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TheSECOND thing that I am to speak unto is this —WHO they are that are actually brought into this free and unchangeable grace; and alsoHOW they are brought in. Answer. Indeed, now we come to the pinch of the whole discourse; and if God do but help me to run rightly through this, as I do verily believe He will, I may do thee, reader, good, and bring glory to my God.
The question containeth these two branches — First . Who are brought in; Second . How they are brought in. First. The first is quickly answered — “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” Jewish sinners, Gentile sinners, old sinners, young sinners, great sinners, the chiefest of sinners. Publicans and harlots — that is, whores, cheaters, and exactors — shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven ( 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:7-11; 1 Corinthians 6:9,11; Matthew 21:31). “For I come not,” saith Christ, “to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” ( Mark 2:17).
But particularly; they are described in a more particular way, as, 1. Such as in whom dwelleth the devil ( Ephesians 2:2,3). 2. Such as will do the service of him ( John 8:44). 3. Such as are enemies to God ( Colossians 1:21) 4. Such as are drunkards, whoremasters, liars, perjured persons, covetous, revilers, extortionists, fornicators, swearers, possessed with devils, thieves, idolaters, witches, sorcerers, conjurors, murderers, and the like ( 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; 2 Chronicles 33:1-13; Acts 2:36,37; Acts 9:1-6; Acts 19:9; 1 Timothy 1:14-16). These are sinners, and such sinners that God hath prepared Heaven, happiness, pardon of sin, and an inheritance of God, with Christ, with saints, with angels, if they do come in and accept of grace, as I might prove at large; for God’s grace is so great, that if they do come to Him by Christ, presently all is forgiven them; therefore never object that thy sins are too great to be pardoned; but come, taste and see how good the Lord is to any whosoever come unto Him. Second. The second thing is, Question. How are these brought into this Everlasting Covenant of Grace? Answer. When God doth in deed and in truth bring in a sinner into this most blessed covenant, [Come to the Touchstone, sinner]. for so it is, He usually goeth this way — First. He slays or kills the party to all things besides Himself, and His Son Jesus Christ, and the comforts of the Spirit. For the clearing of this I shall show you, 1. With what God kills; 2. How God kills; 3. To what God kills those whom He makes alive in Jesus Christ. 1. [What God kills]. When God brings sinners into the Covenant of Grace, He doth first kill them with the Covenant of Works, which is the moral law, or Ten Commandments. This is Paul’s doctrine, and also Paul’s experience. It is his doctrine where he saith, “The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones — the ministration of condemnation,” which is the law, in that place called the letter, “killeth” ( 2 Corinthians 3:6-9). The letter, saith he, killeth; or the law, or the ministration of death, which in another place is called “the voice of words” ( Hebrews 12:19), because they have no life in them, but rather death and damnation, through our inability to fulfill them, doth kill ( Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 6). Secondly. It is his experience where he saith, “I was alive” that is, to my own things, “without the law once,” that is, before God did strike him dead by it, “but when the commandment came,” that is, to do and exercise its right office on me, which was to kill me, then “sin revived, and I died,” and I was killed. “And the commandment,” or the law, “which was ordained to” be unto “life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me” ( Romans 7:9-11). Question. But how doth God kill with this law, or covenant? Answer. 1. By opening to the soul the spirituality of it — “The law is spiritual,” saith he, “but I am carnal, sold under sin” ( Romans 7:14).
Ay, sinner, when the law doth come home indeed upon thy soul in the spirituality of it, it will discover such things to thee to be sins that now thou lookest over and regardest not; that is a remarkable saying of Paul when he saith, “Sin revived, and I died.” Sin revived, saith he; as if he had said, Those things that before I did not value nor regard, but looked upon them to be trifles, to be dead, and forgotten; but when the law was fastened on my soul, it did so raise them from the dead, call them into mind, so muster them before my face, and put such strength into them, that I was overmastered by them, by the guilt of them. Sin revived by the commandment, or my sins had mighty strength, life, and abundance of force upon me because of that, insomuch that they killed me ( Matthew 5:28). (2.) It showeth that every such sin deserveth eternal damnation.
Friends, I doubt there be but few of you that have seen the spirituality of the law of works. But this is one thing in which it discovereth its spirituality, and this is the proper work of the Law. (3.) God, with a discovery of this, doth also discover His own Divine and infinite justice, of which the law is a description, which backs what is discovered by the law, and that by discovering of its purity and holiness to be so Divine, so pure, so upright, and so far of from winking at the least sin, that He doth by that law, without any favor, condemn the sinner for that sin ( Galatians 3:10). Now, when He hath brought the soul into this praemunire, into this puzzle, then, 2. He showeth to the soul the nature and condition of the law as to its dealings with, or forbearing of, the sinner that hath sinned against it; which is to pass an eternal curse upon both soul and body of the party so offending, saying to him, Cursed be the man that continueth not in everything that is written in the Book of the Law to do it; for, saith the law, this is my proper work; first, to show thee thy sins; and when I have done that, then, in the next place, to condemn thee for them, and that without all remedy, as from ME, or anything within my bounds, for I am not to save any, to pardon any — nay, not to favor any in the least thing that have sinned against me; for God did not send me to make alive, but to discover sin, and to condemn for the same. Now, so soon as this is presented to thy conscience, in the next place, the Lord also by this law doth show that now there is no righteous act according to the tenor of that covenant that can replieve him, or take him off from all this horror and curse that lies upon him; because that is not an administration of pardon, as I said before, to forgive the sin, but an administration of damnation, because of transgression. O, the very discovery of this striketh the soul into a deadly swoon, even above half dead! But when God doth do the work indeed, He doth, in the next place, show the soul that he is the man that is eternally under this covenant by nature, and that it is he that hath sinned against this law, and doth by right deserve the curse and displeasure of the same, and that all that ever he can do will not give satisfaction to that glorious justice that did give this law; holy actions, tears of blood, selling all, and giving it to the poor, or whatever else can be done by thee, it comes all short and is all to no purpose (Philippians 3). I will warrant him, he that seeth this, it will kill him to that which he was alive unto before, though he had a thousand lives. Ah, sinners, sinners, were you but sensible indeed of the severity and truth of this, it would make you look about you to purpose! O, how would it make you strive to stop at that that now you drink down with delight! How many oaths would it make you bite asunder! Nay, it would make you bite your tongues to think that they should be used as instruments of the devil to bring your souls into such an unspeakable misery; then also we should not have you hang the salvation of your souls upon such slender pins as now you do; no, no; but you would be in another mind then. O, then we should have you cry out, I must have Christ; what shall I do for Christ? how shall I come at Christ? Would I was sure, truly sure of Christ. My soul is gone, damned, cast away, and must for ever burn with the devils, if I do not get precious Jesus Christ!
In the next place, when God hath done this, then He further shows the soul that that covenant which it is under by nature is distinct from the Covenant of Grace; and also they that are under it are by nature without any of the graces which they have that are under the Covenant of Grace; as, (1.) That it hath no faith ( John 16:9). (2.) No hope ( Ephesians 2:12). (3.) Nor none of the Spirit to work these things in it by nature. (4.) Neither will that covenant give to them any peace with God. (5.) No promise of safeguard from His revenging law by that covenant. (6.) But lieth by nature liable to all the curses, and condemnings, and thunderclaps of this most fiery covenant. (7.) That it will accept of no sorrow, no repentance, no satisfaction, as from thee. (8.) That it calls for no less than the shedding of thy blood. (9.) The damnation of thy soul and body. (10.) And if there be anything proffered to it by thee, as to the making of it amends, it throws it back again as dirt in thy face, slighting all that thou canst bring.
And therefore, in the next place, to show you to what it is killed: and that is, first, to sin. O, it dares not sin! it sees Hell-fire is prepared for them that sin, God’s justice will not spare it if it live in sin; the Law will damn it if it live in sin; the devil will have it if it follows its sins. O, I say, it trembles at the very thoughts of sin! Ay, if sin do but offer to tempt the soul, to draw away the soul from God, it cries, it sighs, it shunneth the very appearance of sin, it is odious unto it. If God would but serve you thus that love your pleasures, you would not make such a trifle of sin as you do. Secondly, It is killed to the Law of God as it is the Covenant of Works. O, saith the soul, the law hath killed me to itself, “I through the law am dead to the law” ( Galatians 2:19).
The law is another thing than I did think it was. I thought it would not have been so soul-destroying, so damning a law! I thought it would not have been so severe against me for my little sins, for my playing, for my jesting, for my dissembling, quarreling, and the like. I had some thoughts, indeed, that it would hew great sinners, but let me pass! and though it condemned great sinners, yet it would pass me by! But now, would I were free from this covenant, would I were free from this law! I will tell thee that a soul thus worked upon is more afraid of the Covenant of Works than he is of the devil; for he sees it is the law that doth give him up into his hands for sin; and if he was but clear from that, he should not greatly need to fear the devil. O, now every particular command tears the caul of his heart; now every command is a great gun well charged against his soul; now he sees he had as good run into a fire to keep himself from burning, as to run to the law to keep himself from damning; and this he sees really, ay, and feels it too, to his own sorrow and perplexity. F14 Thirdly . The soul also now is killed to his own righteousness, and counts that but dung, but dross, not worth the dirt hanging on his shoes. O! then, says he, thou filthy righteousness! how hast thou deceived me! How hast thou beguiled my poor soul! ( Isaiah 64:6). How did I deceive myself with giving of a little alms; with abstaining from some gross pollutions; with walking in some ordinances, as to the outside of them! How hath my good words, good thinkings, good meanings, as the world calls them, deceived my ignorant soul! I want the righteousness of faith, the righteousness of God; for I see now there is no less will do me any good. Fourthly . It is also killed to its own faith, its notion of the Gospel, its own hope, its own repentings, its own promises and resolutions, to its own strength, its own virtue, or whatsoever it had before. Now, saith the soul, that faith I thought I had, it is but fancy; that hope I thought I had, I see it is by hypocritical, but vain and groundless hope. [These things would be too tedious to enlarge upon]. Now the soul sees it hath by nature no saving faith, no saving hope, no grace at all by nature, by the first covenant. Now it crieth out, How many promises have I broken! and how many times have I resolved in vain, when I was sick at such a time, and in such a strait at such a place! Indeed, I thought myself a wise man once, but I see myself a very fool now. O, how ignorant am I of the Gospel now, and of the blessed experience of the work of God on a Christian heart! In a word, it sees itself beset by nature with all evil, and destitute of all good, which is enough to kill the stoutest, hardest-hearted sinner that ever lived on the earth.
O, friends, should you be plainly dealt withal by this discovery of the dealing of God with a sinner when He makes him a saint, and would seriously try your selves thereby, as God will try you one day, how few would there be found of you to be so much as acquainted with the work of God in the notion, much less in the experimental knowledge of the same!
And indeed, God is fain to take this way with sinners, thus to kill them with the old covenant to all things below a crucified Christ. 1. Because otherwise there would be none in the world that would look after this sweet Jesus Christ. There are but a few that go to Heaven in all, comparatively; and those few God is fain to deal with them in this manner, or else His Heaven, His Christ, His glory, and everlasting happiness must abide by themselves, for all sinners. Do you think that Manasseh would have regarded the Lord, had He not suffered his enemies to have prevailed against him? ( 2 Chronicles 33:1-16). Do you think that Ephraim would have looked after salvation, had not God first confounded him with the guilt of the sins of his youth? ( Jeremiah 31:18). What do you think of Paul? ( Acts 9:4-6). What do you think of the jailer? ( Acts 16:30-32).
What do you think of the three thousand? ( Acts 2:36,37). Was not this the way that the Lord was fain to take to make them close in with Jesus Christ? Was He not fain to kill them to everything below a Christ, that were driven to their wits” ends, insomuch that they were forced to cry out, “What shall we do to be saved?” I say, God might have kept Heaven and happiness to Himself, if He should not go this way to work with sinners. O stout-hearted rebels! O tender-hearted God! 2. Because then, and not till then, will sinners accept of Jesus Christ on God’s terms. So long as sinners can make a life out of anything below Christ, so long they will not close with Christ without indenting; But when the God of Heaven hath killed them to everything below Himself and His Son, then Christ will down on any terms in the world.
And, indeed, this is the very reason why sinners, when they hear of Christ, yet will not close in with Him; there is something that they can take content in besides Him. The prodigal, so long as he could content himself with the husks that the swine did eat, so long he did keep him away from his father’s house; but when he could get no nourishment anywhere on this side of his father’s house, then saith he, and not till then, “I will arise, and go to my father,” etc.
I say, this is the reason, therefore, why men come no faster, and close no more readily, with the Son of God, but stand halting and indenting about the terms they must have Christ upon; for, saith the drunkard, I look on Christ to be worth the having; but yet I am not willing to loseALL for him; all but my pot, saith the drunkard; and all but the world, saith the covetous. I will part with anything but lust and pride, saith the wanton.
But now, when a man is soundly killed to all his sins, to all his righteousness, to all his comforts whatsoever, and sees that there is no way but the devil must leave him, but he must be damned in Hell if he be not clothed with Jesus Christ; O, then, saith he, give me Christ on any terms, whatsoever He cost; though He cost me friends, though He cost me comforts, though He cost me all that ever I have; yet, like the wise merchant in the Gospel, they will sell all to get that pearl. I tell you, when a soul is brought to see its want of Christ aright, it will not be kept back; father, mother, husband, wife, lands, livings, nay, life and all, shall go rather than the soul will miss of Christ. Ay, and the soul counteth Christ a cheap Savior if he can get him upon any terms; now the soul indents no longer. Now, Lord, give me Christ upon any terms, whatsoever He cost; for I am a dead man, a damned man, a castaway, if I have not Christ. What say you, O you wounded sinners? Is not this true as I have said? Would you not give ten thousand worlds, if you had so many, so be you might be well assured that your sins shall be pardoned, and your souls and bodies justified and glorified at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? 3. The Lord goeth this way for this reason also, that it might make the soul sensible what it cost Christ to redeem it from death and Hell. When a man cometh to feel the sting and guilt of sin, death and Hell upon his conscience, then, and not till then, can he tell what it cost Christ to redeem sinners. O! saith the soul, if a few sins are so terrible, and lay the soul under such wrath and torment, what did Christ undergo, who bare the sins of thousands and thousands, and all at once?
This also is one means to make souls tender of sin (it is the burned child that feareth the fire), to make them humble in a sense of their own vileness, to make them count everything that God giveth them a mercy, to make much of the least glimpse of the love of God, and to prize it above the whole world. O sinners, were you killed indeed [to sin], then Heaven would be Heaven, and Hell would be Hell indeed; but because you are not wrought upon in this manner, therefore you count the ways of God as bad as a good man counteth the ways of the devil, and the ways of the devil and Hell as good as a saint doth count the ways of God. 4. Again, God is fain to go this way, and all to make sinners make sure of Heaven. So long as souls are senseless of sin, and what a damnable state they are in by nature, so long they will even dally with the Kingdom of Heaven and the salvation of their own poor souls; but when God cometh and showeth them where they are, and what it is like to become of them if they miss of the crucified Savior, O, then, saith the soul, would I were sure of Jesus; what shall I do to get assurance of Jesus? And thus is God forced, as I may say, to whip souls to Jesus Christ, they being so secure, so senseless, and so much their own enemies, as not to look out after their own eternal advantage. 5. A fifth reason why God doth deal thus with sinners it is, because He would bring Christ and the soul together in a right way. Christ and sinners would never come together in a beloved posture, they would not so suitably suit each other, if they were not brought together this way, the sinner being killed. O, when the sinner is killed, and indeed struck dead to everything below a naked Jesus, how suitably then doth the soul and Christ suit one with another. Then here is a naked sinner for a righteousness Jesus, a poor sinner to a rich Jesus, a weak sinner to a strong Jesus, a blind sinner to a seeing Jesus, an ignorant, careless sinner to a wise and careful Jesus. O, how wise is God in dealing thus with the sinner! He strips him of his own knowledge, that He may fill him with Christ’s; He killeth him for taking pleasure in sin, that he may take pleasure in Jesus Christ, etc. 6. God goeth this way with sinners, because He would have the glory of their salvation. Should not men and women be killed to their own things, they would do sacrifice unto them, and instead of saying to the Lamb, “THOU ART WORTHY,” they would say their own arm, their own right hand hath saved them; but God will cut off boasting from ever entering within the borders of eternal glory; for He is resolved to have the glory of the beginning, the middle, and the end; of the contriving, and saving, and giving salvation to them that enter in to the joys of everlasting glory ( Romans 3:27; Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5; Revelation 5:9). “That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of theLORD, that He might be glorified” ( Isaiah 61:3).
I might have run through many things as to this; but I shall pass them, and proceed.
Now,SECONDLY, the soul being this killed to itself, its sins, its righteousness, faith, hope, wisdom, promises, resolutions, and the rest of its things which it trusted in by nature; in the next place, it hath also given unto it a most glorious, perfect, and never-fading life.
Which is, first , a life imputed to it, yet so really, that the very thought of it in the soul hath so much operation and authority, especially when the mediation of it is mixed with faith, as to make it, though condemned by the law, to triumph, and to look its enemies in the face with comfort, notwithstanding the greatness of the multitude, the fierceness of their anger, and the continuation of their malice, be never so hot against it.
This imputed life — for so it is — is the obedience of the Son of God as His righteousness, in His suffering, rising, ascending, interceding, and so consequently triumphing over all the enemies of the soul, and given to me, as being wrought on purpose for me. So that, is there righteousness in Christ? that is mine. Is there perfection in that righteousness? that is mine.
Did He bleed for sin? it was for mine. Hath He overcome the law, the devil, and Hell? the victory is mine, and I am counted the conqueror, nay, more than a conqueror, through Him that hath loved me. And I do count this a most glorious life; for by this means it is that I am, in the first place, proclaimed both in Heaven and earth guiltless, and such an one who, as I am in Christ, am not sinner, and so not under the law, to be condemned, but as holy and righteous as the Son of God Himself, because He Himself is my holiness and righteousness, and so likewise having by this all things taken out of the way that would condemn me.
Sometimes I bless the Lord my soul hath had the life that now I am speaking of, not only imputed to me, but the very glory of it upon my soul; for, upon a time, when I was under many condemnings of heart, and feared, because of my sins, my soul would miss of eternal glory, methought I felt in my soul such a secret motion of this — Thy righteousness is in Heaven, together with the splendor and shining of the Spirit of Grace in my soul, which gave me to see clearly that my righteousness by which I should be justified from all that could condemn, was the Son of God Himself in His own Person, now at the right hand of His Father representing me complete before the Mercy-seat in His Ownself; so that I saw clearly that night and day, wherever I was, or whatever I was a doing, still there was my righteousness just before the eyes of Divine glory; so that the Father could never find fault with me for any insufficiency that was in my righteousness, seeing it was complete; neither could He say, Where is it? because it was continually at His right hand. F18 Also, at another time, having contracted guilt upon my soul, and having some distemper of body upon me, I supposed that death might now so seize upon as to take me away from among men; then, thought I, what shall I do now? is all right with my soul? Have I the right work of God on my soul? Answering myself, “No, surely;” and that because there were so many weaknesses in me; yes, so many weaknesses in my best duties. For, thought I, how can such an one as I find mercy, whose heart is so ready to evil, and so backward to that which is good, so far as it is natural. Thus musing, being filled with fear to die, these words come in upon my soul, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” ( Romans 3:24).
As if God had said, Sinner, thou thinkest because that thou hast had so many infirmities and weaknesses in thy soul while thou hast been professing of Me, therefore now there can be no hopes of mercy; but be it known unto thee, that it was not anything done by thee at the first that moved Me to have mercy upon thee: neither is it anything that is done by thee now that shall make me either accept or reject thee. Behold My Son, who standeth by Me, He is righteous, He hath fulfilled My Law, and given me good satisfaction; on Him, therefore, do I look, and on thee only as thou art in Him; and according to what He hath done, so will I deal with thee. This having stayed my heart, and taken off the guilt through the strength of its coming on my soul, anon after came in that word as a second testimony — “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works,” of righteousness which we have done, “but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” ( 2 Timothy 1:9).
And thus is the sinner made alive from the dead, being justified by grace through the righteousness of Christ, which is unto all and upon all them that believe, according to the Scriptures — “And the life which I now live — it is “by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” ( Galatians 2:20). “I lay down my life for the sheep.” “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” ( John 10:10,15). “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. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” ( Romans 5:10,21). Secondly. This life is not only imputed to him that is wrought on by the Spirit of Grace — that is, not only counted his, but also there is put into the soul an understanding, enlightened on purpose to know the things of God, which is Christ and His imputed righteousness ( 1 John 5:20) which it never thought of nor understood before ( 1 Corinthians 2:9-11).
Which understanding being enlightened and made to see such things that the soul cannot be contented without it lay hold of and apply Christ unto itself so effectually; I say, that the soul shall be exceedingly revived in a very heavenly measure with the application of this imputed righteousness; for thereby it knoweth it shall find God speaking peace to itself, with a fatherly affection, saying, “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee;” the righteousness of My Son I bestow upon thee; “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through thee,” thy “flesh,” “I have sent forth My only Son, and have condemned” thy sins in His flesh ( Romans 8:3).
And though thou hast gone astray like a lost sheep, yet on Him I have laid thine iniquities; and though thou thereby didst undo and break thyself for ever, yet by His stripes I have healed thee. Thus, I say, the Lord causeth the soul by faith to apply that which He doth by grace impute unto it, for thus every soul more or less is dealt withal; the soul being thus enlightened, thus quickened, thus made alive from that dead state it was in before, or at least having the beginnings of this life, it hath these several virtuous advantages, which they have not that are dead in their sins and trespasses, and under the law — First. It seeth what a sad condition all men by nature are in, they being in that state which itself was in but a while since; but now by grace it is a beginning to scrabble out of it; now it seeth “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” and so liable to eternal vengeance, because of their wickedness ( 1 John 5:19). Ah, friends, let me tell you, though you may be ignorant of your state and condition, yet the poor, groaning, hungering saints of God do see what a sad, woeful, miserable state you are in, which sometimes makes them tremble to think of your most lamentable latter end, your dying so, and also to fly the faster to their Lord Jesus, for very fear that they also should be partakers of that most doleful doom. And this it hath by virtue of its own experience, knowing itself was but awhile ago in the same condition, under the same condemnation. O! there is now a hearth blessing of God that ever He should show to it its sad condition, and that He should incline its heart to seek after a better condition. O blessed be the Lord! saith the soul, that ever He should awaken me, stir up me, and bring me out of that sad condition that I once with them was in ( <19A301> Psalm 103:1-3). It makes also the soul to wonder to see how foolishly and vainly the rest of its neighbors do spend their precious time, that they should be so void of understanding, so forgetful of their latter end, so senseless of the damning nature of their sins. O that their eyes were but enlightened to see whereabouts they are! surely they would be of another mind than they are now in. Now, the soul wonders to see what slender pins those poor creatures do hang the stress of the eternal salvation of their souls upon. O! methinks, saith the soul, it makes me mourn to see that some should think that they were born Christians; and others, that their baptism makes them so; others depend barely upon a traditional, historical faith, which will leave their souls in the midst of perplexity.
That they should trust to such fables, fancies, and wicked sleights of the devil, as their good doings, their good thinkings, their civil walking and living with the world. O miserable profession, and the end thereof will be a miserable end!
But now, when the souls is thus wrought upon, it must be sure to look for the very gates of Hell to be set open against it with all their force and might to destroy it. Now Hell rageth, the devil roareth, and all the world resolveth to do the best they can to bring the soul again into bondage and ruin. Also, the soul shall not want enemies, even in its own heart’s lust, as covetousness, adultery, blasphemy, unbelief, hardness of heart, coldness, half-heartedness, ignorance, with an innumerable company of attendants, hanging, like so many blocks, at its heels, ready to sink it into the fire of Hell every moment, together with strange apprehensions of God and Christ, as if now they were absolutely turned to be its enemies, which maketh it doubt of the certainty of its salvation; for you must understand, that though a soul may in reality have the righteousness of the Son of God imputed to it, and also some faith in a very strong manner to lay hold upon it, yet at another time, through temptation, they may fear and doubt again, insomuch that the soul may be put into a very great fear lest it should return again into the condition it once was in ( Jeremiah 32:40).
O, saith the soul, when I think of my former state, how miserable it was, it makes me tremble; and when I think that I may fall into that condition again, how sad are the thoughts of it to me! I would not be in that condition again for all the world. And this fear riseth still higher and higher, as the soul is sensible of Satan’s temptations, or of the working of its own corruption’s. Ah! these filthy lusts, these filthy corruption’s. O that I were rid of them, that they were consumed in a moment, that I could be quite rid of them, they do so disturb my soul, dishonor my God, so defile my conscience, and sometimes so weaken my hands in the way of God, and my comforts in the Lord; O how glad should I be if I might be stripped of them ( Romans 7:24). Which fear puts the soul upon flying to the Lord by prayer for the covering of His imputed righteousness, and for strength against the devil’s temptations and its own corruption’s; that God would give down His Holy Spirit to strengthen it against the things that do so annoy its soul, and so discourage it in its way, with a resolution, through grace, never to be contented while it doth find in itself a triumphing over it, by faith in the blood of a crucified Jesus. Second. The soul that hath been thus killed by the Law to the things it formerly delighted in, now, O now, it cannot be contented with that slender, groundless faith and hope that once it contented itself withal. No, no; but now it must be brought into the right saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, now it must have Him discovered to the soul by the Spirit, now it cannot be satisfied because such and such do tell it is so. No; but now it will cry out, Lord, show me continually, in the light of Thy Spirit, through Thy Word, that Jesus that was born in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Mary, a daughter of Judah, went with Joseph to be taxed at Bethlehem, that He is the very Christ. Lord, let me see it in the light of Thy Spirit, and in the operation thereof; and let me not be contented without such a faith that is so wrought even by the discovery of His birth, crucifying, death, blood, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and second — which is His personal — coming again, that the very faith of it may fill my soul with comfort and holiness. And O, how afraid the soul is lest it should fall short of this faith, and of the hope that is begotten by such discoveries as these are! For the soul knoweth that if it hath not this, it will not be able to stand either in death or judgment; and therefore, saith the soul, Lord, whatever other poor souls content themselves withal, let me have that which will stand me in stead, and carry me through a dangerous world; that may help me to resist a cunning devil; that may help me to suck true soul- satisfying consolation from Jesus Christ through Thy promises, by the might and power of Thy Spirit. And now, when the poor soul at any time hath any discovery of the love of God through a bleeding, dying, risen, interceding Jesus, because it is not willing to be deceived, O, how wary [But this may be its temptation, taking place through the timorousness of the soul]. is it of closing with it, for fear it should not be right, for fear it should not come from God! Saith the soul, Cannot the devil give one such comfort I trow? Cannot he transform himself thus into an angel of light?
So that the soul, because that it would be upon a sure ground, cries out, Lord, show me Thy salvation, and that not once or twice, but, Lord, let me have Thy presence continually upon my heart, today, and tomorrow, and every day. For the soul, when it is rightly brought from under the Covenant of Works, and planted into the Covenant of Grace, then it cannot be, unless it be under some desperate temptation, contented without the presence of God, teaching, comforting, establishing, and helping of the soul to grow in the things of the Lord Jesus Christ; because it knoweth that if God hath but withdrawn His presence in any way from it, as He doth do sometimes for a while, that then the devil will be sure to be near at hand, working with his temptations, trying all ways to get the soul into slavery and sin again; also the corrupt principle, that will be joining and combining with the Wicked One, and will be willing to be a copartner with him to bring the soul into mischief; which puts a soul upon an earnest, continual panting after more of the strengthening, preserving, comforting, and teaching presence of God, and for strong supplies of faith, that it may effectually lay hold on him. Third. The soul is quickened so that it is not satisfied now without it do in deed and in truth partake of the peace of God’s elect; now it is upon the examination of the reality of its joy and peace. Time was indeed that anything would serve its turn, any false conceits of its state to be good; but now all kind of peace will not serve its turn, all kind of joy will not be accepted with it; now it must joy in God through Jesus Christ; now its peace must come through the virtues of the blood of Christ speaking peace to the conscience by taking away both the guilt and filth of sin by that blood; also by showing the soul its free acceptance with God through Christ, He hath completely fulfilled all the conditions of the first covenant, and freely placed it into the safety of what He hath done, and so presents the soul complete and spotless in the sight of God through His obedience.
Now, I say, he hath “peace through the blood of His Cross,” and sees himself reconciled to God by the death of His Son, or else his comfort will be questioned by him ( Colossians 1:20,21). It is not every promise as cometh now upon his heart that will serve his turn, no, but he must see whether the babe Jesus be presented to the soul in and through that promise. Now if the babe leap in his womb, as I may so say, it is because the Lord’s promise sounds aloud in his heart, coming to him big with the love and pardoning grace of God in Jesus Christ; I say, this is the first and principal joy that the soul hath that is quickened and brought into the Covenant of Grace. Fourth. Now the man finds heavenly sanctification wrought in his soul through the most precious blood of the Man whose name is Jesus Christ — “Jesus, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” Now the souls finds a change in the understanding, in the will, in the mind, in the affections, in the judgment, and also in the conscience; through the inward man a change, and through the outward man a change, from head to foot, as we use to say, “for he that is in Christ,” and so in this Covenant of Grace, “is a new creature,” or hath been twice made — made, and made again ( 2 Corinthians 5:17). O, now the soul is resolved for Heaven and Glory; now it crieth out, Lord, if there be a right eye that is offensive to Thee, pluck it out; or a right foot, cut it off; or a right hand, take it from me. Now the soul doth begin to study how it may honor God, and bring praise to Him. Now the soul is for a preparation for the second coming of Christ, endeavoring to lay aside everything that may hinder; and for the closing in with those things that may make it in a beloved posture against that day. Fifth. And all this is from a Gospel spirit, and not from a legal, natural principle, for the soul hath these things as the fruits and effects of its being separated unto the Covenant of Grace, and so now possessed with that Spirit that doth attend, yea, and dwell in them that are brought into the Covenant of Grace from under the old covenant; I say, these things do spring forth in the soul from another root and stock than any of the acting’s of other men do; for the soul that is thus wrought upon is as well dead to the law and the righteousness thereof — as the first covenant — as well as to its sins. Sixth. Now the soul begins to have some blessed experience of the things of God, even of the glorious mysteries of the Gospel. 1. Now it knoweth the meaning of those words, “My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink, indeed,” ( John 6:55) and that by experience; for the soul hath received peace of conscience through that blood, by the effectual application of it to the soul. 1. by feeling the guilt of sin die off from the conscience by the operation thereof. 2. By feeling the power thereof to take away the curse of the law. 3. By finding the very strength of Hell to fail when once the blood of that Man Jesus Christ is received in reality upon the soul. 2. Now the soul also knoweth by experience the meaning of that Scripture that saith, “Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed” ( Romans 6:6).
Now it sees that when the Man Jesus did hang on the tree on Mount Calvary, that then the body of its sins was there hanged up, dead and buried with Him, though it was then unborn, so as never to be laid to its charge, either here or hereafter; and also, so as never to carry it captive into perpetual bondage, being itself overcome by Him, even Christ, the Head of that poor creature. And indeed this is the way for a soul both to live comfortably as touching the guilt of sin, and also as touching the power of the filth of sin; for the soul that doth or hath received this in deed and in truth, finds strength against them both by and through that Man that did for him and the rest of his fellow-sinners so gloriously overcome it, and hath given the victory unto them, so that now they are said to be overcomers, nay, “more than conquerors through Him,” the one Man Jesus Christ ( Romans 7:33-37). 3. Now the soul hath received a faith indeed, and a lively hope indeed, such an one as now it can fetch strength from the fullness of Christ, and from the merits of Christ. 4. Yea, now the soul can look on itself with one eye, and look upon Christ with another, and say, Indeed, it is true; I am an empty soul, but Christ is a full Christ; I am a poor sinner, but Christ is a rich Christ; I am a foolish sinner, but Christ is a wise Christ; I am an unholy, ungodly, unsanctified creature in myself, but Christ is made of God “unto me, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” ( 1 Corinthians 1:30). 5. Now also that fiery law, that it could not once endure, nor could not once delight in, I say, now it can delight in it after the inward man; now this law is its delight, it would always be walking in it, and always be delighting in it, being offended with any sin or any corruption that would be anyways an hindrance to it ( Romans 7:24,25). And yet it will not abide, it will not endure that that, even that that law should offer to take the work of its salvation out of Christ’s hand; no, if it once comes to do that, then out of doors it shall go, if it were as good again. For that soul that hath the right work of God indeed upon it, cries, Not my prayers, not my tears, not my works, not my things, do they come from the work of the Spirit of Christ itself within me, yet these shall not have the glory of my salvation; no, it is none but the blood of Christ, the death of Christ, of the Man Christ Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, as they called Him, that must have the crown and glory of my salvation. None but Christ, none but Christ. And thus the soul Labors to give Christ the preeminence ( Colossians 1:18).
Now, before I go any further, I must needs speak a word from my own experience of the things of Christ; and the rather, because we have a company of silly ones in this day of ignorance that do either comfort themselves with a notion without the power, or else do both reject the notion and the power of this most glorious Gospel; therefore, for the further conviction of the reader, I shall tell him, with David, something of what the Lord hath done for my soul; and indeed a little of the experience of the things of Christ is far more worth than all the world. It would be too tedious for me to tell thee here all from the first to the last; but something I shall tell thee, that thou mayest not think these things are fables. F21 Reader, when it pleased the Lord to begin to instruct my soul, He found me one of the black sinners of the world; He found me making a sport of oaths, and also of lies; and many a soul-poisoning meal did I make out of divers lusts, as drinking, dancing, playing, pleasure with the wicked ones of the world. The Lord finding of me in this condition, did open the glass of His Law unto me, wherein He showed me so clearly my sins, both the greatness of them, and also how abominable they were in His sight, that I thought the very clouds were charged with the wrath of God, and ready to let fall the very fire of His jealousy upon me; yet for all this I was so wedded to my sin, that, thought I with myself, I will have them though I lose my soul, (O wicked wretch that I was!) but God, the great, the rich, the infinite merciful God, did not take this advantage of my soul to cast me away, and say, Then take him, Devil, seeing he cares for Me no more; no, but He followed me still, and won upon my heart, by giving me some understanding, not only into my miserable state, which I was very sensible of, but also that there might be hopes of mercy; also taking away that love to lust, and placing in the room thereof a love to religion; and thus the Lord won over my heart to some desire after the means, to hear the Word, and to grow a stranger to my old companions, and to accompany the people of God, together with giving of me many sweet encouragement’s from several promises in the Scriptures. But after this, the Lord did wonderfully set my sins upon my conscience, those sins especially that I had committed since the first convictions; temptations also followed me very hard, and especially such temptations as did tend to the making me question of the very way of salvation — viz., whether Jesus Christ was the Savior or no; and whether I had best to venture my soul upon His blood for salvation, or take some other course. But being through grace kept close with God, in some measure, in prayer and the rest of the ordinances, but went about a year and upwards without any sound evidence as from God to my soul touching the salvation that comes by Jesus Christ. But, at the last, as I may say, when the set time was come, the Lord, just before the men called Quakers came into the country, did set me down so blessedly in the truth of the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that it made me marvel to see, first, how Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, walked in the world awhile with His disciples, afterwards hanged on the Cross, spilt His blood, was buried, rose again, ascended above the clouds and heavens, there lives to make intercession, and that He also will come again at the last day to judge the world, and take His saints unto Himself.
These things, I say, I did see so evidently, even as if I had stood when He was in the world, and also when He was caught up. I having such a change as this upon my soul, it made me wonder; and musing with myself at the great alteration that was in my spirit — for the Lord did also very gloriously give me in His precious Word to back the discovery of the Son of God unto me, so that I can say, through grace, it was according to the Scriptures ( 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). And as I was musing with myself what these things should mean, methought I heard such a word in my heart as this — I have set thee down on purpose, for I have something more than ordinary for thee to do; which made me the more marvel, saying, What, my Lord, such a poor wretch as I? Yet still this continued, I have set thee down on purpose, and so forth, with more fresh incomes of the Lord Jesus, and the power of the blood of His Cross upon my soul, even so evidently that I saw, through grace, that it was the blood shed on Mount Calvary that did save and redeem sinners, as clearly and as really with the eyes of my soul as ever, me thought, I had seen a penny loaf bought with a penny; which things then discovered had such operation upon my soul, that I do hope they did sweetly season every faculty thereof. Reader, I speak in the presence of God, and He knows I lie not; much of this, and such like dealings of His, could I tell thee of; but my business at this time is not so to do, but only to tell what operation the blood of Christ hath had over and upon my conscience, and that at several times, and also when I have been in several frames of spirit.
As, first, sometimes, I have been so loaden with my sins, that I could not tell where to rest, nor what to do; yea, at such times I thought it would have taken away my senses; yet at that time God through grace hath all of a sudden so effectually applied the blood that was spilt at Mount Calvary out of the side of Jesus, unto my poor, wounded, guilty conscience, that presently I have found such a sweet, solid, sober, heart-comforting peace, that it hath made me as if it [my terror] had not been, and withal the same, I may say, and I ought to say, the power of it, hath had such a powerful operation upon my soul, that I have for a time been in a strait and trouble to think that I should love and honor Him no more, the virtue of His blood hath so constrained me.
Again; sometimes methinks my sins have appeared so big to me that I thought one of my sins have been as big as all the sins of all the men in the nation; ay, and of other nations too, reader; these things be not fancies, for I have smarted for this experience, but yet the least stream of the heart blood of this Man Jesus hath vanished all away, and hath made it to fly, to the astonishment of such a poor sinner; and as I said before, hath delivered me up into sweet and heavenly peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Again; sometimes when my heart hath been hard, dead, slothful, blind, and senseless, which indeed are sad frames for a poor Christian to be in, yet at such a time, when I have been is such a case, then hath the blood of Christ, the precious blood of Christ, the admirable blood of the God of Heaven, that run out of His body when it did hang on the Cross, so softened, livened, quickened, and enlightened my soul, that truly, reader, I can say, O it makes me wonder!
Again; when I have been loaden with sin, and [I cannot stand here to tell thee of particular temptations]. pestered with several temptations, and in a very sad manner, then have I had the trial of the virtue of Christ’s blood with the trial of the virtue of other things; and I have found that when tears would not do, prayers would not do, repentings and all other things could not reach my heart; O then, one touch, one drop, one shining of the virtue of the blood, of that blood that was let out with the spear, it hath in a very blessed manner delivered me, that it hath made me to marvel. O! methinks it hath come with such life, such power, with such irresistible and marvelous glory, that it wipes off all the slurs, silences all the outcries, and quenches all the fiery darts, and all the flames of Hell-fire, that are begotten by the charges of the Law, Satan, and doubtful remembrances of my sinful life.
Friends, as Peter saith to the church, so I say to you, I have not preached to you cunningly devised fables in telling you of the blood of Christ, and what authority it hath had upon my conscience; O no, but as Peter saith touching the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world, so in some measure I can say of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that was shed when He did come into the world. There is not only my single testimony touching this; no, but there are all the Prophets do agree in advancing this in writing, and also all the saints do now declare the same, in speaking forth the amiableness and many powerful virtues thereof. “As for Thee also, by the blood of Thy covenant,” saith God to Christ, “I have sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water” ( Zechariah 9:11). “We have redemption through His blood” ( Ephesians 1:7).
Again, “We have redemption through His blood” ( Colossians 1:14).
Our robes are washed and made “white in the blood of the Lamb” ( Revelation 7:14). The devil is overcome through “the blood of the Lamb” ( Revelation 12:11). Yea, and conscience is purged, too, and that through the blood of the Lamb ( Hebrews 9:14). We have free recourse to the Throne of Grace through the blood of Jesus ( Hebrews 10:19). I could bring thee a cloud of witnesses out of all the types and shadows, and out of the sundry Prophets, and much more out of the New Testament, but I forebear, because I would not be too tedious to the reader in making too large a digression, though I have committed here in this discourse no transgression, for the blood of Christ is precious blood ( 1 Peter 1:18,19).