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CHIEF HEADS OF THE SERMONS.
And his disciples asked him, saying. Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. P. 1.
The circumstance of this blindness, thus expressed in the words of the first verse, was the occasion of those words that follow in the two next; in which we have,
1. A question of Christ’s disciples. The design of the proposal may be twofold. (1.) Simply and positively as their opinion, really judging all maladies of the body to come from the antecedent demerit of sin, as past and actually committed, or as future and foreknown by God, 2. (2.) Only for argument sake, 3.
2. The answer or rejoinder of Christ, in which, by a reprehensive shortness, he both clears the man’s innocence, and vindicates God’s proceedings, 4.
The words thus cleared briefly exhibit to us the erroneous curiosity of the disciples, in their inquiry into the reason of God’s judgments, and the state of another man’s soul: the design of them is prosecuted in three propositions, 7.
I. That men are prone to charge God’s judgments upon false causes. And,iv
1. These false causes are shewn; which are. (1.) Sin on his part that suffers, 8. (2.) Hatred on God’s part, 9.
2. The principles are shewn, inducing men to make such false references: and these are, (1.) The fallibility of the rule, and the falseness of the opinion by which they judge, 11. (2.) Their inability in discerning, joined with their confidence in pronouncing, 13. (3.) The inbred malice of our nature, 15.
II. That not always the sin or merit of the person afflicted, but the will of God that afflicts, is sometimes the sole, but always the sufficient reason of the affliction, 17.
In support of which, God’s own testimony, Job xlii. 7, is produced; a distinction is made between punishments and afflictions, 18. and God’s proceeding herein cleared from injustice upon these reasons: 1. His absolute, unaccountable dominion and sovereignty over the creature, 18. 2. The essential equity of his nature, 20. 3. His unerring, all-disposing wisdom, 23.
III. God never inflicts evil upon men but for the great end of advancing his own glory, and that usually in the way of their good.
This is sufficiently clear in the present instance, 24. and expressed in those words of the text, that the works of God might be made manifest in him. The works that God intends thus to glorify, usually are, 1. The miraculous works of his power, 25. 2. The works of his grace, 27.
The use and improvement of the doctrine thus discussed is a confutation and reproof of the bold, uncharitable interpreters of God’s providences; whose peremptory way of judging is peculiarly odious to him for the cursed cause of it, curiosity; which may be properly accounted the incontinence of the mind, and is but one remove from the rebellion of it, 30.
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. P. 33.
After man had once sinned, and so was for ever disabled vto stand before God upon terms of the law, which spoke nothing but irrevocable death to him who transgressed in the least iota, had God continued this inexorable sentence, it would of necessity have wrought in man these two things:
1. Horror of despair, 33.
2. Height of malice, 34.
God therefore assumes to himself the most endearing description in these words; which consist of two parts, 37.
I. A declaration of mercy in these words, There is forgiveness with thee; and the greatness of it is displayed in the consideration of three things.
(1.) The principle from which it flows. It is from the free, spontaneous motion of God’s good pleasure, 37. This evinced by sundry reasons, 38. His mercy shewn to be consistent with his justice, 40. and the former to be made glorious, first, In the relaxation of the law, which required of every sinner a satisfaction in his own person; second, That, as he was pleased to be satisfied with a surety, so he himself found and provided this surety, 41.
(2.) The sins that are the subject-matter of it: and the greatness of the pardon advances upon considering them, as they are heightened by these two properties; 1. Their number, 45. 2. Their greatness, 47.
(3.) The persons on whom this pardon is conferred, who are men; that is, very worthless and inconsiderable creatures, in comparison of those to whom the same pardon is denied, 49.
II. The end and design of such a declaration, which is fear and obedience; under which head are shewn,
1st, What that fear is, which is here intended. Now there are three sorts of fear. 1. An anxious, distracting, amazing fear; such as Moses felt upon the sight of God, 51. 2. A slavish and servile fear; such an one as is called the spirit of bondage, 52. 3. A filial, reverential fear; such an one as is enlivened with a principle of love: which is that alone that is designed in these words, 52.
2dly, How God’s forgiveness may be an argument to enforce this fear. As, (1.) because the neglect of the fear of viGod, upon supposal that he has forgiven us our sins, is highly disingenuous, 54, (2.) Also most provoking and dangerous, 55.
Hence we learn, 1. The different nature of Christ’s spiritual kingdom from all other kingdoms in the world, in respect of the fear of the subject, 56. 2. Upon what ground every man is to build the persuasion of the pardon of his sins, namely, the effects this persuasion of God’s mercy works upon their spirits: for he, that from God’s mercy gathers no arguments for his fear, may conclude thus much, that there is indeed forgiveness with God, but no forgiveness for him, 57.
PREACHED JUST AFTER CROMWELL’S DEATH.
Yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear unto this day. P. 59.
God’s miraculous favours to the children of Israel are shortly enumerated, and their invincible hardness, strange unbelief, and frequent rebellion under them. An interchange of mercies on God’s part and murmurings on theirs being the continual custom and manner of their whole life, Moses might well accompany the repetition of the covenant, with this upbraiding reprehension, 59-61.
From the several phrases of the same signification in the text, we may collect the exceeding stupidity and total ignorance of the Jews, in apprehending the divine dispensations; or refer them to those several means which God suited to every apprehensive faculty of their soul, that he might force his convictions upon them, 62.
The words afford us these observations.
1 Observ. That the heart may remain unaffected and unconvinced in the midst of convincing means; so termed, (1.) Because they do actually convince some, though they miscarry in others. (2.) Because they have a fitness or aptitude to convince all, 62, 63.vii
2 Observ. That a perceiving heart is totally and entirely the free gift of God: free, 1. in respect of the motive; 2. in respect of the persons on whom it is conferred, 63.
3 Observ. That God’s denial of such a perceiving heart does certainly infer (but not cause) the unsuccessfullness of all the means of grace, 64. In handling of which is shewn,
I. What is meant by God’s giving to the soul a perceiving heart; which is here set out by such acts as are properly acts of knowledge, as understanding, seeing, hearing; not because grace is placed only in the understanding, as some imagine; but, 1. Because the understanding has the precedency and first stroke in holy actions, as well as others, 65. 2. Because the means of grace are most frequently expressed by the word of truth, and the understanding is that faculty, whose proper office it is to close in with truth as such, 65.
To have a perceiving heart is not, 1. To understand and receive the word according to the letter and notion, by a bare assent to the truth of it, 67. But, 2. To have a light begot in the mind by an immediate work of the Spirit, whereby alone the soul is enabled to apprehend and discern the things of God spiritually, and to practise them effectually, 67.
II. Whence it is, that without this gift the soul cannot make any improvement of the means of grace. It arises from two reasons;
1. From its exceeding impotence and inability to apprehend these things, 70.
2. From its contrariety to them, which chiefly consists, (1.) In carnal corruptions, 73. (2.) In carnal wisdom, 75.
III. That although, upon God’s denial of a perceiving heart, the soul remain unprofitable under the means of grace, so as not to hear nor perceive; yet this unprofitableness cannot at all be ascribed to God a the chief author of it, 77.
God’s denial of a perceiving heart admits of a double acceptation.viii
(1.) It implies only a bare denial of grace. Now it is not this denial that causes us to reject the means of grace, but the immediate sinfulness of the heart, 77.
(2.) It includes also a positive act of induration. Now God, without begetting any evil disposition in the heart, may harden it to sin; first, By affording a general influence or concurrence to the persuasions or suggestions of Satan or sinful men, so far as they are natural acts, 79. Secondly, By disposing and offering such objects and occasions, which though good in themselves, yet concurring with a corrupt heart have a fitness to educe that corruption into act, 79. Thirdly, By affording his concurrence to those motions that such objects and occasions stir up in the soul, so far as they are positive and natural, 80.
IV. How God can justly reprehend men for not hearing nor perceiving, when upon his denial of an heart there is a necessity lying upon them to do neither, 81 .
For clearing this, it is already shewn, that God’s denial of an heart is not the cause of the necessity of the soul’s not perceiving, but its own native hardness. Now this hardness is the immediate product of the sin of Adam, which was most free and voluntary; and every man is as really guilty of this sin, as he was really represented in Adam, 81.
Application. Use 1. This doctrine speaks refutation to that opinion, that states a sufficiency of grace in the bare proposal of things to be believed and practised, 82.
Use 2. is of exhortation; that in the enjoyment of the means of grace we should not terminate in the means, but look up to God, who alone is able to give an heart to improve them, 85.
PREACHED MAY 29.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which ixproceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me. P. 87.
These words contain two general parts.
I. The promise of sending the Spirit: wherein we have a full description of him,
1. In respect of his person; he is said to proceed from the Father. There has been great controversy between the Latin and Greek churches concerning his procession: the former holding that he proceeds equally from the Father and the Son; and the latter, that he proceeds from the Father only by the Son, 87.
2. In respect of his office or employment in these two things. (1.) That he is a Comforter, 89. (2.) That he is the Spirit of truth, 92.
He is a Comforter, because he is the Spirit of truth: and truth has this comforting influence upon the mind; (1.) From the native congenial suitableness that it has to man’s understanding, 93. (2.) From the sovereign virtue it has to clear the conscience; first, from guilt, 95. secondly, from doubt, 96.
II. The end of his being sent, which was to testify of Christ.
In which are considered,
1. What the Spirit was to testify of Christ; which was, that he was the Son of God, the Messias, and Saviour of the world, 97.
2. By what ways and means he was to testify this of him; which were the gifts conferred by him upon the disciples; three of which seem more eminently designed for the great purpose of preaching the gospel. (1.) The gift of miracles, 97. (2.) The gift of tongues, 98. (3.) That strange, undaunted, and supernatural courage he infused into the disciples, 98.
A full reflection upon what has been said will furnish an infallible rule for trying men’s pretences of the Spirit. If they find not only comment, but text also, and plead the spirit in defiance of the letter; it is not God’s Spirit that acts them, but the spirit of darkness and desolation, that xruins government and subverts kingdoms. But thankfully and forgetfully to accept our oppression, the king’s restoration is commemorated as the work of the Holy Ghost, carrying in it such bright testimonies of a supernatural power, so much above, nay against the means and actors visibly appearing in it, that it may properly be expressed in those words, Zech. iv. 6. Not by might, nor by strength, but by my spirit, saith the Lord, 100.
Now, though the chief subject of the text was the Holy Spirit, yet it seems to point both at the Pentecost and the Trinity; for in the words we have,
1. The person sent, which was the Holy Ghost.
2. The person sending him, which was the Son.
3. The person from whom he is said to proceed, which was the Father. All employed in man’s salvation: the Father contriving, the Son ordering, and the Spirit performing, 102.
From the whole passage may be collected two things:
1. God’s gracious love and condescension to man, 104.
2. The worth of souls: the salvation of which is never left to chance; all the persons of the Trinity being solicitous to comfort them in this world, and at length to waft them to a better, 104.
But a wounded spirit who can bear? P. 106.
Few men being kept from sin but merely by the check of their fears representing to them the endless, insupportable torments of another world, as the certain, consequent, and terrible reward of it; atheists, who shake these fears off, are admonished, that God can antedate the torments they disbelieve, and, by what he can make them feel, teach them the certainty of what they refuse to fear, 106.
By way of explanation of the words is premised, 1. That by spirit is meant the soul, in which there is a lower or inferior xipart, the sensitive faculties and appetites; and a more noble portion, purely intellectual in operation, as well as in substance, perfectly spiritual, 108. 2. By being wounded is to be understood, its being deeply and intimately possessed with a lively sense of God’s wrath for sin, 109.
The sense of the words then lies full and clear in this one proposition, viz. That the trouble and anguish of a soul, labouring under a sense of God’s displeasure for sin, is in expressibly greater than any other grief or trouble whatsoever, 109. which is prosecuted under the following particulars; shewing,
I. What kind of persons are the proper subjects of this trouble, viz. both the righteous and the wicked, but with a very different issue, 110.
II. Wherein the excessive greatness of this trouble doth appear; which may be collected, 1st, From the behaviour of our Saviour himself in this condition, 112. 2dly, From those raised and passionate expressions that have been uttered by persons eminent in the ways of God, while they were labouring under it, 114. 3dly, From the uninterrupted, incessant continuance of it, 119. 4thly, From its violent and more than ordinary manifestation of itself on outward signs and effects, 120. 5thly, From those horrid effects it has had upon persons not upheld under it by divine grace, 122.
III. By what ways and means this trouble is brought upon the soul: four ways instanced, 1st, By dreadful reflections upon divine justice, as provoked, 124. 2dly, By fearful apprehensions of the divine mercy, as abused, 125. 3dly, By God’s withdrawing his presence, and the sense of his love from the spirit, 127. 4thly, By God’s giving commission to the tempter more than usually to trouble and disquiet it, 129.
IV. What is God’s end and design in casting men into such a perplexed condition, 131. 1st, For the wicked or reprobate, it is but the first-fruits of hell, and the earnest of their damnation, 132. 2dly, For the pious and sincere. God xiidesigns it, 1st, To imbitter sin to them, 132. 2d, To endear and enhance the value of returning mercy, 133.
V. The inferences to be drawn from the whole are,
1st, That no man presume to pronounce any thing scoffingly of the present, or severely of the final estate of such as he finds exercised with the distracting troubles of a wounded spirit, 135.
2dly, Let no secure sinner applaud himself in the presumed safety of his spiritual estate, because he finds no such trouble upon his spirit for sin, 136.
3dly, Let no person exclude himself from the number of such as are sincere and truly regenerate, only because he never yet felt any of these amazing pangs of conscience for sin, 137.
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. P. 139.
By this expression, I sware in my wrath, is meant God’s peremptory declaring his resolution to destroy the murmuring and rebellious Jews, 139. The word swearing is very significant, and seems to import,
1. The certainty of the sentence here pronounced, 140.
2. The terror of it; if the children of Israel should say, Let not God speak to us, lest we die, 140. As for the word rest, we must admit in this scripture, as well as in many others of the like nature, a double interpretation; 1st, A temporal rest in Canaan the promised land, 141. 2dly, An eternal rest in the heavenly Canaan, 141.
The words thus explained are drawn into one proposition, viz. That God sometimes in this life, upon extraordinary provocations, may and does inevitably design and seal up obstinate sinners to eternal destruction, 142. The prosecution is managed under these particulars:
I. Shewing how and by what means God seals up a sinner xiiito perdition. There are three ways by which God usually does this:
1. By withholding the virtue and power of his ordinances, 142.
2. By restraining the convincing power of his providences, 144. And there are three sorts of providence instanced, in which God often speaks convincingly. 1st, In a general, common calamity, 145. 2dly, By particular, personal, and distinguishing judgments, 147. 3dly, By signal, unexpected deliverances, 149-
3. By delivering up a sinner to a stupidity or searedness of conscience, 151.
II. Shewing what sort of obstinate sinners those are that God deals with in this manner: which are, 1st, Such as sin against clear and notable warnings from God, 154. 2dly, Such as sin against special renewed vows and promises of obedience made to God, 156.
III. Answering and resolving two questions that may arise from the foregoing particulars:
1. Whether the purpose of God passed upon an obstinate sinner (here expressed by God’s swearing against him) be absolutely irrevocable? Concerning which it is affirmed that the scripture is full and clear for it, 158.
2. Whether a man may know such a purpose to have passed upon him antecedently to its execution? In answer to which, from a consideration of the ordinary ways by which God imparts his will to men, namely, 1st, By his word, 160-162. 2dly, By men’s collection of it from its effects, 162. It is affirmed, that no man in this life can pass any certain judgment concerning the will of God in reference to his own final estate, 162. But here is observed a wide difference between the purpose of God hitherto discoursed of, and that which the schools call God’s decree of reprobation. 1st, Because that decree is said to commence upon God’s good pleasure and sovereign will, but this purpose upon the provocation of the sinner. 2dly, Because that decree is said to be from all eternity; but this purpose xivis taken up after some signal provocation, 163. from all which,
IV. We are exhorted to beware of sinning under sin-aggravating circumstances, 164. and shewn the danger of dallying with and venturing upon the Almighty, by a daring continuance in a course of sin, 166.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
In the words we have two particulars, wherein we may consider,
I. An assertion made, There is no God.
1. The thing asserted, which may be understood, 1st, Of an absolute removal of the divine being and existence, 169. or, 2dly, Of a removal of God’s providence, by which he governs and takes account of all the particular affairs of the world, and more especially of the lives and actions of men, 169.
2. The manner of the assertion, The fool hath said in his heart, it wears the badge of guilt, privacy, and darkness, 169.
By the fool’s saying in his heart, There is no God, may be implied,
1. An inward wishing that there was no God, 171.
2. His seeking out arguments to persuade himself that there is none, 172.
3. Not only a seeking for reasons and arguments, but also a marvellous readiness to acquiesce in any seeming probability or appearance of reason, that may make for his opinion, 174.
4. Another way, different from all the former: for a man to place his sole dependence, as to his chief good and happiness, on any thing besides God, is (as we may so speak) virtually and by consequence for him to say in his heart, There is no God, 176.xv
II. The second particular considered is, the person who made this assertion, the fool, whose folly will appear from these following reasons:
1. That in making and holding this assertion, he contradicts the general judgment and notion of mankind, 177, 178.
2. That he lays aside a principle easy and suitable to reason, and substitutes in the room of it one strange and harsh, and at the best highly improbable, 179.
3. His folly appears from the causes and motives inducing him to take up this opinion, which, amongst others, are, 1st, Great impiety, and disquiet of conscience consequent thereupon. 2dly, Great ignorance of nature and natural causes, 181, 182.
4. From those cases in which such persons begin to doubt and waver, and fly off from their opinion, instanced, 1st, In the time of some great and imminent danger, 182. 2dly, In the time of approaching death, 183.
The modern and more thoroughpaced sinners affect a superiority in villainy above their ancestors; therefore this discourse against atheism is supposed to be of some use; and if so, the most proper use is, to give every one of us a view and prospect into his own heart: and such as are willing to watch over that, so as to prevent this monstrous birth, are advised to beware,
1. Of great and crying sins, such as make the conscience raw and sick, 184.
2. Of discontents about the cross passages of God’s providence towards them, 184.
3. Of devoting themselves to pleasure and sensuality; there being nothing in the world that casts God out of the heart like it, 185.
PREACHED ON THE 29th OF MAY, AT WESTMINSTER-ABBEY.
Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered xvinot the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. P. 187.
The resemblance between the transactions of Providence with the children of Israel in their redemption from Egypt, and with ourselves in the restoration of the royal family, being briefly considered, 187. to shew how like we are to them for their miraculous ingratitude, we must observe three things in the text:
I. The unworthy and ungrateful deportment of the Israelites towards God upon a most signal mercy and deliverance; they provoked him; which expression seems to import an insolent, daring resolution to offend; and, as it relates to God, strikes at him in a threefold respect:
1. It rises up against his power and prerogative, 190.
2. It imports an abuse of his goodness, 191.
3. It is an affront upon his longsuffering and his patience, 192.
II. The second thing to be observed is, the aggravation of this deportment from the nature and circumstance of the deliverance, They provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. The baseness and ingratitude of which God casts in their teeth, by confronting it with the glorious deliverance he vouchsafed them; a deliverance ennobled with these four qualifications: 1st, Its greatness, 193. 2dly, Its unexpectedness, 195. 3dly, The eminent seasonableness of it, 199. 4thly, Its absolute undeservedness, 201. Our case is severally shewn in the above particulars to be parallel to that of the Israelites, and likewise in the return made to God for his goodness.
III. The third thing observable is, the cause of this misbehaviour, They understood not thy wonders in Egypt. Now in every wonderful passage of Providence two things are to be considered, 205.
1. The author by whom it is done, 205.
2. The end for which it is done: neither of these, in the cases before us, were understood by the Israelites, nor have been attended to by us as they ought to have been, 206.xvii
Howbeit, this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. P. 208.
It was a general received command, and an acknowledged rule of practice in all ages and places of the Christian world, that we are to hear the church; which, being acted by the immediate guidance of the Holy Ghost, hath set apart the time of our Saviour’s fasting in the wilderness, to be solemnized with the anniversary exercise of abstinence, for the subduing the flesh and quickening the spirit, 208.
As for the words, among other expositions, they are more judiciously interpreted of an evil spirit having had long and inveterate possession of the party out of whom it was cast, and the sense of them, as improvable into a standing, perpetual precept, is this; that there are some vices which, partly by our temper and constitution, partly by habit and inveterate continuance, have so firm an hold of us, that they cannot be throughly dispossessed but with the greatest ardour and constancy of prayer, joined with the harshest severities of mortification, 211.
In the text are two parts:
1st, An intimation of a peculiar duty, prayer and fasting.
2dly, The end and design of it, which is to eject and dispossess the unclean spirit. The entire discussion is managed in three particulars:
I. In taking a survey of the extent of this text, 212.
This duty of fasting admits of several kinds and degrees: The 1st kind is of constant, universal exercise; universal, both because it obliges at all times, and extends to all persons, 212. The 2d, is a fast of a total abstinence, when for some time we wholly abstain from all bodily repasts, 214. The 3d, is an abstinence from bodily refreshments in respect of a certain sort or degree, and that under took for some space of time, 216. This head is closed with a caution, that the observation of fasting in this solemn sea son should be so strict, as not to bend to any man’s luxury; xviiiso dispensable, as not to grate upon his infirmity of body, 219.
II. In shewing what are the qualifications that must render this duty of fasting acceptable to God, and efficacious to ourselves, 222.
There are four conditions or properties, a joint concurrence of all which is a necessary qualification of it for this great purpose. 1st, That it is to be used, not as a duty either necessary or valuable in itself, but only as an instrument, 222. 2d, That it be done with a hearty detestation of the body of sin, for the weakening of which it is designed, 227. 3d, That it be quickened and enlivened with prayer, 229. 4th, That it be attended with alms and works of charity, 231.
III. In shewing how this duty of fasting comes to have such an influence in dispossessing the evil spirit, and subduing our corruptions, 233.
It does not effect this, either, 1st, by any causal force naturally inherent in itself, 233. neither, 2dly, by way of merit, as procuring and engaging the help of that grace that does effect it, 234. But it receives this great virtue, 1st, From divine institution, 234. 2dly, By being a direct defiance to that disposition of body and mind, upon which especially the Devil works, 234. But when we have taken all these courses to eject the evil spirit, we must remember that it is to be the work of God himself, whom the blessed spirits adore, and whom the evil obey, 236.
SERMONS XXXV. XXXVI.
Repent; or I will come unto thee quickly, and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. P. 237. 268.
It is wonderful upon what ground a rational, discerning man can satisfy and speak peace to his conscience in the very career of those sins, which, by his own confession, lead him to assured perdition, 237. One would think that the cause of it must of necessity be one of these three:xix
1st, That he is ignorant of the curse attending his sin, 238. Which cannot he here the cause.
2dly, That he may know the curse, and yet not believe it, 239.
3dly, That though he knows and believes the curse, yet perhaps he relaxes nothing of his sin, because he resolves to bear it, 239.
But it is shewn that it can proceed from neither of these reasons; therefore the true one is conceived to be a presuming confidence of a future repentance: other reasons indeed may allure, this only argues a man into sin, 241. Now the face of these words is directly set against this soul-devouring imposture of a deferred repentance. In the prosecution of them it will be convenient to inquire into their occasion. In the 12th verse we find, they are part of a letter to the church (here collectively taken, as including in it many particular churches) of Pergamos, indited by the Spirit of God, and directed to the angel, that is, the chief pastor of that church, 242.
The letter contains a charge for some sinful abuse that had crept in, and was connived at, ver. 14. This abuse was its toleration of the Nicolaitans, whose heresy consisted in this, 1st, That they held and abetted the eating of sacrifices offered to idols to be lawful. 2dly, That they held and abetted the lawfulness of fornication, 244.
It likewise contained the counsel of speedy and immediate repentance in the words of the text, in which are two parts:
1. The first stands directed to the church itself; Repent, or I will come unto thee quickly. God’s coming is shewn to mean here his approach in the way of judgment, 245.
2. The other part of the words relates to those heretics And I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth; that is, with the reprehending, discovering force of the word, and the censures of the church, 248. From this expression these two occasional observations are collected:
1. That the word of God powerfully dispensed has the force and efficacy of a spiritual sword, 249.xx
2. When God undertakes the purging of a church, or the reformation of religion, he does it with the weapons of religion, with the sword of his mouth, 250.
The general explication of the words thus finished, the principal design of them is prosecuted by enforcing the duty of immediate repentance; which is done,
1st, In shewing what that repentance is that is here enjoined, 252.
Repentance in scripture has a threefold acceptation.
1. It is taken for the first act, by which the soul turns from sin to God, 253.
2. It is taken for the whole course of a pious life, from a man’s first turning from a wicked life to the last period of a godly: which is the only repentance that Socinus will admit. But this is not the proper notion of repentance; 1st, Because then no man could properly be said to have repented till his death, 253. 2dly, Because scripture, no less than the natural reason of the thing itself, places repentance before faith, 254. 3dly, Because scripture makes all those subsequent acts of new obedience after our first turning to God, not to be the integral, constituent parts, but the effects, fruits, and consequents of repentance, 254.
3. Repentance is taken for a man’s turning to God after the guilt of some particular sin, 255.
II. Arguments are produced to engage us in the speedy and immediate exercise of this duty, which are,
1. That no man can be secure of the future, 256.
2. That supposing the allowance of time, yet we cannot be sure of power to repent, 259.
3. That, admitting a man has both time and grace to repent, yet by such delay the work will be incredibly more difficult, 263. And the delay of this duty is most eminently and signally provoking to God, upon these reasons:
1. Because it is the abuse of a remedy, 269.
2. Because it clearly shews that a man does not love it as a duty, but only intends to use it for an expedient of escape, 270.
3. Because it is evidently a counterplotting of God, and xxibeing wise above the prescribed methods of salvation, to which God makes the immediate dereliction of sin necessary, 271.
After the general nature of this subject, follows a consideration of it in particular. The grand instance of it is a death-bed repentance; the efficacv of which, having been much disputed in the world, is here discussed under two heads:
I. This great case of conscience is resolved, whether a death-bed repentance ever is or can be effectual to salvation, 273. Several arguments against it being stated and answered, 273. six positive arguments are produced to prove and assert it.
1. That such a repentance, commenced at the last hour of a man’s life, has de facto proved effectual to salvation, 283.
2. Is taken from the truth and certainty of that saying, owned and attested by God himself, that if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted, according to that a man hath, and not according to that a man hath not, 284.
3. Because repentance saves not, as it is a work, or such a number of works, but as it is the effect of a renewed nature and a sanctified heart, from which it flows, 286.
4. If to repent sincerely be a thing at the last moments of our lives impossible to be done, then, for that instant, impenitence is not a sin, 287.
5. That to deny that a death-bed repentance can be effectual to salvation, is a clear restraint and limitation of the compass and prerogative of God’s mercy, 287.
6. That if a death-bed repentance cannot possibly be effectual to salvation, then a sinner upon his death-bed, having not repented before, may lawfully, and without sin, despair,
II. Supposing a death-bed repentance may prove effectual, yet for any one to design and build upon it before hand is highly dangerous, and therefore absolutely irrational; which appears from these considerations:
1. From the exceeding unfitness of a man at this time, above all others, to exercise this duty, 290.xxii
2. That there can be no arguments, from which either the dying person himself, or others by him, can certainly conclude that his repentance is sound and effectual, 292.
In fine, this alone can be said for it, (and to a considering person no more need to be said against it,) that it is only not impossible, 295.
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. P. 296.
Where the construction of the text lies so, that we cannot otherwise reach the full sense of it without making our way through doubts and ambiguities, philosophical discourses are necessary in dispensing the word, 296.
The present exercise therefore consists of two parts.
I. An explication of the words: for the scheme of the Greek carries a very different face from our translation, which difference renders the sense of them very disputable, 296.
The explication is comprised in the resolution of these four inquiries:
1. Whether the translation rightly renders it, that Christ was declared to be the Son of God, since the original admits of a different signification, 297.
2. What is imported by this term, with power, 299.
3. What is intended by the following words, according to the spirit of holiness, 300.
4. How those words, by the resurrection from the dead, are to be understood, 301.
II. An accommodation of the words to the present occasion, which is in shewing, first, how Christ’s resurrection may be a proper argument to prove his divinity and eternal sonship, 303. next, that it is the greatest and principal of all others, 306,xxiii
And for this we may observe, that it is not only true, but more clear and evident than the other arguments for the proof of the truth of Christ’s doctrine, when we consider them as they are generally reducible to these three:
1. The nature of the things taught by him, 307.
2. The fulfilling of prophecies in his person, 309-
3. The miracles and wonderful works which he did in the time of his life, 310. And though these were undoubtedly high proofs of Christ’s doctrine, yet his resurrection had a vast preeminence over them upon two accounts.
1. That all the miracles he did, supposing his resurrection had not followed, would not have had sufficient efficacy to have proved him to be the Messias. But his resurrection alone, without relation to his preceding miracles, had been a full proof of the truth of his doctrine; which appears upon these two accounts: 1st, That considered absolutely in itself, it did outweigh all the rest of his works put together, 311. 2dly, That it had a more intimate and near connection with his doctrine than any of the rest, 311.
2. Because of the general opinion and judgment that the world had of both, 311.
The Jews and unbelievers never attempted to assign any causes of the resurrection besides the power of God, so as by that means to destroy the miraculousness of it; though they constantly took exceptions to Christ’s other miracles, still resolving them into some cause short of a divine power; which exceptions may be reduced to these two heads:
1. The great difficulty of discerning when an action is really a miracle, 313.
2. Supposing an action is known to be a miracle, it is as difficult to know whether it proves the truth of the doctrine of that person that does it, or not, 314. But neither of these exceptions take place against the resurrection. For,
1st, Though we cannot assign the determinate point where the power of nature ends, yet there are some actions that at first appearance so vastly transcend it, that there can be no suspicion that they proceed from any power but a divine, 317.xxiv
2dly, Should God suffer a miracle to be done by an impostor, yet there was no necessity hence to gather, that God did it to confirm the words of that impostor: for God may do a miracle when and where he pleases, 317.
In much wisdom there is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. P. 320.
This assertion is taken up upon Solomon’s judgment, who, by the very verdict of omniscience itself, was of all men in the world the most knowing. After premising that, in speaking to the text, the patronage of ignorance, especially in things spiritual, is not intended; but if any thing is indeed said against knowledge, it is against that only that is so much adored by the world, and falsely called philosophy; and yet more significantly surnamed by the apostle, vain philosophy, 320.
To rectify the absurd opinions of the world concerning knowledge, and to take down the excessive estimation of it, in the prosecution of the words, it is demonstrated to be the cause, or at least the inseparable companion of sorrow in three respects, 323.
I. In respect of the nature and properties of the thing itself, 324. Under this head a question is started, whether or no there be indeed any such thing as true knowledge in the world? And three reasons advanced, which seem to in sinuate that there is none, 325. And then the uncertainty of knowledge, its poorness, and utter inability to contribute to the solid enjoyments of life, is shewn in several theological and philosophical problems, 327-
II. In respect of the laborious and troublesome acquisition of it: in setting forth which, the scholars labour is considered with that of the soldier and the husbandman, and a view is taken of those callings to which learning is necessary, the physician, the lawyer, and the divine, 329.
III. In respect of its effects and consequents, three whereof are instanced.xxv
1. The increase of knowledge is an increase of the desire of knowledge, 333.
2. Knowledge rewards its followers with the miseries of poverty, and clothes them with rags, 333.
3. Knowledge makes the person who has it the butt of envy, the mark of obloquy and contention; which considered, men are advised to make him that is the great Author, also the subject of their knowledge. For though there is a vanity, a sorrow, and a dissatisfaction in the knowledge of created, inferior objects, yet we are assured, that it is life eternal to know God, and whom he has sent, his Son Christ Jesus, 335.
If I regard Iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. P. 338.
The resolution and model of this whole Psalm, which is David’s grateful commemoration of all God’s mercies, together with a retribution of praise being given, and therein the occasion and connection of these words, 338. They are considered two ways; 1st, As they have a peculiar reference to David and his particular condition, and so they are a vehement asseveration of his integrity, 340. 2dly, Absolutely in themselves, and so they are applicable to all men, 341. And being resolved, as they lie in supposition, into a positive assertion, they afford this doctrine; Whosoever regards iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear him. In prosecution of which is shewn,
I. What it is for a man to regard or love sin in his heart, which he may be said to do several ways.
1. There is a constant and habitual love of sin in the unregeneracy and corrupt estate of the soul, 34,.
2. There is a regarding of sin in the heart, that consists in an unmortified habit or course of sin, much different from the former, because even a child of God may thus regard sin, 345. Which may be evinced, 1st, From example, 346. 2dly, From scripture-reason, which is grounded upon those xxviexhortations that are there made even to believers for the mortification of sin, 347. And the soul may thus love sin two ways; 1st, Directly, and by a positive pursuance of it, 347. 2dly, Indirectly, and by not attempting a vigorous mortification of it, 348.
3. There is another kind of regarding sin in the heart, and that is, by an actual intention of the mind upon sin, 348.
II. What it is to have our prayers accepted with God: and this is to prevail with God for the obtaining the good thing we desire, by virtue of an interest in Jesus Christ, and in the covenant of grace, 350. Several objections to this doctrine stated and answered, 351.
III. Whence it is that a man’s regarding or loving sin in his heart hinders his prayers from acceptance with God.
1. Because in this case he cannot pray by the spirit, 355.
2. Because he cannot pray in faith; that is, he cannot build a rational confidence upon any promise, that God will accept him, 356.
3. Because he cannot pray with fervency, which, next to sincerity, is the great qualification of prayer, to which God has annexed the promise of acceptance, 358.
By way of application, the duty of sincerity in our worship is pressed from these two motives: 1st, By praying to God with insincere, sin-regarding hearts, we incur the certain frustration of all our prayers, 360. 2dly, In such prayers we are not only certain not to gain a blessing, but also we incur the danger of a heavy curse, 360. And to direct us how to pray with sincerity, this rule is laid down, to endeavour first to prepare our hearts by a thorough and a strict examination, 362.
God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. P. 363.
The words are plain, and need no explication; therefore, xxviiafter premising some things concerning God’s attributes in general, 363. this doctrine is drawn from them, not much different from the words themselves, viz. That God is an all-knowing God, 366. This is indeed a principle, and therefore ought to be granted; yet since it is now controverted and denied by the Arminians, 366. and the Socinians, 367. it is no less needful to be proved. In prosecution of this,
I. The proposition is proved, and that both by scripture, 368. and by reason, 369. tinder this head we are exhorted to the knowledge of God in Christ, 369.
II. Is shewn the excellency of God’s knowledge above the knowledge of men or angels, 371. And this appears,
1. From the properties of this knowledge. Now its first property is the exceeding evidence, and consequently the certainty of it, 371. Its second property is this, that it is a knowledge independent upon the existence of the object or thing known, 373. For God beholds all things in himself, and that two ways; 1st, By reflecting upon his power, and what he can do; he has a perfect knowledge of all possibilities, and of things that may be produced, 373. 2dly, By reflecting upon his power and his will; he knows whatsoever shall be actually produced, 373.
2. The excellency of God’s knowledge appears in respect of his objects, which are all things knowable; but they may be reduced to three especially, which God alone perfectly knows, and are not to be known to men or angels. 1st, The nature of God himself, 374. 2dly, Things future, 374. 3dly, The thoughts of men, 379.
III. Is shewn, by way of application, that the consideration of God’s omniscience may serve as an argument to press several duties upon us. 1st, It must be a strong motive to bring us to a free confession of all our sins to God, 380. 2dly, It may enforce us to an humble submission to all God’s commands and directions, and that both in respect of belief, 382, and of practice, 383. 3dly, That as we are commanded to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, we should endeavour to resemble him in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, that we make a true judgment of every xxviiithing relating to our temporal or eternal happiness or misery, 385.
A FAST SERMON, PREACHED IN 1658.
But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? P. 387.
We are called this day by public authority to the work of humiliation; and the occasion of this work is the deplorable eruption of a sad distemper in sundry parts of the nation; and the cause of this, we are to know, is sin.
In this chapter we have the example of a fast celebrated by heathens, (the men of Nineveh,) but worthy of the imitation of the best Christians, 387.
Here are several things considerable.
1. Jonah’s denunciation of a judgment of God impendent upon them.
2. Their humiliation upon the hearing of this judgment; in which fast or humiliation there is considerable,
I. The manner of it; which consists in two things: 1st, The external humiliation of the body, 388. 2dly, An internal, spiritual separation from sin, 388.
II. The universal extent of it, and the particular application of it, ver. 8.
III. The motive of it, which was hope of mercy, and a pardon upon the exercise of this duty.
The words will afford six considerations, which are here discussed.
1st Observation. The consideration of a judgment approaching unto, or actually lying upon a people, is a sufficient argument for fasting and humiliation: 1st, Because in every judgment God calls for humiliation; they are the alarms of the Almighty, by which he terrifies and awakens xxixsleepy souls, 389. 2dly, It deserves our humiliation: though this be an unpleasing duty to the flesh, yet it is abundantly countervailed by the greatness of the trouble it does remove, 390.
2d Observation. The affliction of the body is a good preparative to the humiliation of the soul: 1st, Because the operations of the soul do much follow the disposition and temper of the body, 391. 2dly, Because afflicting of the body curbs the flesh, and makes it serviceable to the spirit, 391.
3d Observation. The nature of a fast especially consists in a real, sincere separation from sin. The truth of this will appear from these considerations; 1st, That fasting is a spiritual duty, 394. 2dly, The nature of a fast chiefly consists in a separation from sin, because this is the proper end of it, 395.
4th Observation. National sins deserve national humiliation, 397. 1st, Because a general humiliation tends most to solve the breach of God’s honour, 398. 2dly, Generality gives force and strength to humiliation, 398.
5th Observation. The best way to avert a national judgment, is for every particular man to inquire into and amend his own personal, particular sins. This is proved, 1st, Be cause particular sins oftentimes fetch down general, universal judgments, 398. which God sometimes inflicts upon that account, 1st, To shew us the provoking nature of sin, 399. Or else because, though the sin is particular in respect of the subject and cause of it, yet it may be general in respect of its contagion. 2dly, Because if there were no personal, there could be no national sin, 400. 3dly, Because God takes special notice of particular sins, 402. 4thly, No humiliation can be well and sincere, unless it be personal and particular, 403.
6th Observation. Upon our serious humiliation for, and forsaking of our sins, there is sufficient argument in God’s mercy to hope for a removal of the severest judgment, 405. which will appear, 1st, Because God has promised it, 405. 2dly, Because God has often removed judgments upon a xxxsincere humiliation, 407. 3dly, Because in this God attains the ends of his judgments, 407.
MATTHEW v. 3.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. P. 411.
Our Saviour begins his sermon in the mount with seven or eight such propositions as are paradoxes and absurdities to the maxims and practices of the carnal world; and these he ushers in with the text, in which we have two things considerable.
1st, A quality, or disposition recommended by our Saviour, which is poverty of spirit, 411. In treating whereof,
I. The nature of this poverty of spirit is declared,
(1.) Negatively, by shewing what it is not; as,
1. A mere outward indigence, and want of all the accommodations of common life, 412.
2. A sneaking fearfulness and want of courage; there being nothing base in nature that can be noble in religion, 414.
(2.) Positively, by shewing what it is; and it may be said properly to consist in these two things:
1. An inward sense and feeling of our spiritual wants and defects, 417.
2. A sense of our miserable condition by reason of such want, the wretchedness whereof appears from these two considerations: (1.) That we are unable, by any natural strength of our own, to recover and bring ourselves out of this condition, 420. (2.) That during our continuance under it we are exposed, and stand obnoxious to all the curses of the law, 423.
II. The means are shewn, by which this poverty of spirit may be obtained, 425. Now there are three ways by which, through the concurrence of the Holy Ghost with our endeavours, we may bring ourselves to it:
1. By a frequent, deep, and serious considering of the relation we stand in towards God, 426.xxxi
2. By being much in comparing ourselves with the exceeding exactness, perfection, and spirituality of the divine law, 431.
3. By making a due and spiritual use of all those afflictions and cross events, that the providence of God is pleased to bring us under, 434. The
Second general head considered is, the ground and argument upon which this poorness of spirit is recommended; namely, that it entitles him who has it to the kingdom of heaven, 436. In the words, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, two things are worthy remark. 1. The thing promised, the kingdom of heaven; which here signifies not only the future state of glory allotted for the saints in the other world; but that whole complex of blessings, that is exhibited to mankind in the gospel, 437. 2. The manner of the promise; which is in words importing the present time; not theirs shall be, but theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
SERMONS XLIII. XLIV.
JOB viii. 13.
The hypocrite’s hope shall perish.
Sincerity and hypocrisy are the two great things about which the whole stress of the gospel is laid out; namely, to enforce the one, and to discover and detect the other, 440.
Two things explained, to clear the words. 1. What is meant by the hypocrite: all hypocrites may be comprehended under these two sorts. (1.) The gross dissembler, who knowingly pursues some sinful course, endeavouring only to conceal it from the eyes of men, 440. (2.) The for mal, refined hypocrite, who deceives his own heart, and is the person spoken of in the text, 441.
2. What is meant by his hope, which is, those persuasions a man has, that he is now in a state of grace, and consequently shall hereafter attain to a state of glory: and this hope may be distinguished into two degrees; 1. A probable opinion, 442. 2. A peremptory persuasion, 442.xxxii
After these premises, the words cast themselves into two propositions, 443.
First, That an hypocrite may proceed so far as to obtain an hope and expectation of a future blessedness. The prosecution whereof lies in three things:
I. Proving that the hypocrites have such hopes. This evinced by two arguments:
1. From the nature and constitution of man’s mind, which is vehement and restless in its pursuit after some suitable good, 443.
2. From that peace and comfort that even hypocrites enjoy; which are the certain effects, and therefore the infallible signs, of some hope abiding in the mind, 445.
II. Shewing by what ways and means the hypocrite comes first to attain this hope; which are four:
1. By misapprehending God, 448. in his attributes of justice, 450. and of mercy, 451.
2. By misunderstanding of sin, 452. and from undervaluing the nature of sin in general, he quickly passes into a cursed extenuation of particulars, 453.
3. By mistakes about the spiritual rigour and strictness of the gospel, which he looks upon to be all mercy without justice, 454. Several texts instanced, which he first misunderstands, and then draws to his own purpose, 455.
4. By his mistakes about repentance, 457. conversion, 459. and faith, 459. Whence a caution is given to such as think they stand, to beware lest they fall, and still to fear, that that hope is scarce sure enough that can never be too sure, 461.
III. Shewing how the hypocrite continues and preserves his hopes. Three ways particularly instanced:
1. By keeping up a course of external obedience, and abstaining from gross, scandalous sins, 465.
2. By comparing himself with others, who are openly vicious, and apparently worse than himself, 469.
3. By forbearing to make a strict and impartial trial of his estate, 470.
Second proposition. That the hypocrite’s fairest expectation xxxiiiof a future happiness will in the end vanish into miserable disappointment, 472. For the prosecution of which,
I. The proposition itself is proved, 1. From scripture, 473. 2. From the weakness of the foundation upon which his hope is built, 476.
II. Those critical seasons are shewn, in which more especially his hope will he sure to fail him. As, 1. In the time of some heart-breaking, discouraging judgment from God, 478. At the time of death, 480.
III. An application is made of the whole discourse, by displaying the transcendent misery of the final estate of all hypocrites, 482.
SERMONS XLV. XLVI.
PSALM xxix. 9.
I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. P. 486. 515.
All the duties of a Christian are reducible to these three; faith, obedience, and patience: and the vital principle that animates them all is submission. This great virtue is here recommended to us by a great pattern, 486.
In the text are these two general parts:
1. David’s submissive deportment under a sharp affliction, 487.
2. The reason of such his deportment, which was the procedure of that affliction from God, 487.
The words being a full lecture of patience, and designed to argue us into an absolute submission to the divine will in our most severe distresses, are prosecuted in two things:
I. In declaring the nature and measures of this submission. This is done,
1st, Negatively, by shewing that it does not consist in an utter insensibility of, or unconcernment under an affliction, 488. for lie who is so insensible, 1. robs God of that honour he designs to himself from that afflicting dispensation, 489. and, 2. renders every affliction befalling him utterly useless to all spiritual purposes, 489. Nor,xxxiv
Secondly, does this submission restrain us from praying against any calamity inflicted or approaching, 490. Or,
Thirdly, exclude our endeavours to prevent or remove an affliction, 491.
2dly, Positively, by shewing what this submission is; namely, a quiet composure of the whole man under any calamity, distress, or injury; and requires,
(1.) A submission of the understanding to God, 493.
(2.) A perfect acquiescence of the will, and resignation of it to God’s will, 495.
(3.) A composure and serenity in our passions and affections, 497.
(4.) A suppressing of all hard and discontented speeches, 499.
(5.) A restraint of all rage and revenge against such as are the instruments of God, 502.
By way of deduction are inferred three things:
(1.) The worth and excellency of such a submissive, composed frame of spirit, 506.
(2.) The difficulty of attaining to it: which appears, 1. From that opposition which a man is to conquer, 508. 2. From that mean opinion which the generality of men have of such a temper, 509.
(3.) The necessity of an early and long endeavour after it, 511.
II. In shewing the reasons and arguments for this submission, as the suffering person stands related to God, 515.
Every thought which a man can possibly conceive, either of God or of himself, aright, will strongly enforce this duty: but six things in God are particularly instanced for this purpose.
(1.) His irresistible power, 51 6.
(2.) His absolute, unquestionable dominion and sovereignty over all things, 519.
(3) His infinite and unfailing wisdom, 521.
(4.) His great goodness, benignity, and mercy to all his creatures, 524.xxxv
(5.) His exact and inviolable justice, 527.
(6.) His gracious way of treating all patient and humble sufferers, by turning every thing to their advantage at last, 528.
This submission has three noble qualities, as it stands related to the foregoing considerations.
1. The necessity, 531.
2. The prudence, 533.
3. The decency of it, 536.
The foregoing discourse may teach us an art that all the wisdom of the world cannot teach; which is, by acquiescing cheerfully and entirely in the good pleasure of Almighty God, to make ourselves happy in the most afflicted, abject, and forlorn condition of life, 539.xxxvi1
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