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I WOULD come now to speak one short word of use to the whole. And, 1. This still shows more and more, what a sad state God ’s people have brought themselves into by sin. I told you before, that the revelation of so much mercy as is presented unto us by the first part of the text, sufficiently declared our state to be miserable by sin. But what shall we say, when there must be added to that, the heart-blood of the Son of God, and all to make our salvation complete? For albeit mercy is essential to our salvation, and that without which can be no salvation; yet it is the blood that maketh the atonement for the soul, that propitiates, and so makes capable of enjoying it. It was mercy and love, as I said afore, that sent one to shed his blood for us: and it is the blood of him that was sent, that puts us in the enjoyment of mercy.
Oh! I have thought sometimes, What bloody creatures hath sin made us!
The beasts of the field must be slain by thousands before Christ came, to signify to us we should have a Savior; and after that, he must come himself, and die a worse death than died those beast, before the work of saving could be finished. O redemption, redemption by blood, is the heartendearing consideration! This is that which will make the water stand in our eyes; that will break a heart of flint, and that will make one do as they do, that are in bitterness for their first-born.
Sinner, wouldst thou have mercy? wouldst thou be saved? Go thou then to the blood of the cross, as set forth in the word of the truth of the gospel, and there thou shalt find that mercy that thou hast need of first. For there is a mercy that may be called a first mercy, and that is the mercy that gives admittance into an interest in all the rest. Now, the mercy that doth this, is that which reconeileth to God: but other things cannot do this, if we stand off from the blood of the cross. Wherefore, we are said to be reconciled to God, by the death of his Son. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” According to that other saying, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up (to the death) for us all, how shall he not with hint also freely give us all things?” In both these places the Son of God and our Redeemer, is set forth to us in the first place, as the only one that reconcileth the sinner to God by the blood of his cross.
Wherefore to this Christ, as crucified, the sinner must come first, because nothing else can reconcile to God. And if thou be not reconciled to God, what art thou but an enemy to him, partake of what mercy thou canst? Go to him, did I say? Receive him into the arms of thy faith, hold him fast, for he is a Savior; yea, carry him as set forth by the gospel, dying for thee, and pray God for his sake to bestow upon thee all those mercies that will compass thee about as with a shield, and follow thee all thy days, till thou enterest in at the doors of eternity. And this is the way to speed. For he that hath the Son hath life in the beginning of it; and he that holds fast the Son shall have life in the consummation of it. I do the oftener touch upon this matter, because this Christ is the door, in at which whosoever entereth shall be saved; but he that climbs up any other way, shall be judged as a thief and a robber. But, 2. Is Christ, as crucified, the way and door to all spiritual and eternal mercy? and doth God come to the sinner, and the sinner again go to God in a saving way by him, and by him only? And is there no other way to the Father but by his blood, and through the vail, that is to say, his flesh? Then this shows the danger, upon what pretense soever, (of casting off the daily sacrifice, and setting up in its place the abomination that maketh desolate; I mean,) of casting away a crucified Christ, and setting up the vanity of moral obedience, as the more substantial and most acceptable thing with God. I call not a crucified Christ the daily sacrifice, as if I thought he often suffered for sin, since the foundation of the world; but because the virtue of that one offering is that, and only that, by which we daily draw nigh unto God; and because the virtue of that one sacrifice will for ever abide beneficial to them that come to God, to the world’s end by him.
But I say, into what a miserable plight have such a people put themselves, that have cast off coming to God by Christ, as he is the propitiation for their sins, and that seek to come another way? Such are elapsed again to Gentilism, to Paganism, or Heathenism. Nor will it help at all to say, they rely on the mercy and goodness of God: for there is no such thing as spiritual and eternal mercy can come from God to him, that comes not to him by Christ. The Turks, who, if I be not mistaken, have this for the beginning of every chapter of the Alcoran, “The Lord God, gracious and merciful,” yet are counted unbelievers, and are verily so, for they have not received the faith of Christ. “The Lord God, gracious and merciful,” will not save them; no, not by grace and mercy, unless repenting of their presuming upon mercy without a bloody sacrifice, they come to him by his Son. Men, therefore, that have laid aside the necessity of reconciliation to God by the precious blood of Christ, are in a condemned state; nor will it help at all to say; they do indeed, believe in him. I am not so void of reason as to think that they that have cast away Christ, as he is a propitiatory sacrifice with God for sin, should also cast away his name out of their mouth. No; his name is too honorable, and the profession of it too glorious, for them to do such a thing. But retaining his name, and the notion of him as a Savior, they yet cast him off, and that in those very things wherein the essential part of his sacrifice, the merit of it, and his everlasting priesthood consist; and in this lies the mystery of their iniquity.
They will have him to be a Savior, but it must not be by fulfilling the law for us; but it must not be by putting his glorious righteousness, that which he performed by subjecting himself to the law, on our behalf, upon us; but it must not be by washing us from our sins in his own blood; — but it must be by his kingly and prophetical offices: when, as for his kingly and prophetical offices, he puts those people under the government of them that he has afore made to stand justified before God, from the curse of the law, by his priesthood. Nor dare they altogether deny that Christ doth save his people as a priest; but then their art is to confound these offices, by pleading that they are in effect but one and the self-same thing; and then with a noise of morality and government, they jostle the merit of his blood, and the perfection of his justifying righteousness, out of doors. And so retaining the name of Christ in their mouths, they cast those things of Christ, that they like not, under their feet; which things, who have not the faith of, must not, cannot see the kingdom of God.
The term mercy is but a general sound, and is as an arrow shot at rovers, unless the blood and death of the Son of God be set before us, as the mark or mean by which our spirits are to be directed to it. What profit shall a man have, and what shelter or succor shall he find, in hearing the most exact relation of the strength of the most impregnable castle in the world, unless he knows the door, and entereth in by that, into that place of strength, in the time when the enemy shall pursue him? Why, this is the case; we hear a noise of mercy, and of being at peace with God; what a good God God is, and what a blessed thing it is to be a child of God; how many privileges the children of God have, and what will be their exaltation and glory in the next world. And all the while they that tell us these things, conceal from us the way thereto, which is Christ, not in the naming of him, but in the right administering of his gospel to us.
Christ, and faith in him as a Savior, not in the name only, but in the true sense thereof, is the mark as I have said, from which if any swerve, they err from the saving way, and so come nothing near that mercy that can save them. Hence, Christ is called a standard and ensign. “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesus, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” And again, “Thus saith the Lord God, behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles and set up my standard to the people.” “Go through, go through the gates; prepare you the way of the people gather out the stones, lift up a standard for the people. Behold the Lord hath proclaimed to the end of the world, say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold, Salvation cometh; behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.” Hence again he is called the “captain (or chieftain) of our salvation,” and him without whom there neither is nor can be any.
But now the men of this confederacy, rather than they will submit themselves to the righteousness of God, will lay odiums and scandals upon them that preach as they should. Not forsooth, if you will believe them, but that they are highly for the righteousness of God, let it be that which they count so; but then, to be sure, it shalt never be the personal performances of Christ, by which they that believe in him are justified from all things, but that which they call first principles, dictates of human nature, obedience to a moral precept, followed and done as they have Christ for an example; not understanding, that Christ in his own doings, is the end of all these things to every one that believeth. But if it be urged, that gentiles and pagans are possessed with those principles, only they have not got the art, as our men have, to cover them with the name of Christ and principles of Christianity; then they fall to commending the heathens and their philosophers, and the natural motives and principles by which they were actuated; preferring them much before what by others are called the graces of the Spirit, and principles upon which the doctrine of the free grace and mercy of God by Christ are grounded. But, as I said, all the good that such preachers can do, as to the next world, is, to draw the people away from their ensign, and their standard, and so lead them among the gentiles and infidels, to seek by their rules the way to this unspeakable mercy of God.
Wherefore, their state being thus deplorable, and their spirits thus incorrigible, they must be pitied, and loft, and fled from, if we would live. 3. Is Christ Jesus the redemption, and, as such, the very door and inlet into all God’s mercies? Christian man, look well to thyself, that thou goest no where, and doest nothing, (I mean in any part of religious worship, etc.,) but as thou art in him. Walk in him, speak in him, grow in him; for he is the ALL. And though others regard not to hold the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands hath nourishment ministered, yet have thou a care. This is he that is thy life, and the length of thy days, and without whom no true happiness can be had. Many there be that count this but a low thing. They desire to soar aloft, to fly into new notions, and to be broaching new opinions, not counting themselves happy, except they can throw stone new-found fangle, to be applauded for, among their novel hearers. But fly thou to Christ for life. And that thou mayest so do, remember well thy sins, and the judgment and wrath of God; and know also that he is merciful. But at mercy none can come, but through the cursed death Christ underwent. And although some of the wanton professors of our age may blame thee, for poring so much upon thy sins, and the pollution of thy nature; yet know that there is an advantage in it.
There be some alive in the world, who, though they count the nature and commission of sin, the very evil of evils; yet can say, that the remembrance of how vile they are, and of what evils they have committed, has been to them a soul-humbling, a Christ advancing, and a creature-emptying consideration. Though sin made death bitter to Christ, yet sin makes Christ sweet to his. And though none should sin that grace might abound; yet where sin has abounded, grace doth much more abound, not only as an act of God, but also in the eye of faith.
A sight of the filth, and a sense of the guilt of sin, makes a pardon to such a soul more than an empty notion; and makes the means through which the pardon comes, more to be desired than is either life or limb. This is it that makes the sensible soul prize the Lord Jesus, while the self-justiciary laugheth him to scorn. This it is which makes the awakened sinner cast away his own righteousness, while the self-conceited one makes it his advocate with the Father.
Some indeed count their own doing the only darling of their soul, while others cast it to the dogs. And why should a man cumber himself with what is his, when the good of all that is in Christ is laid, and to be laid out for him? Not that a believer casts off to do good; for he knows that what good thing is done in faith and love, is acceptable to God, and profitable to his neighbor. But this it is: he setteth not his good deeds against the judgment of God; he cometh not in his own good. When he comes to God for forgiveness of sins, then he sees nothing, knows nothing, mentions nothing, as righteousness, but that which Christ wrought out in the days of his flesh, and that only. But how then is what he doth accepted of God? Verily as the duty of a son, and as the work of one that is justified.
We must therefore conclude, that there is acceptation, and acceptation: acceptation of the person, and acceptation of his performance. Acceptation of the person may be considered with respect to justification from the curse; and so, acceptation there can be none, but through the one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Also the acceptation of a duty done by such a person, is by virtue of the selfsame offering, the person being considered as standing just through Christ before God. And the reason why a justified person must have his duties accepted in the same way as is his person, is, because justifying righteousness sets not the person free from sin, save only in the sight of God and conscience: he remaineth still infirm in himself, and standeth still in need of the fresh and continual application of the merits of the Lord Jesus, which also the soul receiveth by virtue of Christ’s intercession. I speak now of acceptation with reference to the justice of the law, and the judgment of God upon person or work, according to the self-same law; for so they both must be accepted through the self-same Mediator, or they cannot be accepted at all.
Nor is it a thing to be wondered at, that a man should stand just in the sight of God, when polluted and defiled in his own sight. He stands just before God in the justice of his Son, upon whom God looks, and for whose sake he accepts him. May not a scabbed, mangy man — a man all overrun with blains and blotches, be yet made beautiful to the view of a beholder, through the silken, silver, golden garment that may be put upon him, and may cover all his flesh? Why the righteousness of Christ is not only unto, but upon all them that believe. And whoso considers the parable of the wretched infant, shall find, that before it was washed with water, it was wrapped up or covered, as it was found in its blood, in and with the skirt of his garment that found it in its filth. And then he washed it with water; and then he sanctified it by the anointing oil of the Spirit of God.
I speak thus to thee, Christian reader, partly because in the faith of these things is thy life; and because I would yet enforce the exhortation upon thee with the reason and the amplification thereof, namely, to put thee upon trusting in the Lord through the encouragement that thou hast in redeeming mercy so to do.
Some may say, ‘Will God see that which is not? and will he judge a man just that is a sinner?’ But I will answer, the man that had the rainbow about his head, was, to look on, or be looked upon, while he shone like a jasper and a sardine-stone. The blood of the paschal lamb was to be looked upon by. him that came to destroy the land of Egypt, in their first-born. I add, the rainbow that God gave to Noah for a token that he would no more destroy the earth with the waters of the flood, was to be looked upon, that God might remember to show mercy to his people. Now all these meet in the man Christ Jesus, who is the only one, for the sake of whom the sinner that believeth in him, stands acquitted in the sight of God. His is the blood; he is the Prince, that is more than the token, of the covenant: nor do all the colors in the rainbow appear so beautiful in the eyes of man, as does the garment of Christ, which is from his loins, even , upward, and from his loins, even downward, in the eyes of the God of heaven. And wilt thou say, ‘These are things that are not?’ Also, ‘that he cannot legally judge a man just that is a sinner?’ Do but admit of a diverse consideration, and God will so consider of that sinner whom he justifieth, in despite of all the teeth in thy proud mouth. He “justifies the ungodly;” not that were, but that are such now, in the judgment and verdict of the law; when he might deal with them in their own persons as men. He will then consider them in his Son; in, and under the skirt of his Son. He will consider them as washed in the blood of his Son, and will also consider, that in him is no sin, and so he will deal with them. “We know that he was manifested to take away our sins: and in him is no sin.”
Or, what if I cannot but live upon the spend all my days; yet if my friend will always supply my need, and, through his bounty, keep me from writ, bailiff, or jail, is it not well for me? Yea, what if what I can get shall be laid up for me hereafter; and that my friend, so long as there is death and danger in the way, will himself secure me and bear my charges to the world’s end? may I not accept thereof, and be thankful? Blessed be God for Jesus Christ! I believe he is more than all this to me. “In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” I know similitude’s will not hold in all things: but we that believe are set free from the curse of the law by another man’s obedience. “For by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Let then the believer, as was said, study and pray, and read God’s word continually, for the sake of the glory of this truth, that it may be made more his own, and that his conscience may be more and more settled in the power and glory thereof. 4. As the Christian should most labor to get into the power and glory of this doctrine, so let him see that he holds it fast. This doctrine is foreign to flesh and blood; it is not earthly, but from heaven. It is with many that begin with this doctrine, as it is with boys that go to the Latin School. They learn till they have learned the grounds of their grammar, and then go home and forget all. How have many, that as to the grounds of Christian religion, one would think, had been well taught, yet not taking such heed thereto as they should, they have let slip all, and their hearts have been filled with the world again, or else have drunk in some opinion that has been diametrically opposite to what they professed of the truth before? Wherefore, hast thou any thing of the truth of Christ in thy heart? Hold that fast, that no man takes thy crown. Yea, grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
He that will retain and hold fast the doctrine of redemption, and so by that have, through faith, an inlet into all the abounding mercy of God, must not deal in God’s matters with a slack hand. It is not enough for them that would do so, to be content with sermons, family duties, and other public assemblies for worship; but there must be a continual exercise of the mind about these matters, and a labor of the soul to retain them in their glory and sweetness. Else they will, first as to their excellency, then as to the very notion of them, slip from the heart and be gone. Not that there is any treachery or deceit therein, but the deceit lies in the heart about them. He that will keep water in a sieve must use more than ordinary diligence. Our heart is the leaking vessel; and therefore we ought to. give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
That this doctrine may remain with us, we must also mortify our carnal reason; for that makes head against the truth thereof, and what can foolishness do else? And the wisdom of this world, (which is carnal reason in its improvements,) is foolishness with God. It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. It judges this doctrine that we have been speaking of, foolishness: wherefore, it must be avoided, opposed, and mortified, and the word of faith the more carefully submitted to. “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.” See here trusting in the Lord, and leaning to our own understanding, are opposites; wherefore, they must either be reconciled, or one quite adhered unto, in a way of mortification of the other. Now, it is safest in this matter to keep a continual guard upon our carnal powers, and to give up ourselves to the conduct of our God, and in all our ways acknowledge him, that he (not ourselves) may direct our paths. It is a great thing for a man, when the word and his reason clash, then to adhere to the word, and let his reason fall to the ground. And this, indeed, is Christianity in the practical part thereof. The Spirit of Christ in the word is to be hearkened unto, above all things.
There must also be a continual war maintained upon all the lusts of the flesh, that they may not draw away the heart from the study and delight, the love and faith, of the things that are hid in Christ. This, I say, must be done, else the heart cannot be at liberty to wait upon the Lord without distraction, for the further communication of himself in his Son, according to his blessed gospel, to us. Many Christians are lean in their faith and too barren in their lives, and all for want of being diligent here. Wherefore having faith in this blessed Lord Jesus Christ, as has been afore discoursed, in the next place, “giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is a method that the Holy Ghost has prescribed in the word, for them that have faith to observe, and without the observation thereof, though they indeed may be of the number of them that shall be saved, yet they shall not have much, nor do much for Christ and his name, in this world. Now the unskillful, that are so in the word of righteousness, finding this method, and not discerning to whom it belongs, forthwith apply it to all; and forgetting that faith must go before, they press these things as duties preparatory to faith, or else so call that which is not so; and so the blind leading the blind, both fall into the ditch, and are smothered. But do thou, O child of God, distinguish, and keep faith and duty for the justification of thy person in the sight of God, far asunder; also be sure to let faith go before, and be always with thy Savior; but add unto thy faith, virtue, etc.
Not as though thy faith could not lay hold of Christ, unless accompanied with these; but to show that thy faith is of the right kind, as also for the emboldening of thee to a holy endeavor, yet to press further into his everlasting kingdom, by his word. “For he that lacketh these things, is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” 5. That thou mayst keep steadfast to this doctrine, take heed of being offended, or of stumbling at the word because of the offensive lives and conversations of some that are professors of the same. There will be offenses, and it is needful there should, yea scandals and heresies also, “that they that are approved (by God) may be made manifest among you.”
Many that adhere to, and profess this gospel, are short of the power and glory of the things which they profess. Now the word, the word only, will not bring those that profess it into a conformity to it; into a conformity in heart and life. Wherefore they that know it only in word, live scandalous lives, to the reproach of the faith, the emboldening of its enemies, the stumbling of the ignorant, and grief of the godly, that are so indeed, and must bear their judgment in the next world.
This also flows from the wisdom of hell. The devil knows that the faith of the gospel rightly professed, is not only saving to those in whom it is, but alluring unto beholders. Wherefore that he may prevent the beauteous luster thereof, he sows his tares among God’s wheat and goes his way, that is, to the end those that stumble may not see what he hath done, or whose are the tares indeed. Now by these the sunshine of the faith of the true professors of the blessed gospel is clouded; yea, and the world made to believe, that such as the worst are, such are the best; that there is never a barrel better herring, but that the whole lump of them are in truth, a pack of knaves. Now has the devil got the point aimed at, and has caused many to fall. But behold ye now the good reward these tares shall have at the day of reward for their doing. “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire: so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
It also happeneth sometimes, through the anger and judgment of God against sinners, that some of them truly gracious do fall, as David, Peter, etc.; the which is a great trial to the godly, a wound to the persons fallen, and a judgment of God to the world. For since these last would not be converted, nor made turn to God by the convincing glory that has attended their faith in a holy and unblamable life annexed, God has suffered them to fall, that they also might stumble and fall, and be dashed in pieces by their vices.
But thou, Christian man, be not thou offended at any of these things. Do thou look unto Jesus; do thou look unto his word; do thou live by faith, and think much of thy latter end; do thou be base in thine own eyes, be humble and tender, and pray to God always; do thou add to thy faith virtue, and to virtue what is else mentioned; and “give diligence to make thy calling and election sure; for if thou dost these things thou shalt never fall; for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 6. If it be so, that there is so much mercy in the heart of God for his people, and that Jesus his Son has by his blood made so living a way for us that we might enjoy it, and the benefit of it for ever, then .Let Israel hope; for to that end is that goodness revealed. “Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”
Hope! Who would not hope to enjoy life eternal, that has an inheritance in the God of Israel? “Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and. who is the sword of thy excellency?” Did but the people of God see to what they are born, and how true the God of truth will be to what by his word they look for at his hands, they would be above always; they would be weary of life, of estates, of relations; they would groan earnestly under all their enjoyments, to be with him who is their life, their portion, and their glory for ever. But we profess, and yet care not for dying; we profess, and yet long not for the coming of the day of God; we profess the faith, and yet by our whole life show to them that can see, how little a measure of it we have in our hearts.
The Lord lead us more into the power of things; then shall the virtues of him that hath saved us, and called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, shine forth, and the savor of his good knowledge be made known to others far otherwise than it is. Amen. 7. And, lastly, Sinner, doth not all this discourse make thy heart twitter after the mercy that is with God, and after the way that is made by this plenteous redemption thereto? Me thinks it should; yea, thou couldst, not do otherwise, didst thou but see thy condition. Look behind thee, take a view of the path thou hast trodden these many years. Dost thou think that the way that thou art in, will lead thee to the strait gate, sinner? Ponder the path of thy feet with the greatest seriousness: thy life lies upon it! What thinkest thou? But make no answer, till in the night — till thou art in the night watches. Commune with thine own heart upon thy bed, and then say what thou thinkest of whither thou art going.
O that thou wert serious! Is it not a thing to be lamented, that madness and folly should be in thy heart while thou livest, and after that to go to the dead, when so much life stands before thee, and light to see the way to it?
Surely, men void of grace and possessed of carnal minds, must either think that sin is nothing, that hell is easy, and that eternity is short; or else, that whatever God has said about the punishing of sinners, he will never do as he has said; or that there is no sin, no God, no heaven, no hell, and so no good or bad hereafter; or else they could not live as they do. But perhaps thou presumest upon it, and sayest, ‘ I shall have peace, though I live so sinful a life.’ Sinner, if this wicked thought be in thy heart, tell me again, dost thou think in earnest? Canst thou imagine thou shalt at the day of account outface God, or make him believe thou wast what thou wast not?
Or that when the gate of mercy is shut up in wrath, he will at thy pleasure, and to the reversing of his own counsel, open it again to thee? Why shall thy deceived heart turn thee aside, that thou canst not deliver thy soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?