Acts ii. 39.--"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

Rev. iii. 20.--"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."



Reader, the body may as well subsist without the soul, as the soul can without a promise; and as the body is not wearied with bread, (being the staff of life), though it hath it every day for nourishment, so, likewise, the fainting, hungry soul can never be cloyed with feeding upon the promises. For which cause I have also adventured this little Sermon, not doubting but it may reap its due fruit from those whose hearts are rightly affected; which God granting, I shall account my labor abundantly requited. Farewell.

Thomas Shepard.

April 2, 1655.


Edmund Calamy.




2 Cor. vii. 1, "Having these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

The apostle Paul in the former chapter exhorteth the Corinthians to beware of unequal yoking themselves with unbelievers; and he gives a double argument for it, one from the unequalness of it, the other from the promises, as in my text, "Having these promises."

In these words are three parts:--
          1. A loving appellation, in these words, "Having these promises, dearly beloved."
          2. A gracious exhortation, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."
          3. An argument for instigation or motive, that he useth to press his exhortation, which is from the nature of the promise.

That which is in the last part of the division is first in order of the words, and therefore we will look upon the words as they lie in order; and so from the last part and first words I shall handle this doctrine.

That God made many promises unto his people.

I am come to you this day not to set out unto you the excellency of wit or learning, or the creature; but the excellency of a naked promise, according to that, (2 Pet. i. 4), "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises."

Now, all the promises of God unto his people are such as concern the body, or the body and the soul. Those that concern the body are with this limitation, that is, so far as concerns God's glory and the good of our souls; but for the body and soul, consider that place, "For the Lord is a sun and shield; 470 the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good will he withhold from them that live uprightly." (Ps. lxxxiv. 11.)

I come to the reasons why God hath thus made many promises unto his people; and they are three.

The first reason is this: that his people might have a fit object for their faith to lay hold upon; for if you look upon all the creatures in the world, you shall not find in all of them jointly, or any of them apart, a fit object for faith to work upon, or be satisfied in. It is with faith as with a poor woman that hath a child, and hath nothing in the world to give it; she takes the child at her back and goeth from door to door, and what she getteth she giveth to the child; so faith takes the soul, and carrieth it to promise after promise, and whatever she finds there she gives it to the soul.

The second reason why God hath made many promises unto his people is, that they may have a ground of comfort; for as it is the object of their faith, so it is the ground of their comfort; for all other things of this world can not profit or comfort the believing soul. As suppose we should go to friends for comfort; it may be they want comfort for themselves, and so are unfit to comfort us; or it may be they will not comfort us or it may be they are a great way off, and so can not do it; or perhaps, though able and sometimes willing, yet they are mutable in their comforts, so as though at one time they are willing, and do comfort us, yet another time they fail us. But Christ, to whom the soul is led by the promise, not only hath comfort, and is able to comfort us, but he is willing also to give comfort to us, who knoweth our wants, "and is near to all that call upon him in truth," (Ps. cxlv. 18); and also he is immutable in his comforts. And were the creature a sufficient ground of comfort to God's people, then to want the creature were a sufficient ground of misery to them. But a man may want health, wealth, liberty, and the like, and yet through and in Christ his soul may have satisfying comfort; but if he want Christ, though he hath a fullness of the creature, he is most miserable and without all satisfying comfort. The promise only is able to afford comfort to the soul in health, in sickness, in life, and in death. The third reason why God hath made many promises unto his people is, that they may become mutual comforters one of another, by having somewhat by experience from a promise, wherewith they may be enabled to comfort others, so that you may see the promise is not given to comfort ourselves with only, but also one another.

Now for use. Is it so, that God hath made many promises 471 unto his people? Let us try ourselves, whether we have any right to the promises or no. I will name but one note that you may the better remember it, and it is a true one, for you shall find it in Scripture. ''But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." (Gal. iii. 22.) So that you may see it is to them, and to them only, that believe. He that can exercise faith in the promise, hath right to the promise, "for ye walk by faith, and not by sight." (2 Cor. v. 7.)

If Christians be in affliction, and see that it doth them good, then it is easy to believe that promise which God hath made. "All things shall work together for the good of them that love God." (Rom. viii. 28.) But to believe this promise, when we can not see any good come of affliction, that is to believe by faith, and not by sight: but when we can see no good come by affliction, but find ourselves more dead and dull, and also God to frown upon us, and yet we trust in God, and believe the promise, and stay our souls upon God's word; this is to live by faith, as we are commanded. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." (Is. 1. 10.) Faith maketh things absent to be present, and maketh the promise good to us, though things seem to thwart the promise never so much. "Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. xi. 1) with the eye of sense. As Abraham believed against hope, (Rom. iv. 18), that he should have a child, according as God had promised, so must we trust God upon a naked promise, that if health should be gone, or wealth, liberty, strength, friends, yea, life itself almost gone, and God seems to be gone, and hell to be threatened, yet still to trust in God, and believe--this is to live by faith, and comfort is in the promise for all such; but I speak now to God's people.

The second use of this doctrine is, that seeing God hath made many promises unto his people, it is a ground of comfort unto them all, that though they go up and down sad, as if they were the worst people in the world, yet have they the only cause to rejoice, and they only in all the world. For here is comfort against all their sins, God hath promised to do them away. "I am he that blotteth out thy sins, for mine own name's sake." (Is. xliii. 25.) Comfort thyself, Christ is thine. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine"; if, therefore, there be enough in Christ's merits, hold up thy head and take comfort to thyself.


O, but, saith the poor soul, I find sin prevail, and how can I then be comforted?

I answer, Look into that place of Scripture, "I will subdue your iniquities, and cast your sins in the midst of the sea," (Micah vii. 18-20); and in the twentieth verse you may see the oath of God, for the truth and mercy of the promise was gone forth before.

But saith the soul, The devil will be busy with me wherever I go, and how can I be cheerful?

I answer, God hath said it, "I will tread down Satan under your feet shortly." (Rom. xvi. 20.) Comfort thyself in this, though Satan may trouble thee for a time, yet thou shalt have him under thy feet shortly.

O, but again saith the soul, I shall meet with abundance of opposition in the world, and I am not able to make my party good, and how can I then rejoice?

I answer. Flee thou to the promise against that also, as where it is said, "Though hand join in hand," etc., (Prov. xi. 21.). Though men join themselves together, and strike hands even with the devil against God's children, yet shall they not overcome them.

But alas! saith a poor soul, I am in present want of outward comfort, and how should I be comfortable in such a condition?

I answer. It maybe God dealeth with thee in this as a mother with her children, who takes away the victuals from the children for a while, and puts it into the cupboard, but afterward she giveth it them again. So sometimes God taketh away these outward things, and locketh them up for a while in the cupboard, which is in the promise, and when he seeth it best for us, he giveth it us again: and thus he did with Job; he took away all his outward comforts, and left him so poor, as it is a proverb at this day, "as poor as Job," (Job i. 15, etc.); but after a while, God did not only restore unto him his former comforts, but gave him double. And this was written for thy comfort, and the strength of thy patience:
comfort thyself, therefore; happiness is above the creature.

But I shall meet with many mocks and reproaches in the world.

Answer. Let us comfort ourselves against this with God's promises: let us do as the covetous man in the poet, who, being mocked as he went in the streets, went home and looked into his closet, and there seeing his bags of gold, rejoiced in his wealth, and scorned all their reproaches: so when we are mocked and scorned of men of the world, let us look into the Bible, and we shall find bags of promises, true treasure; and therein let us rejoice.


But it may be the poor soul will say, Alas, I can not go to God by prayer to fetch comfort, or if I do pray, it is with so much coldness and deadness, as I can not believe I shall obtain any thing.

I answer. Though it be so, yet believe and thou shalt have thy desire, though it may be thou canst but chatter, and though others, hearing thee, regard it not, yet God will say, Let me hear thee; and as a father loves to hear his child prattle, though others regard it not, so God loveth to hear his children pray.

But O, I am afraid of death, and that taketh away all my joy and comfort.

I answer. Thou mayest comfort thyself against that, yea, and make death itself a ground of comfort and joy to thyself. If a child be at board from his father's house, though he be at play with his fellows, yet if he see horse and man come to fetch him, he is glad, and leaves his play and companions to go home to his father willingly: so here we are at board in the world, and we are at play, as it were, among the creatures; but when death comes, which is as horse and man, we should be willing to go to our Father's house, which is best of all.

But I am afraid, if suffering times come, I should never be able to stand out.

If God call thee to sufferings, he will give thee grace suitable to thy condition. "He will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. xiii. 10.)

But alas! I am afraid I shall fall away from God, and that continual fear thereof doth take away all my comfort.

Answer. None can pluck thee out of Christ's hands, neither sin nor devil; she were a cruel mother that would cast her child into the fire; Christ must do so if thou shouldest go to hell; yea, more, if that should be so, he should rend a member from himself, for he is thy head, and thou art one of his members: therefore, for thy comfort, know this can not be; the Lord saith, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good." But you may say, perhaps, I shall turn from him; see therefore what followeth in the same verse--"I will put my fear into their hearts, and they shall not depart from me."

This is good news, it may be the poor creature will say, if I had right to the promise; but alas! I can not believe, and take a naked promise.

Answer. Dost thou desire to believe and to have Christ, and canst thou say thus? If it were possible heaven and Christ could 474 be separated, I would rather have Christ without heaven than heaven without Christ; then comfort thyself, for God hath promised, "I will give to him that thirsteth of the water of life freely."

But this is a hard matter, and I can not say I truly desire Christ on such terms as I should.

But is it a grief to thy heart that thou canst not deny thyself, and desirest, rather than be separated from Christ, to close with Christ, even upon any terms? Is it thy burden, because thou canst not desire to believe as thou shouldest? Then comfort thyself; God will accept the will for the deed in this case. (1 Cor. viii. 12.)

But the soul objecteth and saith, Alas! I am so far from being grieved as I ought, that I rather find a heart that will not grieve and mourn for sin; I can not find breakings of heart for it.

For thy comfort, I will come one step lower to thee: hast thou any will to it? Mark this place; if any place in the whole Scripture be for thee, here it is in the last words of this verse. "And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." (Rev. xxii. 17.)

But it may be the wicked will say, I will have Christ: but stay; not every one that saith so shall have Christ; but art thou willing to part with thy sins, and it may be to part with health, wealth, liberty, friends, yea, and your own life also? What say you? Are you willing upon these terms?

But the poor soul saith again, I fear I shall never do this. But art thou willing that Christ should make thee willing, and pitch thee upon a promise, and should hold thee there? If thou canst find these things, then comfort thyself, for thou hast right unto God's promises.

The third use is, seeing God hath made many promises unto his people, this is terror to the wicked. Here are many in this congregation to whom I have not spoken one word in the last use of comfort; now God sends other news to you, therefore put it not off from you. If I prove not what I say by Scripture, believe me not. What I have said for the comfort of God's people, I must say the contrary unto you.

First. As God's children have their names written in God's book, so you have your names written also; but it is in the black book of God's wrath.

Secondly. As God's children have a mark set on their foreheads, so there is a mark set on you; but it is a woful one; for, though I judge you not, yet I am persuaded the devil hath set his black mark with a brand from hell on some of you: yea, a 475 man may gather from your very faces, almost, what some of you are; but the day of judgment will fully discover you all. But in the meantime, know this: whosoever you are that are under your natural condition, you are under God's curse, as it is, "If any shall hear the words of this curse, and bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace though I walk in the imagination of my heart," etc., then the Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses of this book shall be upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven," etc. (Deut. xxix. 19, 20.) Also, "I will heap up mischief upon you, and I will send mine arrows upon you." (Deut. xxxii. 23.) O, what a heavy thing is this, I pray you consider sadly; not to have right to God's promises is the condition of a man that is cursed, and miserable in his life, at his death, and after his death.

You rich gentlemen and gentlewomen, give me leave to speak to you. I pray you consider thus much: if you have not right to God's promises, the curse of God is stamped upon every cross and penny, and upon every thing you have. See but this place: "I have cursed your blessings, saith the Lord"; (Mal. ii. 2, 3); as if he should have said, Though I have given plenty of corn, and money, and other things, yet they are to you but as curses; and is not this a very sad thing? Give me leave to deal painly; it is as if a man had but twopence in all the world, and he should go and buy a halter with it, to hang himself; yea, further, all that thou hast, in this condition, is but as if thou shouldest twist a cord together to hang thy soul in hell. And to you of the poorer sort, that have not a right to the promise, you are in a miserable condition, for you are both miserable here and hereafter also. "Israel hath not returned to him that smote them, neither do they seek unto the Lord; therefore the Lord will cut off from them both head and tail, branch and rush, in one day." (Is. ix. 13.) Again: whatsoever you do in your calling is accursed unto you; yea, your praying, reading, hearing, fasting, and mourning, all is sin; for, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord." (Prov. xv. 8.)

But if it be so, may these wicked men say, that our best duties are sin, why should we perform any duties, either praying, hearing, or the like?

In answer to this, know for certain whilst thou art in this condition, thou art in a bad condition, for every thing you do is sin. "Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled, and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but even their minds and consciences are defiled." (Tit. i. 15.) So that to you, to 476 perform duty it is sin, or not to perform duty is sin: but yet omit not duty, for though in performing duty thou sinnest, yet not to perform duty is a double sin.

To perform duty, whilst thou art in thy natural condition, is sin for the manner, because, though thou mayest do the duty for substance, as pray, hear, confer, or the like, yet because thou dost want a principle of grace, nothing is done aright, and so wanteth acceptance: but to neglect duty is a sin, in regard of matter and manner also; for as it is sinfulness itself not to do the duty, so it is sin to have the heart not rightly disposed for the manner of performance. It is with you as it was with the lepers; they said among themselves thus: "Why sit we here till we die? If we say we will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there; and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore let us come and fall unto the host of the Syrians; if they save us alive, we shall live, and if they kill us, we shall but die." (2 Kings vii. 3, 4.) So say thou with thyself. If I do duty, I sin; and if I do not perform duty, I commit a double sin; but I will go to duty: if God will save me, I shall live; if not, I can but perish: and for thy comfort, consider, it may be God will cast an eye of pity upon thee; thou art in the way; that is the means God hath appointed to bring you home to Christ: but yet, until thy condition be changed, all thou dost is sin; for, "The very thoughts of the wicked are an abomination unto the Lord." (Prov. xv. 26.)

But, O, strange! though firebrands out of hell be spitted in your faces, yet you are not affected. But it may be some of you think to do it when you are sick, or upon your death bed; but it may be too late then, when God openeth and awakeneth your conscience, and if you be not awakened here, you shall be sure to be awakened in hell. I remember I heard of a young prodigal, when he was dying, looked on the fire and said, As that fire burneth there, so shall my soul burn in hell. Another said on his death bed, O that I might live, though it were but the life of a toad, God is very careful to send his angels for the godly; but for the wicked the devils stand ready at his bedside to fetch him into hell as soon as his breath goeth out of his body; and then they will cry out, O the time of mercy that I have had! but now it is past; the gate of mercy is shut, never more to be opened.

But it may be yet some will say, Thanks be to God, I am not in hell yet, and as long as there is life there is hope.

O, fearful! what! hope still? Read that place, and tremble in reading of it: "The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware 477 of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. xxiv. 50, 51.)

O, consider this against the day of judgment; it is a sad day for all such, when mercy, and patience, and Christ shall plead against them; yea, "The dust of ministers' feet shall rise up against them." (Luke x. 11.) O, but if so, then what will their condition be, when drops of blood and sweat shall rise up against them? yea, more, the husband shall rejoice to see the damnation of the wife. "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth vengeance on the wicked," (Luke xxii. 44; Ps. lviii. 10), because God hath gotten the glory of his enemies.

The fourth use is, An exhortation to the godly first, and, secondly, to the wicked.

In the first place, to the godly, that complain they can not lay hold on the promise. Go to God to enable you; and that you may so do,--

Consider, in the first place, that not to believe and lay hold on the promise is a sin of unbelief; "and he that believeth not is damned." (John iii. 13.) See the evil of this sin of unbelief in these particulars:--

First. "Hereby we grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption." (Eph. iv. 30.) What a grievous thing is it for thee, who desirest to be assured that the promise is thine, that thou, by unbelief, shouldest grieve that Holy Spirit, which sealeth up the promise to thy soul! See that place, "Hear ye now, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but you must weary my God also?" (Is. iii. 17.) If a man promise to do another man a courtesy, and, after some delay, that man comes to him and saith, Will you do as you promised me? He saith, Yes. But saith he, Will you indeed? and thus he pleadeth with him a whole day, and doth not believe him: will not that exceedingly grieve his friend, who promised him so to do, and fully intended no less? Even so is it with all those that are God's people, and will not believe what God hath said unto them, but stand and plead with God two or three years or more. As those that believe glorify God, so those that will not come in rob God of his honor and glory, and grieve him.

It argueth a great deal of pride of heart in them, that they will not believe because they have not what they would; but something they must have of themselves, like women that will not go to a feast, because they have nothing to carry.

Here is a great deal of unthankfulness for all that God hath done for them, yea, even for Christ himself. Where we love, 478 we are very thankful; and where we desire to be thankful, we will be willing to take a kindness.

It argueth a great deal of impatience, when we will not wait in a way of believing upon the promises of grace, and cheerfully attend God's leisure.

He that will not believe gives God the lie; for, "He that believeth," etc., (1 John v. 10.) He that believeth not in every ordinance he comes to, he maketh God a liar, because every ordinance beareth record of Christ. Not to believe is a denying of God's power, for they will not trust God, especially in a great strait; and by this we may see what a many sins even God's people may commit in this case.

Consider again, in the second place, what a safe thing it is to believe; I speak to God's people. As surgeons, when they let a man blood, bid him look another way, so when the devil letteth you blood, that is, holds you poring on your corruptions, look another way.--I mean on God.--and then you shall be safe from the devil, and the world, and your own corruptions. And that you may lay hold on the promises of God, take heed of those lets and impediments that might hinder you.

Sin is a let; for it will wrest the promise out of our hands. "But your iniquities," etc. (Is. lix. 2.)

The second impediment is, our doubting and wandering in our prayers; for "we must pray, lifting up holy hands," etc., (James i. 6.)

The third impediment to believing is slavish fear, when we fear man more than God, contrary to that counsel, "Fear not their fear, nor be afraid," etc. (Is. viii. 12.)

The fourth let is, when we lay down one thing that might afford us help, and draw ourselves to God, and, in the meantime, take up another which can no way help us; as, when we lay down the promise, and take up the threatening.

Fifthly, when we set our mind too much on the creature, or honors, and seek our own baseness, or worldly pleasures.

In the next place, take these helps to lay hold on the promise.

Labor to live by faith in all straits and conditions, and by faith fetch a supply for all your wants, by the promise from Christ.

Secondly, mark the promise well, which is the ground of all comfort, and read them over often.

Do not flutter up and down, from one promise to another, but lie a great while on some one, and wring and squeeze it by meditation upon it.

Thirdly, apply the promise aright; do not think it belongeth not to you, because you have not that presently which is proposed 479 in it: you must know that God setteth not down the time when it shall be fulfilled.

Fourthly, we are to wait patiently and humbly under our present condition; until God grant our desire, God's time is the best time.

Bless God for all his promises, but especially when they are made good to us.

In the next place, to those that yet stand out, and are not closed with the promise, I entreat you, come in to God, take his gracious offer, lay hold on the promise; which that you may do, take heed of those things that will be lets, and hinder you. (Ps. ciii.)

Take heed of all sin; for the Lord saith, "Your sins have kept back good things from you."

Take heed of setting your mind too much upon the creatures, for they will shut out God the Creator. Old men, do you come home to God; young men, do you remember your Creator in the days of your youth. God this day calleth you; it may be he will never call more. How many hath the Lord struck with death and sickness! and how soon it may be any of our turns, I know not. Sickness is an unfit time to get Christ, and to make our peace with God. If you stand still, you die; if you go on in sin, you die: therefore turn from all your sin, and come in and lay hold by faith on the promise, that so ye may live, and this that I have spoken unto you may not be in vain.


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