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Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.—Phil. iii. 8.
THIS is the first end or reason why he contemned all things. There are three propositions in the words—
1. That the knowledge of Christ is so excellent, that a gracious heart counteth all things dung and loss rather than miss it.
2. That Christ Jesus must be known as the Lord.
3. That there should be some application when we consider Christ or address ourselves to him.
I. For the first point, that the knowledge of Christ is so excellent that a gracious heart counteth all things dung and loss rather than miss it—(1.) What knowledge he speaketh of; (2.) Why it is so prized.
First, What knowledge he speaketh of. Knowledge is twofold—(1.) A bare speculative knowledge; (2.) Affective and saving.
1. For the first, this is a privilege, to know Christ. It is a mystery hidden from ages, and it is hidden from a great part of the world unto this day. Therefore the bare naked knowledge and contemplation o Christ is a great mystery, is a great privilege. Angels desire to pry into it: 1 Peter i. 12, ‘Which things the angels desire to look into.’ Have higher apprehensions of God by the revelation of this mystery to the church: Eph. iii. 10, ‘To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.’ But yet if we content ourselves with this general speculative knowledge of Christ, we may perish eternally. As the old world saw an ark built before them, with vast expense and charge, but whilst they entered not into it themselves, they were drowned in the flood. The light of the gospel shineth in the world, but if the darkness comprehendeth it not, but men love darkness more than light, their condemnation is the greater, John iii. 19. Certainly this speculative knowledge is not here meant, but an applicative knowledge: ‘My Lord,’ an operative and effectual knowledge; for he presently addeth, ‘That I may gain Christ,’ an experimental knowledge; for ver. 10, he explaineth himself, ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.’
2. A saving knowledge, such as is accompanied with faith, love, and obedience. There is memorative knowledge, such as children have, whereby the field of memory is planted with the seeds of knowledge, so as they are able to speak of God and Christ by rote; and opinionative knowledge, by which men are orthodox in judgment, and can dispute for the truth; but wisdom entereth not upon the heart, as it is Prov. ii. 10. They have a form of godliness, but not the power, a naked model of gospel truth: 2 Tim. iii. 5, ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’ But there is, besides this, a saving knowledge, such as is accompanied with faith, love, and obedience.
[1.] With faith, which is a certain knowledge and persuasion of the truth of our redemption by Christ upon sufficient evidence, so as 22we may venture our souls and all our interests in his hands: John vi. 69, ‘And we believe, and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;’ Acts ii. 36, ‘Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made the same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ;’ John xvii. 8, ‘And have known surely that I came out from thee.’ So in many other places faith is expressed by knowledge; as concerning the future recompenses: Rom. viii. 28, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them, that love God;’ 1 John iii. 2, ‘But we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is;’ 2 Cor. v. 1, ‘For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ Faith goeth not upon hearsay or the tradition of man; it consists not in some light credulity or some loose and wavering conjectures, but is a certain knowledge of the truth concerning Christ’s person and offices, and the glorious things purchased thereby, called the ‘Assurance of understanding,’ Col. ii. 2. Faith addeth certainty and efficacy.
[2.] It is a knowledge accompanied with esteem and love. We never know God in Christ as we ought to know him unless we love him as well as know him: 1 Cor. viii. 2, ‘And if any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.’ A gracious heart seeth more beauty and excellency in Christ than in all the world. This is the true knowledge of Christ, to know him, and prize him, and embrace him as our Lord and Saviour, and prefer him above all things; to prize him more than all my goods, more than all my friends, yea, more than myself. This appreciative knowledge is that which is here spoken of, and is the fruit of certain persuasion: Heb. xi. 13, ‘And being persuaded of them, they embraced them.’
[3.] When we know him so as to obey him. In this sense we know no more than we practise: 1 John ii. 4, ‘He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ He prattleth of God, but doth not know God. It is a falsehood, cum intentione fallendi. A lie is a falsehood with an intention to deceive; he goeth about to deceive himself and others: Jer. xxii.
16, ‘He judged the cause of the poor and needy; was not this to know me, saith the Lord?’ Our actions give us a better image of our opinions and thoughts than our words, as being more deliberate, and proceeding from the principles we have laid up in our hearts, and chosen to live by; which is to be observed against those that seem to know Christ, but yet have but dead and cold opinions about him and the mystery of his redemption.
Secondly, Why is this knowledge so prized? The reasons are taken from the object and the subject, what is prized, and who prizeth. The knowledge of Christ is to be valued in itself, but the temper of a gracious spirit is such that they must needs prize it.
1. The knowledge of Christ is valuable in itself; it is better than all other knowledge.
[1.] From the author, which is the Spirit of God: Mat. xvi. 16, 17, ‘And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed 23art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Farther which is in heaven.’ All that truly own Christ are taught of God: John vi. 45, ‘They shall all be taught of God; every man therefore that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh to me;’ and again, ‘The unction teacheth you all things,’ 1 John ii. 20. Now to have the enlightening and sanctifying Spirit is a great privilege and mark of favour which God puts upon us. It is a greater argument of God’s friendship than to give you wealth and honour: Prov. iii. 31-33, ‘Envy not the oppressor, and choose none of. his ways. The froward is abomination to the Lord, but his secret is with the righteous. The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but he blesseth the habitation of the just.’ Many are kept low and bare under the frowns and power of insulting adversaries. You cannot therefore say that God hateth you and loveth them. If God hath given you the saving knowledge of himself and his Christ, this is certainly a greater token of his love, and you should prize this above all other things. He dignified you above those that want it, though they excel in power and pomp of living, and are able to oppress you by it. Again, it is an argument of his favour to you above the rabble of nominal christians: John xv. 15, ‘But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.’ We may have a form of knowledge, or a model of truth put into our heads by men, but to know Christ so as to believe in him, love him, and obey him, is the special favour which God reserveth for his peculiar people.
[2.] The matter to be known, Christ the Saviour of the world and the repairer of the lapsed estate of mankind. We know him under that notion. There is in him a matchless excellency and sufficiency to do us good. This is enough to take up all our thoughts: 1 Cor. ii. 2, ‘I have determined to know nothing amongst you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’ This is the most comfortable knowledge in the world if we consider—(1.) Our deep necessity; (2.) His all-sufficiency.
(1.) Our deep and absolute necessity of a saviour to reconcile us to God, being ‘Enemies to him in our minds by evil works,’ Col. i. 21. To renew our natures, being carnal, and sinful, and unable to help ourselves: Job xiv. 4, ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ The work would cease for ever if a saviour were not revealed to restore lapsed mankind, to vanquish and conquer our enemies, being so weak and impotent, and ‘taken captive by Satan at his will and pleasure,’ 2 Tim. ii. 26. To free us from hell, which we had deserved, and to bring us to happiness, which we had not deserved; which only the Son of God could do, who died, the just for the unjust, ‘to deliver us from wrath to come,’ 1 Thes. i. 10, and bring us to God. Surely to those that are sensible of their necessity what can be more sweet and precious? Hungry consciences will prize the bread of life. To those who lie in tears and anguish of soul through the feelings of sin and the fears of the wrath of God, nothing can be sweeter than to hear of their acceptance in the Beloved, and reconciliation with God by Christ. What have we else to answer against all the terrors of the law and the accusations of conscience, or to comfort us against the 24 remembrance of our approaching misery, than redemption by Christ? yea, what to allay our present sorrows and trouble about a naughty heart, an opposite world, and a tempting devil, but the remembrance of the captain of our salvation, who hath undertaken to bring us to God, and make us perfect through suffering? Heb. ii. 10, ‘For it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.’
(2.) His sufficiency to do us good. There is the blood of God to be a ransom for our souls: Acts xx. 28, ‘Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.’ And so to make our peace with God: Col. i. 20, ‘Having made peace; through the blood of his cross, to reconcile all things to himself, whether they be things on earth, or things in heaven.’ The Spirit of God to renew and heal our natures, ‘Shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord,’ Titus iii. 5, 6. ‘The captain of our salvation,’ to conquer our enemies: Heb. ii. 10, ‘Christ in us’ the pledge of our hopes and joys, and the root of everlasting blessedness: Col. i. 27, ‘Christ in you the hope of glory.’ Surely if we have the eternal Son of God from whom to fetch our daily supplies and our daily delight, we must needs be well provided for, so that the heart of trouble is broken. This is a sufficient remedy against all our fears and sorrows.
[3.] The effect of this knowledge. It is a renewing and transforming knowledge. It impresseth the image of God upon our hearts: Col. iii. 10, ‘And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him;’ 2 Cor. iii. 18, ‘But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.’ Others can talk of God and Christ, but you resemble him, and are changed into his likeness. When sight is perfect, your conformity will be greater: 1 John iii. 2, ‘But we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,’ But now it leaveth some impress of God upon the soul, it maketh you more like him, and amiable in his sight.
2. The subjects who thus esteem the knowledge of Christ, their minds and hearts are changed.
[1.] Their minds. It is a special privilege promised in the new covenant: Jer. xxxi. 34, ‘For they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord;’ Jer. xxiv. 7, ‘I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord.’ Now by this new covenant knowledge they have a spirit of discerning. In discerning there is comparing, differencing, esteeming, choosing. Their minds are awakened; they do compare what they lose and what they gain; on the one side, worldly things are short and uncertain, and which cannot satisfy the heart of man, or if they could satisfy his desires, they cannot give rest to the conscience. That is the trial, rest for souls: Jer. vi. 16, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way? and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ That is not to be found in the world: Isa. lv. 2, ‘Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, 25and your labour for that which satisfieth not?’ Let conscience be once awakened with the sense of sin and fear of wrath, it can find nothing in the world to pacify it; but in Christ it may: Mat. xi. 28, 29, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls.’ They prefer good or discern bad things: Rom. viii. 18, ‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.’ Good things: 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ They esteem and choose: Heb. xi. 25, 26, ‘Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.’
[2.] Their hearts are turned as well as their minds convinced. These things do not suit with their scope and end, which is to please and enjoy God: 2 Cor. v. 9, 10, ‘Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.’
Use 1. Of reproof—
1. To those who study to know all things else but Jesus Christ. There is no sap or savour to them in this knowledge. They would know the course of nature by philosophy, the affairs of the world by history. We condemn not this knowledge simply, but if it be with the neglect of the knowledge of Christ, alas! it is folly rather than wisdom. To know the creature without the creator, the history of providence but not the way of redemption, the courses of the heavens and not to know how to live and dwell in heaven, is not to seek a salve for the great malady we contracted by the fall; for ignorance in eternal things is the first part of the harm we caught by the fall. This is to heal a cut finger and neglect a deadly wound. No secular wisdom can deliver us from the wrath of God, nor make us everlastingly happy. The angels, who are the spectators, desire to pry into these things; but we, that are the parties interested, should be much more concerned to know our misery and our remedy, our disease and our cure. If God hath laid out the riches of his grace and wisdom to do us good, surely it deserveth our best thoughts.
2. To reprove those that content themselves with a form of knowledge: Rom. ii. 20, ‘Thou hast the form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law.’ No; it must be a practical and experimental knowledge: ‘That we may know him, and the power of his resurrection.’ Most of christianity is not only to be believed, but felt. It is set forth not only by sight, but taste: 1 Peter ii. 3, ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious;’ Phil. i. 9, ‘And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment,’ αἰσθήσει, in all sense. Otherwise you know Christ, and are never the better for him; like the nobleman at Samaria, that saw the plenty, but could not taste of it. They hear of a mighty Christ, but feel nothing. Experience is the best seal and confirmation: John xvii. 17, ‘Sanctify them 26by the truth; thy word is truth;’ and chap. i. 32, ‘John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.’ The testimony of Christ confirmed in us: 1 John v. 10, ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.’ This is knowing ‘the grace of God in truth,’ as it is Col. i. 6, when we have tasted of the sweetness of the promise, pardon of sin, peace with God, and hopes of glory. Optima demonstratio est a sensibus, the best proof is from the senses. Others know it by hearsay, conceits, and imagination. Again, practical knowledge is for use and practice, not for idle speculation. The apostle speaketh of some that are ‘barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ,’ 2 Peter i. 8. Their christianity serveth them to talk well, and stuffeth their minds with high notions, but they are not thereby made ready to obedience, and prone and forward to please God: 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, ‘And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy fathers, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind, all the days of thy life.’
Use 2. Let this be our main study, to know Christ, and to know him as we ought to know him, by the light of the Spirit, in a way of faith, love, and obedience. How hard do many carnal persons study to know the mysteries of nature! and should not we use the means of praying, reading, hearing, that we may know Christ, begging for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation? Here consider—
1. The necessity. You must know Christ before you can believe in him: 2 Tim. i. 12, ‘I know whom I have believed.’ You must know him before you can love him: John iv. 10, ‘If thou knewest the gift of God.’ We must know him before we can obey him: Prov. xix. 2, ‘Also that the soul be without knowledge is not good;’ John xiv. 21, ‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.’
2. It is pleasant: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.’ Light is pleasant to the eye, so it is to the eye of the mind: Prov. xxiv. 13, 14, ‘My son, eat thou honey, because it is sweet, and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste; so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul when thou hast found it.’ Every faculty hath its oblectation; as the will, in adhering to God; conscience, in feeling God’s love; so the understanding in the view of truth. Oh, what is the knowledge of Christ, so suitable to our necessities, so ready to relieve them, to have a taste that the Lord is gracious!
3. It is profitable. Its use commendeth it. Curiosities and need less speculations we can well spare; that is a knowledge occasioneth more pain than pleasure. To have the mind stuffed with needless notions is but a burden, not a perfection; but this maketh us wise to salvation, and therefore doth most concern us. For what is more comfortable than salvation? John xvii. 3, ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ We begin our everlasting happiness, which consists in the vision of God, when we begin to know him and his Christ. Now if we would have this knowledge, and esteem this knowledge, think often, and by serious awakening thoughts, of the necessity thou hast of Christ: Mat. xi. 28, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy 27laden, and I will give you rest.’ His all-sufficiency to do thee good by virtue of his double office: Heb. iii. 1, ‘Consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, the Lord Jesus Christ.’
Use 3. Bless God that he hath given thee this knowledge, this excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, and do not murmur though he hath denied you other things.
1. Remember how it excelleth all other gifts. All your wants and losses are nothing to that free grace which he hath showed you and bestowed upon you: ‘Eyes to see your teachers,’ Isa. xxx. 20. As it is sinful security to be sensible of bodily wants and senseless of spiritual, so it is sinful unthankfulness to take notice of bodily wants, and not to acknowledge this great benefit. The Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee if he hath given thee the knowledge of his Christ, whatever he denieth thee.
2. Remember how a true value and esteem of Christ lesseneth all other things. As the light of the sun obscureth the stars, so all worldly things grow unsavoury and lose their relish where this true light prevaileth. The taste of carnal pleasures is marred, the love of the world decreaseth, and the pleasures of sin become bitter to the soul, which is the true sign of our having received the saving knowledge of Christ. He is so great that he lesseneth all other things to us. The soul seeth so much worth and suitableness in him to all our necessities, and doth so love and esteem him, that it accounteth all things most vile and base in comparison of him, and is willing for his sake to want or lose the rarest contents the world can give, and suffer the greatest evils the devil or man can inflict upon us.
II. Second point. That Jesus Christ must be known as the Lord. So must we preach him, and so must you receive him: 2 Cor. iv. 5, ‘We preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ the Lord;’ Col. ii. 8, ‘If you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.’ Let us see—
1. What this lordship of Christ is; it is that novum jus dominii, et novum jus imperii, that new right of propriety and government over all men which Christ now hath, as being the sovereign of the world.
Concerning it observe three things—
[1.] It is superadded to the former sovereignty and dominion which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost had as creator. This new dominion and sovereignty is not destructive of the former, but accumulative; it did not abolish the power acquired by the creation, for that continueth still, and will continue whilst man receiveth his being from God by creation, and the continuance of his being by preservation; this therefore is superadded to the former by the new title of redeemer; for he is lord, not as creator, but as redeemer: Rev. v. 12, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’
[2.] This office of lord is derivative, and cannot be supreme, but subordinate. Though this office be the greatest and highest that ever was, above all angels and creatures, next unto God, therefore Christ’s place upon his investiture and solemn inauguration was at the right hand of the eternal throne of God, yet it is derived from God, and referred to him. Derived from God; for he is, as mediator, made 28Lord, and this power was given to him: Mat. xxviii. 18, ‘All power is given to me in heaven and earth;’ 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.’ God hath made God-man the supreme prince and head of the church, that he might dispense salvation upon his own terms, and his doctrine and faith be embraced by all nations in the world. Here is a new power, new government, and new laws, which shall be the rule of man’s duty and God’s judgment. It is referred and subordinated to God: Phil. ii. 11, ‘And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ The supreme right of governing is still in God, and subjection to him is not vacated, but established and reserved.
[3.] This lordship and dominion which the Redeemer is possessed of is comfortable and beneficial to us; and the end of it is to effect man’s cure and recovery. God had a full right to govern us, which could not be vacated by our sin; and it was so great that it cannot be greater; yet it was not comfortable to us. It was but such a right as a prince hath over rebels to punish them. We renounced God’s ser vice, and that interest which we had in his gracious protection as our Lord; therefore was this new interest set afoot to save and recover fallen man, that God might have such an interest in us as might be comfortable to us. So lordship and government is spoken of in scripture as medicinal and restorative, to reduce man to the obedience of God that made him: Acts x. 36, ‘Preaching peace by Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.’ It is such a lordship as conduceth to make peace between God and man, that we may enjoy his favour and live in his obedience: Acts v. 31, ‘He hath exalted him to be a prince and saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.’ This new lord hath made a new law of grace, which is lex remedians, a remedying law, which is propounded as a remedy for the recovering and restoring of the lapsed world of mankind to the grace and favour of God, granting thereby free pardon, and a right to blessedness to all that sincerely repent and believe in him; but sentencing them anew to death who will not embrace him, John iii. 16-18; all which considerations do mightily enforce obedience. It is a beneficial law; it is a remedying law. They are peremptorily concluded under everlasting death who will not submit to it; namely, as the old sentence is bound more upon us, and ratified by a new curse.
2. How this right of lordship and empire accrueth to him? I answer—Partly by his purchase. This was that Christ aimed at in his death: Rom. xiv. 9, ‘For to this end Christ both died, and rose again, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.’ It was the fruit and consequent of the humiliation of the Son of God. And partly by the grant of God: Acts ii. 36, ‘God hath made this Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ ‘Made,’ that is, appointed or ordained.
3. How we come to be concerned in this lordship, or are related to him? I answer—By our voluntary consent, acknowledging him to be Lord, and submitting ourselves to him as the Son of God and our sovereign: ‘He is thy Lord; worship thou him,’ Ps. xlv. 11. There is a passive subjection and voluntary submission.29
[1.] A passive subjection; so all creatures at all times are under the power of the Son of God and our redeemer; and amongst the rest, the devils themselves, though revolters and rebels, are not exempted from this dominion; and he hath a ministry and service for them to do as well as for the good angels. So ‘at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether of things in heaven, or things on earth, or things under the earth,’ Phil. ii. 10.
[2.] We are under his dominion by voluntary submission. Those only are subjects, and admitted into this kingdom, who willingly give up themselves to God the Redeemer, that they may be saved upon his terms, and in the way he hath appointed: 2 Cor. viii. 5, ‘They first gave their ownselves to the Lord.’ So that the devils and wicked men are his against their wills; but all Christ’s people are his by their own consent, to be guided and ordered by him. Well, then, all that have not subjected themselves to God as redeemer are strangers at least, if not enemies.
4. The next thing I shall speak of is both the privileges and immunities on the one hand; secondly, the duties on the other, of those who are subjects to this Lord.
[1.] Their privileges and immunities are great. Their immunities are freedom from the curse and rigour of the law: Gal. v. 18, ‘Ye are not under the law.’ From the guilt of sin: Col. i. 13, 14, ‘Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin.’ We do not actually partake of the privileges of Christ’s kingdom till we are first his subjects. Christ and his people are an opposite state to the devil and his instruments. While we are under the opposite power, we belong not to Christ; the privileges of his kingdom belong not to us. But as soon as translated, and put into another state, then presently we partake of the privilege of remission of sins; so from the flames of hell: 1 Thes. i. 10, ‘Even Jesus, who hath delivered us from wrath to come.’ Privileges positive; grace and glory. We enter as subjects into this kingdom, that we may be reconciled to God, and renewed and fitted to serve and enjoy him. This Christ doth by degrees. He fits us to serve him now by ‘putting his laws into our hearts and minds,’ Heb. viii. 10, or giving us repentance; and doth prepare us for the full enjoyment of God more and more. Christ doth not immediately effect our deliverance, but bringeth us into the kingdom of grace first, that he may perfect our cure there, that after we have for a while resisted the devil, and approved our fidelity to him, we may have an inheritance among the sanctified, Acts xxvi. 18; and so he may deliver us into the kingdom of glory, when the devil and his instruments shall be cast into hell.
[2.] The duties. The notion of the Lord doth call for duty and obedience, and it is our part to obey: Heb. v. 9, ‘He became the author of salvation to them that obey him.’ Our obedience is the best testimony of our subjection to him. This is to be pressed, because the carnal world is usually guilty of a double injury to Christ; one is, that they seem to like him as a saviour, but refuse him as a lord, whereas Christ is not only a saviour to bless, but a lord to rule and command. These two things must not be divided. But some catch at comforts but 30neglect duty. Certainly a libertine, yokeless spirit is very natural to us: Ps. xii. 4, ‘Who is lord over us?’ The world sticketh at Christ’s authority: Luke xix. 14, ‘We will not have this man to rule over us.’ His laws, and restraints of repentance, faith, and obedience are their great burden: Ps. ii. 3, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.’ If he will come as a saviour, he shall be welcome; but we cannot endure he should be chief. The greatest part of the world is libertine, if not in opinion, yet in practice. They would not be under command. He might have customers more than enough for his benefits, but they look upon self-denial, mortification, and strict walking as harsh and severe. If we love privileges we must not decline duties: Hosea x. 11, ‘Ephraim is a heifer not taught, that loveth to tread out the corn,’ but will not break the clods. The mouth of the ox was not to be muzzled that trod out the corn. In short, Christ is the ‘head of the church,’ as well as ‘the saviour of the body,’ Eph. v. 23. You must give him obedience as well as apply his benefits. Where he is a saviour, he will be prince and lord too. Many carry it so as if they would have Christ to redeem them, but Satan to rule and govern them. Christ must heal their consciences, but the world hath their affections. No; if thou hast no care to obey him as a lord, thy esteem of him is but imaginary, thy knowledge is but partial, thy application of him unsound. The other injury is, that if he will accept of an empty title, and some superficial compliments and observances, he shall have enough of that, and be called Lord oft enough; but there must be a thorough subjection, to do his strict and spiritual duties: Luke vi. 46, ‘Why call ye me Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ It is a mockage to call him Lord and not do the things which he hath commanded. This is disclaimed: Mat. vii. 21, ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ By ‘the will of my Father’ is meant the whole duty we owe to God; for this is not made void by Christ, but established upon better terms.
Use. To persuade us to own Christ as a lord. All is in his hands; he hath potestatem vitae et necis, power of life and death: James iv. 12, ‘There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.’ He hath absolute power to dispose and state the terms of salvation and damnation: John xvii. 2, ‘Thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.’
1. Let us enter into the state of subjects, servants, and vassals to him, by renouncing the devil, the world, and the flesh, who were once our old lords, but were indeed our enemies. As the people said, Isa. xxvi. 13, ‘Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us.’ These must be dispossessed before Christ can take the throne. With godly sorrow and detestation let us throw off these things, resolving no more to hearken to Satan’s temptations; to grow more dead to the vanities and pleasures of the world, and to tame and subdue our own flesh. Engage yourselves to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as your God, as your Lord and happiness, returning by Christ through the Spirit to the love and obedience of your creator, and depending upon him for the effects of his love to you. You see his readiness to help poor wretches liable to eternal wrath, and to make them eternally blessed with this 31glory. We enter ourselves subjects to this sovereign Lord, that we may enjoy the rights and privileges of his kingdom.
2. Be not subjects only by mime and profession, as many are, and by their ignorance, unbelief, and disobedience are little better than heathens and aliens. We must not be partial subjects, to obey in some measure. No; you must ‘walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,’ Col. i. 10. ‘Of the Lord,’ that is, the Lord Christ. We must love him, and serve him, and study to please him in all things, not in a few only, which are not cross to our interests and wills, but we must give him an entire universal obedience to all his laws.
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