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SERMON XLVI.4848   Preached June 10, 1694.

1 John v. 1.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.

BUT now I might add in the next place,

Eighthly, It is a creature endowed with a most generous liberty, that disdains, that cannot be patient of servitude; the sons of God must be free born. This is evident, and hath been elsewhere spoken to and opened. But then,

Ninthly, It is a creature of a very peculiar benignity and goodness. Who would expect it to be otherwise? When you hear of a God-like creature born into this world, what would you look to find it, but a creature made up of goodness? The Spirit is the immediate regenerator, the great agent in this work. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John iii. 6. And we are told, Ephes. v. 9, “That the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness.” It lies in an universal goodness; here iii the product, this is that God-like thing that is now produced. When one is said to be born of God, he is a creature 575made up of goodness; it is the production of the Holy Ghost, the Divine Spirit; “and the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness.” And it is added, “righteousness and truth too,” which we have spoken of before. Every one that doth righteousness is born of God, and the children of God are children that will not lie, but abhor falsehood. But they are also an offspring of great benignity, of most extensive and diffusive goodness.

I apprehend it may be worth the while to insist upon this, because that there is not another thing wherein the divine nature and likeness are more expressed and held forth in the work of regeneration than in this thing; in no other respect rather or more than this is God said to be the Father of such, or they to be born of God. And, oh! that we may, I for my part speak, and you hear as those that apprehend the weight and importance of what is now to be spoken; we are in all these things distinguishing the divine seed and offspring from the children of the worst of fathers; and there is no middle state between these two; we must either be born from above or born from beneath; no middle state, speaking of morals, when we speak of naturals we know there can be but one author of nature; but as to morals, two great parents and fathers divide the world, and one of them you must call so. They that are not born of God his own word concludes concerning them, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do,” John viii. 44. But now see wherein a divine production appears and shews itself to be such; here is somewhat be gotten, born of God, that appears like God in this, as a thing made up of goodness. And here I shall more distinctly consider,

i. What objects this goodness hath reference to in them. And,

ii. Wherein, or in what exertions it shews itself towards such objects.

i. What objects it refers to. You must still consider that an imitation of the divine goodness; that supposed all along as that wherein this creature is a God-like creature. It is a God-like creature as it is a most beneficent creature; and it being the goodness of beneficence, or beneficent goodness that we are to speak to under this head; we shall have somewhat further under another order of heads, to consider what may admit of the same name, but will be of somewhat a different kind. But our present discourse it is to be confined unto “beneficent goodness, and being so we 576are not now at this time to consider God as one of the objects that this goodness hath reference to. “My goodness extendeth not to thee,” saith the Psalmist (speaking of such goodness,) Psalm xvi. 2; but, as was said, it being an imitation of the divine goodness, it must respect such objects as divine goodness, which is beneficent, doth respect, and they are of two sorts; there is a more general, and there is a more special object of the divine goodness, as hath been largely shewn upon another occasion. God’s goodness hath,

(i.) A general object. “The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works;” so diffusive, so flowing is his goodness, the whole earth is full of it. The whole earth—a more surprising instance of the extensiveness of it could not have been given. The whole earth—this stage of wickedness, where constant rebellions against the Majesty of Heaven have been in continued succession from age to age, and from generation to generation acted. The whole earth is full of his goodness; a thing that should not only convince, but amaze that it should be so.

Why, such is the goodness of this creature that is born of God proportionally extensive—“As you have opportunity, do good unto all men,” Gal. vi. 10; a goodness that must flow every where, as far as one can, that must diffuse and spread itself to our very uttermost. As you have opportunity—supposing there be an ability and power, then there needs nothing more than opportunity. If there be opportunity, let this goodness exert itself; this shall shew you a God-like sort of creatures, born of God, bearing his image; he doth good to all—“as you have opportunity do you do good to all.”

When he had it in design to raise up to himself a seed, a new creation in the world, it must be understood it should be such as it was fit for him to own as the peculiar parent of this offspring. What? shall I raise up a new seed to be but like other men? Is this like to God? when he was to do a new thing in the world, to raise up a new sort of people, that they should be but just like the old? Think what men arc naturally, and as they grow up from the old stock; every one minds his own things, every one is for himself, cares not what becomes of others, what becomes of this world. But this creature, born of God, is of a large comprehensible spirit, it measures with the universe, not narrow, not clung, not contracted; it bounds (comparatively) private interest, my good is the good of the creation, It is spoken as a most 577peculiar character of this seed, that when all else do naturally mind their own things, as the apostle speaks concerning Timothy, he doth as naturally mind the things of another, of his neighbour, as if he had no private interest of his own at all. God will have it known that in this second creation of his, this new attempt, when he was to raise up a people, a seed out of a common universal ruin, I will do such a thing in the world as shall make the world look about them, and wonder to behold what new sort of people are sprung up among them. That whereas they have ever himself for his end, himself for his measure, every one being for himself; here is a people that are off from self, a self-denying people, a self-abandoning people, made up of goodness, and making that goodness to flow as far as ever it can; for it is a divine goodness, and they make this goodness disperse like God’s, they make it to flow to the uttermost they can.

It must be so, when you consider that this being born of God, and that every such divine birth, doth spring out of believing Jesus to be the Christ: whoso believeth, is born of God, and is a Christian indeed, and honours the Christian name. What, shall the world be Christianized and made nothing the better?—made Christian, and not made good? How unlike God were this!—how mean and low a design would that be! If they be Christians, they must be good men, and so appear born of God: when they are changed, when they become Christians, they become imitators of his goodness; otherwise, how despicable is the performance of the Son of God in this world, when he is to raise up other sons that shall be just as the rest of men are? But then,

(ii.) This goodness it hath a special object too, even as the divine goodness which it imitates hath—“My goodness extends not to thee”—but to whom then? eminently, principally, to the saints that are in the earth, those excellent ones “in whom is all my delight.” Psalm xvi. 3. God takes pleasure in his people; he loveth the righteous; he hath a peculiar love, good will, and kindness towards those that he doth regenerate, that are born of him. And so they that are born of him have a peculiar kindness and goodwill unto one another, as the text speaks—“Whosoever loveth him that begat, loveth also them that are begotten of him.” It cannot but be so, as there is opportunity to do it, good must be done to all, but “especially to those who are of the household of faith,” Gal. vi. 10. They that bear the same image, that have the same nature, that spring from the same father, and are of the same seed, this goodness must 578have a more peculiar reference and tendency to such; and it will argue our not being of his seed, not being children of this Father, if all be alike to him, if his kindness be not distinct, if he be as well pleased with the conversation of the one sort as of the other. But then,

ii. Besides the consideration of the objects of this goodness, we must consider wherein it shews itself, and in what exertions it appears towards its object—why,

(i.) It appears in sundry negatives; and they are not to be overlooked, for there are great appearances of this goodness in them, as you will have cause to judge: As,

[i.] In not being apt to harm others. This is goodness, when there is not an aptness to harm another. What, is it to be thought that this creature, born of God, is a mischievous creature, as it were, born to do mischief? how is that possible? As our Lord was holy, harmless, separate from sinners, so are they to be,—“Be ye harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,” Phil. ii. 15. Mark the connexion, “the sons of God”—and harmful? mischievous?—that cannot be: hath he begot such a sort of creatures into the world to do mischief in it? no; such are not of this seed.

[ii.] Much less are they apt to take pleasure in another’s harm: so it is with many other men—it is a pleasant sight to them to behold the mischiefs and misdeeds of others; but it cannot be so with them that are of this seed. Again,

[iii.] This good appears in an inaptness to do evil for evil. They do not think themselves warranted, Because such an one hath done evil to me, therefore I will do evil to him; “not rendering evil for evil,” no, by no means, this can not agree to this seed, this God-like sort of creatures. Again,

[iv.] They are very inapt to be provoked: this sort of creature is not apt to provocations, as is the character 1 Cor. xiii. 5—“not easily provoked,” which is a great imitation of God, who is “slow to anger;” so must they be, and so they habitually are, “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”

[v.] Much less can they suffer anger and wrath upon provocation to arise to a fixed hatred; they are quite an other sort of men from the men of the world, of whom this is the character, “hateful, and hating one another,” Titus iii.3. This cannot belong to this God-like sort of creature, to have a fixed hate for any one, whosoever they be; no, not the worst enemy in all the world; the contrary is expressly commanded, and is a law in their very natures, even in reference to the very worst enemy. And,

579

[vi.] They are not habitually vindictive: not only do they not in fact render evil for evil; not only do they abstain from this, or not do this; but much more are they alien from an habitual vindictiveness: to be in the habit of their minds revengeful, oh, this cannot be in this God-like seed! And,

[vii.] Much less is it possible for them to be implacable: this is again the worst sort of mankind, which is described by this character, implacable; that cannot be reconciled; if once there be a grudge it is everlasting, a fixed thing. Oh, this cannot belong to this God-like seed, to be of an irreconcileable spirit, it hath the sum of hell in it, the devil as the parent of it appears in this countenance, nothing more plain; the very show of that countenance discovers who is the father, an implacable spirit, malicious, vindictive, and then implacable. With this are conjunct other things that we might mention: as envy at the good of another: it is the notion of envy to grieve at another’s good: as it is an argument of a most diabolical spirit to rejoice at another’s hurt, to take complacency in the harm of another; so to grieve at the good one hath in himself, or doth possess and enjoy, such an one is better than I, and that grieves me—or such an one doth more good, or possesseth more good than I, and this I am grieved at; this cannot consist with the divine goodness that appears in this God-begotten creature. But then,

(ii.) This goodness shews itself in positives too, and that more eminently,

[i.] In actual doing good as there is opportunity, and towards both sorts of objects. “To all as there is opportunity, but especially to the household of faith,” Gal. vi. 10. So doth this goodness imitate the divine goodness, he is good and doth good. Never talk of being good if you do no good when there is opportunity. And again,

[ii.] In an habitual propension thereunto, so as to do good with complacency and delight; so this goodness imitates the divine goodness; he exerciseth loving-kindness in the earth, because he delights therein; so doth the good man do good even with delight, tasting and relishing his own act in what he doth. Oh, how sweet is it to do good I he tastes the relish of it more than the receiver of it doth, incomparably more; according to that motto of our Lord, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” A more blessed thing, a thing that carries more sweet and savour in it. A man finds a blessedness in it; he tastes the fruits 580of his own doing as a grateful relish. God enables me to do good, to imitate his goodness, and this is refreshing to my soul, this is fruit which, by divine vouchsafe merit, I am enabled to eat and feed upon: such an one feeds upon his own act, in what he doth in this kind, owning all to grace, as that is called grace that was bestowed on the church of the Macedonians and those Corinthian Christians to whom the apostle did write; he propounds it to them that they might abound, or would labour to excel in the same grace too. Oh, what a pleasant savour hath grace and goodness! Oh, the sweet relishes of it! It would make one wonder indeed to take notice of some expressions of pagans about the pleasure of doing good; in what transports do they sometimes speak of the delights of friendship upon this account, placing all the sweetness of it in the obliging another, so as that it should be impossible for the person obliged to have so pleasant relishes as he that doth oblige. But this must be most peculiarly so in divine goodness: when regeneration makes a good man, produceth a divine creature, his delight is in doing good as God’s own is. And hereupon,

[iii.] He doth good for goodness sake; it is its own reward. It is not for vain glory, not for applause, not that he may draw on a good turn afterwards; it is not to gratify such and such, as hoping they may have opportunity after wards to gratify him; but it is doing good because it is good for goodness itself’s sake. This is simple goodness, pure goodness, incorrupt goodness, unbribed goodness. And,

[vi.] It appears in easiness to forgive. If any do evil to me, it is not a task, it is not a difficulty, it is not a penalty to forgive, but as an act of nature when it comes from a goad man, from one born of God; for he hath the nature in him that prompts him thereunto, a divine nature imparted to him, so that it is far easier to forgive than to revenge: revenge indeed must needs have upon a rational account more difficulty with such an one, because that requires contrivance, and waiting for an opportunity, and, it may be, setting many instruments on work to effect it. But goodness flows immediately into this act, it is done of myself; but I must employ many others in revenge, and that may be contriving long; but a man never needs any contrivance to forgive, it is a thing done out of hand, the product of a man’s soul: this is the goodness of the children of God, those that are born of God with a nature like his own. The regenerate soul, oh, what enmities doth he for give, and what enemies! How continued, how inveterate, 581how often exerted with many through the course of their lives, even almost to the last end of them, so as to leave scarce time of repentance and returning! This readiness to forgive, it is sure a great participation of the divine nature, a direct imitation of God. And then again,

[v.] An aptness to return into amity; for that is a great deal more. There are some that can forgive others, hut will never be friends with them any more: an everlasting pique remaining, and they cannot but discover a shyness, a great shyness, shun them, baulk them, decline them, and are apt still to think hardly and speak hardly of them upon all occasions. But the divine nature in the regenerate makes a person apt to the renewal of friendship; they can easily fall in again, who are regenerate; if there have been breaches, if there have been strifes, if there have been fallings out, they can presently fall in, because they have been so taught by nature, by that nature which is imparted to them in being born of God.

These are great things, and they are plain things; it is impossible if there be such a seed born of God but it must imitate the divine goodness, and if it imitate that goodness it must appear in such instances as these—“Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” So we very faintly and defectively render those emphatical words, “will harm you,” as if there were a denial of the design or intention or inclination; but it is only a sign of the tense—“who is he that will harm you?” who shall eventually harm you? do that which shall procure you real harm? They shall never (if it be understood aright) who is that? [you]—not a lump of flesh, but a mind, a spirit, a soul; a being it is true, a body which may be hurt: and yet—that” not be hurt: “who is he that shall harm you, if ye be followers?” What is meant by followers? There is a following by prosecution, as an end; and there is a following by imitation, as a pattern. The word tells us which is meant there; if you be imitators, it shall be in the power of none eventually to do you any harm. Imitators of what? we read of that which is good; it is (of the good) that which is good carries a man’s mind presently to apprehend that it is some created goodness that is there spoken of, that we are to follow; but the following being imitation, it is not enough for a man to imitate any created good, be it never so great, never so high, of never so excellent a kind, I must not imitate that good, but be it, have it, possess it. But the expression is of the good, and so there is none good but God, 582“none good but one, that is God.” I will take care for my own divine seed and offspring that I have in this world; I will save them from harm, as far as is needful, so as to bring them safe to the everlasting kingdom that I design them to. And why? and upon what account?—Because they are mine; my image is upon them; they are imitators of the good, they resemble the good, they may call the good, Father.

Objection. But all this while it may be said, What sort of thing are you describing? a thing fled from our world? Why, sir, you do but describe an idea, a chimerical thing; where is there such goodness? or, where is there such a good sort of creatures to be found? Sure we must go as high as the regions of bliss to see such a sort of good people.

Answer. Yes, it was this apprehension that made me the more intent to enlarge upon this head, and spend this discourse upon it. This is looked upon as if it were a thing exiled from the world, fled from the earth. But oh! what a dismal mistake and delusion is it if men will entertain such an imagination, that such goodness is to be found no where but in heaven? No, heaven must be let down into our world, or else it will never have any inhabitants out of it, it prepares its own inhabitants first; they that are born again are born from above, from heaven. There must be an heavenly descent, a descent of the divine Spirit from above entering the souls of men, forming them, moulding them, renewing them in the spirit of their minds, writing the divine law there; which in reference to the second table of it is all summed up in this, Love thy neighbour as thyself. Harm another? Why, I can no more do it than I can harm myself. Take pleasure in another’s harm? I can no more do it than I can take pleasure in my own. Be spiteful towards another? Am I ever spiteful towards myself? full of malice towards others? Am I ever malicious towards myself? or vindictive or implacable? Regeneration is the writing of the law of God in the heart, impressing the divine image there; love to God will come into another order of heads. But this love, wherein we imitate his, is love to others. Love to men, if it have place in no inhabitants of this earth, there is no more going from earth to heaven. Heaven must make inhabitants for itself in our world, who are to be so prepared and formed as to be made meet for an inheritance with the saints in light. In this sad degenerate age wherein we live, indeed such goodness is 583apprehended too great a rarity to be thought a reality; it is too rare a thing to be taken for a real thing. A very sad case! as indeed conversions are very unfrequent, and it is a fearful thing to consider how long the gospel may be diffused (which should evangelize the world, and transform men into the divine likeness) before it proves the savour of life! How generally it is a deadly savour is dismal to think! And proportionably instances of a regenerating work are rare and unfrequent. And the regenerating principle (where it is) is low and languishing, is not conspicuous, doth not shine forth. The contraries to it do shew forth themselves in so obvious and frequent appearances, that these evidences and fruits of the divine goodness cannot be seen: as it is a very rare thing for persons to come as returning prodigals, renewed, converted, changed, transformed, and to pour out their tears and lamentations and self-bemoanings into a Redeemer’s bosom, and by him to their heavenly Father, so it is proportionably rare for Christians to make such discoveries of a good spirit towards one another, to pour out complaints and tears and self-bemoanings into one anothers bosoms: as if there was no such rule as that, confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another; as if that text were thought to have come into the Bible as a casualty, and stood there for nothing. How rare are instances of any such fruit and exemplification of the divine goodness, as to hear it said by any; Oh! friend, Christian brother, I have offended you, I am grieved for it; it grieves me that I have grieved you! Where is this to be found? These things are just such rarities as the return of wandering sinners into the bosom of God through Christ. A sad token of a departing divine Spirit! in a great measure sadly departing, almost gone. Religion would otherwise be another thing; the rules and precepts of it would turn into example more frequently.

But this is one thing, and so great a thing, that it ought not to have been passed over. They that are born of God, bear his image even in this thing, beneficent goodness, a goodness of temper, a benignity which speaks them the children of this Father, so as that their temper cannot change by the greatest malignity that they have experienced, and are many times the subjects of from others. It spends itself upon them, “love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you;” bless them while they curse you, express the greatness of your kindness, love and concern for 584them when they are designing to ruin and undo you. And for what? that ye may be the children of your heavenly Father, that you may appear so, that it may be seen that he hath a divine offspring in this world, Matt. v. 44, 45. He doth good to enemies, otherwise what might become of you? Might it have been said of any of you, Oh, if he did not know how to spare an enemy, nay to oblige an enemy, and conquer an enemy by kindness and goodness, what would become of any of us all.


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