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Ver. 24. Now unto him that is able to Jceep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.

The apostle having persuaded them to duty, now commendeth them to the divine grace, as it is usual with the apostles to shut up their exhortations with prayer, to intimate that the fruit of all must be expected from God, without whose blessing exhortations or endeavours would be nothing.

To him that is able to keep you, it may be referred either to God, or to Christ as Mediator: from falling, ἀπταίστους, that is, from total apostasy. God is able to keep us altogether from sin, if we speak of his absolute power; but he speaketh here of such a power as is engaged by promise and office. Christ, who is the guardian of believers, hath received a charge concerning them, and is to preserve them from total destruction. And to present you faultless. This clause showeth more clearly that Christ is intended in these expressions; for it is his office to keep the church till it be presented to the Father, and at length will present them faultless; it is, Eph. v. 27, ‘Without spot and blemish.’ Before the presence of his glory; that is, at his glorious appearance, Col. iii. 4, when he shall come to judge the world. With exceeding joy is meant rather passively on our part than on Christ’s, though it will be a sweet interview between Christ and believers, and he will rejoice to see us, as we to see him.

The observations are these:—

Obs. 1. All means without the Lord’s grace will not keep us from falling. The apostle requireth duty of the faithful, but asketh grace of God. He had before said, ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God,’ and now ‘to him that is able to keep from falling,’ &c. We fall not because God doth not let go his hold; our necessities and difficulties are so great that nothing less than a divine power can support us: 1 Peter i. 5, ‘Ye are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.’ This power of God is set a-work to encourage hope, not to check industry; use means, but look for his blessing. We cannot stand a moment longer than God upholdeth us; we are as a staff in 363the hand of a man; take away the hand, and the staff falleth to the ground; or rather, as a little infant in the nurse’s hand, Hosea xi. 3; if we are left to our own feet we shall soon fall and get a knock; created grace will never hold out against so many difficulties. One of the fathers bringeth in the flesh, saying, Ego deficiam, I shall fail; the world, Ego decipiam, I will deceive them; the devil, Ego eripiam, I will take them away; but God saith, Ego custodiam, I will keep them, never fail them, nor forsake them; and there lieth our safety. The world is full of snares; we are carnal, and there are carnal persons about us, and the devil is a restless enemy watching all advantages; and surely having so much pride in us, and love of pleasures, and so many worldly desires, we give them him but too, too often. Therefore, unless God keep us, we shall be tossed to and fro like feathers with the wind of every temptation.

Obs. 2. Observe, that it is a great relief to faith to consider that God is able to keep us. Accordingly you find it urged in scripture, see John x. 28, 29, 1 Peter i. 5, Rom. xiv. 4, ‘He shall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand.’ The two pillars of the temple were Boaz and Jachin, strength, and he will establish; the power of God and mercy of God are the two pillars upon which our confidence standeth. The power of God is a relief upon a threefold account:—

1. Because the great trouble of the soul ariseth from a disbelief of God’s power. We stumble at his can rather than at his will. One said, Mat. viii. 2, ‘Lord, if thou wilt thou canst;’ but another said, Mark ix. 22, ‘If thou canst do anything, help us.’ When we consider our own infirmities and corrupt inclinations, and the sundry temptations and allurements that we meet with in the world, the many lets and discouragements which befall us in our heavenly course, we think we shall never hold out to the end, so that want of power is our greatest trouble; but when we ‘stay ourselves upon the name of God,’ and consider how almighty his power is to bear down all created op position, it is a great relief to the soul.

2. Because the power of God is engaged to help us. It doth not simply follow that because God can keep us, that therefore he will keep us. But God hath promised to keep us, Jer. xxxii. 40; and he hath power enough to make good his word, and therefore we cannot miscarry.

[1.] There is a charge laid upon Christ; we are put into his hands, John x. 28. He hath not only leave to save the elect, but a charge to save the elect; see John vi. 37, 38, 40. They are under his care, and surely he will employ the whole power of the Godhead rather than be unfaithful. He is to be answerable for those that are given to him at the last day.

[2.] The invincible power of God is set a-work by his unchangeable love, so that we may be confident that what he is able to do he will do for us; the power and authority of a relation or friend of ours in court is an encouragement whilst the friendship and relation lasteth.

3. The last reason is because the power of God is many ways exercised for our preservation, partly by way of internal influence, swaying the heart and inclining it to his fear. If the will of man were exempt 364from the dominion of God, then God had made a creature too hard for himself. Partly in overruling and disposing the temptation, that it shall not be too great for us: 1 Cor. x. 13, ‘Faithful is God, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear.’ Partly, in removing the temptation, rebuking Satan and his instruments, &c. Well, then, commit your souls to Christ with the more confidence: 2 Tim. i. 12, ‘I know whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him unto that day.’ When the difficulties of salvation are sufficiently understood, there will need explicit thoughts of the divine power before we can with any confidence trust ourselves with Christ, and go on with encouragement in well-doing.

Obs. 3. Jesus Christ will one day make a solemn presentation of his people to God; the apostle saith here ‘he will present you.’ There is a threefold presentation spoken of in scripture:—

1. One made by believers themselves, Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,’ and Rom. vi. 13, ‘Yield yourselves unto God.’ παραστήσατε ἑαυτοὺς τῷ Θεῷ. When we consent to set apart ourselves for God’s use, to be his in all estates, to act for him in all his businesses, then we are said to yield up or present ourselves to God.

2. By Christ’s messengers; they have a charge, and when they have done their work they present us to God: 2 Cor. xi. 2, ‘That I may present you a chaste virgin to Christ.’ It is sweet when ministers can say, Here are the fruits of my labours, the pledges of my faithfulness.

3. This presentation is applied to Christ himself. Now two ways is Christ said to present us:—(1.) To himself; (2.) To God.

[1.] To himself, Eph. v. 27, ‘That he might present it to himself a glorious church.’ In that place our interest in Christ and his interest in us is represented by marriage; in the world we are contracted, but there presented, actually brought to him when fitted for his use, as Esther when she was chosen out from among the virgins to be wife to the king, she was first purified and supplied with garments, odours, and sweet ointments out of the king’s house, and then when the months of her purification were accomplished, was presented to him, Esther ii. 9-12, so we are ‘chosen,’ ‘elected to grace,’ and-then purified and prepared, but at the king’s cost; we have garments of salvation out of Christ’s wardrobe, and odours and sweet ointments out of his store house, and then when spot and wrinkle is done away, we are presented to him; he is said to do it, because he hath the main stroke in this work.

[2.] To God; so it is said, Col. i. 22, ‘That he may present you in his sight;’ that is, in the sight of God the Father; for the antecedent you find in ver. 19, ‘It pleased the Father,’ &c. Thus Christ is said to ‘give up the kingdom to the Father,’ 1 Cor. xv. 24-28; that is, the church, the kingdom is put for the subjects governed. Now Christ’s presenting us to God may be looked upon either—

(1.) As an account of his charge. In effect he saith, I have done the work for which thou hast sent me. Christ is under an office and obligation of faithfulness, he hath a trust of which he must give an account; he is to take care of the persons of the elect, to justify, sanctify, and glorify them 365in his own day. Now that it may appear that he is not unfaithful in his trust, he doth present them to God, as having fully done his work, so that to doubt of his willingness to pardon, or sanctify, or glorify, is in effect to charge unfaithfulness and disobedience upon him; for Christ, as Mediator, is subordinate, ‘he is God’s:’ 1 Cor. iii. 23, xi. 3, ‘The head of Christ is God,’—namely, with respect to this office and charge; so he is under God and to give an account to him. He hath under taken to make up all breaches between God and us. As to the merit and satisfaction, he gave an account a little before his going to heaven, John xvii. 4; but as to the application to every party concerned, he will give an account in the last day, when he will present himself and all his flock, saying, ‘Behold I and all the little ones which thou hast given me,’ Heb. ii. 13, when all the elect are gathered into one troop and company, and not one wanting.

(2.) As an act of delight and rejoicing in his own success, that all that were given to him are now fit to be settled in their blessed and glorious estate. Christ taketh a great deal of delight to see the proof and virtue of his death, and that his blood is not shed in vain, as a minister taketh delight in those whom he hath gained to God: ‘What is our hope, our joy, our crown of rejoicing? are not ye in the day of the Lord?’ 1 Thes. ii. 19. If we rejoice thus in the fruit of our ministerial labours, surely Christ much more; we have not such an interest in them as Christ hath, and the main virtue came from his death and Spirit. It is said Isa. liii. 11, ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied;’ that may be understood either of his foreseeing from all eternity, or of his actual seeing when the whole is accomplished. If you understand it of his foreseeing, the expression is not altogether alien from the point in hand. When Christ foresaw the good success of the gospel, and what a company he should gain to himself in all ages, he rejoiced at the thought of it. Well, saith he, I will go down and suffer for poor creatures upon these terms. But rather I understand it of his sight of the thing when it is accomplished, when he shall see his whole family together, met in one congregation. Now, saith he, I count my blood well bestowed, my bitter agony well recompensed; these are my crown and my rejoicing. Look, as the first person delighted in the fruits of his personal operation, for so it is said, Exod. xxxi. 17, ‘In six days God made heaven, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed;’ he was refreshed, not in point of weariness, but delectation; he rejoiced in the product of his wisdom, power, and goodness; so Christ in the work of redemption, when his death turneth to good account, he will delightfully present you to God as the proof of it. These are those whom I have redeemed, sanctified, and kept, &c.

(3.) It is an act of his love and recompense to the faithful; they have owned him in the world, and Christ will own them before God, men, and angels; there is no saint so mean but Christ will own him: Luke xii. 8, ‘The Son of man shall confess him,’ &c. Father, this is one of mine. As for his enemies, Christ will see execution done upon them: ‘Slay them before my face,’ Luke xix. 27. To his friends he will own them publicly, and that they be honoured ‘before the presence of his glory.’

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Well, then, see that you be of the number of those whom Christ will present to God. If he hath ‘purified you to himself,’ Titus ii. 14, he will present you to himself. If you be set apart for God, Ps. iv. 3, you shall be brought to God. The work is begun here; privately it is done at our deaths, when the soul, as soon as it is out of the body, is conveyed by angels to Christ, and by Christ to God; and publicly and solemnly at the day of his coming; then he presents the elect as a prey snatched out of the teeth of lions; but spiritually the foundation is laid when you ‘dedicate yourselves to God.’ Rom. xii. 1, and walk so as Christ may own you with honour and credit in that great day. If you be the scandal of his ordinances, the reproach of your profession, can Christ glory in you then as a sample of the virtue of his death? Surely no.

Obs. 4. Again observe, that when Christ presenteth the elect he will present them ‘faultless,’ that is, both in respect of justification and sanctification. This was intended before the world was: Eph. i. 4, ‘He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love;’ but is not accomplished till then. Now we are humbled with many infirmities and sins, but then ‘presented holy, unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight,’ Col. i. 22. The work is undertaken by Christ, and he will carry it on till it be complete: here the wedding garments are making, but then put on.

1. The work must be begun here; the foundation is laid as soon as we are converted unto God, 1 Cor. vi. 11.

2. This work increaseth daily more and more, 1 Thes. v. 23, 24. We are not faultless; but Christ will not rest till we be faultless, he is sanctifying further and further, that we may be blameless at his coming; he will pursue the work close till it be done.

3. It is so carried on for the present that our justification and sanctification may help one another; the benefit of justification would be much lessened if our sanctification were complete, and our sanctification is carried on the more kindly because the benefit of justification needeth so often to be renewed and applied to us; if our inherent righteousness were more perfect, imputed righteousness would be less set by. In this great imperfection under which we now are, we are too apt to fetch all our peace and comfort from our own works, to the great neglect of Christ and his righteousness; therefore doth the Lord by little and little carry on the work of grace, that by the continual sense of our defects, and the often making use of justification, we may have the higher apprehensions of God’s love in accepting us in Christ. The relics of sin trouble us as long as we are in the world, and so the benefit is made new to us, which otherwise would wax old and out of date; and the benefit being made new, increaseth our love to God, Luke vii. 47, and putteth us upon the study of holiness.

4. At the last day all is fully accomplished, Col. i. 22. Well, then, let us wait upon God with encouragement, and press on to perfection upon these hopes. Surely we shall be faultless; Christ would never have given us earnest, 2 Cor. i. 22, if he meant not to stand to his bargain.

Obs. 5. The next clause is before the presence of his glory. Note 367thence that Christ’s presence at the day of judgment will be exceeding glorious; for he will then appear not only as the Son of man, but as the Son of God, Mat. xvi. 27; he will then appear not only as the saviour but as the judge of the world, both for the terror of the wicked, 2 Thes. i. 8, and as a pattern of that glory which shall be put upon the godly, Col. iii. 4, and Phil. iii. 21. Well, then, let us not despise Christ, now he lieth hid under the veil of the gospel, but with comfort let us expect his coming; for when he is glorious we shall share with him, and ‘appear also in glory.’ And let us not think shame of his service, whatever disreputation the world shall put upon it.

Obs. 6. The last particle in the words is that, with exceeding joy. From thence note the day of Christ to the godly is a joyful day. When others howl, you shall triumph; when others are dejected, and ‘call upon the mountains to cover them,’ Rev. vi. 16, you shall ‘lift up the head, for your redemption draweth nigh,’ Luke xxi. 28. Christ will be glad to see you whom he hath carried in his heart from all eternity, for whose sake he came into the world and died, and for whom he went back again into heaven, that he might negotiate with God in your behalf, and whom he now cometh to receive unto himself, that you may be for ever there where he is. And surely you that have received Christ into your hearts, and loved him though unseen, and served him though with the loss and hazard of all, will be glad to see him in all his glory and royalty, especially when you shall hear him calling upon you, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter into the kingdom prepared for you.’ Oh! that we could act over this joy aforehand. Faith is a bird that can sing in winter. Before Christ came in the flesh the patriarchs got a sight of him by the eagle-eye of faith, and rejoiced at the thought of it: John via. 56, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Oh! surely our hearts should be warmed with the thought of that blessed day when we shall be able to say, Yonder, even there, is our great Lord I

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