PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
AFEW words by way of use, and so I shall conclude.
I. My first use is forDOCTRINE. And it is threefold. First. Is the salvation of the sinner by the grace of God? Then here you see the reason why God hath not respect to the personal virtues of men in the bringing of them to glory. Did I say, personal virtues? How can they have any to Godward that are enemies to him in their minds by wicked works?
Indeed, men one to another seem to be, some better, some worse, by nature, but to God they are all alike, dead in trespasses and sins. f20 We will, therefore, state it again — Are men saved by grace? Then here you may see the reason why conversion runs at that rate among the sons of men, that none are converted for their good deeds, nor rejected for their bad, but even so many of both, and only so many, are brought home to God as grace is pleased to bring home to him. 1. None are received for their good deeds; for then they would not be saved by grace, but by works. Works and grace, as I have showed, are in this matter opposite each to other; if he be saved by works, then not by grace; if by grace, then not by works ( Romans 11). That none are received of God for their good deeds is evident, not only because he declares his abhorrence of the supposition of such a thing, but hath also rejected the persons that have at any time attempted to present themselves to God in their own good deeds for justification. This I have showed you before. 2. Men are not rejected for their bad deeds. This is evident by Manasseh, by the murderers of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the men that you read of in the nineteenth of the Acts, with many others, whose sins were of as deep a dye as the sins of the worst of men ( 2 Chronicles 33:2,13; Acts 2:23,41; Acts 19:19).
Grace respecteth, in the salvation of a sinner, chiefly the purpose of God; wherefore those that it findeth under that purpose, those it justifies freely, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. At Saul’s conversion, Ananias of Damascus brought in a most dreadful charge against him to the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.” But what said the Lord unto him? “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me” ( Acts 9:13-15). This man’s cruelty and outrage must not hinder his conversion, because he was a chosen vessel. Men’s good deeds are no argument with God to convert them; men’s bad deeds are no argument with him to reject them. I mean, those that come to Christ, by the drawings of the Father; besides, Christ also saith, “I will in no wise cast” such “out.” ( John 6:37-44). Second. Is the salvation of the sinner by the grace of God? Then here you see the reason why some sinners, that were wonderfully averse to conversion by nature, are yet made to stoop to the God of their salvation.
Grace takes them to do, because grace hath designed them to this very thing. Hence some of the Gentiles were taken from among the rest; God granted them repentance unto life, because he had taken them from among the rest, both by election and calling, for his name ( Acts 11:18; Acts 15:14). These men that were not a people, are thus become the people of God; these men that were not beloved for their works, were yet beloved by the grace of God. “I will call them my people which were not my people; and her beloved which was not beloved.” But their minds are averse. But are they the people on whom God doth magnify the riches of his grace? Why, then, they shall be, in the day of his power, made willing, and be able to believe through grace ( <19B003> Psalm 110:3; Romans 9:25; Acts 18:27). But doth the guilt and burden of sin so keep them down that they can by no means lift up themselves? Why, God will, by the exceeding greatness of that power by which he raised Christ from the dead, work in their souls also by the Spirit of grace, to cause them to believe and to walk in his ways ( Ephesians 1:18-20).
Paul tells us, in that epistle of his to the Corinthians, that it was by grace he was what he was — “By the grace of God I am what I am,” says he, “and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain” ( 1 Corinthians 15:10).
This man kept always in his mind a warm remembrance of what he was formerly by nature, and also how he had added to his vileness by practice; yea, moreover, he truly concluded in his own soul, that had not God, by unspeakable grace, put a stop to his wicked proceedings, he had perished in his wickedness; hence he lays his call and conversion at the door of the grace of God — “When it pleased God,” says he, “who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me” ( Galatians 1:15,16). and hence it is, again, that he saith, “He obtained grace and apostleship;” grace to convert his soul, and the gifts and authority of an apostle, to preach the gospel of the grace of God.
This blessed man ascribes all to the grace of God. 1. His call he ascribes to the grace of God. 2. His apostleship he ascribes to the grace of God. 3. And all his labor in that charge he also ascribes to the grace of God.
This grace of God it was that which saved from the beginning. 1. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and was therefore converted and preserved from the flood ( Genesis 6:8). 2. Abraham found grace in the sight of the Lord, and therefore he was called out of his country ( Genesis 12:1,2). 3. Moses found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and therefore he must not be blotted out of God’s book ( Exodus 33:12,17).
Neither may it be imagined that these men were, before grace laid hold on them, better than other men; for then they would not have been saved by grace; grace should not have had the dominion and glory of their salvation.
But, as Paul says of himself, and of those that were saved by grace in his day, “What then? are we better than they ? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin” ( Romans 3:9).
So it may be said of these blessed ones; for indeed this conclusion is general, and reacheth all the children of men, Christ Jesus alone only excepted. But, Third. Is the salvation of the sinner by the grace of God? Then here you may see the reason why one backslider is recovered, and another left to perish in his backsliding.
There was grace for Lot, but none for his wife; therefore she was left in her transgression, but Lot was saved notwithstanding. There was grace for Jacob, but none for Esau; therefore Esau was left in his backsliding, but Jacob found mercy notwithstanding. There was grace for David, but none for Saul; therefore David obtained mercy, and Saul perished in his backsliding. There was grace for Peter, but none for Judas; therefore Judas is left to perish in his backsliding, and Peter is saved from his sin. That text stands good to none but those that are elect by grace — “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” ( Romans 6:14).
It will be said, repentance was found in one, but not in the other. Well, but who granted and gave the one repentance; The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter; he did not turn and look upon Judas; yea, the Lord told Peter before he fell that he should follow him to the kingdom of heaven, but told him that he should deny him first; but withal told him also he should not let his heart be troubled, that is, utterly dejected, for he would go and prepare a place for him, and come again and receive him to himself ( John 13:36-38; John 14:1-3). That is a blessed word of God, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand” ( Psalm 37:23,24).
II. My second use shall be to them that are dejected in their souls at the sight and sense of their sins. First. Are they that are saved, saved by grace? Then they that would have their guilty consciences quieted, they must study the doctrine of grace.
It is Satan’s great design either to keep the sinner senseless of his sins, or if God makes him sensible of them, then to hide and keep from his thoughts the sweet doctrine of the grace of God, by which alone the conscience getteth health and cure; “for everlasting consolation, and good hope” is given “through grace” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:16).
Study, therefore, this doctrine of the grace of God. Suppose thou hast a disease upon thee which is not to be cured but by such or such medicines, the first step to thy cure is to know the medicines. I am sure this is true as to the case in hand; the first step to the cure of a wounded conscience is for thee to know the grace of God, especially the grace of God as to justification from the curse in his sight.
A man under a wounded conscience naturally leaneth to the works of the law, and thinks God must be pacified by something that he should do, whereas the Word says, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” ( Matthew 9:13).
Wherefore thou must study the grace of God. “It is a good thing,” saith the apostle, “that the heart be established with grace;” thereby insinuating that there is no establishment in the soul that is right but by the knowledge of the grace of God ( Hebrews 13:9).
I said, that when a man is wounded in his conscience, he naturally leaneth to the works of the law; wherefore thou must therefore be so much the more heedful to study the grace of God; yea, so to study it as rightly, not only in notion, but in thy practices, to distinguish it from the law. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” ( John 1:17).
There are many things which men call the grace of God, that are not. 1. The light and knowledge that are in every man. 2. That natural willingness that is in man to be saved. 3. That power that is in man by nature to do something, as he thinketh, towards his own salvation.
I name these three; there are also many other which some will have entitled the grace of God. But do thou remember that the grace of God is his goodwill and great love to sinners in his Son Jesus Christ; “by the which” good “will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all ” ( Hebrews 10:10).
Again; when thou hast smelt out this grace of God, and canst distinguish it from that which is not, then Labor to strengthen thy soul with the blessed knowledge of it. “Thou therefore, my son,” said Paul, “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” ( 2 Timothy 2:1). Fortify thy judgment and understanding; but especially Labor to get down all into thy conscience, that that may be “purged from dead works, to serve the living God.”
And to enforce this use upon thee yet further, consider, a man gets yet more advantage by the knowledge of, and by growing strong in, this grace of God. 1. It ministereth to him matter of joy; for he that knows this grace aright, he knows God is at peace with him, because he believeth in Jesus Christ, who by grace tasted death for every man; “by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” ( Romans 5:2).
And indeed what joy or what rejoicing is like rejoicing here? To rejoice in hope of the glory of God, it is to rejoice in hope to enjoy him for ever, with that eternal glory that is in him. 2. As it manifesteth matter of joy and rejoicing, so it causeth much fruitfulness in all holiness and godliness. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” ( Titus 2:11,12).
Yea, it so naturally tendeth this way, that it can no sooner appear to the soul, but it causeth this blessed fruit in the heart and life. “We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared” — what then? Why then, he that believeth, being justified by his grace, and expecting to be an heir according to the hope of eternal life, is “careful to maintain good works” ( Titus 3:3-8). See also that in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians — “We give thanks,” says he, “to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, for the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it , and knew the grace of God in truth” ( Colossians 1:3-6). 3. The knowledge of, and strength that comes by, the grace of God is a sovereign antidote against all, and all manner of delusions that are or may come into the world. Wherefore Peter, exhorting the believers to take heed that they were not carried away with the errors of the wicked, and so fall from their own steadfastness, adds, as their only help, this exhortation “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” ( 2 Peter 3:18). (1.) Suppose it should be urged, that man’s own righteousness saveth the sinner; why, then, we have this at hand — God “hath saved us, and called us , not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ” etc. ( 2 Timothy 1:9). (2.) Suppose it should be urged, that by the doctrine of free grace we must not understand God’s extending free forgiveness as far as we have or do sin; the answer is — “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness,” through the justice of God being satisfied by his Son, “unto eternal life” ( Romans 5:20,21). (3.) Suppose it should be urged, that this is a doctrine tending to looseness and lasciviousness; the answer is ready — “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.
How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” for the doctrine of free grace believed is the most sin-killing doctrine in the world ( Romans 6:1,2). (4.) Suppose men should attempt to burden the church of God with unnecessary ceremonies, and impose them, even as the false apostles urged circumcision of old, saying, Unless you do these things, ye cannot be saved; why, the answer is ready — “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” ( Acts 15:1,10,11). But not to enlarge, f22 [Third .] This doctrine, “By grace ye are saved,” it is the only remedy against despairing thoughts at the apprehension of our own unworthiness; as, 1. Thou criest out, O cursed man that I am! my sins will sink me into hell. Answer. Hold, man; there is a God in heaven that is “the God of all grace” ( 1 Peter 5:10). Yet thou art not the man of all sin. If God be the God of all grace, then if all the sins in the world were thine, yet the God of all grace can pardon, or else it should seem that sin is stronger in a man penitent, to damn, than the grace of God can be to save. 2. But my sins are of the worst sort — blasphemy, adultery, covetousness, murder, etc. Answer. “All manner of sins and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, wherewithsoever they shall blaspheme. — Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” ( Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:28; Isaiah 55:7,8). 3. But I have a stout and rebellious heart, a heart that is far from good. Answer. “Hearken unto me,” saith God, “ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness;” that is, the righteousness of Christ, by which stout-hearted sinners are justified, though ungodly ( Isaiah 46:12,13; Philippians 3:7,8; Revelation 4:5). 4. But I have a heart as hard as any stone. Answer. “A new heart also will I give you,” says God, “and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” ( Ezekiel 36:26). 5. But I am as blind as a beetle; I cannot understand anything of the gospel. Answer. “I will bring the blind by a way that they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them” ( Isaiah 42:16). 6. But my heart will not be affected with the sufferings and blood of Christ. Answer. “I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son , and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born” ( Zechariah 12:10). 7. But though I see what is like to become of me if I find not Christ, yet my spirit, while I am thus, will be running after vanity, foolishness, uncleanness, wickedness. Answer. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you” ( Ezekiel 36:25). 8. But I cannot believe in Christ. Answer. But God hath promised to make thee believe. “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord.” And again, “There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in him shall the Gentiles trust” ( Zephaniah 3:12; Romans 15:12). 9. But I cannot pray to God for mercy. Answer. But God hath graciously promised a spirit of prayer — “Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. — They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God” ( Zechariah 8:22; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:9). 10. But I cannot repent. Answer . “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” ( Acts 5:30,31).
Thus might I enlarge, for the holy Bible is full of this exceeding grace of God. O these words, “I will” and “you shall”! they are the language of a gracious God; they are promises by which our God has engaged himself to do that for poor sinners which would else be left undone for ever.
III. Are they that are saved, saved by grace? Then let Christians Labor to advance God’s grace. 1. In heart. 2. In life. First. In heart ; and that in this manner — 1. Believe in God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, and so advance the grace of God; I mean, venture heartily, venture confidently, for there is a sufficiency in the grace of God. Abraham magnified the grace of God when “he considered not his own body now dead, - neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” ( Romans 4:19,20). 2. Advance it by heightening of it in thy thoughts. Have always good and great thoughts of the grace of God; narrow and slender thoughts of it are a great disparagement to it.
And to help thee in this matter, consider — (1.) This grace is compared to a sea — “And thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” ( Micah 7:19). Now a sea can never be filled by casting into it. f23 (2.) This grace is compared to a fountain, to an open fountain — “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” Now a fountain can never be drawn dry ( Zechariah 12:1). (3.) The Psalmist cries out concerning the grace and mercy of God, “It endureth for ever;” he says so twenty-six times in one psalm. Surely he saw a great deal in it, surely he was taken a great deal with it ( <19D601> Psalm 136). (4.) Paul says the God of all grace can do more than “we ask or think” ( Ephesians 3:20). (5.) Therefore as God’s Word says, so thou shouldst conclude of the grace of God. 3. Come boldly to the throne of grace by hearty prayer; for this is the way also to magnify the grace of God. This is the apostle’s exhortation, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” ( Hebrews 4:16). See here a little, and wonder.
We have been all this while discoursing of the grace of God; and now we are come to his throne, as Job says, “even to his seat;” and behold, “that is a throne of grace.” O, when a God of grace is upon a throne of grace, and a poor sinner stands by and begs for grace, and that in the name of a gracious Christ, in and by the help of the Spirit of grace, can it be otherwise but such a sinner must obtain mercy and grace to help in time of need? But not to forget the exhortation, “Come boldly.” Indeed, we are apt to forget this exhortation; we think, seeing we are such abominable sinners, we should not presume to come boldly to the throne of grace; but yet so we are bidden to do; and to break a commandment here is as bad as to break it in another place. Question. You may ask me, What is it to come boldly? [I] answer — Answer. 1. It is to come confidently — “Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” ( Hebrews 10:22). 2. To come boldly, it is to come frequently — “At morning, at noon, and at night, will I pray.” We use to count them bold beggars that come often to our door. 3. To come boldly, it is to ask for great things when we come. That is the bold beggar that will not only ask, but also choose the thing that he asketh. 4. To come boldly, it is to ask for others as well as ourselves, to beg mercy and grace for all the saints of God under heaven as well as for ourselves — “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit - for all saints” ( Ephesians 6:18). 5. To come boldly, it is to come and take no nay; thus Jacob came to the throne of grace — “I will not let thee go except thou bless me” ( Genesis 32:26). 6. To come boldly, it is to plead God’s promises with him both in a way of justice and mercy, and to take it for granted God will give us — because he hath said it — whatever we ask in the name of his Son. Fourth. Labor to advance God’s grace in thy heart, by often admiring, praising, and blessing God in secret for it; God expects it — “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,” says he. “By Jesus Christ therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually; that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name” ( Psalm 50:23; Hebrews 13:15). Fifth. And, as we should advance this grace in our hearts, so we should do it in our life. We should in our conversation adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. It is a great word of the apostle, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” which is the gospel of the grace of God ( Philippians 1:27). God expecteth that there should in our whole life be a blessed tang of the gospel, or that in our life among men there should be preached to them the grace of the gospel of God.
And now, before I conclude this use, let me give you a few heartendearing considerations to this so good and so happy a work. First. Consider, God hath saved thee by his grace. Christian, God hath saved thee, thou hast escaped the lion’s mouth, thou art delivered from wrath to come; advance the grace that saves thee, in thy heart and life. Second. Consider, God left millions in their sins that day he saved thee by his grace; he left millions out, and pitched upon thee; it may be hundreds also, yea, thousands, were in the day of thy conversion lying before him under the preaching of the word as thou wert, yet he took thee. f25 Considerations of this nature affected David much; and God would have them affect thee, to the advancing of his grace in thy life and conversation ( Psalm 78:67-72; Deuteronomy 7:7). Third. Consider, perhaps the most part of those that God refused that day that he called thee by his grace were, as to conversation, far better than ever thou wert — I was a blasphemer, I was a persecutor, I was an injurious person, but I obtained mercy! O this should affect thy heart, this should engage thy heart to study to advance this grace of God ( Timothy 1:14,15). Fourth. Perhaps in the day of thy conversion thou wast more unruly than many. Like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke, hardly tamed, thou wast brought home by strong hands; thou wouldst not drive, the Lord Jesus must take thee up, lay thee upon his shoulder, and carry thee home to his Father’s house. This should engage thy heart to study to advance the grace of God ( Luke 15:1-6). Fifth. It may be many did take even offence at God in his converting and saving of thee by his grace, even as the elder son was offended with his father for killing the fatted calf for his brother, and yet that did not hinder the grace of God, nor make God abate his love to thy soul. This should make thee study to advance the grace of God in thy heart and life ( Luke 15:21-32). Sixth . Consider again, that God hath allowed thee but a little time for this good work, even the few days that thou hast now to live — I mean, for this good work among sinful men, and then thou shalt go to receive that wages that grace also will give thee for thy work to thy eternal joy. Seventh . Let this also have some place upon thy heart — every man shows subjection to the god that he serveth; yea, though that god be none other but the devil and his lusts; and wilt not thou, O man! saved of the Lord, be much more subject “to the Father of spirits, and live”? Alas! they are pursuing their own damnation, yet they sport it, and dance all the way they go. They serve that “god” (Satan) with cheerfulness and delight, who at last will plunge them into the everlasting gulf of death, and torment them in the fiery flames of hell; but thy God is the God of salvation, and to God thy Lord belong the issues from death. Wilt not thou serve him with joyfulness in the enjoyment of all good things, even him by whom thou art to be made blessed for ever? Objection. This is that which kills me — honor God I cannot; my heart is so wretched, so spiritless, and desperately wicked, I cannot. Answer. What dost thou mean by cannot? 1. If thou meanest thou hast no strength to do it, thou hast said an untruth, for “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” ( 1 John 4:4). 2. If thou meanest thou hast no will, then thou art out also; for every Christian, in his right mind, is a willing man, and the day of God’s power hath made him so ( <19B003> Psalm 110:3). 3. If thou meanest that thou wantest wisdom, that is thine own fault — “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” ( James 1:5). Objection. I cannot do things as I would. Answer. No more could the best of the saints of old — “To will is present with me,” said Paul; “but how to perform that which is good I find not.” And again, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” ( Romans 7:18; Galatians 5:17).
And here indeed lies a great discovery of this truth, “ye are saved by grace;” for the children of God whilst here, notwithstanding their conversion to God, and salvation by Christ through grace, are so infirm and weak by reason of a body of death that yet remaineth in them, that should even the sin that is in the best of their performances be laid to their charge, according to the tenor of a covenant of works, they would find it impossible ever to get into glory. But why do I talk thus? It is impossible that those that are saved by grace should have their infirmities laid to their charge as afore, “for they are not under the law;” they are included by the grace of God in the death and blood of the Son of God, who ever liveth to make intercession for them at the right hand of God; whose intercession is so prevalent with the Father as to take away the iniquity of our holy things from his sight, and to present us holy, and unreprovable, and unblamable in his sight. To him, by Christ Jesus, through the help of the blessed Spirit of grace, be given praise, and thanks, and glory, and dominion, by all his saints, now and for ever. Amen.