« Prev Sermon XLIX. Preached August 12, 1694. Next »

SERMON XLIX.5151   Preached August 12, 1694.

1 John v. 1.

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

WE shall now go on to shew in the next place,

2. What connexion this is; or, to let you see how these two are connected with one another—Believing “Jesus to be the Christ,” and being “born of God.” And, to any thinking, considering mind, this cannot but be a very desirable thing, when we meet with such a positive affirmation as this, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,” to be able to perceive the very juncture, the very point of coincidence, between these two, wherein they do meet, and (as it were) run into one another; for otherwise it may seem strange to have the one of these so expressly affirmed of the other. And one that hath no discerning of this same juncture may say, How should this be, that there should be such an assertion of so great a thing concerning them that do “believe Jesus to be the Christ?” This seems to be one of the easiest things in the world, to believe Jesus to be the Christ. And I would fain know (may such an one say) how it should come to pass, that a man cannot believe Jesus to be the Christ, but he must have so great a thing as this said of him, that he is born of God? Wherein hath the 607one so much to do with the other, believing Jesus to be the Christ, and being born of God?

That alone which makes the matter seem strange and difficult is, that men generally have too low thoughts of this same faith. This believing in particular Jesus to be the Christ, the difference lies here, whether this believing is to be reckoned a divine, or merely an human thing. If it be looked upon as a thing of mere human original, then any body would wonder that upon one’s believing Jesus to be the Christ, such a thing as this should be said of him, he is born of God, the greatest thing sure that can be said of a mortal creature! But we are taught to reckon this faith to be a divine thing, of divine original. When the apostle Peter, in the name of the rest of the apostles, professeth this faith, Who am I? saith our Saviour? whom do ye say I am? (when there were various opinions of the people about him at that time, and some said one thing and some said another) but “whom do you say that I am?” Why, saith Peter, “thou art Christ the Son of the living God,” Matt. xvi. 16. And then in verse 17, our Saviour replies, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona:” thou art a blessed man. Why is he blessed for this? “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” All the question is, whether this faith we have about this thing be a self-sprung faith, or an heaven-sprung faith; if it be self-sprung, then it is only the product of flesh and blood, but flesh and blood cannot reach so high as to produce any such faith as this, neither his own flesh and blood; which signifies his human nature; nor the same nature as it is among others, by transmitting whereof from one to another this faith would only be a traditional thing; but the product of flesh and blood which cannot reveal such a thing; but if it be such a faith as is immediately from himself, then blessed art thou that so belie vest; this faith is not from thee or other men, no way from flesh and blood, or human nature, but from my Father which is in heaven.

And then it will cease to be thought a strange thing, that he that so believes should be said to be born of God; for this being born of God, it is but the work of the divine power working the soul to a conformity to himself, and impressing it with its own image. And this faith it seems is from God too, as well as the great conforming change that then passeth upon the soul when one is brought to believe. And this will make it appear the most reasonable thing in the world, that he that by the divine power and 608grace is brought to believe is born of God; for if it be from God that men are made so to believe, it is not faith from itself, but of God’s own ingenerating in my soul. Then it must be considered, if God do this work to make me believe with this faith, he doth it for some end worthy of God, for there is no rational agent but works for an end; and he that is the most perfectly intelligent, the most absolutely perfect and all comprehending mind, cannot but have the greatest and highest designs in what he doth by his own immediate operation. And therefore he must be understood to have done this work, in making a man thus to believe for an end suitable to himself, worthy of God. And then, I pray, what end worthy of him can be attained, by making a man to believe, if he do not (as it were) new beget him at the same time? He is capable of serving no end, no valuable end, no great end, no end wherein he shall at once be serviceable to God and happy in himself, if God do not regenerate him.

But look to these two things more narrowly, and you will see how they meet, and how close a jointure there is between them, so as the matter will be above dispute. It will make its way into every mind that considers the case duly and aright, “That he that believes Jesus to be the Christ, is born of God;” and in order hereunto (that this may make its way with more advantage,) you may consider how fully that which is equivalent is said of the same thing. Do but look to chap. iv. of this epistle, and the 15th verse, “Whosoever confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Pray consider it; what is this less than that such a man is born of God? The divine fulness is come in upon him. God and he do in-dwell one another. Whoever he is that confesseth, believingly confesseth that this “Jesus is the Son of God;” for this is all one as believing Jesus to be the Christ. We find them often put together to signify the same; that if one be expressed, the other is implied, as in that Matt. i. 16, “Thou art Christ the Son of the living God;” and so John vi. 69, “We believe, and are sure that thou art Christ the Son of the living God.” And again, John xx. last verse, “These things are written (this book I have now written—this gospel is written all for this purpose,) that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life through his name.” And you may easily apprehend, that confessing this implies the belief of it. No man that is sincere will 609confess what he doth not believe; “Whosoever doth confess so much that this Jesus is the Son of God, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” This is no less a thing than being born of God.

And that we may pursue our scope the more closely, let us but cast our eye upon the two parts that are said to be conjoined. And here I must remind you only of what in general was said about this believing “Jesus to be the Christ;” to wit, that it is not one single and incomplex thing, but that it is complicated of more things than one. As,

(1.) This believing Jesus to be the Christ, it speaks a vivid, strong, heart-assured persuasion, that the thing is true; of the truth of the thing, not as taken up at random, hut as taken up from the divine testimony. And because (as it followeth in the same chapter) this is the record that God hath given us of his Son, it is believed that Jesus is the Christ, not because men have told us so, it is received “not as the word of man, but as the word of God.” 1 Thess. ii. 13. And in the 10th verse of this chapter, “He that believeth in the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” And,

(2.) This believing doth by consequence imply the opening of the heart to him, to receive him as such. Believing and receiving him are inseparable; as you see when the same thing is predicated of this same subject, John i. 12, “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.” Pray, why do they that so believe in his name as to receive him, bear the title of “the sons of God?” He gives them all the privilege to be his sons, why is that? The next words tell you, without which it had been very absurd to have such an appellation. Why are believers so called the Sons of God? Is it an empty name and title? No, they are born of God, who were “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Sure they must be his sons that are born of him; but they that believe in him, so as to receive the Son of God, that faith opening its way into their hearts, they are said to be born, not of the will of man, but of God. That heart-assuring persuasion concerning him, presently makes the soul open to him, and entertain him; take him in and appropriate him, and say, “My Lord and my God,” so as that he comes to have an in-dwelling in the soul by that faith.

And then do but consider what was generally said concerning being born of God, that it makes that person of 610whom this can be truly said, a God-like creature. He is transformed by it into the divine image and likeness; it is an universal change, and a permanent one passing upon the soul, and continuing in it even to the end, by which he is made a God-like creature; to wit, by which his image is anew impressed and restored in this soul. And these things being finished, let us now consider how inseparable these must needs be, so believing Jesus is the Christ, and being born of God.

Take this faith, as it is such a firm persuasion, an heart-assuring persuasion, upon the authority of God himself, that this Jesus is the Christ, or is his Son. Take it thus, and there are two things in the matter believed, that give it the advantage to be so powerfully operative in the soul when so believed, as you have heard. Therefore consider distinctly the matter believed, and the nature of this believing it so as it hath been opened to you. The matter believed, when a man believeth this Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (for believing him to be the Christ involves the belief of his deity, of his divine nature, in respect whereof he is said to be God’s own Son, in the most eminent sense, the only begotten Son of God, which can signify no less than that he is God.) Why, about this you have two things to consider, that will let us see how mighty an advantage such a matter must have, to be thus operative and transforming upon the soul, that it shall be said hereupon truly to be born of God; to wit, first the greatness of the thing itself, and, secondly, the kindness of the design.

[1.] The greatness of the thing, that this Jesus should be the Christ, the Son of God. This Jesus was then lately seen upon the face of this earth, a man like other men. What is believed concerning him? Why, that he is the Christ, the Son of God. That deity did inhabit and dwell in the flesh of this man, here is God manifested in the flesh. How great a thing is this! The serious, vivid belief of it, cannot but affect wonderfully; even in an ordinary way it cannot but have a mighty aptitude to affect the soul deeply that so believes; for, as was said, to believe this with H divine, faith, it is to believe it because God made me believe it, not only by his authority, upon which this faith relies, but by his power by which this faith is wrought, and then I consider the thing believed accordingly. This Jesus is the Christ; he that, appears to other as an ordinary man, appears to me the Son of 611God. The divine glory shines in him to the eye of my soul. He was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. To believe this with such an heart-assuring faith and persuasion, is to believe the greatest thing that ever was heard of. That this Son of God should be a man, or that this man, lately seen with eyes in the world, and handled with hands, is the very Son of God, this tends to form the soul to veneration by the very greatness of the thing itself. And God, when he works this mighty work of regeneration upon the soul, he works by means, by apt and suitable means; means suitable to the work to be wrought, and suitable to the subject to be wrought upon. Now what can be so apt a means to work such a transforming work as this upon an intelligent subject (as the soul of man is,) as to possess it with the belief of such a thing: here I have sent my own Son among you, he that was the brightness of my own glory, and the express image of my own person; I have here wrapt him up in human flesh, and he is in the flesh, to live among you, and at length to die among you, like one of you, as an human creature. What work must this make in the soul of a man, when believed in such a way as you have heard? It disposeth to veneration of that deity inhabiting in human flesh, and so works somewhat naturally upon the soul of a man (as it is God’s way, he doth apply himself to our natural faculties,) to enlighten the mind, to mollify, change, and subdue the will. These are natural powers in us; but these would do nothing to the pleasing of God, or saving us, if not wrought upon by a divine almighty power. Now God doth sublimate the natural principle by this means.

There is such a thing as natural religiousness, man having been born of God at first, and his soul the very divine offspring (whereupon God is said to be the father of our spirits,) he hath a natural impression of God upon him. But it governs not but where regeneration takes place; it is a principle laid asleep: but such a faith of this thing brought in upon the soul, revives the principle of a natural religiousness and veneration of God. You see how far the same notion once did work upon a mistake in that Acts xiv. 11, when Paul and Barnabas had wrought miracles upon the impotent man, and preached such admirable divine doctrine that ravished and astonished the souls of their hearers, they immediately cried out, “The 612gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” And Paul, because he was chief speaker, he is called Mercurius, and Barnabas was called Jupiter, two of the most famous deities. And they are intent upon the business of sacrificing to them as incarnate deities. And the apostles had no small difficulty to withhold them from worshiping, and offering solemn sacrifices to them. So mightily did this mistaken notion operate.

Now then, that which is the very truth of the thing comes to be believed in good earnest, as certain, concerning this person, this Jesus. Here is God come down in the likeness of a man, he that was in the form of God, found in fashion as a man, made in the likeness of man. Christians must be more stupid than those Pagans, if it affect not and make no motion stir in their hearts, so as to say and think, What a wonder is this! What a great thing! That God should have come down in the likeness of man, that we should have had an incarnate God dwelling in this wretched world among us! How amazing a thing is this! This, I say, tends to excite even in the very nature of the thing. And God, when he works, works by suitable means. In the nature of the thing there is a suitableness to excite that natural religion that’s in the souls of men, which cannot be totally abolished, but is supprest. And such a thing as this hath a tendency to awaken it, when the divine Spirit sets in (as it will set in with truth, when it would not with falsehood) to restore in man that worshipping, adoring disposition towards God.

This is the first and most considerable thing in the work of regeneration, or the new creature; for what are men regenerated for? What makes the necessity of regeneration? It is that men were alienated from God, cut off from God, and therefore must have a nature put into them that would incline them unto God; they were alienated from the divine life. Regeneration is necessary for this, to incline the souls of men to live that life; to live upon God, and to God, and for God. So that when you consider what the work of regeneration is necessary for, you will think that whatsoever will serve that end, to wit, inclining men unto God, fitting them for his communion, and for a state of subordination and absolute devotedness to him, must be the principal aim of regeneration. It is to set the spirits of men right in their disposition and posture towards God, to whom they were strangers, and from whom they were gone off. And you see how the greatness of this thing 613did very much impress the minds of those Pagans; they thought the gods were come down in the likeness of men, and now they are all for worshiping them. But besides the greatness of the thing, which is first to be considered in the matter believed, consider also,

[2.] The kindness of the design. This Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, a deity, inhabiting under this flesh. What is this for? What is the design of it? A great thing, as such tends greatly to affect the heart of a man, if it be not stupefied into a stone, a rock, a clod. But when a great thing appears to be in conjunction with the kindest design towards them, this gives it a most important additional advantage, to affect the spirits of men beyond all that can be thought. What should be the meaning of it, that God should come down and put on man, and that this man should be God? Why, it was in order to his being Christ, the Messiah, the Mediator between God and man, as that name imports, so that this was with a particular reference to us, and with some very gracious intendment towards us. And therefore look upon this truth to be believed, this Jesus is the Christ, according to that kind and benign aspect which it hath upon us; and so it tends beyond all that can be thought to work with the greatest efficacy as means, though the thing would never be done without the Divine Spirit upon the spirits of men, to renew and regenerate them, so as that thereupon they should be said to be born of God.

God works upon the nature of man as he is a creature made up of reason and love, according to his natural state; and so he is according to what remainders there are in him of that nature which was first given, and which is still human nature; “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love,” Hosea xi. 4. If there be such a thing as love in the nature of man not quite abolished, not quite erased, which by such means as this, that Holy Spirit shall apply itself to a man’s spirits to draw him by these cords, that love which he hath in him being taken hold of by the divine love appearing in this design, this gives it advantages to operate with the greatest efficacy that can be thought.

And do but see how this is cleared, by considering that passage I mentioned to you but now in the fourth chapter of this epistle and verse 15, looked upon in reference to what immediately goes before in verse 14, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Now look upon the foregoing words, and 614you will see which way this works to open the soul unto God, so as that he comes to have an indwelling in that soul, and that soul an indwelling in him. We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” I pray regard this, a mighty stress lies upon it, “We see and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world;” and now it is subjoined, that “who soever confesseth that Jesus is the Son of God, dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Why? because this can be under stood or believed under no other notion than as a Saviour to it, a Saviour to men; he came upon a saving design; this lets him into the soul, “God dwelleth in him, and he in God;” and do you think that this person must not be regenerate? what can it be but that he must be born of God, when God is come into so near an union hereupon? And what lets him in and brings about this union? why, believing that he came as a Saviour into the world, we believe and testify that he came to do the office of a Saviour, and then God dwelleth in us, and we in God. There is that union hereby brought about between God and you, that it is impossible you should not be born of God. A new nature must hereupon come upon you, making you Godlike.

And this will most distinctly appear, if we consider what his coming as a Saviour implies: as his name signifies Jesus, Jesus is the Christ, the Saviour is anointed and authorized to this work of saving. When Christ was to come you know what was said by himself, and by such as gave testimony concerning him, that he “came a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in him should not walk in darkness.” That same light that lets us see what he was, lets us see what we were too; the same light that we discover him by, we discover ourselves by. And what have we to discern of ourselves, but that we are a company of lost creatures, impure, guilty wretches, that have inhabited darkness and death? that are cast off from God, have lost all interest in him, and all inclination towards him? darkened creatures, in every faculty and power? under the dominion of sin, and in captivity to Satan, the evil one, the prince of the darkness of this world, and he that hath the power of that death that hath spread itself in all the gloominess and terrors of it over souls? The same light that reveals him, reveals this, and discovers our state, and thereupon shews that he as a Saviour hath to do such things as these.


First, That he is to take away our sins, the great makebate between God and us. This to be believed, when we believe Jesus to be the Christ, that he came and was manifested to take away our sins. In him there being no sin, as in the third chapter of this epistle, verse 5. Oh, how will this transport a soul that hath once had but the convictive light (the thing before supposed) let in upon it to reveal Christ to it, and to reveal it to itself. Take away sin and I am a happy creature indeed, the only thing that ever hurt me, ever did me any harm. This Jesus was manifested for to take away sin; he is a Saviour for that, a Jesus for that, to save his people from their sins. And that is the reason of his name, Matt. i. 21. And,

Secondly, To vindicate us from under the power of the devil; for we were all led captive by him at his will. And this world did lie in the wicked one, that first apostate, that great enemy that hath trained man in to be accomplices with him in a rebellion against heaven; we are led captive by him at his will; and we followed naturally the course of this world, and “the power of the prince of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience,” Eph. ii. 2, 3. It is Christ’s design as a Saviour to turn us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. If a man be apprehensive of this, as when there is such light concerning Christ (there is such light concerning our state too) in this respect, he will be ready to cry out, Oh wretched man that I am! a vassal to the devil! he hath led me captive at his will, could do with me what he would, hath had his will upon me! Oh then to be rescued out of this captivity! Oh blessed Jesus! when Jesus is believed to be the Christ in order to this, it is not strange it should work such a work in the soul of a man. And

Thirdly, His business, as a Saviour, is to reconcile us to God, to bring about amity and friendship between God and us. When light is let into the soul to see its state, this is the most covetable of all things that can be thought of. There hath been a distance, and strangeness and enmity between Go4 and me, he shall be the welcomest in all the world to me that shall make peace, that shall reconcile me to God, that shall procure me his favour, wherein stands my life. Jesus, as a Saviour, is to do this. He came to be a Saviour, a Jesus with this kind design, and to make this overture to the soul; Come, there is a warfare, and hath been of long continuance between God and you; I will be a reconciler, I will make peace. O blessed Jesus! “blessed is he that 616cometh in the name of the Lord,” upon such an errand as this; for in his favour stands my very life. And,

Fourthly, As a Saviour, his design is to renew the divine image in the soul: Come, thou art a ruined creature, I will repair thy ruins: a degenerate creature, I will make thee a new creature, to learn the truth as it is in Jesus, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put off the old man which is corrupt, and to put on the new man; I come to new create thee, I come to put a new frame upon thee throughout. And,

Fifthly, He hereupon must have this for his design, to unite us to God, to bring about an union between God and us now that the reconciliation of him to us, and the transformation wrought in us make us capable of it; his design is to bring things to that pass with us, that our souls shall now run into union with God. Having the divine stamp put upon them, and a divine nature put into them, they cannot be held off any longer, they must unite with him, for they are become God-like; this is Christ’s work as a Saviour, and he makes the soul apprehensive of it, and to apprehend this as the most desirable thing in all the world. As disconformity to God is the most heavy pressure upon the enlightened soul, which he hath in some measure made apprehensive. “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden.” It is he that makes the soul weary of its deformity, and the ugliness that was upon it. Oh what an odious creature am I! what a pressure doth this lay upon me! that now I am become an hateful creature, who once had the divine image upon me, hereupon nothing could ensue but distance between God and me: Well saith he, I will put an end to all this, I will make up all this matter, I will put a new heart and new spirit into thee, I will write my law in thy heart, I will incline it to God, I will unite it to God; and in so doing, there shall be such a distance and such a strangeness between God and thee no longer. And,

Sixthly, It is by consequence hereupon his work (by doing all this) to perfect the nature of man within itself; gradually and inchoatively now; perfectly and consummately hereafter; he will absolutely perfect it at length. Is he restoring the divine image in us, making us who were darkness to be light in the Lord, making us, who had the image of hell upon us, to bear the image of God and heaven? Is he not then perfecting our nature by all this? making a new man? “Behold (saith he) I make all things new.” That is the Mediator’s great undertaking: 617that is the undertaking of this Jesus, whom we believe to be the Christ. And hereupon,

Seventhly, He brings about (and that is part of his kind design) a continued communion and intercourse between God and us, so that we may live with God everyday. Thou shalt not live a wandering creature, and a vagabond, upon the face of this earth, as thou hast done; thou hast now the privilege that thou mayest walk with God every day. Sin is taken away, thou art fetched from under the captivity of the devil, thou art reconciled to God, his image is renewed in thee, thou art re-united to him, thy nature is in a degree perfected, and shall be absolutely perfected; and thereupon thou art to have daily commerce with God in continual communion. This thy kind Saviour is doing for thee: believing this Jesus to be the Christ, thou believest all this, if you understand yourselves in what you profess to believe, and what lies before you as the object of your faith. And then in the last place,

Eighthly, All this in order to his introducing you into the presence of the divine glory at last, all doth but tend to one end, to make you participants of the “inheritance of the saints in light, and to present you holy and unblameable, without spot and faultiness, before the presence of the divine glory with exceeding joy,” as it is in the latter end of the Epistle of Jude. In that conspicuous glory of his, or before his glorious face, where you are to have your abode statedly and everlastingly. This is his design. They believe Jesus to be the Christ, understandingly, as they are made to do so by the divine Spirit. They believe all this by consequence, this is their notion which they have concerning this Jesus that they believe to be the Christ; he is to do all this for such souls as mine, and upon my soul upon believing in him.

And then the soul, receiving him upon believing all this concerning him, being hereby opened to receive him, he hereby first acquires a right to all gracious communications from him; and then, secondly, hath the actual possession of those communications themselves; for all must be in and through Christ, that Spirit of Christ which is to do all is given upon his account and for his sake, upon being united to him; to wit, the soul is brought into union with him by that Spirit; and upon that union it diffuseth its influences through the soul, and possesses it for God, takes it for his temple. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of 618God, and that the Holy Ghost dwelleth in you?” 1 Cor. iii. 16. And this cannot but infer then, that there should be such a regenerating work by which a foundation is laid for the truth of this assertion, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” For all these things to be done by Christ are matter of promise, and all the promises are yea and amen, only in Christ, 2 Cor. i. 20. And what are these promises for? we are made partakers of these exceeding great and precious promises, or they are given to us, that by them we might be made partakers of the divine nature which is the very work of regeneration itself, the imparting that divine nature to us; all this promised good is in and by Christ; and believing him to be the Christ, we become intitled to all these promises, and they come of course (we having such a title) to be accomplished and made good.

And thus nothing is more manifest than that which to men might seem strange at first, that it should positively be said, “Whosoever believeth Jesus to be the Christ, is born of God;” it cannot but be so, if you do but observe the coincidency how these two things, believing Jesus to be the Christ, and being born of God, run into one another.


B. Bensley, Bolt Court, Fleet Street.

« Prev Sermon XLIX. Preached August 12, 1694. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection