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When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, &c.—2 Thes. i. 10.
USE 1. To wean us from the vain glory of the world. Surely if there be such great glory provided for us, we should patiently suffer present ignominy and contempt. God’s people here are usually a despised people, partly because they make such conscience of obeying an unseen God, and seem altogether to depend upon an unseen happiness, which, because it is future, and lieth in another world, we must shoot the gulf of death before we attain it. Now this seemeth folly to the carnal and sensual world: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned;’ and 1 Peter iv. 4, ‘They think it strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot.’ Partly because many times they are chastened and afflicted. Now an afflicted people are usually a despised people: Ps. cxxiii. 4, ‘Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.’ They that are proud, and live a life of pomp and ease, and have all things flowing in upon them according to their own will, contemn and slight others, and take no notice of their burdens, unless it be to increase them; they pour vinegar on the wounds which they should heal: Job xii. 5, ‘He that is ready to slip with his foot is as a lamp despised in the thoughts of him that is at ease.’ While we are burning lamps, shining in riches, and greatness, and power, and friendships, and interests in the world, we shall have enough to look after us; but when a snuff is ready to go out, every one holds their nose at it. So it is with those that fall under the displeasure of the times. Partly because of the many reproaches whereby they are misrepresented to the world: Luke vi. 22, ‘Their name is cast forth as evil.’ Elijah was thought the troubler of Israel, and Christ an impostor, and Stephen a blasphemer. Now though this be grievous (for nature 275hath a very tender sense and feeling of contempt), yet this should not discourage us in the ways of God, because it is a privilege to be worthy of the world’s hatred. Gratias ago Deo meo, quod dignus sum quem mundus oderit—Jerome. I thank God that I am worthy of the world’s hatred. If they slight you that slight God and Christ and their own salvation, why should you be troubled? Besides, our self-love is too great, when we are so tender of suffering a little disgrace and contempt for Christ’s sake, who suffered so many and great indignities for us: Isa. liii. 3, ‘He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;’ Heb. xii. 2, ‘Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame.’ No; resolve to be yet more vile, 2 Sam. vi. 22, and base in your own eyes, and the eyes of the world. And again, till we are contented with the glory that cometh from God only, we are unfit for christianity: John v. 44, ‘How can ye believe, that seek honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?’ John xii. 42, 43, ‘Many believed on him, but because of the pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.’ It is not enough to deny pleasures and riches, but we must be dead to honour, credit, and reputation, which is the hardest point of self-denial. But the great reason is that of the text, the honour Christ will put upon us at the last day is so great, that all other things should be lessened in our opinion and estimation of them: ἐλάχιστον, 1 Cor. iv. 3, ‘With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you,’ or of man’s judgment, ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας. Man’s day should be as nothing to us when we consider Christ’s day. Well, then, since there is such a glorious estate reserved for us, let us not seek the vain glory of this world; we need not look asquint, or seek out for another paymaster than Christ. They are approved whom the Lord commendeth, 2 Cor. x. 18. The more despised in the world for righteousness’ sake, the more honourable with God. If they could hinder your esteem with him, it were another matter. No; they will ever be of great account in heaven that keep their garments unspotted from the world. Let us but wait the time, and they that are contemptible in the world shall be glorified even to admiration.
Use 2. To encourage us to seek after this glorious estate, by continuance in well-doing with all diligence and patience. The heirs of promise are described, Rom. ii. 7, to be them ‘who by patient continuance in well-doing do seek for honour, glory, and immortality;’ where mark—(1.) The end; (2.) The way; (3.) The manner of pursuit.
1. The end or aim is ‘glory, honour, and immortality.’ In all business and affairs the end must be first thought of. Now the persons who are here described propound to themselves the noblest and highest end which the heart of man can pitch upon, even glory, honour, and immortality. Among men the ambitious who aspire to crowns and kingdoms, or aim at perpetual fame by their virtues and rare exploits, are judged persons of greater gallantry than covetous muckworms or brutish epicures; yet their highest thoughts and designs are very base and low in comparison of sincere christians, who look for glory, honour, and immortality at the last day, and whom nothing less will content 276and satisfy than the enjoyment of God in his heavenly kingdom, and all that happiness which he hath promised to his faithful servants. The threshold would not content them, but the throne; their end is far more noble than the designs of all the rest of the world. Others are unworthy of an immortal soul, but these carry themselves as possessed with a divine spirit. All the business and bustle of others is to have their wills and pleasures for a while, as if they had neither hopes nor fears of any greater thing hereafter; but their business is to get true glory and excellency. The apostle calleth it, 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘A far more exceeding weight of glory.’ By which they vanquish all the temptations of disgrace and scorn which they meet with here in the world. The difference between the godly and the wicked is not that the one seek honour and glory, and the other not. No; they both seek honour and glory, but the one seek it in the present world, and the other in the world to come; the one seek it in vain things, the other in solid and substantial blessedness; the one seek it in corruptible things, outward pomp, and a fair show in the flesh, and renown in the world; if our fame survive us, what good will it do us when we are dead? Alas! it is but a poor shadow of that eternal glory and honour which Christ will put upon the saints. The glory of the other world is immortal and never withering, the glory and honour of this world is uncertain; their Hosanna is soon turned into a Crucifige, Crucify him: 2 Sam. xix. 43, with 2 Sam. xx., ‘We have ten parts in the king, and more right in David than ye;’ but in the next verse, ‘We have no part in David, nor inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel.’ They who but now claimed ten parts in David presently disclaimed and disowned all interest in him, as having no part in him at all; so suddenly are men’s affections and esteem of us altered. But the saints look higher; they seek glory, honour, and immortality, or a glory which will abide with them, and they with it, to all eternity. Their design is, that ‘Their faith may be found to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Christ,’ 1 Peter i. 7. Then the saints shall be much commended and gloriously rewarded, which doth abundantly recompense and make up all the shame and disgrace of their trials.
2. The way they take or means they use to attain it, ‘By continuance in well-doing.’ A good design without a good way will come to no effect; therefore, next to the fixing of a right end, we must choose a right way; and if we desire glory, honour, and immortality, we must follow the course that leadeth to it. The apostle saith it is by well doing and continuance therein.
[1.] For well-doing; that must be stated. The world is filled with ill notions; every man applaudeth himself in his course, be it never so vain. The covetous, the ambitious, the dissolute, when they think they thrive in their several ways, they think they are well: Ps. xlix. 18, ‘Though whilst he lived he blessed his soul, and men will praise thee when thou doest well for thyself.’ A man’s own self-deceiving heart measureth good and evil by his present affections and condition in the world. The brutish worldling applaudeth himself in his way when it succeedeth, he doth well because he thriveth in the world. The glutton thinketh he doeth well when he maketh much of and pampereth 277his flesh, and hath wherewithal to do it; the ambitious applaudeth himself in his fortune, that he gets the honour that he sought after; the prodigal when he spendeth, thinketh he doeth well; and the covetous when he spareth, thinketh he doeth well. Thus men set up their own fancies as their rule. No; that is well-doing when we discharge our duties to God, and that really turneth to our eternal good. We do well when we walk according to the rule, which is the will of God, revealed by the light of nature and scripture; then only we do well when we act agreeably to those obligations which lie upon us by virtue of the law of God, or the rule which he hath given us in his word. Some duties concern our entrance into the christian state, others our progress in it.
(1.) For our entrance into the christian estate, or recovery out of the apostasy of mankind, faith and repentance: Acts xx. 21, ‘Testifying to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.’ When we are willing to return to God, as our lord and happiness, by the Mediator Christ Jesus, by his renewing renovating grace, condemning our former ways, and humbly imploring the grace of our Redeemer, and waiting for it in all the instituted means. These are the remedial duties which concern our relief and deliverance from that sin and misery wherein all mankind are involved, and this is our beginning to do well.
(2.) Our progress in the new state. Those duties are set down, Titus ii. 12, ‘Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.’ There are but three beings in a moral consideration—God, our neighbour, ourselves. The three adverbs are suited to them. (1.) Soberly, that implieth self-government, or the right ordering of our passions and appetites; for sobriety is a holy moderation in the use of all worldly things. (2.) Righteously, that implieth a carrying ourselves to all men with mercy, and all good fidelity in our relations as parents, children, husbands, wives, rulers, subjects. (3.) Godly, that implieth a holy subjection to God’s commanding and disposing will, and also an entire dependence upon him, and constant communion with him. Well, then, to do well is to humble ourselves for our sinful and miserable estate by nature, to implore God’s grace in Christ, and resolvedly to betake ourselves to a holy course, bridling our passions and affections, and taking more care for the soul than the body, that is sobriety. As to men, we must not only mind the negative, to prevent wrong, Alteri ne feceris quod tibi fieri non vis, not to do to others what we would not have them do to us; but the positive, as set down, Mat. vii. 12, ‘What ye would men should do unto you, do even the same unto them,’ that ye may do good to the uttermost of your power. As to God, that we love our Creator, and live to him, not breaking his laws for all the world. Therefore all those that prefer the body before the soul do not subordinate all things they affect to eternal happiness; that gratify the flesh to the wrong of the soul, they do not do good; all that are self-lovers and self-pleasers to such a degree that others are wronged, yea, so far as they are not helpful to others to the uttermost of their power, do riot do good; all that live in the neglect of God do not carry themselves with that reverence, delight, and trust which is due to so wise, good, and powerful a being as God is; they are not well-doers.278
[2.] Continuance in well-doing. We must continue this care of pleasing God in all the duties he hath required of us to the end: Luke i. 75, ‘In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives.’ In a journey it is not sufficient to go a mile or two, but we must hold on our course to the journey’s end; so we must never give over well-doing while we are in the world. Some are good for a pang or fit; but, ‘Oh, that they had a heart to fear me, and keep my commandments always!’ Deut. v. 20. The law bindeth continually, and grace planted in the heart should influence all our actions. God’s eye is always upon us, and we are every hour and moment anew obliged to him for his benefits; therefore our duty should last till we attain our end, lest we lose our crown, and the benefit of all we have done already. There are always the same reasons for going on that there were for beginning at first; the same bond of duty lieth upon you, the same hopes are laid before you, the same helps and encouragements, and there can be no temptation great enough to recompense this loss of glory, and honour, and immortality.
3. The manner of pursuit, with diligence and patience.
[1.] Diligence, ‘They seek it,’ which implieth not only a hearty desire, but an earnest endeavour: ‘First seek the kingdom of God,’ Mat. vi. 33, that is, with such an affection as is not controlled by other affections; this must be their chief business, all must give way to this. Many desire this glory, but they are soon put out of the humour, and take up with the pleasures, honours, vain delights, and profits of the world. Surely if we heartily desire it, something must be done in order thereunto, and done with all our might: John vi. 27, ‘Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat which endureth to everlasting life;’ Phil. ii. 12, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling;’ Phil. iii. 14, ‘Press towards the mark.’ You will never come to the enjoyment of this happiness with idleness and cold wishes; we must desire it so as to labour after it in the first place. Many do something, but it is little or nothing to the purpose; the strength of their endeavours runs in another channel. It may be they pray for it, but do not live, accordingly.
[2.] With patience, enduring all the hardships and difficulties that we meet with by the way. The good ground is described to be the good and honest heart, ‘That bringeth forth fruit with patience,’ Luke viii. 15. The other grounds brought forth fruit, but they did not bring forth fruit with patience; the stony ground was impatient of afflictions, the thorny ground impatient of the delay of the reward. They that have a deep sense of the other world can tarry God’s leisure: Heb. vi. 12, ‘Be ye followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises.’ Many troubles and dangers will attend a holy course, loss of estate, slanders of the wicked, hazards of life; but all these things we must endure, and submit to our trial, else our faith will never be found to praise and honour.
Secondly, It is applied to the Thessalonians, ‘Because our testimony among you was believed.’ As if he had said, Among which number I assuredly place you; that which is said of all believers belongeth to you; for you are of that number, for you have believed our testimony.
Doct. That those that truly and sincerely believe the apostle’s testimony 279concerning God’s good-will to sinners in Christ, are sure to have the honour and glory which he will bestow upon his servants at the last day.
To explain this point to you.
1. I suppose, and take for granted, that general promises may and ought to be applied to particular persons, rightly qualified, for other wise the promises were in vain; they must be applied to some or none; if not to these, to none. I distinguish between an inviting offer and an assuring promise. The inviting offer is universal to all, and puts in no exception against any to exclude them from the grace offered, if they will fulfil the condition; and they must not exclude themselves; as John iii. 16, ‘Whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.’ If you will repent and believe, the benefit may be yours as well as others’. Now this must be applied and taken as sent to us: Acts xiii. 26, ‘To you is this word of salvation sent.’ You must take it home to yourselves, for God promiseth and offereth you pardon and life if you will believe in Christ; this is to excite you, not to assure you. But then there is an assuring promise, which doth put all those that are qualified into the number of those that have obtained pardon and life by Christ, and give them confidence of their good estate, as all those places which do describe the heirs of salvation; as John i. 12, ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name;’ John v. 24, ‘He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life;’ and the like. Those promises suppose a qualification and performance of duty by the person to whom the promise is made; before we can be certain of our own interest and future enjoyment, we must not only perform the duty and have the qualification, but must certainly know that we have done that which the promise requireth, and are duly qualified. If it be so, then we not only apply the promise by way of excitement, but by way of assurance, and conclude with the apostle, 2 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.’ Of this sort is the present application to the Thessalonians. The apostle supposeth the sincerity of their faith: if Christ will be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe, he will be glorified in you, admired in you, because our testimony among you was believed.
2. That the great test of christians is believing; for the promises run everywhere in this strain: Mark xvi. 16, ‘He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;’ and John iii. 36, ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ Why? Because the gospel, which is God’s powerful means to recover us out of the apostasy, is firstly and mainly received by faith. Before we can give up ourselves to the Son of God, and submit to his healing methods, we must believe him; and there all things are so supernatural, both as to the person of the Redeemer, and his offices and benefits, that we cannot own him in that quality, nor receive his doctrine, nor obey his laws, nor depend with any assurance on his promises, without faith. Therefore when a lost sinner, that lieth under the wrath of God due to him for his former sins, 280would enter his plea and claim, and put in for a share in everlasting happiness and salvation, he must undergo this trial, whether he do believe in Christ, yea or no; for this is his entrance into christianity, and to believe is to become a christian.
3. It is not enough to consider whether we believe in any sort, but whether we do truly and sincerely believe; for many profess Christ that do not believe in him. Christ hath disciples in name and disciples in deed: John viii. 31, ‘If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.’ Again, there are some to whom the gospel cometh in word only, and not in power, 1 Thes. i. 5. They have a literal knowledge and apprehension of things, but it worketh no change in them, they are not renewed and changed.
Quest. How shall we distinguish the one from the other?
Ans. When the truths believed have an effectual power upon us, to change our hearts and reform our lives. So the apostle: 1 Thes. ii. 13, ‘When ye received the word, ye received it not as the word of men, but (as it is in truth) the word of God, which effectually worketh in you that believe.’ Look, as we judge of men’s knowledge of God by their carriage towards him: Titus i. 16, ‘Many profess to know God, but in their works they deny him.’ The Lord refuteth the claim of those that said, ‘My God, we know thee;’ Hosea viii. 2, ‘Ye have not followed the thing that good is.’ We profess God knoweth the heart, yet we never take care to purge it from corrupt lusts; we profess God hath a particular providence and care for his people, yet we shift for ourselves; we profess God is true, yet we believe him no further than we see him; so our believing in Christ may be judged of. It is not the speculative assent which cloth denominate us believers, but answerable walking. Many will honour Christ with their lips, give him all the titles which belong to the Redeemer and Saviour of the world, but they disregard his office and saving grace; they own the truth of eternal salvation by Christ, but they neglect this great salvation, Heb. ii. 3, never look after any interest in the happiness of the other world, nor make any serious preparation for the life to come, but wholly spend their time in pampering the flesh, or worldly cares and ambitious projects. These are not sincere believers.
4. The matter which we are to believe is the apostle’s testimony concerning God’s good-will to sinners in Christ. Here I will prove two things—
[1.] That christianity, or the doctrine of salvation by Christ, is a testimony. A testimony is a sort of proof necessary in matters that cannot otherwise be decided and found out by rational deduction or discourse; as in two cases—in things that depend upon the arbitrary will of another, and in matters of fact. In both respects is the gospel brought to us as a testimony. In the first respect by Christ, who came out of the bosom of God, and knew his secrets; as it is a report of matter of fact by eye and ear-witnesses, by the apostles.
(1.) A testimony is necessary in matters that depend upon the arbitrary will of another. If I be concerned to know how he standeth affected towards me, I must know it by his testimony. So God’s good will of saving sinners by Christ is not a thing that can be found out by the light of nature, therefore it is made known to us by testimony. 281 None can know God’s mind but God himself, and he to whom he will reveal it. So our Lord telleth us, Mat. xi. 27, ‘No man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.’ To save sinners, or restore the lapsed world by a redeemer, is not proprietas divinae naturae, a necessary act of the divine nature, but opus liberi consilii, an act of his mere grace, love, and compassion: John iii. 16, ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,’ &c. This wonderful work proceeded from the free motion of God’s will, and therefore was impossible to be found out by discourse of natural reason; for how could any man divine what God purposed in his heart before he wrought it, unless he himself revealed it to him? That Deus placabilis, God was appeasable, man might find out by the continuance of the course of nature, and the blessings of providence, notwithstanding our sin, and the need of an expiation and a propitiatory sacrifice; but for the way of appeasing God, how a man shall be pardoned and reconciled to God, and obtain eternal life, of this nature knew nothing. The angels, who are the highest sort of reasonable creatures, wonder at it when it is revealed, Eph. iii. 10, 1 Peter i. 12. Therefore they could never find it out before it was revealed. Upon the whole, the knowledge of the gospel merely dependeth on the testimony of God brought to us by Christ, who was sent to reveal his Father’s will.
(2.) A testimony is necessary in matters of fact. Matters of law are argued and debated by reason, but matters of fact are only proved by credible witnesses; and in this respect the gospel to us is a testimony that Christ came into the world, taught the way of salvation in that manner wherein it is now set down in the scriptures, wrought miracles, died for our sins at Jerusalem, rose again to confirm all, and cause faith in the world that he was the true Messiah; these things were to be once done in one place of the world, but yet the knowledge of them concerned all the rest of the world. All the world could not see Christ in the flesh, nor hear his gracious speeches, nor be present where he wrought miracles, died, rose again, ascended into heaven; and it was not necessary that he should always live here, and act over his sufferings in every age and every place; yea, the contrary was necessary, that he should but die once and rise again, and go to heaven; and those that live in other ages and places have only a valuable testimony of it.
[2.] That this testimony is given to the world by Christ and his apostles, as the messengers of God.
(1.) For Christ’s testimony; I will not speak of that now; he was the chief revealed by these mysteries, Amen, the faithful witness, Rev. iii. 14. And John iii. 33, ‘He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.’
(2.) The testimony of the apostles falleth under our cognizance. These were chiefly intrusted by Christ to reveal these things to the world, and had this office put upon them to be chosen witnesses of the death and resurrection of Christ: Acts i. 8, ‘Ye shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem and Judea, and the uttermost parts of the earth;’ Acts ii. 32, ‘This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we are witnesses;’ Acts x. 39-41, ‘And we are witnesses of all things he did,’ &c.; and other places. This witness is very valuable to produce a saving belief of 282christianity; for they had the testimony of sense, and were certain of those things they reported: 2 Peter i. 16, 17, ‘We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty,’ &c. They were men of great holiness and integrity, free from all suspicion of imposture and deceit: 1 Cor. xv. 15, ‘Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified that he raised up Christ, whom he raised not up again, if the dead rise not.’ They that were acquainted with them could not so much as suppose that such persons would teach an untruth; they were authorised by miracles: Heb. ii. 3, 4, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him: God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost?’ Now their testimony they gave by word and writing. (1.) By word, when they were alive, and went up and down preaching the gospel: Acts iv. 33, ‘With great power gave the apostles witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ;’ that is, doing things beyond the power and reach of nature. (2.) By writing, 1 John i. 12. Christ prayeth for all that shall believe through their word, John xvii. 20, meaning all believers in all ages.
Use 1. Information.
1. Of the nature of faith. It is the believing of a testimony. We cannot properly be said to believe a thing but by report and testimony. I may know a thing by sense and reason, but I cannot properly be said to believe it, but as I hear it affirmed, and as it is brought to me by some witness. We see those things which we perceive by the eye or sense of seeing; we know those things which we receive by a sure demonstration; but we believe those things which are brought to us by credible testimony. For instance, if any ask you, Do you believe the sun shineth at noon-day? you will answer, I do not believe it, but see it. If any one ask you, Do you believe that twice two make four, or twice three make six? you will say, I do not believe it, but know it; for certain reason teacheth me that each whole consists of two halves or moieties. But if he ask you, Do you certainly believe the sun is bigger than the earth? then you will answer, I do believe it, be cause you have good authority and testimony for it. Your eyes do not discover it, for then you would see it; neither doth any man, who is no scholar, know any certain demonstration of it; but philosophers and astronomers, who are competent judges in the case, do with one consent affirm it. [See Sermon on Acts v. 32.]
2. The ground of faith. It is Christ’s and his apostles’ testimony, or their word; and though we hear them not in person speaking to us, yet the evangelical doctrine which they delivered should find belief and entertainment with us. We have their word in writing, delivered down to us by a succession of believers unto this very day. Christianity hath held up its head against all encounters of time; the persecutions of adverse powers have not suppressed, nor the disputes of enemies silenced the profession of it. This testimony of Christ and his apostles hath been transmitted to us, partly by faithful men employed in the ministry of the gospel: 2 Tim. ii. 2, ‘The things thou hast heard of 283me, commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’ Partly by the ordinances of the church: Mat. xxviii. 19, 20, ‘Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;’ 1 Cor. xi. 26, ‘As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.’ Partly by the profession of christians, Isa. xliii. 10; ye are witnesses, trustees. Partly by the sufferings of many: Rev. xii. 21, ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death/ Partly by family instruction: Exod. x. 2, ‘That thou mayest tell it in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought,’ &c.; Exod. xii. 26, 27, ‘It shall come to pass when your children shall say unto you, What mean you by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover,’ &c. These being credible means, give us as good grounds of faith, as if we lived in the apostles’ time; and we may expect God’s blessing upon the means blessed by the Holy Ghost heretofore.
Use 2. To exhort you sincerely to believe this testimony, that you may make out your title to eternal life. It is now a testimony to us: Mat. xxiv. 14, ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.’ If we receive it not, hereafter it will be a testimony against us: Mark xiii. 9, ‘They shall deliver you up to the councils, and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.’ You are told of the punishment of the wicked and of the reward of the sanctified. Now you must assent to these things with your minds, that you may embrace the happiness offered with your affections, and practise the duties required with all diligence and seriousness. Dead opinions will never be taken for true faith; such dead opinions as are begotten in us by education, and the tradition of the country where we live, and possibly by some common illumination of the spirit, but have no life and seriousness in them: James ii. 14, ‘What will it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith? can faith save him?’ men may stand to it with great instance that they do believe, but it is but a dead opinion, therefore not saving.
Two sorts will never be allowed for true believers—(1.) The care less; (2.) The unsanctified.
1. The careless. They do not contradict the testimony of Christ, rather than positively believe it; talk by rote after others, but never seriously consider either the truth or weight and importance of the things which are to be believed: Mat. xiii. 19, ‘When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart,’ οὐ συνιεῖ, do not consider the necessity, end, and use of this doctrine. Faith is God’s work: Acts xvi. 14, ‘Lydia, who worshipped God, heard us, whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended to the things spoken of Paul.’ If you would be counted believers, you must rouse up yourselves: Heb. ii. 3, ‘How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?’ &c.
2. The unsanctified. Both the characters in the text. The contrary 284practice is a denying of the faith, 1 Tim. v. 8, that cannot endure this strict life, love a sinful, sensual life, coldness in duty. The strength of your faith must appear by the fervour of your duties and seriousness of your endeavours, 2 Thes. i. 11, 12. If there be cold prayers and carnal conferences, slightness in religion, it shows you do not believe the gospel. You may know a believer by his affection, diligence, self-denial, and his faith and fear; as Noah: Heb. xi. 7, ‘By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark,’ &c.
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