribed to God: we deserve it not, it cometh from the Father’s good-will and Christ’s merit; we work it not, it is accomplished by the power of the Holy Ghost
Obs. 2. Again observe, that though the work of grace be immediately wrought by another person, yet our thoughts in believing must not stay till we ascend and come up to God the Father. You shall see the scripture carrieth out our acts of faith to him everywhere: Rom. iv. 24, ‘If we believe in him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;’ that is, in God the Father. So John xii. 44, ‘He that believeth in me, believeth not in me, but in him that sent me.’ That not is not negative, but corrective. Not only in me, but his thoughts must ascend to the Father also, who manifesteth himself in me. So John xiv. 1, ‘Ye believe in God, believe also in me.’ Both expressions may be imperative. Besides believing in Christ, we must also believe in God, as the first fountain and author of grace. Now the reasons are—(1.) Because all grace beginneth with the Father. The first in order of being is first in order of working. It is the Father that floweth out to us in Christ and by the Spirit. Whatever Christ hath and is, he hath from him as the original author: 1 Cor. i. 30, ‘Of him Jesus Christ is made to us sanctification.’ The high priest went into the sanctuary before he blessed the people. So doth Jesus Christ sanctify you in the Father and from the Father. As Mediator certainly he is to be considered as God’s servant and instrument. Well, then, reason is in its progress till it climb up to the first cause of a thing. So should faith. Do not leave till you come to the Father, who is the highest fountain of grace. (2.) Because whatever is done to you by Christ, is done with a respect to his Father’s love: John xvii. 2, ‘Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.’ So see ver. 6, ‘I have manifested thy name unto them; thine they were, and them thou gavest me.’ That was the ground of Christ’s respect, the Father’s donation, or the charge he received from him; and therefore you must look upon the Father’s love as well as Christ’s care; for in all his respects to us he still acknowledgeth his obedience to the Father, and, indeed, it giveth us a double ground of hope. The Son loveth us because the Father required it, and the Father loveth us because the Son asketh it.2727 ‘Causa ob quam Filius nos amat, quia ipsi a Patre demandatum est, et causa cur Pater nobis favet, est quia hoc Filius ab ipso postulat et promeretur,’ &c.—See Stella at large, De Amore Dei, 18. If Christ be faithful to his Father, we are sure to be loved, or if the Father have any respect and love to Christ. (3.) Because it is a great support and comfort to faith to consider of the Father in the act of believing. Two are better than one; and it is often made a privilege to ‘have the Father and the Son,’ 1 John i. 3, and ii. 23, 24; 2 John 9., et alibi. There is the Father’s love and the Son’s merit. Either severally will not yield that joy and peace in believing, and therefore it is good to have them both together. There is no access to the Father but in the Son. What will guilt do with justice? stubble with consuming fire? God out of Christ is terrible rather than comfortable. 42Therefore it is said, 1 Peter i. 21, that ‘by him we believe in God;’ that is, by Christ through his merit we come comfortably to pitch upon God the Father. So again, Christ separate from the Father doth not yield such firm grounds of confidence. There must be some act of the Father to give us full security: for in the business of redemption God the Father is represented as the offended, wronged party, who is to receive satisfaction. We are sensible of the wrong and offence; conscience feeleth that. We must be also sensible of his favour and grace towards us. Now when we see him first in all acts of grace, that taketh away all jealousy and scruple. (4.) Because in the Father’s love there are many circumstances which are very engaging to the soul, which are not to be found in the rest of the divine persons; for he being first in order, hath the chiefest work ascribed to him; but especially are not to be found in Christ as Mediator. And because Christ as Mediator is most known to the creatures, I shall prosecute this matter with respect to that consideration. (1st.) In the Father’s love and acts of grace there is an original fulness. Christ’s fulness as Mediator is but derived out of the Father’s plenty: Col. i. 19, ‘It pleased the Father that in him all fulness should dwell.’ And it is limited by the Father’s will in the dispensation of it. All that Christ dispensed was according to the charge and commandment given him by his Father. See Mat. xx. 23, ‘It is not mine to give, save to those for whom it is prepared of my Father.’ Christ doth not deny his authority to give glory as well as grace; only he showeth how in all the dispensations proper to the Mediator he was limited by the will and counsel of the Father. And so he denieth to dispense the knowledge of times and seasons, because ‘the Father had kept it in his own power,’ Acts i. 7. So that now it is an engaging consideration to remember that the Father, whose will is absolute, who hath an original fulness of all grace, that he ‘himself loveth us,’ and is first in all acts of blessing. (2d.) In the Father’s acts you have the purest and freest apprehension of love. He began and first broke the business of our redemption. God the Son can have a higher motive, the Father’s will; but God the Father can have no higher motive than his own love. His elective law was the first rise and spring whence all that love that passeth out to the creature issueth forth, and therefore here we have the freest apprehension of love. There was a love of the Father anteceding the merit of Christ: John iii. 16, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.’ There was the most independent and free act of love.
Use. It serveth to press us to give a distinct glory in believing to God the Father. Get a right apprehension of the divine persons, and the several endearments with which their personal operations are represented. It is said, John v. 23, that God ‘will have all men honour the Son as they honour the Father.’ God is most honoured when your thoughts are most distinct and explicit in this matter. Do not forget the Father; you are his gift, as well as the Son’s purchase, and the Spirit’s charge. If God the Father had not loved you before all worlds, Jesus Christ would not have redeemed you; and if Christ had not redeemed you, the Spirit would never sanctify you: and as the Spirit will not work unless you look upon him as Christ’s Spirit, John xvi. 14, ‘He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine;’ so Christ came to glorify the Father, and to finish his work, John xvii. 4. Bless them and praise them all then. If you receive anything, see the Father’s bounty in it, the freeness and everlastingness of his love stamped upon what you have. So if you want anything, holiness, comfort, grace, pardon, reflect not only upon the fulness of Christ’s merit, but the freeness of the Father’s love. You deal with a God of bowels and bounty; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all are yours. There is a fond affectation in some to carry all things in the name of Christ, even such acts wherein the Father is most concerned; as the former age carried all dispensations in the name of God Almighty, without any distinct reflection, upon God the Son, in whom the Father will be honoured, and by whom we have an access to the Father. So many in this age, in their popular discourses and prayers, carry all things in the name of God the Son, and with a fond and luscious affectation ingeminate the name, ‘Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,’ so that the honour and adoration due to the other persons is neglected and forgotten; whereas Christ is to be acknowledged Lord in all tongues, and among all nations, ‘to the glory of God the Father,’ Phil. ii. 11.
But now it is high time to proceed to the second and last manifestation of their effectual calling, preserved in Jesus Christ, τετηρημένοις ἐν Χρίστῳ, kept in or by him; the meaning is, they were not only sanctified for the present out of the store and plenty of God the Father, but should for ever be kept in that estate by Jesus Christ. The point is:—
Obs. That God’s called and sanctified people are preserved and kept in their state of grace and holiness in and by Jesus Christ. The point asserteth two things—that they are kept by Christ and in Christ; that is, not only for his sake, but by virtue of union with him. Jesus Christ is the cabinet wherein God’s jewels are kept; so that if we would stand, we must get out of ourselves, and get into him, in whom alone there is safety. I might handle this latter branch apart, namely, that union with Christ is the ground of our safety and preservation. But because I am sensible that I have staid too long upon this verse already, I shall content myself with handling upon this occasion the general doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. And, first, I shall give you the state of it, how far we may expect to be preserved; Secondly, The grounds of certainty and assurance in this kind.
1. How far we may look for preservation. The doctrine of perseverance is much impugned; but the earth is never the more unsettled because to giddy brains it seemeth to run round. However, let us grant what must be granted, and then the truth will be burdened with less prejudice. Seeming grace may be lost: ‘Take from him that which he hath,’ Mat. xxv. 29, is, Luke viii. 18, ‘Take from him that which he seemed to have.’ Blazing comets and meteors are soon spent, and fall from heaven like lightning, while stars keep their orb and station. A building in the sand will totter, and hypocrites be discovered before the congregation, Prov. xxvi. 26. Again, initial or preparative grace may fail, such as is spoken of in Heb. vi. 4, 5, to wit, illumination, external reformation, temporary faith, devout moods, some good beginnings, &c. Plenty of blossoms do not always foretell store of fruit; 44some die in the very pangs of the birth, and are still-born. Yet again, true grace may suffer a shrewd decay, but not an utter loss; the leaves may fade when the root liveth. In temptations God’s children are sorely shaken; their heel may be bruised, as Christ’s was, but their head is not crushed. Peter denied Christ, but did not fall from grace; there is a remaining seed, 1 John iii. 9. It is notable what Chrysostom observeth concerning Christ’s prayer for Peter, Luke xxii. 32, ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.’ Mark, saith he, he doth not say, I have prayed for thee that thou shouldst not deny me, but I have prayed that thy faith should not altogether vanish and be abolished.2828 ‘Οὐκ ἔφη ἵνα μὴ ἀρνήσῃ, ἀλλ᾽ ὡστε μὴ ἐκλίπειν τὴν πίστιν σοῦ.’—Chrysost. Once more, such grace as serveth to our well-being in Christ may be taken away, joy, peace, cheerfulness, &c. As a man may have a being, though his well-being be lost; he is a man, though a bankrupt, though poor, though sick, though diseased: so a Christian may be living though he be not lively. Yet further, the operations of grace may be obstructed for a great while: a fit of swooning is not a state of death; there may be no acts, and yet their seed remaineth; this may last for a long time. David lay in a spiritual swoon nine months; for he awaked not till Nathan came to him, Ps. li., the title; and when Nathan came to him, the child begotten upon Bathsheba was born; for he saith, 2 Sam. xii. 14, ‘The child which is born to thee shall die.’ Yet further, grace if left to us would soon be lost; we showed that in innocency: but it is our advantage that our security lieth in God’s promises, and not our own; that we are not our own keepers; that grace is a jewel not trusted but in safe hands; that perseverance is God’s gift, not man’s act; and that Christ hath a charge to conduct the saints, and keep them safe to everlasting glory, John vi. 37-40; and x. 28, ‘I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish (neither shall any perish); none shall pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them is greater than all; none is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’ They neither shall nor can; God and Christ are engaged in the keeping of them; Christ by God’s command as Mediator, and God by Christ’s merit: therefore he that separateth us from God must tug with Jesus Christ himself, and be too hard for him also, or else he can never pluck them out of his hands. If they should question Christ’s power, because of the ignominy of the cross, the Father’s hands are also engaged, for our greater assurance. Can any creature loose his eternal and almighty grasp, and pluck out those whom the Father hath a mind to keep?
We do not plead for any wild assurance and certainty of perseverance; we do not say that they that neglect means, or grieve the Spirit, and do what they list, are sure that they shall not miscarry; that is against the nature of God’s dispensation, and the nature of this assurance, and therefore but a vain cavil, It is against the nature of God’s dispensation; whom he maketh to persevere, he maketh them to persevere in the use of means. Hezekiah had assurance from God of life for fifteen years, yet he taketh a lump of figs, and applieth it as a plaster to the boil, Isa. xxxviii. 5, with 21. More clearly, Acts xxvii. 31, ‘All shall come to land;’ but, ‘Except ye abide in the ship ye cannot be safe.’ We are sure of life as long as God hath any service 45to do for us, yet we are bound to get food and raiment, and to use all means to preserve life. This was Satan’s cavil against God’s protection over Christ, Thou art sure not to fall, therefore neglect means, cast thyself upon danger, Mat. iv. 9, 10. You learn this doctrine from the devil; thou mayest do what thou list, thou art sure to be safe; it is the devil’s divinity. Again, it is against the nature of this assurance; he that hath tasted God’s love in God’s way cannot reason so. A child that hath a good father that will not see him perish, shall he waste and embezzle his estate he careth not how? A wicked child may presume thus of his father (though it be very disingenuous) because of his natural interest and relation to his father; the kindness which he expecteth is not built upon moral choice, but nature: but a child of God cannot, because he cannot grow up to this certainty but in the exercise of grace; it is begotten and nourished by godly exercises; and the thing itself implieth a contradiction; this were to fall away because we cannot fall away. You may as soon say that the fire should make a man freeze with cold, as that certainty of perseverance in grace should make us do actions contrary to grace.
Again, we do not say that a believer is so sure of his conservation in a state of grace, as that he needeth not to be wary and jealous of himself: 1 Cor. x. 12, ‘Let him that standeth take heed lest he fall.’ There is a fear of caution, as well as a fear of diffidence and distrust; and there is a great deal of difference between weakening the security of the flesh, and our confidence in Christ. None more apt to suspect themselves than they that are most sure in God, lest by improvidence and unwatchfulness they should yield t6 corruption. Christ had prayed that Peter’s faith might not fail, yet together with the other apostles he biddeth him watch, Luke xxii. 40-46. The fear of God is a preserving grace, and taken into the covenant: Jer. xxxii. 40, ‘I will put my fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.’ This is a fear which will stand with faith and certainty; it is a fruit of .the same Spirit, and doth not hinder assurance, but guard it; it is a fear that maketh us watchful against all occasions to sin and spiritual distempers, that we may not give offence to God: as an ingenuous man that hath an inheritance passed over to him by his friend in court is careful not to offend him.
Again, this certainty of our standing in grace doth not exclude prayer: Luke xxii. 46, ‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.’ Perseverance is God’s gift, and it must be sought in God’s way; by Christ’s intercession, to preserve the majesty of God, and by our prayers, that we may constantly profess our dependence upon God, and renew our acquaintance with him; besides, by asking blessings in prayer, we are the more warned of our duty; it is a means to keep us gracious and holy. As those that converse often with kings had need be decently clad, and go neat in their apparel, so he that speaketh often to God is bound to be more holy, that he may be the more acceptable to him.
Again, it is not a discontinued, but a constant perseverance that we plead for; not as if an elect person could be quite driven out of the state of grace, though he be saved at length; he cannot fall totus a toto in totum, the whole man with full consent, from all grace and 46godliness; he may sin foully, but not fall off totally, no more than finally; there is something that remaineth, a seed, an unction, a root in a dry ground, that will bud and scent again. Briefly, true grace shall never utterly be lost, though it be much weakened, but in the use of means it shall constantly be preserved to eternal life.
Once more, and I have done with the state of the question. God doth not only require the condition of standing, or continuing in the exercise of grace, but give it infallibly. The precepts of the covenant of grace are also promises: Heb. viii. 10, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel,’ &c., where all the articles carry the form of promises. God undertaketh to fulfil our part in us when we submit to the covenant. So Jer. xxxii. 40, ‘I will put my fear into their hearts,’ &c. If there be any breach, it must be from our departing from God, or God’s departing from us.2929 God’s love will not let him depart from us, Isa. liv. 10, and fear will not let us depart from God. Now God never departeth, his love never permitteth him to repent of giving his fear and putting his grace into our hearts; but all the fear is our departing from God. So some say, God will not depart from us, if we be not wanting to ourselves. And Bernard observed that our own flesh is not mentioned, Rom. viii., ‘What shall separate us from God?’ &c. Soli eum deserere possumus propriâ voluntate—our own will may separate us and withdraw us from God. And the Remonstrants: Though God doth not repent doni dati, of what he hath given, yet we may repent doni accepti et retenti, of what we have received, and grow weary of the service of God. But all is answered by God’s undertaking in the covenant: ‘I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.’ He will give faith, and love, and fear, bestow and continue such graces as dispose the soul to perseverance.
2. The grounds of certainty, by which it may appear that we shall be preserved in that state of grace unto which we are called in Jesus Christ. The grounds are many; put them altogether, and you may easily spell out of them the perseverance of the saints.
[1.] There are some grounds on God the Father’s part; there is his everlasting love and all-sufficient power. His everlasting love. God doth not love for a fit, but for ever, ‘From everlasting to everlasting,’ Ps. ciii. 17, before the world was, and when the world is no more. God’s love is not founded upon any temporal accident, but on his own counsel, in which there can be no change,3030 ‘Ἀμετάθετον τῆς βουλῆς.’—Heb. vi. 17. because the same reasons that moved him to choose at first continue for ever. God never repented in time of what he purposed before all time: Rom. xi. 29, ‘His gifts and calling are without repentance.’ By gifts he meaneth such as are proper to the elect; and by calling, effectual calling; such is κατὰ πρόθεσιν, according to his eternal purpose; of these he never repents. The fruits of repentance in men are shame and sorrow; now God is never ashamed of his choice, nor sorry for his choice, so as to wish it undone. And then the other ground is his all-sufficient power. Almightiness is engaged in the preservation of grace by his eternal love and will, John x. 28, 29. Can they pluck Christ from the throne? are they stronger than Christ’s Father?47
[2.] There are grounds on Christ’s part; his everlasting merit, and close union between him and us, and constant intercession. For his merit, see Heb. ix. 12. He is ‘entered into the holy place, having obtained an eternal redemption for us.’ Legal expiations did but last from year to year, but Christ’s merit for ever and ever; his redemption is eternal, not only as it is of use in all ages of the church, but in respect of every particular saint. Those who are once redeemed by Christ, they are not redeemed for a time, so as to fall away again; that, would argue that the virtue of Christ’s blood was spent, and could preserve them no longer; but they are for ever kept to salvation. So Heb. x. 14, ‘By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.’ He hath not only purchased a possibility of salvation, but all that we need to our full perfection; it is not for a certain time, but for ever. Then there is a close union between him and us; this is the notion of the text, ‘preserved in Christ,’ Look, as it is impossible to sever the leaven and the dough, when they are once mingled and kneaded together,3131 ‘Sicut impossible est massam a pasta separare,’ &c.—Luther. so Christ and a believer, when they are united together, there is no parting more. Can Christ’s mystical body be maimed, or lose a joint? Then his constant intercession; that is another ground, a copy of which we have in the 17th of John, where he saith, ‘Keep them through thy name,’ &c., and ‘Keep them from the evil,’ &c. See Heb. vii. 25, ‘He is able to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him, for he liveth for ever to make intercession for them.’ He is interceding with God, that the merit of his death may be applied to us; and what is that? Salvation ‘to the uttermost,’ or ‘to the end,’ εἰς το τέλος. The heirs of salvation need not fear miscarrying. Jesus Christ, who is the testator, who by will and testament made over the heritage to them, he also is the executor, he liveth for ever to see his own will executed; he died once to make the testament, and he liveth for ever to see it made good. Whenever we are in danger, he is entreating his Father for supports and assistances of grace.
[3.] On the Spirit’s part there is a continued influence, so as to maintain the essence and seed of grace. The Father’s love is continued by the merit of Christ, that he may not depart from us; and we are preserved by the Spirit of Christ, that we may not depart from him. He doth not only put into our hearts faith, fear, love, and other graces at first, but he maintaineth and keepeth them, that the fire may never go out. Our hearts are his temple, and he doth not love to leave his dwelling-place. And besides, in the economy of salvation, it is his office to glorify Christ as his vicegerent, and to be our comforter; therefore, with respect to the honour of Christ, and the comfort of believers, he preserveth and maintaineth that grace that is once really wrought in our hearts. To preserve the glory of Christ thus, Christ, you know, hath received a charge from the Father to ‘lose nothing,’ John vi. 39, neither body nor soul—nothing that belongeth to an elect person. Now, that he may be true to his trust, he sendeth the Spirit as his deputy or executor, that his merit may be fully applied. It is for the honour of Christ, that wherever the work is begun, wherever he hath been an author, there he may be a finisher also, Heb. xii. 2. It was said of the foolish builder, that he ‘began, and was not able to 48make an end.’ This dishonour can never be cast upon Christ, because of the power and faithfulness of the Spirit; he doth κατεργάζεσθαι, Phil. i. 6, ‘go through ‘with the work which he hath begun; the Spirit is to fit vessels for glory. He doth not use to leave them half carved; he is faithful to Christ, as Christ is to his Father. The Father chooseth the vessels, Christ buyeth them, and the Spirit carveth and fitteth them, that they may be vessels of praise and honour. But this is not all. He preserveth and continueth us in the state of grace as our Comforter; by working grace he puts us into an expectation of glory and happiness, and to make it good he carrieth. on the work without failing; therefore grace is called ‘the first-fruits of the Spirit.’ Rom. viii. 24, and ‘the earnest of the Spirit,’ 2 Cor. i. 22, and v. 6, for it hath a double use, to be a taste and a pledge. It is a taste to show us how good eternal life is; and a pledge to show us how sure it is. The first degree of regeneration is of this nature; it is an earnest, or gage, assuring us of a more perfect enjoyment—the livery and seisin of glory to come. As soon as a real change is wrought, the Spirit of God doth give us earnest; and will God lose his earnest? will he give us a pledge, and fail our expectation? Surely no.
Let us now come to application.
Use. 1. It presseth us to persevere with the more care. It is no unreasonable inference: see 1 John ii. 27, 28, ‘Ye shall abide in him; and now little children abide in him;’ Since we have so many advantages of standing, let us not fall away. Oh! how great will your sin be, if you should miscarry and dishonour God! We pity a child that falleth when it is not looked after; but when a froward child wresteth and forceth itself out of the arms of the nurse, we are angry with it. You have more reason to stand than others, being brought into an unchangeable state of grace; being held in the arms of Christ, God will be very angry with your slips and failings. Mercy holdeth you fast, and you seek to wrest yourselves out of mercy’s arms. None can sin as you do, with such frowardness, with such dishonour to God; you disparage the Spirit’s custody, the merit of Christ, and the mercy of the Father. See Heb. iv. 1, ‘Let us therefore fear, a promise being left to us of entering into his rest, lest any should seem to come short of it.’ Look, as some seem to stand that do not, so some seem to fall utterly that do not. A child of God indeed cannot come short, but he should not seem, that is, give any appearance of coming short. When our religious course is interrupted, and we give way to sin and folly, that is a seeming to come short, and so you bring a scandal upon the love of God, as if it were changeable; upon the merit of Christ, as if it were not a perfect merit. Scandalous professors make Arminians; in an age of defection, no wonder if men plead for the apostasy of the saints.
Use 2. If you fall through weakness, be not utterly dismayed. As the spinster leaveth a lock of wool to draw on the next thread, so there is somewhat left. When you are departed from God, you have more holdfast upon him than another sinner; a child, though a prodigal: go to him and say, Father. David pleadeth the relics of grace yet left, Ps. cxix. 176, ‘I have gone astray like a sheep; seek thy servant, for I do not forget my commandments;’ as if he had said, 49Lord, I have sinned through weakness, but I hope there is some grace left, some bent of heart towards thee. So the church, Isa. lxiv. 8, 9, ‘Now, O Lord, thou art our father,’ &c. Yea, God is angry when we do not plead. So Jer. iii. 4, ‘Wilt thou not cry, Thou art my father?’ &c. You have an interest, though you have been disobedient. Thus do, and your falls will be an advantage; as you have seen men go back to fetch their leaps more commodiously.
Use 3. When you stand, let it excite you to love and thankfulness. Nothing maketh the saints love God more than the unchangeableness of his love. When they see themselves safe in the midst of weaknesses and Satan’s daily assaults, it doth much endear God to their souls. Certainly Daniel was much affected with his preservation in the lions’ den, when he saw the lions ramping and roaring about him, and yet restrained with the chains of providence, that they could do him no harm. So the children of God must needs love their preserver when they consider what dangers are round about them, how little they subsist by their own strength, 1 Sam. ii. 9, and how much they have done a thousand times to cause God to withdraw his Spirit from them; and therefore the great argument why the saints do love and praise him is not only the freedom of his grace, but the unchangeableness and constancy of it: ‘His mercy endureth for ever;’ it is several times repeated, Ps. cxxxvi. So Ps. cvi. 1, ‘Praise ye the Lord; O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.’ No form is more frequent in the mouths of the saints: and good reason; for alas! if we were left to ourselves, we should damn ourselves every hour. We have a ‘revolting heart,’ Jer. v. 23, xiv. 10. We are like glasses without a bottom; as soon as they are out of hand they are broken; we cannot stand of ourselves: and we have a restless enemy, that desireth to toss us and vex us, as wheat is tossed from sieve to sieve, Luke xxii. 31; and we have often forfeited God’s protection, and grieved him day by day. Were it not for everlasting mercy, what would become of us? Certainly they that do not love God for their preservation, they are not sensible of their condition in the world. What a naughty heart they carry about with them! It is a miracle that ever grace should be preserved there, where there is so much pride, love of pleasures, worldly cares, brutish lusts; that such a heavenly plant can thrive in the midst of so many weeds. And what a busy devil they have to do withal, who watcheth all advantages, as a dog that standeth waving his tail (it is Chrysostom’s comparison) and expecting a bit; and his envy and malice is most bent against them that have most grace. Finally, they do not consider that the world is full of snares and dangerous allurements; for if they did, they could not choose but fall a-blessing of God for Jesus Christ, who yet fasteneth them as a nail in the holy place. I remember one of the fathers bringeth in the flesh saying, Ego deficiam, I will surely fail and miscarry; and the world Ego decipiam, I will deceive them and entice them; and Satan, Ego eripiam, I will snatch them and carry them away; and God saith, Ego custodiam, I will keep them, ‘I will never fail them nor forsake them;’ and there lieth our safety and security.
Use 4. It informeth us that if any fall often, constantly, frequently, 50easily, they have no interest in grace: 1 John iii. 9, ‘He that is born of God sinneth not,’ οὐ ποιεῖ ἁμαρτίαν, he makes not a trade of sin; that is the force of the phrase. God’s children slip often, but not with such a frequent constant readiness into the same sin. As fair meadows may be everflown, but marsh ground is drowned with the return of every tide, so are wicked men carried away with every return of the temptation; therefore he that liveth in a course of profaneness, worldliness, drunkenness, his ‘spot is not as the spot of God’s children.’ You are tried by your constant course and walk, Rom. viii. 1. What is your road? what do you do constantly, easily, frequently? I except only those sins which are of usual incidence and sudden surreption; as sudden stirrings of passion in a choleric temper, and vanity of thoughts, and distractions in duties, &c. And yet for these a man should be the more humble and watchful; if they be not felt and striven against, and mourned for, it is a bad sign.
Use 5. It provoketh us to get an interest in such a sure condition. Be not contented—(1.) With outward happiness; things are worthy according to their duration. Nature hath such a sense of God’s eternity, that the more lasting things are, it accounteth them the better. An immortal soul must have an eternal good. Now all things in the world are frail and pass away, therefore called ‘uncertain riches,’ 1 Tim. vi. 17. It is uncertain whether we shall get them, and uncertain whether we shall keep them, and uncertain whether we shall live to enjoy them if they stay with us. All of this side grace is uncertain; these things are usually blasted in their flower and beauty, as Herod was stricken in the midst of all his royalty: so that a man may out live his happiness, which is the greatest misery; or at least it must terminate with death; there is no use of wealth in the other world. But now ‘the better part can never be taken from us,’ Luke x. 42; and by seeking that we may have other things with a blessing, Mat. vi. 33. (2.) Rest not in gifts, they are for the body rather than the person that hath them; as many are carnal, and yet come behind in no gift. God useth them like negroes, to dig in the mines of knowledge, that others may have the gold. Judas could cast out devils, and yet afterward was cast out among devils; see 1 Cor. xii. 31. The apostle had discoursed largely of gifts, and then concludeth thus: ‘But yet I show you a more excellent way;’ and what is that? Grace that abideth and endureth for ever, as in the next chapter. Many that have great abilities to pray, preach, discourse, yet fall away. According to the place which they sustain in the body, so they have great gifts of knowledge, utterance, abilities to comfort, direct, and instruct others, to answer doubts, to reason and argue for God, for conference and holy discourse, and yet fall foully; as those Heb. vi. 4, are said to be ‘partakers of the Holy Ghost;’ that is, to have a great share of church gifts. Nay, this is not all; gifts themselves wither and vanish when the bodily vigour is spent: ‘The glory of a man is as the flower of the grass,’ 1 Peter i. 24. By the glory of a man is meant whatever excellency we have by nature, wit, knowledge, strength of natural parts, as well as wealth and riches. Many times we, like the dry stalk, remaineth3232 Qu. ‘we are like the dry stalk remaining’?—ED. when the flower is gone; nothing but the 51gracious work of the Spirit will last for ever. (3.) Seeming and unsound grace, as false faith, such as beginneth in joy, will end in trouble;3333 Hymeneus and Alexander are said to make shipwreck of faith, that is, false faith, 1 Tim. i. 19, 20. it easeth you for the present, but you shall lie down in sorrow. General probabilities, loose hopes, uncertain conjectures, vanishing apprehensions of comfort, all these things soon come to nothing. The planting of true faith is troublesome at first, but it leadeth to true comfort; otherwise you may look upon the gospel with some kind of delectation for a while, as thorns may blaze under the pot though they cannot keep in the fire: therefore do not rest in ‘tasting the good word,’ Heb. vi. 5, in some slight and transitory comfort. Again, there is formal profession. Many may ‘begin in the Spirit’ and ‘end in the flesh,’ Gal. iii. 3. A man may seem to himself and to the church of God to have true grace; he may profess the truth, ‘escape the pollutions of the world,’ that is, foul gross sins; yea, and all this not out of a carnal aim, but out of a slight and insufficient touch of the truth upon the conscience, and yet fall away, like the corn in the stony ground, that grew up, but had no root. But much more, Christians, will that form which is taken up out of private aims fail and miscarry. God delighteth to take off the mask and disguise of a hypocrite by letting him fall into some scandalous sin, or by changing the times and posture of affairs, or by sending a storm. Paint is soon washed off: therefore rest not in these outward and superficial changes, till solid and substantial grace be wrought in you.
Use 6. Is comfort to God’s children: grace is sure, and the privileges of it are sure. Grace itself is sure; through your folly it may be nigh unto death, but cannot die. This is the advantage of spiritual comforts, that they do not only satisfy our desires, but secure us against our fears. The redeemed of the Lord have ‘an everlasting joy,’ Isa. xxxv. 10. Once in Christ, and for ever preserved in Christ. Grace would be little better than temporal things if it did yield but a temporary refreshing. They weaken Christian comfort that make believers walk with Christ like dancers upon a rope, every moment in fear of breaking their necks. This is the comfort of a gracious heart, that as nothing shall altogether cut him off from enjoying God, so nothing shall utterly make him cease to love God. The children of God would be troubled if grace should fail, though their privileges should not be cut off; you are sure of both; for as grace is sure, so are also the privileges of grace. This was figured under the law; an Israelite could never wholly alienate his inheritance and title to the land: Lev. xxv. 23, ‘His title to the land shall not be cut off, nor sold for ever.’ This was a type of our spiritual inheritance in Christ, which cannot be alienated from us; he might for. a while pass it away, but it was to return again; so those that are made co-heirs with Christ are never disinherited. It is true we forfeit it by the merit of our actions, but God doth not take the advantage of every offence. It is true we lose the evidences that are in our keeping, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost; but the estate itself is indefeasible, and cannot be made away from us. Sometimes we are under a kind of sequestration, and there is a suspension of comfort and grace; 52as the Israelite might make away his inheritance for a time; but we shall recover possession again, though not by ourselves, yet by our Goel, our kinsman, or him that is next of blood. As under the law, if a person were not able to redeem the inheritance, the kinsman was to redeem it; so Jesus Christ, our kinsman after the flesh, he is our Goel, he interposeth by his merit, and reconcileth us to God. Well, then, you see grace is kept, and the privileges of grace are kept in Christ. But now, because comforts are never prized but in their sea son, and men that have not been exercised in spiritual conflicts nauseate these sweet truths, they know not what it is to be left to uncertainty when troubles come like waves, one in the neck of another; therefore let us see when this truth will be most sweet and seasonable. (1.) In great troubles, when God seemeth to hide his face. Oh! how sweet is it to hear him say, ‘I will not forsake thee till I have performed all that I promised thee,’ Gen. xxviii. 15; all this shall better thy heart and hasten thy glory. In times of distress we are apt to think that God hath cast us off, and will never look after us more, though formerly we have had real experiences of his grace. What a foolish creature is man, to weaken his assurance when he should come to use it! to unravel all his hope and experiences in times of trouble, which is the only season to make use of them! (2.) In the hour of temptation and hard conflicts with doubts and corruptions. When we are sensible of the power of sin, and how difficult it is to remove it out of the heart, we are apt to say, as David after all his experiences, ‘I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul,’ 1 Sam. xxvii. 1; and many times out of distrust give over the combat. Oh! then, remember now you are preserved in Christ, and that nothing shall separate: as Sarcerius came to Camerarius’ wife, when she had been exercised with a long and tedious conflict, and read to her the latter end of the 8th of the Romans, she brake out in triumph, using Paul’s words, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more then conquerors.’ O Christians! neither sin, nor devil, nor world can divide you from Christ; for he did not only ‘tread down Satan,’ but ‘under your feet.’ Rom. xvi. 20. (3.) In times of great danger and defection, either through error and persecution; as Saunders trembled to think of the fire. Especially when others fall fearfully, who were before us in knowledge and profession of zeal and piety; when the first become last, when glorious luminaries are eclipsed, and leave their orb and station; as the martyrs were troubled to hear of the revolt of some great scholars that had appeared for the gospel. When Hymeneus and Philetus, two eminent professors, fell, there was a great shaking, 2 Tim. ii. 18, ‘But the foundation of the Lord standeth sure,’ &c.; that is the comfort the apostle opposeth in such a case. (4.) In times of disheartening, be cause of the difficulties of religion, when the use of means groweth troublesome. To quicken you in your Christian course, think of the unchangeableness of God’s love. All graces rise according to the proportion and measure of faith; loose hopes weaken endeavours: 1 Cor. ix. 26, ‘I run not as one uncertain.’ Those that ran a race gave over when one had far outgone them, as being discouraged and without hope. When hope is broken, the edge of endeavours is blunted. Go on with confidence, you are assured of the issue; God will bless you, 53and keep you to his everlasting kingdom. (5.) In the hour of death. When all things else fail you, God will not fail you: this is the last brunt; do but wait a little while, and you will find more behind than ever you enjoyed; ‘death shall not separate:’ as Olevian comforted himself with that, Isa. liv. 10, ‘The hills and mountains may depart, but my loving-kindness shall not depart from you,’3434 Vide Scultetum in Isa. liv. Being in the agonies of death, he said, Sight is gone, speech and hearing is departing, feeling is almost gone, but the loving-kindness of God will never depart. The Lord give us such a confidence in that day, that we may die glorying in the preservation of our Redeemer.
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