« Prev Sermon XXXI. October 15, 1693. Next »

SERMON XXXI.3333   October 15, 1693.

James ii. 23.

And the scripture was fulfilled, &c.

7. THAT God doth effectually make such souls to under stand, that in his return to them he will be reconciled without expecting satisfaction from them for all the injuries that they have done him. Turn they must, there is an absolute necessity of it. But he makes them understand that this their turning is not for any recompence to him. It is a friendly signification when he doth (as it were) say to them, You are lost if you do not turn, if there be not serious, unfeigned, evangelical repentance: But know that this repentance of yours is no recompence to me, it is not the thing that shall make me your friend. That cannot be, for he gives this repentance. He hath granted (it is said) to the Gentiles repentance unto life. Acts xi. 18. But it is necessary to make you capable of relishing the pleasures of my friendship, which you never can do if you do not turn to me. If your hearts still remain strange and 400disaffected, there cannot be a friendship between you and me. Not that your repentance signifies any thing to induce me to be your friend; but only to make you capable of relishing my friendship, and of entertaining a friendly commerce with me. As men can have no friendly commerce with one another, unless there be a mutual inclination of mind towards each other; if there be but a disinclination on one side, there can be no friendly converse.

And as much as the gospel speaking thus, and it is the constant tenor of it, that God in being reconciled to sinners expects from them no satisfaction for their own sin, it must needs be that whenever he deals with a soul, in order to the settling a friendship between him and it, he must impress this (which is the very sum and sense of the gospel) upon their spirits. They must be gospelized by it; have their hearts framed according to this import of the gospel, which is, that he never expects from a sinner satisfaction for his sin. Nay, so far from that, that it may be under stood, and must be understood, if the gospel be understood aright, for the highest affront imaginable to the Redeemer for any man to offer at making satisfaction for his own sin; yea, and the highest affront imaginable to the offended Majesty of Heaven, to suppose it possible that such a wretch and worm as I can make a satisfaction to the eternal God, for having wronged him by the least wrong that I ever did him. It is to make the Majesty of Heaven cheap to suppose that possible: and therefore by the tenor of the gospel that must be the remotest thought in all the world.

It is to usurp upon and invade the Redeemer’s office. 1 Pet. ii. 24, quoted from Isaiah liii. 8. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” “He appeared once in the end of the world, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Heb. ix. 26. And having by himself purged our sins, expiated our guilt (for that is a grand part and a fundamental one of their wanting of that purgation) he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having done this by himself. So that if a sinner should offer at such a thing to make satisfaction, what will he say? Dost thou touch him with thy work? This is a thing I do by myself. This is part of my sacred office; dost thou touch my work? Hands off, it belongs to me.

And it is to suppose the Majesty of Heaven cheap and mean, and to suppose the Redeemer impotent, to think that the sinner should expiate his own sin and make God amends, when he hath committed this thing entirely to his 401own Son. Thus it is that he doth gospelize the spirits of sinners, when he is designing to make them his indeed, to bring them into a state of friendship with him. That though there be most tender relentings, and deepest debasement and humiliation, and they could lay themselves even as low as hell at the foot “of the mercy seat, yet for all this, it is the remotest thing in all the world for them to imagine they can satisfy the Divine Majesty in the least, give the least satisfaction for the least offence or wrong that they have done. Therefore whereas this is the voice of the gospel, “Turn and ye shall live,” and, I expect no compensation from you for any of the injuries you have done me, you that have lived in continual neglect of me all your days, wandering from and rebelling against the God of your lives,—if you turn I will be reconciled to you freely; I will most freely forgive you; the pardon and the peace that I am ready to afford you shall cost you nothing; and whatsoever is requisite to your present safe, and future happy state, shall be without the least expense to you. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah lv. 1. Never trouble yourselves for money, for it shall cost you nothing. Those mercies, that flow as waters from a most exuberant and abundant fountain; those gracious, those spiritful communications meant by milk and wine, these shall all stand you in nothing; you shall have all freely if you will come. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.” Why this is a strange way to induce men to be reconciled to God, and to become friends with him. You will say, I have offended him highly, lived long in continual neglect of him and rebellion against him; how shall I see his face? How shall I hold up my head before him? What shall I render to him by way of recompence? Shall it be thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil? Alas! I cannot command them, and they would signify nothing if I could. If this whole world were mine, and I could make it one flaming sacrifice to his offended wrath and justice, it would avail nothing. Oh! to have any such objection seasonably and aptly obviated! Why, all that you need, it shall be given without price. Without price! what, such previous things as I need, and must have, or I must perish? Yes, be they never so precious. “The Son 402of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Do not think it will reach but to a few. Be they never so many, it is a ransom of sufficient value. “He gave himself a ransom for all, (see 1 Tim. ii. 6.) to be testified in due time.” That is, he offered so full a ransom, that if there were never so many to be saved, there needs no addition to the value of the ransom. And none can fall short of being saved, for that reason, because the ransom was too little, because it would not answer the exigencies of the case. That can never be objected.—“To be testified in due time.” I rest on that passage, too faintly rendered, and so as to hide from us the true and full significancy of it; “he gave himself a ransom, a testimony;” there is no more than so; Which being read as a parenthesis, those words (in due time) are connected with the former, he gave himself a ransom in due time, in the proper appointed time. A testimony; yea, a wonderful testimony. Christ upon the cross! What a testimony is this of the reconcileableness of God to sinners! What pretence hath the unbeliever, or any heart, against the speakingness and significancy of this testimony? When you see Christ dying, and Christ a ransom to redeem sinners by a reconciling sacrifice, is not that a sufficient testimony of the Divine good will? You see this in far lower instances: he did not leave himself without witness, when there was no more to be seen of his kindness, propension, and good will to men, but giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons. But, oh! what a witness is this, when he gives his Son to die as a ransom upon the cross! when he is set forth (as the expression is) “to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.” Rom. iii. 25. A mighty testimony to the grace of God, and a mighty testimony against the unbelief of men. He gave himself a ransom; and here was the testimony that God is ready to receive returning sinners, and to be reconciled to them without any price paid by them. Having such a ransom, such a price paid down already for them; so that now, sinners, whoever you are, that live under the gospel, you have not this pretence left against making haste to be reconciled unto God—“I have highly offended him, I have wronged him; I can make him no recompence, no satisfaction.” This is to add wickedness to your sin, to think of making him a satisfaction. He never leaves that upon you; you have not that to say against returning presently, and falling with a broken heart at the footstool of the throne 403of grace. You are not to insist upon this; it would be wickedness to stand upon it, to think of making him satisfaction. No, you have nothing to do, but only to fly to him for mercy, implore his mercy, be at his foot; there will be peace between him and you. He is willing to be reconciled, and it shall cost you nothing. And then lastly as to this former head, in the 8th place,

8. He thus at length brings about actual covenanting between himself and the sinner. That covenant into which they enter is a covenant of reconciliation, a covenant of peace, a league of amity, in which they take him for their reconciled God, through Christ the great Mediator of this covenant, and give up themselves as reconciled ones to be of his people. He brings them to this, desists not, gives not over the treaty with such as* do believe to righteousness and salvation, till matters be brought to this issue and result. A covenant is struck between him and them. The sinner seeing this state of the case, I must perish if I do not turn; if I do turn, reconciliation and pardon and acceptance with God, will cost me nothing, I shall have all freely; then I have no more to say, but to resign and say, Lord, I take thee for my reconciled God; I give up myself to thee as a reconciled one, to be of thy people. Here is the issue and result of things between God and sinners. Then, when he is dealing with them, in order to the producing of that faith in them, upon which they are justified and saved. . . . . Now the state of friendship is settled, and all things are concluded between him and them by a solemn covenant. “Now (saith he,) I have the sinner reduced and under bonds, safe and happy bonds, I am content to be under bonds myself to him; at the same time I require him to be bound, I bind myself. I will be a God to thee, though thou hast been an offending creature.” And so the poor soul it hath no more to do but to accept God for his God, and to resign himself to him as a reconciled one, to be of his people. Now, I say, the state of friendship is settled by all this between God and the sinner; and being so, there are sundry other great expressions of friendship consequent upon the settlement of this state. As,

1. That God takes possession of such an one as his own. He takes an entire possession of him. Now thou art mine; not in right and title only as thou wast before, and as all the creation is, but mine by consent, mine by covenant; mine by claim, and thy own solemn act indeed. He accordingly takes possession of the soul as his own; comes in 404upon it with the fulness of that Spirit that designs here to fix his abode, and vouchsafe its constant inhabiting presence.

I told you, before, the distinction between the Spirit’s visiting and the Spirit’s dwelling; and, if you will, of its building and its inhabiting. In all the former “work it did visit, and it was a building preparing for itself. Whatsoever was done or wrought in the soul in all the forementioned kinds, it was all the work of that Spirit approaching the soul, and forming it for the purposes for which it was designed. And being so prepared and formed, now it comes and inhabits the soul so prepared and brought into such a state by the Spirit: for it is now its temple. It is become a temple. He was to build first; he finds all in ruins and rubbish; the ruins of an old temple. But now there is a new fabrick erected. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you;” 1 Cor. iii. 16. In whom we are builded together, that is, in Christ; in whom the foundations are laid of this temple, and who is himself the original temple, replenished with the fulness of God. “Destroy this temple (meaning his body,) and in three days I will raise it up again.” Here, I say, was the original temple, and the model and platform of that temple, which every regenerate person becomes upon union with him. All are brought as so many lively stones to that “living corner stone, and so built up a spiritual house.” 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5. And so that, “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephes. ii. 22. Here, ergo, now the Holy Ghost is to dwell—a mighty friendship! I will have my very spirit be in you. “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. I will put it into you, so that there it shall have a fixed abode. Hereby we know that he dwelleth in us and we in him, by the Spirit that he hath given us. That is the mutual indwelling which speaks the nearness of the union, and is indifferently expressed by God’s dwelling in us and our dwelling in him. We could know nothing of this, but by the Spirit in its vital and discernible operations. By the Spirit that he hath given us, (which is an active, powerful principle in us,) we know that he dwells in us and we dwell in him; it speaks itself by efforts that may be felt, that are most perceptible. And,

2. He hereupon holds a continual communion with such souls; that is it for which he will dwell with them by his 405Spirit, in order to constant converse; as they that cohabit can converse together more freely and more constantly than others. Indeed, cohabitation is not fully expressive of this case, of this mutual inhabitation, which comes a great deal nearer; so that the conversation that can be between them who inhabit in the same walls, and under the same roof, is too defectively expressive of vital communion, that living intercourse which is between God and such souls: for as he doth inhabit by his Spirit, he converseth by his Spirit. This fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, but by the Spirit, called the communion of the Holy Ghost. Compare 1 John i. 3, with 2 Cor. xiii. 14. That fellowship which believing souls are said to have with the Father and with the Son, is called the communion of the Holy Ghost: the immediate agent between the blessed God, Father, and Son, and the soul, that must move and work towards him. And so this communion is not like that between men and men, be they never so near and never so dear to each other, never such friends; they cannot converse but by words or by external signs and tokens. But here is an immediate converse of spirit, a vital converse; the Holy Spirit moving the soul inwardly, and making it move under its motions back again towards God in Christ: for God is not to be conversed with otherwise than in his Christ. And so the matter differs as to this sort of operation by the renewed soul, from the operations that are exerted and put forth in it, by way of preparation and introduction unto this state of friendship; for in those the soul is but passive, barely passive, it is wrought upon; but now it conies to be active; it is so acted upon as to procure a continual re-acting, and it is so in every gracious act. Such is the vouchsafement of grace on God’s part, and such the exigency of the case on the soul’s part, that there shall not be one act but, saith God, I will have a hand in it. He mingles with the renewed spirit in every gracious act that this communion speaks. As it is in playing on a musical instrument, there is no string that sounds untouched, and every string as it is touched; here is action and re-action throughout; so it is in this communion between God and the soul through Christ and by the Spirit.

Here is the greatest friendliness imaginable on his part to bring it about and procure that a soul which was alienated, from him, and a stranger and disaffected to him, which chose to live at the utmost distance from him, now acts all in God. “He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his 406deeds may be manifest, that they are wrought in God.” John iii. 21. There are such works, such motions, such modencies, such suspirings in the soul, as speak him to be the author; as carry their own proof, their own evidence in them, that they are wrought in God. Men would be no such thing if God were not in the matter. But O! what friendliness is this, that he will procure that there should be such a converse, such an intercourse; his own blessed Spirit mingling with the spirit of a poor soul, which he hath now put his own impression upon, and gives his vital formative touch unto. 3. His friendship appears upon all this, that now he taketh all due care of their growth, of their improvement in all spiritual excellencies. He takes continual care, I say, of their growth, all due care, all that it befits and becomes him to take. And you must know, that his friendliness in this thing is not to be estimated merely by the success, by their actual discernible growth and improvement; because his care and his agency must be suitable to the subject. This the divine decorum doth require, that his agency should be suitable to the subject, and the subject must be considered as an intelligent subject. And, ergo, how are such to grow? They are not to grow as the lilies of the field, not to grow as the grass and trees grow, without any thing of care and concern. Indeed, we are directed by our Saviour, in reference to our external concerns, to be void of all perplexing care, considering how the lilies of the field grow without it. But there is no such thing directed with reference to our souls and spiritual concernment. But we are there put upon seeking and striving to the very utmost. Seek first the kingdom of God, principally, with all the intentions of your souls. That kingdom of God, which in its first and inchoate state must be within us, that we are to intend and take care of, and to labour every day to have our spirits near, and more cultivated and wrought into a compliance with, and subserviency to, the laws and rules of that kingdom: this must be our business. Our souls ought to be a garden, a paradise, which we are to till and cultivate, and to take a continual care of. Therefore, I say, that the friendliness that is to be seen in the care of God for our growth, is not to be estimated merely by our discernible growth, but several other ways. As,

1. By the kindness of his design: he designs our spiritual increase. And,

2. By the aptness of the means that he useth thereunto, both internally and externally.

(I.) Internally, He hath implanted vital principles capable 407of growing, capable of improving, a new life, a new nature, whose tendency is to perfection.

Natura intendit perfectissimum. It is an universal law, concerning all nature, that it ever intends that which is most perfect. And certainly the new nature is not most unnatural, it is not the least of all natural; it doth not deviate from and fall below the rules of universal nature. He hath implanted principles which naturally tend to perfection, and that affords continual influences to co-operate with and cherish those principles from that Spirit; from which it is possible he may retire, may be grieved, and so infer miserable infeeblements and languishments upon the deserted soul, deserted in a degree, and deserted for a time. And,

(2.) He affords the most suitable external means. The sincere milk of the word is to be received for that very purpose, that we may grow thereby; and we are directed continually to supplicate and draw down by believing, by the exercise of that principle of faith, influences from above that may cherish all the rest, and to have that faith exercised and breathing in all the external duties and acts of worship, which from time to time are to be performed. And herein there is a great appearance and demonstration of God’s friendliness towards regenerate souls. He so far takes care of their growth, doing what becomes and befits the wisdom of a God to do in his dealings with intelligent creatures, reasonable spirits now inspired from himself, and planted with new principles from above; yea, and in this matter his friendliness must be owned to appear,

(3.) In the very rebukings themselves, which he gives, when, through slothful neglect, languishings do ensue. For we must know, that such decays as are consequent upon the Spirit’s being grieved, and retiring and withdrawing in a degree, are at the same time faults and chastisements. If my spirit languisheth, be faint and feeble, this is a defect,—the want of that spirit and liveliness that should be in me, and, ergo, blameable. But it is corrective also; “thine own backslidings shall reprove thee.” Jer. ii. 19. See now “that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken me,” that thou hast withdrawn thyself, that thou hast retired and neglected me: “thy own backsliding? shall reprove thee,” And then,

(4.) The friendliness that appears in that care, which God takes of our spiritual growth, is seen in the excellency of the plant that is to grow, or whose growth or improvement 408he takes this care of. And what is that? A divine and heavenly principle, and all additional degrees, by the accession whereof it is said to improve and grow. They hold to the kind, they are congenerous, and are of the same kind. So that if there be growth, there is always a suitable communication from heaven, from God, which is in its own kind and nature a divine and heavenly thing. That grace which is to grow, is an heaven-born thing; a thing born of God. It is God’s own production; yea, it is his very image; for the creation is his production—he hath made all things. But this is a production of his own image, his very likeness. The new man is created after God. He is himself at once the author and exemplar of this work and production. Ephes. iv. 24. “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Coloss. iii. 10. God Is now introducing his own image into the soul, when he is new creating it. And this is a work not to be done in the dark; it “is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Now (as if he should say) I am now going to raise up a new creation in a dark, dead, ruined, desolate, forlorn soul: It is a glorious work I am about, let it be beheld, let it come into the light. I will have the soul itself know what I am doing upon it: it is renewed in knowledge, a light shining upon the soul, by which it may perceive that God is bringing in upon it his own likeness. Mighty friendliness this is. As it is often a way wherein a man expresses his kindness to his friend, by giving him his picture, so doth God express his friendliness, gives his picture, and gives it so inwrought into the soul itself. Wherever thou goest, I will have thee carry my picture, even in thy breast. Great friendliness. And this is an image that can grow; for it is a living image, not a dead show. It is a vital image that is capable of improvement, and growing liker and liker, and still of growing liker and liker, as the image is. “By beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. iii. 18. What a mighty friendliness is this! But then I should come, in the fourth place, to shew

4. What friendliness he expresses towards the soul, upon its backsliding, after all. How graciously he recalls the backsliding soul, and what his workings towards it are herein and hereupon. But methinks the hearing of all this should set many an heart on work among 409us. Oh, who would not have such a friend? Who would want such a friend, if he be to be had. If friendship with Him be a possible thing, Oh, why should I live upon earth without it? They are dark and gloomy days wherein generally men go from morning to night, and know nothing of this friendly converse with Him. Oh, why should not my soul be open to the entertainment of such a friendly overture? Why should not I fall in with it? Why should such a day be lost to me? Why should such a day as this be past over? the day of treaty betwixt the blessed God and wretched souls. Why should I lose such a day, and not be immediately and out of hand taken into this blessed state of friendship with God, and give up myself absolutely and entirely to him? But now to proceed:

« Prev Sermon XXXI. October 15, 1693. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection