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NECESSITY OF HOLINESS FROM THE CONSIDERATION OF THE NATURE OF GOD. The necessity of evangelical holiness owned by all Christians — Doctrines falsely charged with an inconsistency with it — Though owned by all, yet practiced by few, and disadvantageously pleaded for by many — The true nature of it briefly expressed — First argument for the necessity of holiness, from the nature of God; frequently proposed unto our consideration for that end — This argument cogent and unavoidable; pressed, with its limitation — Not the nature of God absolutely, but as he is in Christ, the foundation of this necessity, and a most effectual motive unto the same end — The nature and efficacy of that motive declared — The argument enforced from the consideration of our conformity unto God by holiness, with that communion and likeness with him which depend thereon, with our future everlasting enjoyment of him — True force of that consideration vindicated — Merit rejected, and also the substitution of morality in the room of gospel holiness — False accusations of the doctrine of grace discarded; and the neglect of the true means of promoting gospel obedience charged — The principal argument farther enforced, from the pre-eminence of our natures and persons by this conformity to God, and our accesses unto God thereby, in order unto our eternal enjoyment of him; as it also alone renders us useful in this world unto others — Two sorts of graces by whose exercise we grow into conformity with God: those that are assimilating, as faith and love; and those which are declarative of that assimilation, as goodness or benignity, and truth — An objection against the necessity of holiness, from the freedom and efficacy of grace, answered.
THAT wherewith I shall close this discourse is, the consideration of the necessity of that holiness which we have thus far described unto all persons who make profession of the gospel , with the reasons of that necessity and principal motives unto it. And for our encouragement in this part of our work, this necessity is such as that it is by all sorts of Christians allowed, pleaded for, and the thing itself pretended unto; for whereas the gospel is eminently ajlhqei>a , or didaskali>a hJ kat eujse>beian , 1 Timothy 6:3, Titus 1:1, “The truth” or “doctrine which is according to godliness,” or that which is designed and every way suited unto the attaining, furtherance, and practice of it, no men can with modesty refuse the trial of their doctrines by their tendency thereunto.
But what is of that nature, or what is a hinderance thereunto, that many are not yet agreed about. The Socinians contend that the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ doth overthrow the necessity of a holy life; the Papists say the same concerning the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification; the same charge is laid by others against the doctrine of the gratuitous election of God, the almighty efficacy of his grace in the conversion of sinners, and his faithfulness in the preservation of true believers in their state of grace unto the end. On the other hand, the Scripture doth so place the foundations of all true and real holiness in these things, that without the faith of them, and an influence on our minds from them, it will not allow anything to be so called.
To examine the pretences of others concerning the suitableness of their doctrines unto the promotion of holiness is not my present business. It is well that it hath always maintained a conviction of its necessity, and carried it through all different persuasions in Christianity. In this one thing alone almost do all Christians agree; and yet, notwithstanding, the want of it is, if not the only yet the principal thing whereby the most who are so called are ruined. So ordinary a thing is it for men to agree for the necessity of holiness, and live in the neglect of it when they have so done! Conviction comes in at an easy rate, as it were whether men will or no; but practice will stand them in pains, cost, and trouble. Wherefore, unto the due handling of this matter, some few things must be premised; as, — First., It is disadvantageous unto the interest of the gospel to have men plead for holiness with weak, incogent arguments, and such as are not taken out of the stores of its truth, and so really affect not the consciences of men; and it is pernicious to all the concerns of holiness itself to have that defended and pleaded for under its name and title which indeed is not so, but an usurper of its crown and dignity; which we shall afterward inquire into.
Secondly, It is uncomely and unworthy, to hear men contending for holiness as the whole of our religion, and, in the meantime, on all occasions, expressing in themselves a habit and frame of mind utterly inconsistent with what the Scripture so calls and so esteems. There is certainly no readier way, on sundry accounts, to unteach men all the principles of religion, all respect unto God and common honesty. And if some men did this only, as being at variance with themselves, without reflections on others, it might the more easily be borne; but to see or hear men proclaiming themselves, in their whole course, to be proud, revengeful, worldly, sensual, neglecters of holy duties, scoffers at religion and the power of it, pleading for a holy life against the doctrine and practice of those who walked unblamably before the Lord in all his ways, yea, upon whose breasts and foreheads was written, “Holiness unto the LORD,” — such as were most of the first reformed divines, whom they reflect upon, — is a thing which all sober men do justly nauseate, and which God abhors. But the farther consideration hereof I shall at present omit, and pursue what I have proposed.
Thirdly, In my discourse concerning the necessity of holiness, with the grounds and reasons of it, and arguments for it, I shall confine myself unto these two things: — 1. That the reasons, arguments, and motives which I shall insist on, being such as are taken out of the Gospel or the Scripture, are not only consistent and compliant with the great doctrines of the grace of God in our free election, conversion, justification, and salvation by Jesus Christ, but such as naturally flow from them, [and] discover what is their true nature and tendency in this matter. 2. That I shall at present suppose all along what that holiness is which I do intend. Now, this is not that outward show and pretense of it which some plead for; not an attendance unto, or the observation of, some or all moral virtues only; not a readiness for some acts of piety and charity, from a superstitious, proud conceit of their being meritorious of grace or glory.
But I intend that holiness which I have before described; which may be reduced to these three heads: — (1.) An internal change or renovation of our souls, our minds, wills, and affections, by grace; (2.) An universal compliance with the will of God in all duties of obedience and abstinence from sin, out of a principle of faith and love; (3.) A designation of all the actions of life unto the glory of God by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel. This is holiness; so to be and so to do is to be holy.
And I shall divide my arguments into two sorts: — 1. Such as prove the necessity of holiness as to the essence of it, — holiness in our hearts and natures; 2. Such as prove the necessity of holiness as to the degrees of it, — holiness in our lives and conversations.
I. First, then, The nature of God as revealed unto us, with our dependence on him, the obligation that is upon us to live unto him, with the nature of our blessedness in the enjoyment of him, do require indispensably that we should be holy. The holiness of God’s nature is everywhere in the Scripture made the fundamental principle and reason of the necessity of holiness in us. Himself makes it the ground of his command for it: Leviticus 11:44, “I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” So also chapter 19:2, 20:7. And to show the everlasting equity and force of this reason, it is transferred over to the gospel: 1 Peter 1:15,16, “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”
God lets them know that his nature is such as that unless they are sanctified and holy, there can be no such intercourse between him and them as ought to be between a God and his people. So he declares the sense of this enforcement of that precept to be: Leviticus 11:45, “I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy;” — “Without this the relation designed cannot be maintained, that I should be your God and ye should be my people.”
To this purpose belongs that description given us of his nature, Psalm 5:4-6, “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak lying: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man;” — answerable unto that of the prophet, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Habakkuk 1:13. He is such a God, — that is, such is his nature, so pure, so holy, — that previous to the consideration of any free acts of his will, it is evident that he can take no pleasure in fools, liars, or workers of iniquity. Therefore Joshua tells the people, that if they continued in their sins they could not serve the Lord, “for he is an holy God,” chapter 24:19. All the service of unholy persons towards this God is utterly lost and cast away, because it is inconsistent with his own holiness to accept of it. And our apostle argues in the same manner, Hebrews 12:28,29, “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.”
He lays his argument for the necessity of grace and holiness in the worship of God from the consideration of the holiness of his nature, which, as a consuming fire, will devour that which is unsuited unto it, inconsistent with it. There would be no end of pursuing this reason of the necessity of holiness in all places where it is proposed expressly in the Scripture. I shall only add, in general, that God of old strictly required that no unholy, no unclean, no defiling thing should be in the camp of his people, because of his presence among them, who is himself holy; and without an exact observance hereof he declares that he will depart and leave them.
If we had no other argument to prove the necessity of holiness, and that it is indispensably required of us, but only this, that the God whom we serve and worship is absolutely holy, that his being and nature is such as that he can have no delightful intercourse with any that are unholy, it were abundantly sufficient unto our purpose. He who resolveth not to be holy had best seek another god to worship and serve; with our God he will never find acceptance. And therefore the heathen, who gave up themselves unto all filthiness with delight and greediness, to stifle the notions of a divine Being, that they might not control them in their sins and pleasures, fancied such gods to themselves as were wicked and unclean, that they might freely conform unto them and serve them with satisfaction. And God himself lets us know that men of wicked and flagitious lives have some secret thoughts that he is not holy, but like themselves, Psalm 50:21; for if they had not, they could not avoid it but they must either think of leaving him or their sins.
But we must yet farther observe some things to evidence the force of this argument; as, — First, That unto us, in our present state and condition, the holiness of God as absolutely considered, merely as an infinite eternal property of the divine nature, is not the immediate ground of and motive unto holiness; but it is the holiness of God as manifested andrevealed unto us in Christ Jesus.
Under the first consideration, we who are sinners can make no conclusion from it but that of Joshua, “He is a holy God, a jealous God; he will not forgive your iniquities, nor spare.” This we may learn, indeed, from thence, that nothing which is unholy can possibly subsist before him or find acceptance with him. But a motive and encouragement unto any holiness that is not absolutely perfect no creature can take from the consideration thereof; and we do not, we ought not to urge any such argument for the necessity of holiness as cannot be answered and complied with by the grace of God as to the substance, though we come short in the degrees of it. My meaning is, that no argument can be rationally and usefully pleaded for the necessity of holiness which doth not contain in itself an encouraging motive unto it. To declare it, necessary for us and at the same time impossible unto us, is not to promote its interest. They understand neither the holiness of God nor man who suppose that they are absolutely and immediately suited unto one another, or that, under that notion of it, we can take any encouraging motive unto our duty herein.
Nay, no creature is capable of such a perfection in holiness as absolutely to answer the infinite purity of the divine nature, without a covenant condescension, Job 4:18, 15:15. But it is the holiness of God as he is in Christ, and as in Christ represented unto us, that gives us both the necessity and motive unto ours.
Wherefore, God, in dealing with his people of old in this matter, did not propose unto them to this end the absolute perfection of his own nature, but his being holy as he dwelt among them and was their God, — that is, in covenant; both which had respect unto Jesus Christ. In him all the glorious perfections of God are so represented unto us as we may not thence only learn our duty, but also be encouraged unto it; for, — 1. All the properties of God as so represented unto us are more conspicuous, resplendent, alluring, and attractive, than as absolutely considered. I know not what light into and knowledge of the divine perfections Adam had in his state of innocency, when God had declared himself only in the works of nature, — sufficient, no doubt, it was to guide him in his love and obedience, or that life which he was to live unto him; — but I know that now all our knowledge of God and his properties, unless it be that which we have in and by Jesus Christ, is insufficient to lead or conduct us in that life of faith and obedience which is necessary unto us. He, therefore, gives us the “light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ,” 2 Corinthians 4:6, — that is, clear manifestations of his glorious excellencies. The light of the knowledge hereof is a clear, useful, saving perception and understanding of them. And this is not only directive unto holiness, but also effective of it; for thus “beholding the glory of the Lord,” we are “changed into the same image from glory to glory,” chapter 3:18. 2. In particular, the fiery holiness of God is represented unto us in Christ, so as that although it loses nothing of declaring the indispensable necessity of holiness in all that draw nigh to him, yet under such a contemperation with goodness, grace, love, mercy, condescension, as may invite and encourage us to endeavor after a conformity thereunto. 3. Together with a representation of the holiness of God in Christ, there is a revelation made of what holiness in us he doth require and will accept.
As was observed before, the consideration of it absolutely neither requires nor admits of any but that which is absolutely perfect; and where there is anyone failing, the whole of what we do is condemned, James 2:10.
This, therefore, can only perplex and torture the soul of a sinner, by pressing on him at the same time the necessity and impossibility of holiness, Isaiah 33:14. But now, as God is in Christ, through his interposition and mediation he accepts of such a holiness in us as we are capable of, and which no man hath any discouragement from endeavoring to attain. 4. There is in and by Christ declared and administered a spiritual power of grace, which shall work this holiness in us, or that conformity unto the holiness of God which he doth require. From this fountain, therefore, we draw immediately, as the reasons of the necessity, so prevalent motives unto holiness in our souls. Hence some things may be inferenced; as, — (1.) That the mediation of Christ, and in particular his satisfaction, is so far from being a hinderance of or a discouragement unto holiness, as some blasphemously pretend, that the great fundamental reason of it in us, — namely, the holiness of God himself, — can have no influence upon us without the supposition of it and faith in it. Unless faith be built hereon, no sinner upon a view of God’s holiness, as absolutely considered, can have any other thoughts but those of Cain, “My sin is great; it cannot be pardoned. God is a holy God; I cannot serve him, and therefore will depart out of his presence.” But the holiness of God as manifested in Jesus Christ, including a supposition of satisfaction made unto what is required by its absolute purity, and a condescension thereon to accept in him that holiness of truth and sincerity which we are capable of, doth equally maintain the indispensable necessity of it and encourage us unto it. And we may see what contrary conclusions will be made on these different considerations of it. Those who view it only in the first way can come to no other issue in their thoughts but that which they express in the prophet, Isaiah 33:14, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
God’s fiery holiness serves, towards them, unto no other end but to fill them with terror and despair. But other inferences are natural from the consideration of the same holiness in the latter way. “Our God,” saith the apostle, “is a consuming fire.” What then? what follows as our duty thereon? “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve him acceptably with reverence and godly fear,” Hebrews 12:28,29.
There is no such forcible reason for, no such powerful motive unto, our adherence unto him in holy obedience. Such different conclusions will men make from these different considerations of the holiness of God, when once they come to be serious and in good earnest about them! (2.) It follows from hence, also, that our holiness under the new covenant, although it has the same general nature and one principal end with that which was required in the covenant of works, yet as it hath an especial spring and fountain which that had not, and relates unto sundry causes which the other had no concernment in, so it is not of the same especial use therewith. The immediate end and use of that holiness in us was, to answer the holiness of God absolutely as expressed in the law; whereon we should have been justified. This is now done for us by Christ alone, and the holiness which God requireth of us respects only those ends which God hath proposed unto us in compliance with his own holiness as he will glorify it in Jesus Christ; which must be afterward declared.
Secondly, We may consider in what particular instances the force of this argument is conveyed unto us, or what are the especial reasons why we ought to be holy because God is so; and they are three: — 1. Because herein consists all that conformity unto God whereof in this world we are capable; which is our privilege, pre-eminence, glory, and honor. We were originally created in the image and likeness of God. Herein consisted the privilege, pre-eminence, order, and blessedness of our first state. And that, for the substance of it, it was no other but our holiness is by all confessed. Wherefore, without this conformity unto God, without the impress of his image and likeness upon us, we do not, we cannot, stand in that relation unto God which was designed us in our creation.
This we lost by the entrance of sin. And if there be not a way for us to acquire it again, if we do not so, we shall always come short of the glory of God and of the end of our creation. Now, this is done in and by holiness alone, for therein consists the renovation of the image of God in us, as our apostle expressly declares, Ephesians 4:22-24, with Colossians 3:10.
It is, therefore, to no purpose for any man to expect an interest in God, or anything that will prove eternally to his advantage, who doth not endeavor after conformity unto him; for such a man despiseth all the glory that God designed unto himself in our creation, and all that was eminent and peculiarly bestowed upon ourselves.
He, therefore, whose design is not to be like unto God, according to his measure and the capacity of a creature, always misseth both of his end, his rule, and his way. Our Savior would have his disciples to do all things so as that they may be the “children of their Father which is in heaven,” Matthew 5:45; that is, like him, representing him, as children do their father. And the truth is, if this necessity of conformity unto God be once out of our view and consideration, we are easily turned aside by the meanest temptation we meet withal. In brief, without that likeness and conformity unto God which consists in holiness, as we do under his eye bear the image of his great adversary the devil, so we can have no especial interest in him, nor hath he any in us. 2. The force of the argument ariseth from the respect it bears unto our actual intercourse and communion with God. This we are called unto; and this, in all our duties of obedience, we must endeavor to attain. If there be not in them a real intercourse between God and our souls, they are all but uncertain beatings of the air. When we are accepted in them, when God is glorified by them, then have we in them this intercourse and communion with God. Now, whereas God is holy, if we are not in our measure holy, according to his mind, this cannot be; for God neither accepts of any duties from unholy persons nor is he glorified by them, and therefore as unto these ends doth he expressly reject and condemn them. It is a good duty to preach the word; but “unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee,” Psalm 50:16,17, — “seeing thou art unholy.” To pray is a good duty; but unto them that are not “washed” and made “clean,” and “put not away the evil of their doings from before his eyes,” saith God, “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear,” Isaiah 1:15,16.
And the like may be said of all other duties whatever.
It is certain, therefore, that whereas God is holy, if we are not so, all the duties which we design or intend to perform towards him are everlastingly lost, as unto their proper ends; for there is no intercourse or communion between light and darkness: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all;” and “if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness,” as all unholy persons do, “we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” 1 John 1:5-7,8.
Now, what man that shall consider this, unless he be infatuated, would, for the love of any one sin, or out of conformity to the world, or any other thing, whereby the essence and truth of holiness is impeached, utterly lose and forfeit all the benefit and fruit of all those duties wherein perhaps he hath labored, and which he hath, it may be, been at no small charge withal?
But yet this is the condition of all men who come short in anything that is essentially necessary unto universal holiness. All they do, all they suffer, all the pains they take, in and about religious duties, all their compliance with convictions, and what they do therein, within doors and without, is all lost, as unto the great ends of the glory of God and their own eternal blessedness, as sure as God is holy. 3. It ariseth from a respect unto our future everlasting enjoyment of him.
This is our utmost end, which if we come short of (life itself is the greatest loss), better ten thousand times we had never been; for without it a continuance in everlasting miseries is inseparable from our state and condition. Now, this is never attainable by any unholy person. “Follow holiness,” saith our apostle, “without which no man shall see the Lord;” for it is the “pure in heart” only that “shall see God,” Matthew 5:8. It is hereby that we are “made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light,” Colossians 1:12. Neither can we attain it before we are thus made meet for it. No unclean thing, nothing that defileth or is defiled, shall ever be brought into the glorious presence of this holy God. There is no imagination wherewith mankind is besotted more foolish, none so pernicious, as this, that persons not purified, not sanctified, not made holy, in this life, should afterward be taken into that state of blessedness which consists in the enjoyment of God. There can be no thought more reproachful to his glory, nor more inconsistent with the nature of the things themselves; for neither can such persons enjoy him, nor would God himself be a reward unto them. They can have nothing whereby they should adhere unto him as their chiefest good, nor can they see anything in him that should give them rest or satisfaction; nor can there be any medium whereby God should communicate himself unto them, supposing them to continue thus unholy, as all must do who depart out of this life in that condition. Holiness, indeed, is perfected in heaven, but the beginning of it is invariably and unalterably confined to this world; and where this fails, no hand shall be put unto that work unto eternity. All unholy persons, therefore, who feed and refresh themselves with hopes of heaven and eternity do it merely on false notions of God and blessedness, whereby they deceive themselves. Heaven is a place where as well they would not be as they cannot be; in itself it is neither desired by them nor fit for them. “He that hath this hope” indeed, that he shall see God, “purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” 1 John 3:2,3. There is, therefore, a manifold necessity of holiness impressed on us from the consideration of the nature of that God whom we serve and hope to enjoy, which is holy.
I cannot pass over this consideration without making some especial improvement of it. We have seen how all our concernment and interest in God, both here and hereafter, do depend on our being holy. They invented a very effectual means for the prejudicing, yea, indeed, a fatal engine for the ruin, of true holiness .in the world, who built it on no other bottom, nor pressed it on any other motive, but that the acts and fruits of it were meritorious in the sight of God; for whether this be believed and complied withal or not, true holiness is ruined if no other more effectual reason be substituted in its room. Reject this motive, and there is no need of it; which I am persuaded hath really taken place in many, who, being taught that good deeds are not meritorious, have concluded them useless. Comply with it, and you destroy the nature of true holiness, and turn all the pretended duties of it into fruits and effects of spiritual pride and blind superstition. But we see the necessity of it with respect unto God hath other foundations, suited unto and consistent with the grace, and love, and mercy of the gospel. And we shall fully show in our progress, that there is not one motive unto it, that is of any real force or efficacy, but perfectly complies with the whole doctrine of the free, undeserved grace of God towards us by Jesus Christ; nor is there any of them which gives the least countenance unto anything of worth in ourselves, as from ourselves, or that should take us off from an absolute and universal dependence on Christ for life and salvation. But yet such they are as render it as necessary unto us to be holy, — that is, to be sanctified, — as to be justified. He that thinks to please God and to come to the enjoyment of him without holiness makes him an unholy God, putting the highest indignity and dishonor imaginable upon him. God deliver poor sinners from this deceit! There is no remedy; you must leave your sins or your God. You may as easily reconcile heaven and hell, the one remaining heaven and the other hell, as easily take away all difference between light and darkness, good and evil, as procure acceptance for unholy persons with our God. Some live without God in the world; whether they have any notion of his being or no is not material. They live without any regard unto him, either as unto his present rule over them or his future disposal of them. It is no wonder if holiness, both name and thing, be universally despised by these persons, their design being to serve their lusts to the utmost, and immerse themselves in the pleasures of the world, without once taking God into their thoughts; they can do no otherwise. But for men who live under some constant sense of God and an eternal accountableness unto him, and thereon do many things he requires, and abstain from many sins that their inclinations and opportunities would suggest and prompt them unto, not to endeavor after that universal holiness which alone will be accepted with him, is a deplorable folly. Such men seem to worship an idol all their days; for he that doth not endeavor to be like unto God doth contrarily wickedly think that God is like unto himself. It is true, our interest in God is not built upon our holiness; but it is as true that we have none without it. Were this principle once well fixed in the minds of men, that without holiness no man shall see God, and that enforced from the consideration of the nature of God himself, it could not but influence them unto a greater diligence about it than the most seem to be engaged in.
There is, indeed, amongst us a great plea for morality, or for moral virtue; — I wish it be more out of love to virtue itself and a conviction of its usefulness than out of a design to cast contempt on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel, as it is declared by the faithful dispensers of it. However, we are bound to believe the best of all men. Where we see those who so plead for moral virtue to be in their own persons, and in their lives, modest, sober, humble, patient, self-denying, charitable, useful towards all, we are obliged to believe that their pleas for moral virtue proceed from a love and liking of it; but where men are proud, furious, worldly, revengeful, profane, intemperate, covetous, ambitious, I cannot so well understand their declamations about virtue. Only, I would for the present inquire what it is that they intend by their morality. Is it the renovation of the image of God in us by grace? is it our conformity from thence unto him in his holiness? is it our being holy in all manner of holiness, because God is holy? is it the acting of our souls in all duties of obedience, from a principle of faith and love, according to the will of God, whereby we have communion with him here and are led towards the enjoyment of him? If these are the things which they intend, what is the matter with them? Why are they so afraid of the words and expressions of the Scripture? Why will they not speak of the things of God in words that the Holy Ghost teacheth? Men never dislike the words of. God but when they dislike the things of God. Is it because these expressions are not intelligible, — people do not know what they mean, but this of moral virtue they understand well enough? We appeal to the experience of all that truly fear God in the world unto the contrary. There is none of them but the Scripture expressions of the causes, nature, work, and effects of holiness, do convey a clear, experimental apprehension of them unto their minds; whereas, by their “moral virtue,” neither themselves nor any else do know what they intend, since they do or must reject the common received notion of it, for honesty amongst men. If, therefore, they intend that holiness hereby which is required of us in the Scripture, and that particularly on the account of the holiness of that God whom we serve, they fall into a high contempt of the wisdom of God, in despising of those notices and expressions of it which, being used by the Holy Ghost, are suited unto the spiritual light and understanding of believers; substituting their own arbitrary, doubtful, uncertain sentiments and words in their room and place. But if it be something else which they intend (as, indeed, evidently it is, nor doth any man understand more in the design than sobriety and usefulness in the world, things singularly good in their proper place), then it is no otherwise to be looked on but as a design of Satan to undermine the true holiness of the gospel, and to substitute a deceitful and deceiving cloud or shadow in the room of it.
And, moreover, what we have already discoursed doth abundantly evince the folly and falsehood of those clamorous accusations, wherein the most important truths of the gospel are charged as inconsistent with and as repugnant unto holiness. “The doctrine,” say the Socinians, “of the satisfaction of Christ, ruins all care and endeavors after a holy life; for when men do believe that Christ hath satisfied the justice of God for their sins, they will be inclined to be careless about them, yea, to live in them.”
But as this supposition doth transform believers into monsters of ingratitude and folly, so it is built on no other foundation than this, that if Christ take away the guilt of sin, there is no reason in the nature of these things, nor mentioned in the Scripture, why we should need to be holy, and keep ourselves from the power, filth, and dominion of sin, or any way glorify God in this world; which is an inference weak, false, and ridiculous.
The Papists, and others with them, lay the same charge on the doctrine of justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us.
And it is wonderful to consider with what virulent railing this charge is managed by the Papists, so with what scorn and scoffing, with what stories and tales, some amongst ourselves endeavor to expose this sacred truth to contempt, as though all those by whom it is believed must consequently be negligent of holiness and good works. Now, although I deny not but that such men may find a great strength of connection between these things in their own minds, seeing there is a principle in the corrupt heart of men to “turn the grace of God into lasciviousness;” yet (as shall in due time be proved) this sacred truth is, both doctrinally and practically, the great constraining principle unto holiness and fruitfulness in obedience. For the present, I shall return no other answer unto those objections, but that the objectors are wholly mistaken in our thoughts and apprehensions concerning that God whom we serve. God in Christ, whom we worship, hath so revealed his own holiness unto us, and what is necessary for us on the account thereof, as that we know it to be a foolish, wicked, and blasphemous thing for anyone to think to please him, to be accepted with him, to come to the enjoyment of him, without that holiness which he requireth, and from his own nature cannot but require. That the grace, or mercy, or love of this God, who is our God, should encourage those who indeed know him unto sin, or countenance them in a neglect of holy obedience to him, is a monstrous imagination. There are, as I shall show afterward, other invincible reasons for it, and motives unto it; but the owning of this one consideration alone by them who believe the grace of the gospel is sufficient to secure them from the reproach of this objection.
Moreover, from what hath been discoursed, we may all charge ourselves with blame for our sloth and negligence in this matter. It is to be feared that we have none of us endeavored as we ought to grow up into this image and likeness of God. And although, for the main of our duty herein, our hearts may not condemn us, yet there are, no doubt, sundry things that belong unto it wherein we have all failed. Our likeness unto God, that wherein we bear his image, is our holiness, as hath been declared. Wherever there is the holiness of truth before described, in the essence of it, there is a radical conformity and likeness unto God. In the first communication of it unto us through the promises of the gospel, we are “made partakers th~v qei>av fu>sewv , of the divine nature,” 2 Peter 1:4, — such a new spiritual nature as represents that of God himself. Being begotten by him, we are made partakers of his nature. But though all children do partake of the nature of their parents, yet they may be, and some of them are, very deformed, and bear very little of their likeness. So is it in this matter. We may have the image of God in our hearts, and yet come short of that likeness unto him, in its degrees and improvement, which we ought to aim at. And this happens two ways: — (1.) When our graces are weak, withering, and unthrifty; for in their flourishing and fruit-bearing is our likeness unto God evidenced, and in them doth the glory of God in this world consist. (2.) When, by the power of our corruptions or our temptations, we contract a deformity, something that hath the likeness of the old crooked serpent. Where either of these befall us, that our graces are low and thriftless, [or] that our corruptions are high and active, frequently discovering themselves, there, though the image of God may be in us, there is not much of his likeness upon us, and we come short of our duty in this great and fundamental duty of our faith and profession. So far as it is thus with us, may we not, ought we not, greatly to blame ourselves? Why are we so slow, so negligent, in the pursuit of our principal interest and happiness? Why do we suffer everything, why do we suffer anything, to divert our minds from, or retard our endeavors in, this design? Wherefore, that I may contribute something to the awakening of our diligence herein, I shall add some few motives unto it and some directions for it, that herein we may be found “perfecting holiness in the fear of God;” which is the only way whereby we may be like unto him in this world: — First, In our likeness unto God consists the excellency and preeminence of our nature above that of all other creatures in the world, and of our persons above those of other men who are not partakers of his image. For, — 1. With reference unto other things, this is the highest excellency that a created nature is capable of. Other things had external impressions of the greatness, power, and goodness of God upon them; man alone, in this lower world, was capable of the image of God in him. The perfection, the glory, the pre-eminence of our nature, in the first creation, was expressed only by this, that we were made in the image and likeness of God, Genesis 1:26,27. This gave us a pre-eminence above all other creatures, and hence a dominion over them ensued; for although God made a distinct grant of it unto us, that we might the better understand and be thankful for our privilege, yet was it a necessary consequence of his image in us. And this is that which James respects, where he tells us that pa~sa fu>siv , “every nature,” the nature of all things in their several kinds, dama>zetai th~| fu>sei th~| ajnqrwpi>nh| , “is tamed,” that is, subjected to the nature of man, chapter 3:7. He renders vbæK; , Genesis 1:28, by dama>zw , which the LXX. render katakurieu>w , “subdue it.” But being not contented to be like God, that is, in holiness and righteousness, we would be as God in wisdom and sovereignty; and not attaining what we aimed at, we lost what we had, chapter 3:5, 6. Being in “honor we continued not, but became like the beasts that perish,” Psalm 49:12. We were first like God, and then like beasts, 2 Peter 2:12. By the loss of the image of God, our nature lost its preeminence, and we were reduced into order amongst perishing beasts; for notwithstanding some feeble relics of this image yet abiding with us, we have really, with respect unto our proper end, in our lapsed condition, more of the bestial nature in us than of the divine.
Wherefore, the restoration of this image in us by the grace of Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, is the recovery of that pre-eminence and privilege of our nature which we had foolishly lost. Hereby there is an impression again made upon our nature of the authority of God, which gives us a pre-eminence above other creatures and a rule over them; yea, that whole dominion which mankind scrambles for with craft and violence over the residue of the creation depends on this renovation of the image of God in some of them. Not that I judge that men’s right and title to their portion and interests in this world doth depend on their own personal grace or holiness; but that if God had not designed to renew his image in our nature by Jesus Christ, and, as the foundation thereof, to take our nature into union with himself in the person of his Son, and thereby to gather up all things unto a new head in him, and to make him the first-born of the creation, the head and heir of all, he would not have continued anything of right or title therein. It was upon the promise and the establishment of the new covenant that this right was restored unto us. So it is expressed in the renovation of the covenant with Noah and his children: Genesis 9:1,2, “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered;” which is an express renovation of the grant made unto us at our first creation, chapter 1:28, the right whereunto we had lost in our loss of the image of God. And, therefore, in that service wherein the creature is continued unto mankind, it is made “subject to vanity” and put into “bondage;” in which state, though it groan and look out, as it were, for deliverance, it must continue until God hath accomplished the whole design of the “glorious liberty of his children,” Romans 8:20,21.
Whatever they may pride themselves in, their parts or enjoyments, however they may sport themselves in the use or abuse of other creatures, if this image of God be not renewed in them, they have really no great preeminence above the things which perish under their hands, 2 Peter 2:12.
God having exalted our natures, by union with himself in the person of his Son, requires of us to preserve its dignity above others. 2. Again, this is that which gives privilege and pre-eminence unto the persons of some above others. “The righteous,” saith the wise man, “is more excellent than his neighbor,” Proverbs 12:26. It is seldom that this is so upon the account of civil wisdom, wealth, greatness, or power. There is nothing can establish this general rule but their conformity and likeness to God. Hence are such persons called “the saints in the earth,” and “the excellent,” Psalm 16:3. Both the terms, µyviwOdq] and µyriyDiaæ , do first belong properly to God. He above [all] is absolutely vwOdq; , or “holy,” and he is ryDiaæ , Psalm 8:9. Unto men they are ascribed upon their likeness unto him in holiness. This makes them the “saints and excellent in the earth;” which gives them a pre-eminence of office and authority in some above others. And this dignity of office reflects a dignity of person on them who are vested in it, and communicates a pre-eminence unto them; for their office and authority is from God, which gives both it and them a real privilege and honor above others. But that which is originally in and from persons themselves is solely from the renovation of the image of God in them, and is heightened and increased according to the degrees they attain in the participation of it. The more holy, the more honorable. Hence, wicked men in the Scripture are said to be vile: µd;a; yneb]li tWLzu , Psalm 12:8, “quisquiliae hominum,” — “trifling vilenesses;” and the righteous are said to be “precious” and valuable. And hence it is that there hath ofttimes an awe been put on the spirits of vile and outrageous sinners from the appearances of God in holy persons. And, indeed, at all times, where men do eminently bear a conformity to God in holiness, wicked men, exasperated by their secular interests, prejudices, and an unconquerable adherence to their lusts, may oppose, revile, reproach, and persecute them; but secretly, in their hearts, they have an awe, from the likeness of God in them, whence they will sometimes dread them, sometimes flatter them, and sometimes wish that they were not, even as they deal with God himself. Why do we weary ourselves about other things? Why do we “spend our labor in vain, and our strength for that which is not bread?”
Such will all endeavors after any other excellency at length appear.
Herein lies the whole of that dignity which our nature was made for, and is capable of. Sin is the sole debasement of it, — that alone whereby we render ourselves base and contemptible. Men’s self-pleasing in the ways and fruits of it, or in worldly advantages, and their mutual applauses of one another, will suddenly vanish into smoke. It is holiness alone that is honorable, and that because there is in it the image and representation of God. I think we are satisfied that the dignity of professors above others doth not consist in worldly or secular advantages, for they are very few who have them: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called,” 1 Corinthians 1:26. Nor doth it consist in spiritual gifts. Many who have excelled us, not only in the degree of them, but in the kind also, who have had extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, shall be shut out of heaven with the worst of the world: Matthew 7:22,23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name wrought duna>meiv polla>v , many miraculous works?” — which is more than any of us can say; — yet Christ will “profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,’ ye unholy persons.” Nor is it in profession itself. Many make it in rigid austerities, renunciation of the world, and outward works of charity, beyond the most of us, and yet perish in their superstitions. Nor is it in the purity of worship, without such mixtures of human inventions as others defile the service of God withal; for multitudes may be made partakers thereof in the “great house” of God, and yet be “vessels of wood and stone,” who, being not “purged from sin,” are not “vessels unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use,” 2 Timothy 2:20,21. It consists, therefore, alone in that likeness unto God which we have in and by holiness, with what doth attend it and is inseparable from it. Where this is not, no other thing will exempt us from the common herd of perishing mankind.
Secondly, According unto our growth and improvement in this likeness unto God are our accesses and approaches towards glory. We are drawing everyday towards our natural end, whether we will or no; and if we do not therewithal draw nearer towards our supernatural end in glory, we are most miserable. Now, men do but deceive themselves if they suppose that they are approaching towards glory in time, if they are not at the same time making nearer unto it in grace. It is some representation of future glory, that therein we shall be ijsa>ggeloi , Luke 20:36, like or “equal unto the angels.” But that respects one particular only of that state. It is a far more excellent description of it that we shall be like unto God: “When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is,” John 3:2. Our glory, as subjectively considered, will be our likeness unto God, according to the capacity of creatures. And it is the highest folly for any to think that they shall love that hereafter which now they hate; that that will be their glory which they now abhor. Such sottish contradictions are the minds of men filled withal! There is nothing in this world which they more despise than to be like unto God, and they hate everyone that is so; yet pretend a desire and expectation of that estate wherein they shall be so, which is a being so forever! But this will be our glory, to “behold the face of God in righteousness,” and to be “satisfied with his likeness,” Psalm 17:15. How, then, shall we make approaches towards this glory spiritually, which at least may answer the approaches we make towards our end naturally, seeing not to do so is folly and intolerable negligence?
We have no other way but thriving and growing in that likeness of God which we have here in holiness. Hereby alone are we “changed into the image of God from glory to glory,” 2 Corinthians 3:18, — from one glorious degree of grace unto another, until one great change shall issue all grace and holiness in eternal glory. And in our desires for heaven, if they are regular, we consider not so much our freedom from trouble as from sin; nor is our aim in the first place so much at complete happiness as perfect holiness. And they who desire heaven as that which would only ease them of their troubles, and not as that which will perfectly free them of sin, will fall into a state wherein sin and trouble shall be eternally inseparable. As, therefore, we would continually tend towards our rest and blessedness, as we would have assured and evident pledges of it in our own souls, as we would have foretastes of it and an experimental acquaintance with it, (as who would not know as much as is possible of his eternal blessedness?) this is the design which we ought to pursue. It is to be feared that the most of us know not how much of glory may be in present grace, nor how much of heaven may be attained in holiness on the earth. We have a generation amongst us that would fain be boasting of perfection, whilst in their minds they are evidently under the power of darkness, — corrupt in their affections and worldly in their lives. But our duty it is to be always “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This, pursued in a due manner, is continually transforming the soul into the likeness of God. Much of the glory of heaven may dwell in a simple cottage, and poor persons, even under rags, may be very like unto God.
Thirdly, It is from our likeness and conformity unto God alone that we are or may be useful in the world, in a due manner and order. I shall have occasion to speak more unto this afterward, and shall therefore here only touch upon it, with respect unto one concernment or circumstance. God is the great preserver and benefactor of the whole creation; “he is good, and doeth good;” he is the sole cause and fountain of all good that in any kind any creature is made partaker of. And there is no property of God more celebrated in the Scripture than this of his goodness, and his giving out of the fruits of it to all his creatures. And he is so only good, that there is nothing so in any sense but by a participation of it, and a likeness unto him therein. They, therefore, who are like unto God, and they only, are useful in this world. There is, indeed, or at least there hath been, much good, useful good, done by others, on various convictions and for various ends; but there is one flaw or other in all they do. Either superstition, or vain-glory, or selfishness, or merit, or one thing or other, gets into all the good that is done by unholy persons, and brings death into the pot; so that although it may be of some use in particulars, unto individual persons, in some seasons, it is of none unto the general good of the whole. He that bears the likeness of God, and in all that he doth acts from that principle, he alone is truly useful, represents God in what he doth, and spoils it not by false ends of his own. If, therefore, we would keep up the privilege and pre-eminence of our nature and persons; if we would make due and daily accessions towards glory and blessedness; if we would be of any real use in this world, — our great endeavor ought to be to grow up more and more into this likeness of God, which consists in our holiness.
It will, therefore, or it may, be justly here inquired, how or what we may do that we may thrive and grow up more and more into this likeness unto God. To remit other considerations unto their proper place, at present I answer, that there are some graces of holiness that are effectually assimilating, and others that are declarative and expressive of this likeness of God in us: — First, Those of the first sort, which have a peculiar efficacy to promote the likeness of God in our souls, are faith and love, in whose constant exercise we ought to abide and abound if we intend to grow in likeness and conformity to God: — 1. Faith is a part of our holiness as it is a grace of the sanctifying Spirit, and it is a principle of holiness as it purifies the heart and is effectual by love. The more faith is in its due and proper exercise, the more holy we shall be, and consequently the more like unto God. This were a large theme; I shall confine it unto one instance. The glorious properties of God, as we have showed before, are manifested and revealed in Jesus Christ; “in his face do they shine forth.” The only way whereby we behold them, whereby we have an intuition into them, is by faith. In Christ are the glorious excellencies of God represented unto us, and by faith do we behold them. And what is the effect hereof? “We are changed into the same image” and likeness “from glory to glory,” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
This is the great mystery of growing in holiness and thriving in the image of God, which the world being ignorant of have labored in vain by other means to satisfy their notions and convictions. But this is the great way and means of it, appointed and blessed of God unto that purpose, — namely, constantly by faith, in a way of believing the revelation made in the gospel, to view, behold, and contemplate on the excellencies of God, his goodness, holiness, righteousness, love, and grace, as manifested in Jesus Christ, and that so as to make use of, and apply unto ourselves and our condition, the effects and fruits of them, according to the promise of the gospel. This is the great arcanum of growing up into the likeness of God, without which, however men may multiply duties in a compliance with their convictions, they will have never the more conformity to God; and all professors who come short in this matter do or may know, that it ariseth from their want of a constant exercise of faith on God in Christ. If, therefore, we have a real design of being yet more like unto God, — which is our privilege, safety, glory, blessedness, — this is the way we must take for its accomplishment. Abound in actings of faith, and we shall thrive in holiness; and they are but acts of presumption, under the name of faith, which do not infallibly produce this effect. 2. Love hath the same tendency and efficacy; I mean, the love of God. He that would be like unto God must be sure to love him, or all other endeavors to that purpose will be in vain; and he that loves God sincerely will be like him. Under the Old Testament, none in his general course so like unto God as David, called, therefore, “The man after God’s own heart;” and none ever made greater expressions of love unto him, which occur continually in the Psalms. And let men take what pains they can in acts and duties of obedience, if they proceed not from a principle of divine love, their likeness unto God will not be increased by them. All love, in general, hath an assimilating efficacy; it casts the mind into the mould of the thing beloved. So love of this world makes men earthly minded; their minds and affections grow earthly, carnal, and sensual. But of all kinds, divine love is most effectual to this purpose, as having the best, the most noble, proper, and attractive object. It is our adherence unto God with delight, for what he is in himself, as manifested in Jesus Christ. By it we cleave unto God, and so keep near him, and thereby derive transforming virtue from him. Every approach unto God by ardent love and delight is transfiguring. And it acts itself continually by, — (1.) Contemplation; (2.) Admiration; and, (3.) Delight in obedience. (1.) Love acts itself by contemplation. It is in the nature of it to be meditating and contemplating on the excellencies of God in Christ; yea, this is the life of it, and where this is not, there is no love. A heart filled with the love of God will night and day be exercising itself in and with thoughts of God’s glorious excellencies, rejoicing in them. This the psalmist exhorts us unto: Psalm 30:4, “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”
And love will do the same with respect unto all his other properties. See to this purpose Psalm 63 throughout. And this will further our likeness unto him. Our minds by it will be changed into the image of what we contemplate, and we shall endeavor that our lives be conformed thereunto. (2.) It works by admiration also. This is the voice of love, “How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty!” Zechariah 9:17. The soul being, as it were, ravished with that view which it hath of the glorious excellencies of God in Christ, hath no way to express its affections but by admiration. “How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty!” And this beauty of God is that sweetness and holy symmetry of glory (if I may be allowed to speak so improperly) in all the perfections of God, being all in a sweet correspondency exalted in Christ, which is the proper object of our love. To see infinite holiness, purity, and righteousness, with infinite love, goodness, grace, and mercy, all equally glorified in and towards the same things and persons, one glimpse whereof is not to be attained in the world out of Christ, is that beauty of God which attracts the love of a believing soul, and fills it with a holy admiration of him. And this also is a most effectual furtherance of our conformity unto him, which without these steps we shall labor in vain after. (3.) Again, love gives delight in obedience and all the duties of it. The common instance of Jacob is known, of whom it is said that his seven years’ service seemed short and easy to him, for the love he bare to Rachel. He did that with delight which he would not afterward undergo for the greatest wages. But we have a greater instance. Our Lord Jesus Christ says concerning all the obedience that was required of him, “Thy law, O God, is in my heart; I delight to do thy will.” And yet we know how terrible to nature were the things he did and suffered in obedience to that law. But his unspeakable love to God and the souls of men rendered it all his delight. Hence follow intension and frequency in all the duties of it.
And where these two are, intension of mind and spirit, with a frequency of holy duties, both proceeding from delight, there holiness will thrive; and consequently we shall do so in our conformity to God. In brief, love and likeness unto God are inseparable, and proportionate unto one another; and without this no duties of obedience are any part of his image.
Secondly, There are graces which are declarative of this assimilation, or which evidence and manifest our likeness unto God. I shall instance only in two of them, — 1. And the first is such as I shall give many names unto it in its description, as the Scripture doth also; but the thing intended is one and the same. This is goodness, kindness, benignity, love, with readiness to do good, to forgive, to help and relieve, and this towards all men, on all occasions. And this also is to be considered in opposition unto an evil habit of mind exerting itself in many vices, which yet agree in the same general nature: such are anger, wrath, envy, malice, revenge, frowardness, selfishness; all which are directly opposite to the grace of holiness at present instanced in and pleaded for. And this, I fear, is not so considered as it ought to be; for if it were, it would not be so common a thing as, it may be, it is, for men to plead highly for the imitation of God, and almost in all they do give us a full representation of the devil: for as this universal benignity and love to all is the greatest representation of the nature of God on earth, so is fierceness, envy, wrath, and revenge, of that of the devil.
Would we, then, be like unto our heavenly Father, would we manifest that we are so unto his glory, would we represent him in and unto the world, it must be by this frame of spirit, and actings constantly suited thereunto.
This our blessed Savior instructs us in and unto, Matthew 5:44,45. A man, I say, thus good, his nature being cured and rectified by grace, thence useful and helpful, free from guile, envy and selfishness, pride and elation of mind, is the best representation we can have of God on the earth, since the human nature of Christ was removed from us.
This, therefore, we are to labor after if we intend to be like God, or to manifest his glory in our persons and lives unto the world. And no small part of our holiness consists herein. Many lusts, corruptions, and distempered passions, are to be subdued by grace, if we design to be eminent. Strong bents and inclinations of mind to comply with innumerable provocations and exasperations that will befall us must be corrected and discarded; many duties [must] be constantly attended unto, and sundry graces kept up to their exercise. The whole drove of temptations, all whose force consists in a pretense of care for self, must be scattered or resisted. And hence it is that in the Scripture a good man, a merciful man, a useful, liberal man, is frequently spoken of, by way of eminency and distinction, as one whom God hath an especial regard unto, and concerning whom there are peculiar promises. When men live to themselves, and are satisfied that they do no hurt, though they do no good; are secure, selfish, wrathful, angry, peevish, or have their kindness confined to their relations, or are otherwise little useful but in what they are pressed unto, and therein come off with difficulty in their own minds; who esteem all lost that is done for the relief of others, and the greatest part of wisdom to be cautious, and disbelieve the necessities of men; in a word, that make self and its concernments the end of their lives; — whatever otherwise their profession be, or their diligence in religious duties, they do very little either represent or glorify God in the world. If we, therefore, design to be holy, let us constantly, in our families, towards our relations, in churches, in our conversation in the world, and dealings with all men; towards our enemies and persecutors, the worst of them, so far as they are ours only; towards all mankind as we have opportunity, — labor after conformity unto God, and to express our likeness unto him, in this philanthropy, goodness, benignity, condescension, readiness to forgive, to help and relieve; without which we neither are nor can be the children of our Father which is in heaven.
Especially is this frame of heart, and actings suitable thereunto, required of us with respect unto the saints of God, unto believers. Even God himself, whom we are bound to imitate, and a conformity unto whom we are pressing after, doth exercise his benignity and kindness in a peculiar manner towards them: 1 Timothy 4:10, “He is the savior of all men,” but “specially of those that believe.” There is a speciality in the exercise of his saving goodness towards believers. And in answer hereunto, we are likewise commanded to “do good unto all men,” but “especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Galatians 6:10. Although we are obliged to the exercise of the goodness before described unto all men whatever, as we have opportunity, yet we are allowed, yea, we are enjoined, a peculiar regard herein unto the household of faith. And if this were more in exercise, if we esteemed ourselves (notwithstanding the provocations and exasperations which we meet withal, or suppose we do so, when perhaps none are given us or intended us) obliged to express this benignity, kindness, goodness, forbearance, and love towards all believers in an especial manner, it would prevent or remove many of those scandalous offenses and animosities that are among us. If in common we do love them that love us, and do good to them that do good to us, and delight in them who are of our company and go the same way with us, it may advance us in the condition of Pharisees and publicans, for they did so also. But if among believers we will take this course, love them only, delight in them only, be open and free in all effects of genuine kindness towards them who go our way, or are of our party, or are kind and friendly to us, or that never gave us provocations really nor in our own surmises, we are so far and therein worse than either Pharisees or publicans. We are to endeavor conformity and likeness unto God, not only as he is the God of nature, and is good unto all the works of his hands, but as he is our heavenly Father, and is good, kind, benign, merciful, in an especial manner, unto the whole family of his children, however differenced among themselves, or indeed unkind or provoking unto him. I confess, when I see men apt to retain a sense of old provocations and differences; ready to receive impressions of new ones, or ready for apprehensions of such, where there are none; incredulous of the sincerity of others who profess a readiness for love and peace; to take things in the worst sense; to be morose and severe towards this or that sort of believers, unready to help them, scarce desiring their prosperity, or it may be their safety, — I cannot but look upon it as a very great stain to their profession, whatever else it be: and by this rule would I have my own ways examined. 2. Truth is another grace, another part of holiness, of the same import and nature. Truth is used in the Scripture for uprightness and integrity, — “Thou requirest truth in the inward parts,” Psalm 51:6, — and frequently for the doctrine of truth, as of God revealed and by us believed.
But that which I intend is only what is enjoined us by the apostle, — namely, in all things to “speak the truth in love,” Ephesians 4:15. Our apostasy from God was eminently from him as the God of truth; by an opposition to which attribute we sought to dethrone him from his glory.
We would not believe that his word was truth. And sin entered into the world by and with a long train of lies; and ever since, the whole world, and everything in it, is filled with them; which represents him and his nature who is the father of lies and liars. Hereby doth it visibly and openly continue in its apostasy from the God of truth. I could willingly stay to manifest how the whole world is corrupted, depraved, and sullied by lies of all sorts, but I must not divert thereunto. Wherefore, truth and sincerity in words, — for that at present I must confine myself unto, — is an effect of the renovation of the image of God in us, and a representation of him to the world. No duty is more frequently pressed upon us: “Put away false speaking;” “Lie not one to another;” “Speak the truth in love.” And the consideration hereof is exceeding necessary unto all those who by their course of life are engaged in trading; and that both because of the disreputation which by the evil practices of some, of many (that I say not of the most), is cast upon that course of life, and also because failures in truth are apt a thousand ways to insinuate themselves into the practices of such persons, yea, when they are not aware thereof. “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, but when he goeth away he boasteth;” and “It is good, it is good, saith the seller, but when he hath sold it he boasteth,” or is well pleased with the advantage which he hath made by his words. But these things have the image of Satan upon them, and are most opposite to the God of truth. Another occasion must be taken farther to press this necessary duty; only at present, I do but intimate that where truth is not universally observed, according to the utmost watchfulness of sincerity and love, there all other marks and tokens of the image of God in any persons are not only sullied but defaced, and the representation of Satan is most prevalent. And these things I could not but add, as naturally consequential unto that first principal argument for the necessity of holiness which we have proposed and insisted on.
Having despatched this first argument, and added unto it some especial improvements with respect unto its influence into our practice, it remains only that we free it from one objection, which it seems exposed unto.
Now, this ariseth from the consideration of the infinite grace, mercy, and love of God, as they are proposed in the dispensation of the word; for it may be said unto us, and like enough it will, considering the frame of men’s minds in the days wherein we live, “Do not you yourselves, who thus press unto holiness, and the necessity of it, from the consideration of the nature of God, preach unto us every day the greatness of his mercy towards all sorts of sinners, his readiness to receive them, his willingness to pardon them, and that freely in Christ, without the consideration of any worth, merit, or righteousness of their own? And do you not herein invite all sorts of sinners, the worst and the greatest, to come unto him by Christ, that they may be pardoned and accepted? Whence, then, can arise any argument for the necessity of holiness from the consideration of the nature of this God, whose inestimable treasures of grace, and the freedom of whose love and mercy towards sinners, no tongue, as you say, can express?”
Ans. 1. This objection is very natural unto carnal and unbelieving minds, and therefore we shall meet with it at every turn. There is nothing seems more reasonable unto them than that we may live in sin because grace hath abounded. If men must yet be holy, they can see no need nor use of grace; and they cannot see that God is gracious to any purpose, if notwithstanding men may perish because they are not holy. But this objection is raised, rejected, and condemned by our apostle, in whose judgment we may acquiesce, Romans 6:1; and in the same place he subjoins the reasons why, notwithstanding the superabounding grace of God in Christ, there is an indispensable necessity that all believers should be holy. 2. God himself hath obviated this objection. He proclaims his name, Exodus 34:6,7, “TheLORD, TheLORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
Had he stood here, and neither in this nor in any other place of Scripture farther declared his nature and unchangeable purposes concerning sinners, some color might have been laid on this objection. But he adds immediately, “and that will by no means clear the guilty,” — that is, as it is explained in places of Scripture innumerable, such as go on in their sins, without regard unto obedience and holiness springing from the atonement made for their guilty souls in the blood of Christ. 3. We do, we ought to declare the rich and free love, grace, mercy, and bounty of God unto sinners in and by Jesus Christ. And woe unto us if we should not be found in that work all our days, and thereby encourage all sorts of sinners to come unto him for the free pardon of their sins, “without money or price,” without merit or desert on their part! for this is the gospel. But notwithstanding all this grace and condescension, we declare that he doth not dethrone himself, nor deny himself, nor change his nature, nor become unholy, that we may be saved. He is God still, naturally and essentially holy, — holy as he is in Christ, reconciling the sinful world unto himself, — and therefore indispensably requires that those whom he pardons, receives, accepts into his love and communion with himself, should be holy also. And these things are not only consistent but inseparable. Without the consideration of this grace in God, we can have no encouragement to be holy; and without the necessity of holiness in us, that grace can neither be glorified nor useful.
ETERNAL ELECTION A CAUSE OF AND MOTIVE UNTO HOLINESS. Other arguments for the necessity of holiness, from God’s eternal election — The argument from thence explained, improved, vindicated.
WE have seen, upon the whole matter, what conclusions (as unto our own duty) we ought to draw from that revelation of the nature of God in Christ which is made unto us, and our relation unto him. If we are not thereby prevailed on always, in all instances of obedience, to endeavor to be holy universally, in all manner of holy conversation, we neither can enjoy his favor here nor be brought unto the enjoyment of him in glory hereafter.
That consideration which usually we take of God next after his nature and the properties of it, is of the eternal free acts of his will, or his decrees and purposes; and we shall now inquire what respect they have unto holiness in us, what arguments and motives may be taken from them to evince the necessity of it unto us and to press us thereunto, especially from the decree of election, which in an especial manner is by some traduced as no friend to this design. I say, then, that, — II. It is the eternal and immutable purpose of God, that all who are his in a peculiar manner, all whom he designs to bring unto blessedness in the everlasting enjoyment of himself, shall antecedently thereunto be made holy. This purpose of his God hath declared unto us, that we may take no wrong measures of our estate and condition, nor build hopes or expectations of future glory on sandy foundations that will fail us.
Whatever we are else, in parts, abilities, profession, moral honesty, usefulness unto others, reputation in the church, if we are not personally, spiritually, evangelically holy, we have no interest in that purpose or decree of God whereby any persons are designed unto salvation and glory.
And this we shall briefly confirm: — Ephesians 1:4, “He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
But is this that which firstly and principally we are ordained unto, and that for its own sake, — namely, holiness and unblamableness in the obedience of love? No; we are firstly “ordained to eternal life,” Acts 13:48; we are “from the beginning chosen to salvation,” 2 Thessalonians 2:13. That which God, in the first place, intends as his end in the decree of election is our eternal salvation, to the “praise of the glory of his grace,” Ephesians 1:5,6,11. How, then, is he said to “choose us that we should be holy?” in what sense is our holiness proposed as the design of God in election? It is as the indispensable means for the attaining of the end of salvation and glory. “I do,” saith God, “choose these poor lost sinners to be mine in an especial manner, to save them by my Son, and bring them, through his mediation, unto eternal glory. But in order hereunto, I do purpose and decree that they shall be holy and unblamable in the obedience of love; without which, as a means, none shall ever attain that end.” Wherefore, the expectation and hope of any man for life and immortality and glory, without previous holiness, can be built on no other foundation but this, that God will rescind his eternal decrees and change his purposes, — that is, cease to be God, — merely to comply with them in their sins! And who knows not what will be the end of such a cursed hope and expectation? The contrary is seconded by that of the apostle, Romans 8:30, “Whom he did predestinate, them he also called.”
Wherever predestination unto glory goes before concerning any person, there effectual vocation unto faith and holiness infallibly ensues; and where these never were, the other never was. So 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.”
Chosen we are unto salvation by the free, sovereign grace of God. But how may this salvation be actually obtained? how may we be brought into the actual possession of it? Through the sanctification of the Spirit, and no otherwise. Whom God doth not sanctify and make holy by his Spirit, he never chose unto salvation from the beginning. The counsels of God, therefore, concerning us do not depend on our holiness; but upon our holiness our future happiness depends in the counsels of God.
Hence we may see wherein lies the force of the argument for the necessity of holiness from God’s decree of election; and it consists in these two things: — First, That such is the nature of the unalterable decree of God in this matter, that no person living can ever attain the end of glory and happiness without the means of grace and holiness; the same eternal purpose respecteth both. I shall afterward show how the infallible and indissolvable connection of these things is established by the law of God. Our present argument is from hence, that it is fixed by God’s eternal decree. He hath ordained none to salvation, but he hath ordained them antecedently to be holy. Not the least infant that goes out of this world shall come to eternal rest unless it be sanctified, and so made habitually and radically holy. He chooseth none to salvation but through the sanctification of the Spirit. As, therefore, whatever else we have or may seem to have, it is contrary to the nature of God that we should come to the enjoyment of him if we are not holy, so it is contrary to his eternal and unchangeable decree also.
Secondly, It ariseth from hence, that we can have no evidence of our interest in God’s decree of election, whereby we are designed unto life and glory, without holiness effectually wrought in us. Wherefore, as our life depends upon it, so do all our comforts. To this purpose speaks our apostle, 2 Timothy 2:19, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” It is the decree of election which he intends, and he proposeth it as that alone which will give security against apostasy in a time of great temptations and trials; as our Savior doth likewise, Matthew 24:24. Everything else will fail but what is an especial fruit and effect of this decree. What, therefore, is incumbent on us with respect thereunto, that we may know we have an interest in this single security against final apostasy? Saith the apostle, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” There is no other way to come unto an evidence thereof but by a departure from all iniquity, by universal holiness. So the apostle Peter directs us to “give all diligence to make our election sure,” 2 Peter 1:10. Sure it is in itself from all eternity, — “The foundation of God standeth sure,” — but our duty it is to make it sure and certain unto ourselves; and this is a thing of the highest importance and concernment unto us, whence we are required to give all diligence unto that end. How, then, may this be done or effected?
It is evident, therefore, and necessary from God’s decree of election, that if we intend either eternal glory hereafter or any consolation or assurance here, we must endeavor to be “holy and without blame before him in love;” for whomsoever God purposeth to save, he purposeth first to sanctify. Neither have we any ground to suppose that we are built on that foundation of God which standeth sure, unless we depart from all iniquity.
What farther motives may be taken from the especial nature of this decree shall be considered when we have removed one objection out of our way.
Some there are who apprehend that these things are quite otherwise; for they say that a supposition of God’s decree of personal election is a discouragement unto all endeavors for holiness, and an effectual obstruction thereof in the lives of men. And under this pretense chiefly is the doctrine concerning it blasphemed and evil spoken of; for say they, “If God have freely from eternity chosen men unto salvation, what need is there that they should be holy? They may live securely in the pursuit of their lusts, and be sure not to fail of heaven at the last; for God’s decree cannot be frustrated, nor his will resisted. And if men be not elected, whatever they endeavor in the ways of holy obedience, it will be utterly lost; for eternally saved they cannot, they shall not be. This, therefore, is so far from being a conviction of the necessity of holiness and a motive unto it as that indeed it renders it unnecessary and useless; yea, defeats the power and efficacy of all other arguments for it and motives unto it.”
Now, this objection, if not for the sake of those who make use of it as a cavil against the truth, yet of those who may feel the force of it in the way of a temptation, must be removed out of our way. To this end I answer two things: — 1. In general, That this persuasion is not of Him that calleth us. This way of arguing is not taught in the Scripture, nor can thence be learned. The doctrine of God’s free electing love and grace is fully declared therein; and withal it is proposed as the fountain of all holiness, and made a great motive thereunto. Is it not safer, now, for us to adhere to the plain testimonies of Scripture, confirmed by the experience of the generality of believers, captivating our understandings to the obedience of faith, than hearken unto such perverse cavils as would possess our minds with a dislike of God and his ways? Those who hate gospel holiness, or would substitute something else in the room of it, will never want exceptions against all its concernments. A holiness they lay claim unto and plead an interest in; for, as I said formerly, a confession in general of the necessity hereof is almost the only thing wherein all that are called Christians do agree: but such a holiness they would have as doth not spring from eternal, divine election, as is not wrought in us originally by the almighty efficacy of grace in our conversion, as is not promoted by free justification through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. Now, this is such a holiness as the Scripture knoweth nothing of, unless it be to reject and condemn it.
Wherefore, this objection proceeding only from the craft of Satan, opposing the ways and methods of God’s grace when he dareth not openly oppose the thing itself, it is safer for a believer to rest quietly in the clear Scripture revelation than to attend unto such proud, perverse, and froward cavillings. 2. In particular, We are not only obliged to believe all divine revelations, but also in the way, order, and method wherein, by the will of God, they are proposed unto us, and which is required by the nature of the things themselves. For instance, the belief of eternal life is required in the gospel; but yet no man is obliged to believe that he shall be eternally saved whilst he lives in his sins, but rather the contrary. On this supposition, which is plain and evident, I shall, in the ensuing propositions, utterly cast this objection out of consideration: — (1.) The decree of election, considered absolutely in itself, without respect unto its effects, is no part of God’s revealed will; that is, it is not revealed that this or that man is or is not elected. This, therefore, can be made neither argument nor objection about anything wherein faith or obedience is concerned: for we know it not, we cannot know it, it is not our duty to know it; the knowledge of it is not proposed as of any use unto us, yea, it is our sin to inquire into it. It may seem to some to be like the tree of knowledge of good and evil unto Eve, — good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and much to be desired to make one wise, as all secret, forbidden things seem to carnal minds; but men can gather no fruit from it but death.
See Deuteronomy 29:29. Whatever exceptions, therefore, are laid against this decree as it is in itself, whatever inferences are made on supposition of this or that man’s being or not being elected, they are all unjust and unreasonable, yea, proud contending with God, who hath appointed another way for the discovery hereof, as we shall see afterward. (2.) God sends the gospel to men in pursuit of his decree of election, and in order unto its effectual accomplishment. I dispute not what other end it hath or may have, in its indefinite proposal unto all; but this is the first, regulating, principal end of it. Wherefore, in the preaching of it, our apostle affirms that he “endured all things for the elect’s sakes, that they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” 2 Timothy 2:10.
So God beforehand commanded him to stay and preach the gospel at Corinth, because “he had much people in that city,” — namely, in his purpose of grace, Acts 18:10. See chapter 2:47, 13:48. (3.) Wherever this gospel comes, it proposeth life and salvation by Jesus Christ unto all that shall believe, repent, and yield obedience unto him. It plainly makes known unto men their duty, and plainly proposeth unto them their reward. In this state of things, no man, without the highest pride and utmost effect of unbelief, can oppose the secret decree of God unto our known duty. Saith such an one, “I will neither repent, nor believe, nor obey, unless I may first know whether I am elected or no; for all at last will depend thereon.” If this be the resolution of any man, he may go about his other occasions; the gospel hath nothing to say or offer unto him. If he will admit of it on no other terms, but that he may set up his own will, and wisdom, and methods, in opposition unto and exclusion of those of God, he must, for aught I know, take his own course, whereof he may repent when it is too late. (4.) The sole way of God’s appointment whereby we may come to an apprehension of an interest in election is by the fruits of it in our own souls; nor is it lawful for us to inquire into it or after it any other way.
The obligation which the gospel puts upon us to believe anything respects the order of the things themselves to be believed, and the order of our obedience, as was before observed. For instance, when it is declared that Christ died for sinners, no man is immediately obliged to believe that Christ died for him in particular, but only that he died to save sinners, to procure a way of salvation for them, among whom he finds himself to be.
Hereon the gospel requires of men faith and obedience; this are they obliged to comply withal. Until this be done, no man is under an obligation to believe that Christ died for him in particular. So is it in this matter of election. A man is obliged to believe the doctrine of it, upon the first promulgation of the gospel, because it is therein plainly declared; but as for his own personal election, he cannot believe it, nor is obliged to believe it, any otherwise but as God reveals it by its effects. No man ought, no man can justly question his own election, doubt of it, or disbelieve it, until he be in such a condition as wherein it is impossible that the effects of election should ever be wrought in him, if such a condition there be in this world; for as a man whilst he is unholy can have no evidence that he is elected, so he can have none that he is not elected, whilst it is possible that ever he may be holy. Wherefore, whether men are elected or no is not that which God calls any immediately to be conversant about. Faith, obedience, holiness, are the inseparable fruits, effects, and consequents of election, as hath been proved before. See Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:1; Acts 13:48. In whomsoever these things are wrought, he is obliged, according to the method of God and the gospel, to believe his own election. And any believer may have the same assurance of it as he hath of his calling, sanctification, or justification; for these things are inseparable.
And by the exercise of grace are we obliged to secure our interest in election, 2 Peter 1:5-10. But as for those who are as yet unbelievers and unholy, they can draw no conclusion that they are not elected but from this supposition, that they are in a state and condition wherein it is impossible that ever they should have either grace or holiness; which cannot be supposed concerning any man but him that knows himself to have sinned against the Holy Ghost.
Wherefore, all the supposed strength of the objection mentioned lieth only in the pride of men’s minds and wills, refusing to submit themselves unto the order and method of God in the dispensation of his grace and his prescription of their duty, where we must leave it.
To return unto our designed discourse: The doctrine of God’s eternal election is everywhere in the Scripture proposed for the encouragement and consolation of believers, and to further them in their course of obedience and holiness. See Ephesians 1:3-12; Romans 8:28-34. As unto men’s present concernment therein, it is infallibly assured unto them by its effects; and being so, it is filled with motives unto holiness, as we shall now farther declare in particular.
First, The sovereign and ever-to-be-adored grace and love of God herein is a powerful motive hereunto; for we have no way to express our resentment of this grace, our acknowledgment of it, our thankfulness for it, but by a holy, fruitful course of obedience, nor doth God on the account hereof require anything else of us. Let us, therefore, inquire what sense of obligation this puts upon us, that God from all eternity, out of his mere sovereign grace, not moved by anything in ourselves, should first choose us unto life and salvation by Jesus Christ, decreeing immutably to save us out of the perishing multitude of mankind, from whom we neither then did, in his eye or consideration, nor by anything in ourselves ever would, differ in the least. What impression doth this make upon our souls?
What conclusion as to our practice and obedience do we hence educe?
Why, saith one, “If God have thus chosen me, I may then live in sin as I please; all will be well and safe in the latter end, which is all I need care for.” But this is the language of a devil, and not of a man. Suggestions, possibly, of this nature, by the craft of Satan, in conjunction with the deceitfulness of sin, may be injected into the minds of believers, (as what may not so be?) but he that shall foment, embrace, and act practically according to this inference, is such a monster of impiety and presumptuous ingratitude as hell itself cannot parallel in many instances. I shall use some boldness in this matter. He that doth not understand, who is not sensible, that an apprehension by faith of God’s electing love in Christ hath a natural, immediate, powerful influence, upon the souls of believers, unto the love of God and holy obedience, is utterly unacquainted with the nature of faith, and its whole work and actings towards God in the hearts of them that believe. Is it possible that anyone who knows these things can suppose that those in whom they are in sincerity and power can be such stupid, impious, and ungrateful monsters, so devoid of all holy ingenuity and filial affections towards God, as, merely out of despite unto him, to cast poison into the spring of all their own mercies?
Many have I known complain that they could not arrive at a comfortable persuasion of their own election; never any who [complained,] when they had received it in a due way and manner, that it proved a snare unto them, that it tended to ingenerate looseness of life, unholiness, or a contempt of God in them. Besides, in the Scripture it is still proposed and made use of unto other ends. And those who know anything of the nature of faith or of the love of God, anything of intercourse or communion with him by Jesus Christ, anything of thankfulness, obedience, or holiness, will not be easily persuaded but that God’s electing love and grace is a mighty constraining motive unto the due exercise of them all.
God himself knoweth this to be so, and therefore he maketh the consideration of his electing love, as free and undeserved, his principal argument to stir up the people unto holy obedience, Deuteronomy 7:6-8,11. And a supposition hereof lies at the bottom of that blessed exhortation of our apostle, Colossians 3:12,13, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.”
These things, which are so great a part of our holiness, become the elect of God; these are required of them on the account of their interest in electing love and grace. Men may frame a holiness to themselves, and be stirred up unto it by motives of their own (as there is a religion in the world that runs in a parallel line by that of evangelical truth, but toucheth it not, nor will do so to eternity); but that which the gospel requires is promoted on the grounds and by the motives that are peculiar unto it, whereof this of God’s free electing love and grace is among the principal. Farther to confirm this truth, I shall instance in some especial graces, duties, and parts of holiness, that this consideration is suited to promote: — 1. Humility in all things is a necessary consequent of a due consideration of this decree of God; for what were we when he thus set his heart upon us, to choose us, and to do us good forever? — poor, lost, undone creatures, that lay perishing under the guilt of our apostasy from him. What did he see in us to move him so to choose us? — nothing but sin and misery.
What did he foresee that we would do of ourselves more than others, if he wrought not in us by his effectual grace? — nothing but a continuance in sin and rebellion against him, and that forever. How should the thoughts hereof keep our souls in all humility and continual self-abasement! for what have we in or from ourselves on the account whereof we should be lifted up? Wherefore, as the elect of God, let us put on humility in all things; and let me add, that there is no grace whereby at this day we may more glorify God and the gospel, now the world is sinking into ruin under the weight of its own pride.
The spirits of men, the looks of men, the tongues of men, the lives of men, are lifted up by their pride unto their destruction. The good Lord keep professors from a share in the pride of these days! Spiritual pride in foolish self-exalting opinions, and the pride of life in the fashions of the world, are the poison of this age. 2. Submission to the sovereign will and pleasure of God, in the disposal of all our concerns in this world. That this is an excellent fruit of faith, an eminent part of holiness, or duty of obedience, is acknowledged; and never was it more signally called for than it is at this day. He that cannot live in an actual resignation of himself and all his concerns unto the sovereign pleasure of God, can neither glorify him in anything nor have one hour’s solid peace in his own mind. This public calamities, this private dangers and losses, this the uncertainty of all things here below, call for at present in an especial manner. God hath taken all pretences of security from the earth, by what some men feel and some men fear. None knows how soon it may be his portion to be brought unto the utmost extremity of earthly calamities. There is none so old, none so young, none so wise, none so rich, as thence to expect relief from such things? Where, then, shall we in this condition cast anchor? whither shall we betake ourselves for quietness and repose? It is no way to be obtained but in a resignation of ourselves and all our concernments into the sovereign pleasure of God; and what greater motive can we have thereunto than this? The first act of divine sovereign pleasure concerning us was the choosing of us from all eternity unto all holiness and happiness. This was done when we were not, when we had no contrivances of our own. And shall we not now put all our temporary concerns into the same hand? Can the same fountain send out sweet and bitter water? — can the same sovereign pleasure of God be the free only cause of all our blessedness, and can it do that which is really evil unto us? Our souls, our persons, were secure and blessedly provided for, as to grace and glory, in the sovereign will of God; and what a prodigious impiety is it not to trust all other things in the same hand, to be disposed of freely and absolutely! If we will not forego our interest in mere, absolute, free, sovereign grace, for ten thousand worlds (as no believer will), how ready should we be to resign up thereunto that little portion which we have in this world among perishing things! 3. Love, kindness, compassion, forbearance towards all believers, all the saints of God, however differenced among themselves, are made indispensably necessary unto us, and pressed on us from the same consideration. And herein also doth no small part of our holiness consist.
To this purpose is the exhortation of the apostle before mentioned, Colossians 3:12,13; for if God have chosen them from all eternity, and made them the objects of his love and grace, as he hath done so concerning all sincere believers, do we not think it necessary, doth not God require of us, that we should love them also? How dare any of us entertain unkind, severe thoughts? how dare we maintain animosities and enmities against any of them whom God hath eternally chosen to grace and glory? Such things, it may be, upon provocations and surprisals, and clashings of secular interests, have fallen out, and will fall out amongst us; but they are all opposite and contrary unto that influence which the consideration of God’s electing love ought to have upon us. The apostle’s rule is, that, as unto our communion in love, we ought to receive him whom God hath received, and because God hath received him; against which no other thing can be laid in bar, Romans 14:1,3. And the rule is no less certain, yea, is subject to less exceptions, that we ought to choose, embrace, and love all those, whoever they be, whom God hath chosen and loved from eternity.
There is no greater evidence of low, weak, selfish Christians, than to prescribe any other rules or bounds unto their spiritual, evangelical affections than the decree of God’s election, as manifesting itself in its effects. “I endure all things,” saith our apostle, not for the Jews or Gentiles, not for the weak or strong in the faith, not for those of this or that way, but, “for the elect’s sake.” This should regulate our love, and mightily stir it up unto all actings of kindness, mercy, compassion, forbearance, and forgiveness. 4. Contempt of the world, and all that belongs unto it, will hence also be ingenerated in us. Did God set his heart upon some from eternity? Did he choose them to be his own peculiar [people], to distinguish them as his from all the residue of mankind? Doth he design to give them the highest, greatest, best fruits and effects of his love, and to glorify himself in their praises forever? What, then, will he do for them? Will he make them all kings or emperors in the world? or, at least, will he have them to be rich, and noble, and honorable among men, that it may be known and proclaimed, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the King of heaven delighteth to honor;” however, that they should be kept from straits, and difficulties, and trials, from poverty, and shame, and reproach in the world? Alas! none of these things were in the least in the heart of God concerning them. They deserve not to be named on the same day, as we use to speak, with the least of those things which God hath chosen his unto. Were there any real, substantial good in them on their own account, he would not have cast them out of the counsels of his love. But, on the contrary, “Ye see your calling, brethren” (which is the infallible fruit and consequent of election), “how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:” but God hath chosen the poor of the world, the base and the contemptible, for the most part; yea, he hath designed the generality of his elect to a poor, low, and afflicted condition in this world. And shall we set our hearts on those things that God hath so manifestly put an under-valuation upon, in comparison of the least concernment of grace and holiness? Wherefore, let them that are poor and despised in the world learn to be satisfied with their state and condition. Had God seen it to have been good for you to have been otherwise, he would not have passed it by when he was acting eternal love towards you. And let them that are rich not set their hearts upon uncertain riches. Alas! they are things which God had no regard unto when he prepared grace and glory for his own. Let the remembrance hereof suit your esteem and valuation of them. Do but think with yourselves that these are not the things that God had any regard unto when he chose us unto grace and glory, and it will abate of your care about them, cool your love towards them, and take off your hearts from them; which is your holiness.
Secondly, Electing love is a motive and encouragement unto holiness, because of the enabling supplies of grace which we may and ought thence to expect by Jesus Christ. The difficulties we meet withal in a course of holiness are great and many. Here Satan, the world, and sin, do put forth and try their utmost strength. Ofttimes the best are foiled, ofttimes discouraged, sometimes weary and ready to give over; it requires a good spiritual courage to take a prospect of the lions, serpents, and snares that lie in the way of a constant persevering course in gospel obedience. Hereon our knees are ready to grow feeble, and our hands to hang down. It is no small relief herein, no small encouragement to continue in our progress, that the fountain of electing grace will never fail us, but continually give out supplies of spiritual strength and refreshment. Hence may we take heart and courage to rise again when we have been foiled, to abide when the shock of temptation is violent, and to persevere in those duties which are most wearisome to the flesh. And they are unacquainted with a course of holy obedience who know not how needful this consideration is unto a comfortable continuance therein.
Thirdly, It hath the same tendency and effect in the assurance we have from thence, that notwithstanding all the oppositions we meet withal, we shall not utterly and finally miscarry. God’s “election” will at last “obtain,” Romans 11:7; and “his foundation standeth sure,” Timothy 2:19. His purpose, which is “according unto election,” is unchangeable; and, therefore, the final perseverance and salvation of those concerned in it are everlastingly secured. This is the design of the apostle’s discourse, Romans 8, from verse 28 unto the end. Because of the immutability of God’s eternal purpose in our predestination, and his effectual operations in the pursuit and for the execution thereof, the elect of God shall infallibly be carried through all, even the most dreadful oppositions that are made against them, and be at length safely landed in glory. And there is no greater encouragement to grow and persist in holiness than what is administered by this assurance of a blessed end and issue of it.
Those who have had experience of that spiritual slumber and sloth which unbelief will cast us under; of those weaknesses, discouragements, and despondencies, which uncertainties, doubts, fears, and perplexities of what will be the issue of things at last with them, do cast upon the souls of men; how duties are discouraged, spiritual endeavors and diligence are impaired, delight in God weakened, and love cooled by them, — will be able to make a right judgment of the truth of this assertion. Some think that this apprehension of the immutability of God’s purpose of election, and the infallibility of the salvation of believers on that account, tend only to carelessness and security in sin; and that to be always in fear, dread, and uncertainty of the end, is the only means to make us watchful unto duties of holiness. It is very sad that any man should so far proclaim his inexperience and unacquaintedness with the nature of gospel grace, the genius and inclination of the new creature, and the proper workings of faith, as to be able thus to argue, without a check put upon him by himself and from his own experience. It is true, were there no difference between faith and presumption; no difference between the spirit of liberty under the covenant of grace and that of bondage under the old covenant; no spirit of adoption given unto believers; no genuine filial delight in and adherence unto God ingenerated in them thereby, — there might be something in this objection. But if the nature of faith and of the new creature, the operations of the one and disposition of the other, are such as they are declared to be in the gospel, and as believers have experience of them in their own hearts, men do but bewray their ignorance, whilst they contend that the assurance of God’s unchangeable love in Christ, flowing from the immutability of his counsel in election, doth any way impeach, or doth not effectually promote, the industry of believers in all duties of obedience.
Suppose a man that is on his journey knoweth himself to be in the right way, and that, passing on therein, he shall certainly and infallibly come to his journey’s end, especially if he will a little quicken his speed as occasion shall require, will you say that this is enough to make such a man careless and negligent, and that it would be much more to his advantage to be lost and bewildered in uncertain paths and ways, not knowing whither he goes, nor whether he shall ever arrive at his journey’s end? Common experience declares the contrary, as also how momentary and useless are those violent fits and gusts of endeavors which proceed from fear and uncertainty, both in things spiritual and temporal, or civil. Whilst men are under the power of actual impressions from such fears, they will convert to God, yea, they will “momento turbinis,” and perfect holiness in an instant; but so soon as that impression wears off (as it will do on every occasion, and upon none at all), such persons are as dead and cold towards God as the lead or iron, which ran but now in a fiery stream, is when the heat is departed from it. It is that soul alone, ordinarily, which hath a comfortable assurance of God’s eternal, immutable, electing love, and thence of the blessed end of its own course of obedience, who goeth on constantly and evenly in a course of holiness, quickening his course and doubling his speed, as he hath occasion from trials or opportunities. And this is the very design of our apostle to explain and confirm, Hebrews 6, from the tenth verse unto the end of the chapter, as is declared elsewhere.
It appears, from what hath been discoursed, that the electing love of God is a powerful constraining motive unto holiness, and that which proves invincibly the necessity of it in all who intend the eternal enjoyment of God. But it will be said, “That if it be supposed or granted that those who are actually believers, and have a sense of their interest herein, may make the use of it that is pleaded; yet as for those who are unconverted, or are otherwise uncertain of their spiritual state and condition, nothing can be so discouraging unto them as this doctrine of eternal election. Can they make any other conclusion from it but that, if they are not elected, all care and pains in and about duties of obedience are vain; if they are, they are needless?” The removal of this objection shall put a close unto our discourse on this subject; and I answer, — 1. That we have showed already that this doctrine is revealed and proposed in the Scripture principally to acquaint believers with their privilege, safety, and fountain of their comforts. Having, therefore, proved its usefulness unto them, I have discharged all that is absolutely needful to my present purpose. But I shall show, moreover, that it hath its proper benefit and advantage towards others also. For, — 2. Suppose the doctrine of personal election be preached unto men, together with the other sacred truths of the gospel, two conclusions, it is possible, may by sundry persons be made from it: — (1.) That whereas this is a matter of great and eternal moment unto our souls, and there is no way to secure our interest in it but by the possession of its fruits and effects, which are saving faith and holiness, we will, we must, it is our duty, to use our utmost endeavors, by attaining of them and growth in them, to make our election sure; and herein, if we be sincere and diligent, we shall not fail. Others may conclude, (2.) That if it be so indeed, that those who shall be saved are chosen thereunto before the foundation of the world, then it is to no purpose to go about to believe or obey, seeing all things must fall out at last according as they were fore-ordained. Now, I ask, which of these conclusions is (I will not say most suited unto the mind and will of God, with that subjection of soul and conscience which we owe to his sovereign wisdom and authority, but whether of them is) the most rational, and most suitable to the principles of sober love of ourselves and care of our immortal condition? Nothing is more certain than that the latter resolution will be infallibly destructive (if pursued) of all the everlasting concernments of our souls; death and eternal condemnation are the unavoidable issues of it. No man giving himself up to the conduct of that conclusion shall ever come to the enjoyment of God. But in the other way, it is possible, at least, that a man may be found to be the object of God’s electing love, and so be saved.
But why do I say it is possible? There is nothing more infallibly certain than that he who pursues sincerely and diligently the ways of faith and obedience, — which are, as we have often said, the fruits of election, — shall obtain in the end everlasting blessedness, and, ordinarily, shall have in this world a comfortable evidence of his own personal election. This, therefore, on all accounts, and towards all sorts of persons, is an invincible argument for the necessity of holiness, and a mighty motive thereunto: for it is unavoidable, that if there be such a thing as personal election, and that the fruits of it are sanctification, faith, and obedience, it is utterly impossible, that without holiness anyone should see God; the reason of which consequence is apparent unto all.
III. WE have evinced the necessity of holiness from the nature and the decrees of God; our next argument shall be taken from his word or commands, as the nature and order of these things do require. And in this case it is needless to produce instances of God’s commands that we should be holy; it is the concurrent voice of the law and gospel. Our apostle sums up the whole matter, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, “We exhort you, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification,” or holiness; whereunto he adds one especial instance. This is that which the commandments of Christ require, yea, this is the sum of the whole commanding will of God. The substance of the law is, “Be ye holy; for I the LORD your God am holy,” Leviticus 19:2; the same with what it is referred unto by our Savior, Matthew 22:37-39. And whereas holiness may be reduced unto two heads, — 1. The renovation of the image of God in us; 2. Universal actual obedience, — they are the sum of the preceptive part of the gospel, Ephesians 4:22-24; Titus 2:11,12. Hereof, therefore, there needeth no farther confirmation by especial testimonies.
Our inquiry must be, what force there is in this argument, or whence we do conclude unto a necessity of holiness from the commands of God. To this end the nature and proper adjuncts of these commands are to be considered, — that is, we are to get our minds and consciences affected with them, so as to endeavor after holiness on their account, or with respect unto them: for whatever we may do which seems to have the matter of holiness in it, if we do it not with respect unto God’s command, it hath not the nature of holiness in it; for our holiness is our conformity and obedience to the will of God, and it is a respect unto a command which makes anything to be obedience, or gives it the formal nature thereof. Wherefore, as God rejects that from any place in his fear, worship, or service, which is resolved only into the doctrines or precepts of men, Isaiah 29:13,14; so for men to pretend unto I know not what freedom, light, and readiness unto all holiness, from a principle within, without respect unto the commands of God without, as given in his word, is to make themselves their own god, and to despise obedience unto him who is over all, God blessed forever. Then are we the servants of God, then are we the disciples of Christ, when we do what is commanded us, and because it is commanded us. And what we are not influenced unto by the authority of God in his commands, we are not principled for by the Spirit of God administered in the promises. Whatever good any man doth in any kind, if the reason why he doth it be not God’s command, it belongs neither to holiness nor obedience. Our inquiry, therefore, is after those things in the commands of God which put such an indispensable obligation upon us unto holiness, as that whatever we may be or may have without it will be of no use or advantage unto us, as unto eternal blessedness or the enjoyment of him.
But to make our way more clear and safe, one thing must yet be premised unto these considerations; and this is, that God’s commands for holiness may be considered two ways: — 1. As they belong unto and are parts of the covenant of works; 2. As they belong and are inseparably annexed unto the covenant of grace. In both respects they are materially and formally the same; that is, the same things are required in them, and the same person requires them, and so their obligation is joint and equal. Not only the commands of the new covenant do oblige us unto holiness, but those of the old also, as to the matter and substance of them. But there is a great difference in the manner and ends of these commands as considered so distinctly. For, — 1. The commands of God, as under the old covenant, do so require universal holiness of us, in all acts, duties, and degrees of them, that upon the least failure, in substance, circumstance, or degree, they allow of nothing else we do, but determine us transgressors of the whole law; for, with respect unto them, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” James 2:10. Now, I acknowledge that although there ariseth from hence an obligation unto holiness to them who are under that covenant, and such a necessity of it as that without it they must certainly perish, yet no argument of the nature with those which I insist upon can hence be taken to press us unto it: for no arguments are forcible unto this purpose but such as include encouragements in them unto what they urge; but that this consideration of the command knoweth nothing of, seeing a compliance with it is, in our lapsed condition, absolutely impossible, and for the things that are so, we can have no endeavors. And hence it is that no man influenced only by the commands of the law, or first covenant, absolutely considered, whatever in particular he might be forced or compelled unto, did ever sincerely aim or endeavor after universal holiness.
Men may be subdued by the power of the law, and compelled to habituate themselves unto a strict course of duty, and being advantaged therein by a sedate natural constitution, desire of applause, self-righteousness, or superstition, may make a great appearance of holiness; but if the principle of what they do be only the commands of the law, they never tread one true step in the paths of it. 2. The end why these commands require all the duties of holiness of us is, that they may be our righteousness before God, or that we may be justified thereby: for “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them,” Romans 10:5; that is, it requires of us all duties of obedience unto this end, that we may have justification and eternal life by them. But neither on this account can any such argument be taken as those we inquire into; for by the deeds of the law no man can be justified: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” <19D003> Psalm 130:3.
So prays David, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,” <19E302> Psalm 143:2; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16. And if none can attain the end of the command, as in this sense they cannot, what argument can we take from thence to prevail with them unto obedience? Whosoever, therefore, presseth men unto holiness merely on the commands of the law, and for the ends of it, doth but put them upon tormenting disquietments and deceive their souls.
However, men are indispensably obliged hereby, and those must eternally perish for want of what the law so requires who do not or will not by faith comply with the only remedy and provision that God hath made in this case. And for this reason we are necessitated to deny a possibility of salvation unto all to whom the gospel is not preached, as well as unto those by whom it is refused; for they are left unto this law, whose precepts they cannot answer, and whose end they cannot attain.
It is otherwise on both these accounts with the commands of God for holiness under the new covenant, or in the gospel; for, — 1. Although God in them requireth universal holiness of us, yet he doth not do it in that strict and rigorous way as by the law, so as that if we fail in anything, either as to the matter or manner of its performance, in the substance of it or as to the degrees of its perfection, that thereon both that and all we do besides should be rejected. But he doth it with a contemperation of grace and mercy, so as that if there be a universal sincerity, in a respect unto all his commands, he both pardoneth many sins, and accepts of what we do, though it come short of legal perfection; both on the account of the mediation of Christ. Yet this hindereth not but that the law or command of the gospel doth still require universal holiness of us, and perfection therein, which we are to do our utmost endeavor to comply withal, though we have a relief provided in sincerity on the one hand and mercy on the other; for the commands of the gospel do still declare what God approves and what he doth condemn, — which is no less than all holiness on the one hand and all sin on the other, — as exactly and extensively as under the law: for this the very nature of God requireth, and the gospel is not the ministry of sin, so as to give an allowance or indulgence unto the least, although in it pardon be provided for a multitude of sins by Jesus Christ. The obligation on us unto holiness is equal unto what it was under the law, though a relief be provided where unavoidably we come short of it. There is, therefore, nothing more certain than that there is no relaxation given us as unto any duty of holiness by the gospel, nor any indulgence unto the least sin. But yet, upon the supposition of the acceptance of sincerity, and a perfection of parts instead of degrees, with the mercy provided for our failings and sins, there is an argument to be taken from the command of it unto an indispensable necessity of holiness, including in it the highest encouragement to endeavor after it; for, together with the command, there is also grace administered, enabling us unto that obedience which God will accept. Nothing, therefore, can void or evacuate the power of this command and argument from it but a stubborn contempt of God, arising from the love of sin. 2. The commands of the gospel do not require holiness and the duties of righteousness of us to the same end as the commands of the law did, — namely, that thereby we might be justified in the sight of God; for whereas God now accepts from us a holiness short of that which the law required, if he did it still for the same end, it would reflect dishonor upon his own righteousness and the holiness of the gospel. For, — (1.) If God can accept of a righteousness unto justification inferior unto or short of what he required by the law, how great severity must it be thought in him to bind his creatures unto such an exact obedience and righteousness at first as he could and might have dispensed withal! If he doth accept of sincere obedience now unto our justification, why did he not do so before, but obliged mankind unto absolute perfection according to the law, for coming short wherein they all perished? Or shall we say that God hath changed his mind in this matter, and that he doth not stand so much now on rigid and perfect obedience for our justification as he did formerly? Where, then, is the glory of his immutability, of his essential holiness, of the absolute rectitude of his nature and will? Besides, — (2.) What shall become of the honor and holiness of the gospel on this supposition? Must it not be looked on as a doctrine less holy than that of the law? for whereas the law required absolute, perfect, sinless holiness unto our justification, the gospel admits of that to the same end, on this supposition, which is every way imperfect, and consistent with a multitude of sins and failings? What can be spoken more to the derogation of it? Nay, would not this indeed make “Christ the minister of sin,” which our apostle rejects with so much detestation, Galatians 2:17? for to say that he hath merited that our imperfect obedience, attended with many and great sins (“for there is no man that liveth and sinneth not”), should be accepted unto our justification, instead of the perfect and sinless obedience required under the law, is plainly to make him the minister of sin, or one that hath acquired some liberty for sin beyond whatever the law allowed.
And thus, upon the whole matter, both Christ and the gospel, in whom and whereby God unquestionably designed to declare the holiness and righteousness of his own nature much more gloriously than ever he had done any other way, should be the great means to darken and obscure them; for in and by them, on this supposition, God must be thought (and is declared) to accept of a righteousness unto our justification unspeakably inferior unto what he required before.
It must be granted, therefore, that the end of gospel commands, requiring the obedience of holiness in us, is not that thereby or thereon we should be justified. God hath therein provided another righteousness for that end, which fully, perfectly, absolutely answers all that the law requires, and on some considerations is far more glorious than what the law either did or could require. And hereby hath he exalted more than ever the honor of his own holiness and righteousness, whereof the external instrument is the gospel; which is also, therefore, most holy. Now, this is no other but the righteousness of Christ imputed unto us; for “he is the end of the law for righteousness unto them that do believe,” Romans 10:4. But God hath now appointed other ends unto our holiness, and so unto his command of it, under the gospel, all of them consistent with the nature of that obedience which he will accept of us, and such as we may attain through the power of grace; and so all of them offering new encouragements, as well as enforcements, unto our endeavors after it. But because these ends will be the subject of most of our ensuing arguments, I shall not here insist upon them. I shall only add two things in general: — [1.] That God hath no design for his own glory in us or by us, in this world or unto eternity, — that there is no especial communion that we can have with him by Jesus Christ, nor any capacity for us to enjoy him, — but holiness is necessary unto it, as a means unto its end. [2.] These present ends of it under the gospel are such as that God doth no less indispensably require it of us now than he did when our justification was proposed as the end of it. They are such, in brief, as God upon the account of them judgeth meet to command us to be holy in all manner of holiness; which what obligation and necessity it puts upon us so to be, we are now to inquire: —\parFIRST, The first thing considerable in the command of God to this purpose is the authority wherewith it is accompanied. It is indispensably necessary that we should be holy on the account of the authority of God’s command. Authority, wherever it is just and exerted in a due and equal manner, carrieth along with it an obligation unto obedience. Take this away, and you will fill the whole world with disorder. If the authority of parents, masters, and magistrates, did not oblige children, servants, and subjects unto obedience, the world could not abide one moment out of hellish confusion. God himself maketh use of this argument in general, to convince men of the necessity of obedience: “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name,” Malachi 1:6; — “If in all particular relations, where there is anything of superiority, which hath the least parcel of authority accompanying of it, obedience is expected and exacted, is it not due to me, who have all the authority of all sovereign relations in me towards you?” And there are two things that enforce the obligation from the command on this consideration, jus imperandi and vis exsequendi, both comprised in that of the apostle James, chapter 4:12, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: “ — 1. He who commands us to be holy is our sovereign lawgiver, he that hath absolute power to prescribe unto us what laws he pleaseth. When commands come from them who have authority, and yet are themselves also under authority, there may be some secret abatement of the power of the command. Men may think either to appeal from them, or one way or other subduct themselves from under their power. But when the power immediately commanding is sovereign and absolute, there is no room for tergiversation. The command of God proceeds from the absolute power of a sovereign legislator. And where it is not complied withal, the whole authority of God, and therein God himself, is despised. So God in many places calleth sinning against his commands, the “despising of him,” Numbers 11:20, 1 Samuel 2:30; the “despising of his name,” Malachi 1:6; the “despising of his commandment,” and that in his saints themselves, 2 Samuel 12:9.
Being, then, under the command of God to be holy, not to endeavor always and in all things so to be is to despise God, to reject his sovereign authority over us, and to live in defiance of him. This state, I suppose, there are few who would be willing to be found in. To be constant despisers of God and rebels against his authority is a charge that men are not ready to own, and do suppose that those who are so indeed are in a very ill condition. But this, and no better, is the state of every one who is not holy, who doth not follow after holiness. Yet so it is, propose unto men the true nature of evangelical holiness; press them to the duties wherein the exercise of it doth consist; convince them with evidence as clear as the light at noonday that such and such sins, such and such courses, wherein they live and walk, are absolutely inconsistent with it and irreconcilable unto it, — yet, for the most part, it is but little they will heed you, and less they will do to answer your exhortations. Tell the same persons that they are rebels against God, despisers of him, that they have utterly broken the yoke and cast off his authority, and they will defy you, and perhaps revile you. But yet these things are inseparable. God having given his command unto men to be holy, declared his sovereign will and pleasure therein, if we are not so accordingly, we are not one jot better than the persons described. Here, then, in the first place, we found the necessity of holiness on the command of God. The authority wherewith it is accompanied makes it necessary; yea, from hence if we endeavor not to thrive in it, if we watch not diligently against everything that is contrary unto it, we are therein and so far despisers of God and his name, as in the places before cited.
This, therefore, evidenceth unto the consciences of men that the obligation unto holiness is indispensable. And it would be well if we always carried this formal consideration of the commandment in our minds. Nothing is more prevalent with us unto watchfulness in holiness, as nothing doth more effectually render what we do to be obedience, properly so called.
Forgetfulness hereof, or not heeding it as we ought, is the great reason of our loose and careless walking, of our defect in making a progress in grace and holiness. No man is safe a moment whose mind by any means is dispossessed of a sense of the sovereign authority of God in his commands, nor can anything secure such a soul from being pierced and entered into by various temptations. This, therefore, are we to carry about with us wherever we go and whatever we do, to keep our souls and consciences under the power of it, in all opportunities of duties, and on all occasions of sin. Had men always, in their ways, trades, shops, affairs, families, studies, closets, this written on their hearts, they would have “Holiness to the LORD” on their breasts and foreheads also. 2. The apostle tells us, that as God in his commands is a sovereign lawgiver, so he is able to kill and keep alive; that is, his commanding authority is accompanied with such a power as that whereby he is able absolutely and eternally to reward the obedient, and to return unto the disobedient a meet recompense of punishment; for although I would not exclude other considerations, yet I think this of eternal rewards and punishments to be principally here intended.
But, (1.) Supposing it to have respect unto things temporal also, it carries along with it the greater enforcement. God commands us to be holy. Things are in that state and condition in the world as that if we endeavor to answer his will in a due manner, designing to “perfect holiness in the fear of God,” we shall meet with much opposition, many difficulties, and at length, perhaps, it may cost us our lives; multitudes have made profession of it at no cheaper rate. But let us not mistake in this matter: he who commands us to be holy is the only sovereign Lord of life and death, that hath alone the disposal of them both, and consequently of all things that are subservient and conducing unto the one or the other. It is he alone who can kill in a way of punishment, and he alone can keep alive in a way of merciful preservation. This power of our Lawgiver the holy companions of Daniel committed themselves unto, and preserved themselves by the consideration of, when with the terror of death they were commanded to forsake the way of holiness, Daniel 3:16-18. And with respect unto it, our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that “he who would save his life,” — namely, by a sinful neglect of the command, — “shall lose it.” This, therefore, is also to be considered: The power of him who commands us to be holy is such as that he is able to carry us through all difficulties and dangers which we may incur upon the account of our being so. Now, whereas the fear of man is one principal cause or means of our failing in holiness and obedience, either by sudden surprisals or violent temptations, and the next hereunto is the consideration of other things esteemed good or evil in this world, the faith and sense hereof will bear us up above them, deliver us from them, and carry us through them.
Be of good courage, all ye that trust in the Lord; you may, you ought, without fear or dauntedness of spirit, to engage into the pursuit of universal holiness. He who hath commanded it, who hath required it of you, will bear you out in it. Nothing that is truly evil or finally disadvantageous shall befall you on that account: for let the world rage whilst it pleaseth, and threaten to fill all things with blood and confusion, “to God the Lord belong the issues from death;” he alone can “kill” and “make alive.” There is, therefore, no small enforcement unto holiness from the consideration of the command, with respect unto the power of the commander, relating unto things in this world. (2.) But I suppose it is a power of eternal rewards and punishments that is principally here intended. The “killing” here is that mentioned by our Savior, and opposed to all temporal evils, and death itself: Matthew 10:28, “Fear not them who can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
And this “keeping alive” is a deliverance from the wrath to come in everlasting life. And this is that which gives an unavoidable efficacy to the command. Every command of a superior doth tacitly include a reward and punishment to be intended; for a declaration is made of what is pleasing and what is displeasing unto him that gives the command, and therein is there a virtual promise and threatening. But unto all solemn laws rewards and punishments are expressly annexed.
But there are two reasons why, for the most part, they do but little influence the minds of men who are inclined unto their transgression : — [1.] The first is, that the rewards and punishments declared are such as men think they do justly prefer their own satisfaction in the transgression of the laws before them. It is so with all good men with respect unto laws made contrary to the laws of God; and wise men also may do so with respect unto useless laws, with trifling penalties; and evil men will do so with respect unto the highest temporal punishments, when they are greedily set on the satisfaction of their lusts. Hence I say it is, in the first place, that the minds of men are so little influenced with those rewards and punishments that are annexed unto human laws. And, [2.] A secret apprehension that the commanders or makers of the laws neither will nor are able to execute those penalties in case of their transgression, evacuates all the force of them. Much they ascribe to their negligence, that they will not take care to see the sanction of their laws executed; more to their ignorance, that they shall not be able to find out their transgressions; and somewhat in sundry cases to their power, that they cannot punish nor reward though they would. And for these reasons are the minds of men little influenced by human laws beyond their own honest inclinations and interest. But things are quite otherwise with respect unto the law and commands of God that we should be holy. The rewards and punishments, called by the apostle “killing” and “keeping alive,” being eternal, in the highest capacities of blessedness or misery, cannot be balanced by any consideration of this present world without the highest folly and villainy unto ourselves; nor can there be any reserve on the account of mutability, indifferency, ignorance, impotency, or any other pretense that they shall not be executed. Wherefore, the commands of God, which we are in the consideration of, are accompanied with promises and threatenings, of eternal blessedness on the one hand or of misery on the other; and these will certainly befall us, according as we shall be found holy or unholy. All the properties of the nature of God are immutably engaged in this matter, and hence ensues an indispensable necessity of our being holy. God commands that we should be so; but what if we are not so? Why, as sure as God is holy and powerful, we shall eternally perish, for with the threatening of that condition is his command accompanied in case of disobedience. What if we do comply with the command and become holy? Upon the same ground of assurance we shall be brought into everlasting felicity. And this is greatly to be considered in the authority of the commandment. Some, perhaps, will say, that to yield holy obedience unto God with respect unto rewards and punishments is servile, and becomes not the free spirit of the children of God. But these are vain imaginations; the bondage of our own spirits may make everything we do servile. But a due respect unto God’s promises and threatenings is a principal part of our liberty. And thus doth the necessity of holiness, which we are engaged in the demonstration of, depend on the command of God, because of that authority from whence it doth proceed and wherewith it is accompanied. It is, therefore, certainly our duty, if we would be found walking in a course of obedience and in the practice of holiness, to keep a sense hereof constantly fixed on our minds. This is that which, in the first place, God intends in that great injunction of obedience, Genesis 17:1, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” The way to walk uprightly, to be sincere or perfect in obedience, is always to consider that he who requires it of us is God Almighty, accompanied with all the authority and power before mentioned, and under whose eye we are continually. And, in particular, we may apply this unto persons and occasions: — [1.] As to persons. Let them, in an especial manner, have a continual regard hereunto, who on any account are great , or high , or noble in the world, and that because their especial temptation is to be lifted up unto a forgetfulness or regardlessness of this authority of God. The prophet [Jeremiah] distributes incorrigible sinners into two sorts, and gives the different grounds of their impenitency respectively. The first are the poor; and it is their folly, stupidity, and sensual lusts, that keep them off from attending to the command: chapter 5:3, 4, “They have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are sottish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.”
There is a sort of poor incorrigible sinners, whose impenitency ariseth much out of their ignorance, blindness, and folly, which they please themselves in, although they differ but little from the beasts that perish; and such do we abound withal, who will take no pains for, who will admit of no means of, instruction. But there is another sort of sinners to whom the prophet makes his application, and discovers the ground of their incorrigible impenitency also: “I will get me to the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the LORD, and the judgment of their God,” verse 5. Great men, by reason of their education and other advantages, do attain unto a knowledge of the will of God, or at least may be thought so to have done, and would be esteemed to excel therein. They, therefore, are not likely to be obstinate in sin merely from stupid ignorance and folly. “No,” saith the prophet, “they take another course; ‘they have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.’ “ They are like a company of rude beasts of the field, which, having broken their yokes and cords, do run up and down the fields, treading down the corn, breaking up the fences, pushing with the horn, and trampling down all before them. This is the course of men, in the pursuit of their lusts, when they have “broken the yoke of the LORD.” And this the prophet declares to be the especial evil of great men, the rich, the mighty, the honorable in the world. Now, this “breaking of the yoke” is the neglecting and despising of the authority of God in the command. Seeing, therefore, that this is the especial temptation of that sort of persons, and things innumerable there are of all sorts that concur to render that temptation prevalent upon them, let all those who are of that condition, and have the least sincere desire after holiness, watch diligently, as they love and value their souls, to keep always and in all things a due sense of the authority of God in his commands upon their minds and consciences. When you are in the height of your greatness, in the fullness of your enjoyments, in the most urgent of your avocations by the things or societies of the world, and those who belong to it, when the variety of public appearances and attendancies are about you, when you are uppermost in the words of others, and it may be in your own thoughts, remember Him who is over all, and consider that you are subject and obnoxious unto his authority, equally with the poorest creature on the earth. Remember that it is your especial temptation to do otherwise. And if you do yet abhor those who by this means are come to be sons of Belial, or such as have altogether broken the yoke, and run up and down the world in the pursuit of their lusts, saying, “Our lips are our own, and who is lord over us?” be you watchful against the least beginnings or entrances of it in yourselves. [2.] In general, let us all endeavor to carry a constant regard unto the authority of God in his commands into all those seasons, places, societies, occasions, wherein we are apt to be surprised in any sin or a neglect of duty. And I may reduce this instruction or point it unto three heads or occasions, — namely, secrecy, businesses, and societies. 1st. Carry this along with you into your secret retirements and enjoyments.
Neglect hereof is the next cause of those secret actual provoking sins which the world swarms with. When no eye sees but the eye of God, men think themselves secure. Hereby have many been surprised into folly, which hath proved the beginning of a total apostasy. An awe upon the heart from the authority of God in the command will equally secure us in all places and on all occasions. 2dly. Let us carry it into our businesses, and the exercise of our trades or callings. Most men in these things are very apt to be intent on present occasions, and having a certain end before them, do habituate themselves into the ways of its attainment; and whilst they are so engaged, many things occur which are apt to divert them from the rule of holiness.
Whenever, therefore, you enter into your occasions, wherein you may suppose that temptations will arise, call to mind the greatness, power, and authority over you of Him who hath commanded you in all things to be holy. Upon every entrance of a surprisal, make your retreat unto such thoughts, which will prove your relief. 3dly. Carry it with you into your companies and societies; for many have frequent occasions of engaging in such societies, as wherein the least forgetfulness of the sovereign authority of God will betray them unto profuseness in vanity and corrupt communication, until they do with delight and hear with pleasure such things as wherewith the Holy Spirit of God is grieved, their own consciences are defiled, and the honor of profession is cast to the ground. SECONDLY, The command of God that we should be holy is not to be considered only as an effect of power and authority, which we must submit unto, but as a fruit of infinite wisdom and goodness also, which it is our highest advantage and interest to comply withal. And this introduceth a peculiar necessity of holiness, from the consideration of what is equal, reasonable, ingenuous; the contrary whereunto is foolish, perverse, ungrateful, every way unbecoming rational creatures. Where nothing can be discerned in commands but mere authority, will, and pleasure, they are looked on as merely respecting the good of them that command, and not at all theirs who are to obey, which disheartens and weakens the principle of obedience. Now, though God, because his dominion over us is sovereign and absolute, might have justly left unto us no other reason or motive of our obedience, and, it may be, did so deal with the church of old, as to some particular, temporary, ceremonial institutions; yet he doth not, nor ever did so, as to the main of their obedience. But as he proposeth his law as an effect of infinite wisdom, love, and goodness, so he declares and pleads that all his commands are just and equal in themselves, good and useful unto us, and that our compliance with them is our present as well as it will be our future happiness. And that this is so, that the command of God requiring that we should be holy, as a fruit of wisdom and goodness, is equal and advantageous unto ourselves, appears from all the considerations of it: — 1. Look upon it formally, as a law prescribed unto us, and it is so, because the obedience in holiness which it requires is proportioned unto the strength and power which we have to obey, which declares it equal unto us, and an effect of infinite wisdom and goodness in God. The command, as we showed before, may be considered either as it belonged unto the old covenant, or as it is annexed unto, and so is a part of, the new. In the first way, as it belonged unto the old covenant, the strength of grace which we had originally from God under the law of creation was sufficient to enable us unto all that holy obedience which was required therein, and our not doing so was from willful rebellion, and not from any impotency or weakness in us. We fell not from our first estate for want of power to obey, but by the neglect of the exercise of that power which we had. God made us upright, but we sought out many inventions. And in the latter way, as it belongs to the covenant of grace, there is, by virtue of that covenant, a supply of spiritual strength given in by the promise unto all them who are taken into it, enabling them to answer the commands for holiness, according to the rule of the acceptance of their obedience, before laid down. No man who is instated in the covenant of grace comes short or fails of the performance of that obedience which is required and accepted in that covenant merely for want of power and spiritual strength; for God therein, according to his divine power, gives unto us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue,” 2 Peter 1:3.
It is true, this grace or strength is administered unto them by certain ways and means, which if they attend not unto they will come short of it. But this I say, in the careful, diligent, sedulous use of those means appointed, none who belong to the covenant of grace shall ever fail of that power and ability which shall render the commands of the gospel easy and not grievous unto them, and whereby they may so fulfill them as infallibly to be accepted. This the Scripture is plain in, where Christ himself tells us that “his yoke is easy, and his burden light,” Matthew 11:30; and his holy apostle, that “his commandments are not grievous,” 1 John 5:3: for if they should exceed all the strength which we either have or he is pleased to give unto us, they would be like the Jewish ceremonies, — a yoke which we could not bear, and a law not only grievous but unprofitable.
But, on the contrary, our apostle expressly affirms (and so may we) that “he could do all things,” — that is, in the way and manner, and unto the end for which they are required in the gospel, — “through Christ that strengthened him. Some would confound these things, and cast all into disorder. They would have men that are under the old covenant to have a power and spiritual strength to fulfill the commands of the new; which God hath never spoken of nor declared, and which, indeed, is contrary to the whole design of his grace. They would have men who have broken the old covenant, and forfeited all their strength and ability which they had by it for obedience, and who are not initiated in the new covenant, yet to have a power of their own to fulfill the command of the one or the other; which God neither giveth nor is obliged to give. Nor is it necessary to prove that the command is equal and holy; for, as was observed, God giveth us no command for holiness and obedience but in, with, and by virtue of some covenant. And there is no more required to prove them to be just and equal, but that they are easy unto them who walk with God in that covenant whereunto they do belong, and that that performance of them shall be accepted which they have power for. If any will sinfully cast away their covenant interest and privilege, as we all did that of our original creation, we must thank ourselves if we have not power to answer its commands. Nor doth it belong unto the equity of the commands of the new covenant that those who are not yet made partakers of it by grace should have power to fulfill them. Nay, if they had so, and should do so accordingly (were any such thing possible), it would not avail them: for being supposed not as yet to belong unto the new covenant, they must belong unto the old; and the performance of the commands of the new covenant, in the way and manner which are required therein, would not avail them who are really under the rule and law of the old, which admits of nothing short of absolute perfection. But “what the law speaks, it speaks unto them that are under the law;” and what the gospel speaks, it speaks unto them “who are not under the law, but under grace.” And the formal transition of men from one of these states unto another is by an act of God’s grace, wherein themselves are merely passive, as hath elsewhere been demonstrated. See Colossians 1:13.
This is that which I do intend: God at first made a covenant with mankind, the first covenant, the covenant of works. Herein he gave them commands for holy obedience. These commands were not only possible unto them, both for matter and manner, by virtue of that strength and power which was concreated with them, but easy and pleasant, every way suited unto their good and satisfaction in that state and condition. This rendered their obedience equal, just, reasonable, and aggravated their sin with the guilt of the most horrible folly and ingratitude. When by the fall this covenant was broken, we lost therewith all power and ability to comply with its commands in holy obedience. Hereupon the “law” continued “holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” as our apostle speaks, Romans 7:12; for what should make it otherwise, seeing there was no change in it by sin, nor did God require more or harder things of us than before? But to us it became impossible, for we had lost the strength by which alone we were enabled to observe it; and so “the commandment, which was ordained to life, we find to be unto death,” verse 10. Towards all, therefore, that remain in that state we say, “The commandment is still just and holy, but it is neither easy nor possible.” Hereon God brings in the covenant of grace by Christ, and renews therein the commands for holy obedience, as was before declared. And here it is that men trouble themselves and others about the power, ability, and free-will that men have as yet under the first covenant, and the impotence that ensued on the transgression of it to fulfill the condition of the new covenant, and yield the obedience required in it; for this is the place where men make their great contests about the power of free-will and the possibility of God’s command. Let them but grant that it is the mere work of God’s sovereign and almighty grace effectually to instate men in the new covenant, and we shall contend with them or against them, that by virtue thereof they have such spiritual strength and grace administered unto them as render all the commands of it to be not only possible but easy also, yea, pleasant, and every way suited unto the principle of a holy life, wherewith they are endued. And this we make an argument for the necessity of holiness. The argument we have under consideration is that whereby we prove the necessity of holiness with respect unto God’s command requiring it, because it is a fruit of infinite wisdom and goodness. It is so in an especial manner as it belongs unto the new covenant. And, therefore, by our disobedience or living in sin, unto the contempt of God’s authority we add that of his wisdom and goodness also. Now, that it is so a fruit of them appears, in the first place, from hence, that it is proportioned unto the strength and ability which we have to obey. Hence obedience in holiness becomes equal, easy, and pleasant unto all believers who sincerely attend unto it; and this fully evinceth the necessity of it, from the folly and ingratitude of the contrary. That these things, and in them the force of the present argument, may the better be apprehended, I shall dispose them into the ensuing observations: — (1.) We do not say that anyone hath this power and ability in himself or from himself. God hath not in the new covenant brought down his command to the power of man, but by his grace he raiseth the power of man unto his command. The former were only a compliance with the sin of our nature, which God abhors; the latter is the exaltation of his own grace, which he aimeth at. It is not men’s strength in and of themselves, the power of nature, but the grace which is administered in the covenant, that we intend. For men to trust unto themselves herein, as though they could do anything of themselves, is a renunciation of all the aids of grace, without which we can do nothing. We can have no power from Christ unless we live in a persuasion that we have none of our own. Our whole spiritual life is a life of faith; and that is a life of dependence on Christ for what we have not of ourselves. This is that which ruins the attempt of many for holiness, and renders what they do (though it be like unto the acts and duties of it) not at all to belong unto it; for what we do in our own strength is no part of holiness, as is evident from the preceding description of it. Neither doth the Scripture abound in anything more than in testifying that the power and ability we have to fulfill the commands of God, as given in the new covenant, is not our own, nor from ourselves, but merely from the grace of God administered in that covenant: as John 15:5; Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 3:5. It will be said, then, “Where lies the difference? Because it is the mere work of grace to instate us in the covenant, you conclude that we have no power of our own to that purpose. And if when we are in covenant, all our strength and power is still from grace, we are, as to any ability of our own to fulfill the command of God, as remote from it as ever.” I answer, The first work of grace is merely upon us. Hereby the image of God is renewed, our hearts are changed, and a principle of spiritual life is bestowed on us. But this latter work of grace is in us and by us. And the strength or ability which we have thereby is as truly our own as Adam’s was his which he had in the state of innocency; for he had his immediately from God, and so have we ours, though in a different way. (2.) There is no such provision of spiritual strength for any man, enabling him to comply with the command of God for holiness, as to countenance him in the least carnal security, or the least neglect of the diligent use of all those means which God hath appointed for the communication thereof unto us, with the preservation and increase of it. God, who hath determined graciously to give us supplies thereof, hath also declared that we are obliged unto our utmost diligence for the participation of them, and unto their due exercise when received. This innumerable commands and injunctions give testimony unto, but especially is the whole method of God’s grace and our duty herein declared by the apostle Peter, 2 Epist. 1:3-11; which discourse I have opened and improved elsewhere. The sum is, That God creating in us a new spiritual nature, and therewithal giving unto us “all things pertaining unto life and godliness,” or a gracious ability for the duties of a holy, godly, spiritual life, we are obliged to use all means, in the continual exercise of all grace, which will ascertain unto us our eternal election, with our effectual vocation, whereon we shall obtain an assured, joyful entrance into the kingdom of glory. (3.) This administration of grace and spiritual strength is not equally effectual at all times. There are seasons wherein, to correct our negligences in giving place to our corruptions and temptations, or on other grounds, to discover unto us our own frailty and impotency, with other holy ends of his own, God is pleased to withhold the powerful influences of his grace, and to leave us unto ourselves. In such instances we shall assuredly come short of answering the command for universal holiness, one way or other.
See Psalm 30:6,7. But I speak of ordinary cases, and to prevent that slothfulness and tergiversation unto this duty of complying with all the commands of God for holiness which we are so obnoxious unto. (4.) We do not say that there is in the covenant of grace spiritual strength administered, so as that by virtue thereof we should yield sinless and absolutely perfect obedience unto God, or to render any one duty so absolutely perfect. If any such there are, or ever were, who maintain such an imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto us as should render our own personal obedience unnecessary, they do overthrow the truth and holiness of the gospel. And to say that we have such supplies of internal strength as to render the imputation of the righteousness of Christ unto our justification unnecessary, is to overthrow the grace of the gospel and the new covenant itself. But this alone we say, There is grace administered by the promises of the gospel, enabling us to perform the obedience of it in that way and manner which God will accept. And herein there are various degrees, whereof we ought constantly to aim at the most complete, and so to be “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” And where we signally come short of the best rules and examples, it is principally from our neglect of those supplies of grace which are tendered in the promises. (5.) There is a twofold gracious power necessary to render the command for holiness and obedience thereunto easy and pleasant: — [1.] That which is habitually resident in the hearts and souls of believers, whereby they are constantly inclined and disposed unto all fruits of holiness. This the Scripture calls our “life,” a new principle of life, without which we are dead in trespasses and sins. Where this is not, whatever arguments you constrain and press men withal to be holy, you do, as it were, but offer violence unto them, endeavoring to force them against the fixed bent and inclination of their minds. By them all you do but set up a dam against a stream of water, which will not be permanent, nor turn the course of the stream contrary to its natural inclination. Unto such the command for holiness must needs be grievous and difficult. But such a disposition and inclination, or a principle so inclining and disposing us unto duties of holiness, we have not in or of ourselves by nature, nor is it to be raised out of its ruins; for the “carnal mind” (which is in us all) “is enmity against God,” which carrieth in it an aversation unto everything that is required of us in a way of obedience, as hath been proved at large.
And yet without this habitual principle, we can never in a due manner comply with any one command of God that we should be holy. Want hereof is that which renders obedience so grievous and burdensome unto many. They endure it for a season, and at length either violently or insensibly cast off its yoke. Light and conviction have compelled them to take it on themselves, and to attend unto the performance of those duties which they dare not omit; — but having no principle enabling or inclining them unto it, all they do, though they do much, and continue long therein, is against the grain with them; they find it difficult, uneasy, and wearisome. Wherein they can by any pretense countenance themselves in a neglect of any part of it, or bribe their consciences into a compliance with what is contrary unto it, they fail not to deliver themselves from their burden. And, for the most part, either insensibly, by multiplied instances of the neglect of duties of obedience, or by some great temptation before they leave the world, they utterly leave all the ways of holiness and respect unto the commands of God, or if they continue in any, it is unto external acts of morality, which pass with approbation in the world; the inward and spiritual part of obedience they utterly renounce. The reason hereof, I say, is, because having no principle within, enabling them unto a compliance with the commands of God with delight and satisfaction, they grow grievous and intolerable unto them. So unto many, on the same ground, the worship of God is very burdensome, unless it be borne for them by external additions and ornaments. [2.] There is an actual assistance of effectual grace required hereunto. We are not put into such condition by the covenant as that we should be able to do anything of ourselves without actual divine assistance. This were to set us free from our dependence on God, and to make us gods unto ourselves. The root still bears us, and the springs of our spiritual life are in another. And where both these are, there the command is equal, not only in itself but unto us, and obedience unto it as easy as just. (6.) And both these sorts of grace are administered in the new covenant, suited unto the holy obedience it requires: — [1.] For the first, it is that which God so frequently, so expressly promiseth, where he says that “he will take away the heart of stone, and give us a heart of flesh;” that “he will write his laws in our hearts, and put his fear in our inward parts;” that we shall “fear him,” and “never depart from him;” that he will “circumcise our hearts” to “know” and “love” him; — which promises, and the nature of the grace contained in them, I have before at large explained. It is sufficient unto our present purpose that in and by these promises we are made partakers of the divine nature, and are therein endowed with a constant, habitual disposition and inclination unto all acts and duties of holiness; for our power followeth our love and inclinations, as impotency is a consequent of their defect.
And here we may stay a little to confirm our principal assertion. Upon the supply of this grace, which gives both strength for and a constant inclination unto holy obedience, the command for it becomes equal and just, meet and easy to be complied withal: for none can refuse a compliance with it in any instance, but their so doing is contrary unto that disposition and inclination of the new nature which God hath implanted in themselves; so that for them to sin is not only contrary to the law without them, to the light of their minds and warning of their consciences, but it is also unto that which is their own inclination and disposition, which hath sensibly in such cases a force and violence put upon it by the power of corruptions and temptations. Wherefore, although the command for holiness may and doth seem grievous and burdensome unto unregenerate persons, as we have observed, because it is against the habitual bent and inclination of their whole souls, yet neither is it nor can it be so unto them who cannot neglect it or act anything against it, but that therein, also, they must crucify and offer violence unto the inclinations of the new creature in them, which are their own; for in all things “the spirit lusteth against the flesh,” Galatians 5:17, and the disposition of the new creature is habitually against sin and for holiness. And this gives a mighty constraining power unto the command, when it is evident in our own minds and consciences that it requires nothing of us but what we do or may find an inclination or disposition in our own hearts unto. And by this consideration we may take in the power of it upon our souls, which is too frequently disregarded. Let us but, upon the proposal of it unto us, consider what our minds and hearts say to it, what answer they return, and we shall quickly discern how equal and just the command is; for I cannot persuade myself that any believer can be so captivated at any time, under the power of temptations, corruptions, or prejudices, but that (if he will but take counsel with his own soul, upon the consideration of the command for obedience and holiness, and ask himself what he would have) he will have a plain and sincere answer, “That, indeed, I would do and have the good proposed, this holiness, this duty of obedience.” Not only will conscience answer, that he must not do the evil whereunto temptation leadeth, for if he do, evil will ensue thereon; but the new nature, and his mind and spirit, will say, “This good I would do; I delight in it; it is best for me, most suited unto me.” And so it joins all the strength and interest it hath in the soul with the command. See to this purpose the arguing of our apostle, Romans 7:20-22. It is true, there is a natural light in conscience, complying with the command in its proposal, and urging obedience thereunto, which doth not make it easy to us, but, where it is alone, increaseth its burden and our bondage; for it doth only give in its suffrage unto the sanction of the command, and add to the severity wherewith it is attended. But that compliance with the command which is from a principle of grace is quite of another nature, and greatly facilitates obedience. And we may distinguish between that compliance with the command which is from the natural light of conscience, which genders unto bondage, and that which, being from a renewed principle of grace, gives liberty and ease in obedience: for the first respects principally the consequent of obedience or disobedience, the good or evil that will ensue upon them, Romans 2:14,15; set aside this consideration, and it hath no more to say; — but the latter respects the command itself, which it embraceth, delighteth in, and judgeth good and holy, with the duties themselves required, which are natural and suited thereunto. [2.] Grace of the latter sort, also, actual grace for every holy act and duty, is administered unto us according to the promise of the gospel. So God told Paul that “his grace was sufficient for him.” And “he worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13, so as that we “may do all things” through him that enables us; the nature of which grace also hath been before discoursed of. Now, although this actual working of grace be not in the power of the wills of men, to make use of or refuse as they see good, but its administration depends merely on the grace and faithfulness of God, yet this I must say, that where it is sought in a due manner by faith and prayer, it is never so restrained from any believer but that it shall be effectual in him, unto the whole of that obedience which is required of him, and as it will be accepted from him.
If, then, this be the condition of the command of holiness, how just and equal must it needs be confessed to be! and therefore how highly reasonable is it that we should comply with it, and how great is their sin and folly by whom it is neglected! It is true, we are absolutely obliged unto obedience by the mere authority of God who commands, but he not only allows us to take in, but directs us to seek after, those other considerations of it which may give it force and efficacy upon our souls and consciences. And among these, none is more efficacious towards gracious, ingenuous souls than this of the contemperation of the duties commanded unto spiritual aids of strength promised unto us; for what cloak or pretense of dislike or neglect is here left unto any? Wherefore not only the authority of God in giving a command, but the infinite wisdom and goodness of God in giving such a command, so just, equal, and gentle, fall upon us therein, to oblige us to holy obedience. To neglect or despise this command is to neglect or despise God in that way which he hath chosen to manifest all the holy properties of his nature. 2. The command is equal, and so to be esteemed from the matter of it, or the things that it doth require. Things they are that are neither great nor grievous, much less perverse, useless, or evil, Micah 6:6-8. There is nothing in the holiness which the command requires but what is good to him in whom it is, and useful to all others concerned in him or what he doth. What they are the apostle mentions in his exhortation unto them, Philippians 4:8. They are “things true,” and “honest,” and “just,” and “pure,” and “lovely,” and “of good report.” And what evil is there in any of these things, that we should decline the command that requires them?
The more we abound in them, the better it will be for our relations, our families, our neighbors, the whole nation, and the world, but best of all for ourselves. “Godliness is profitable unto all things,” 1 Timothy 4:8. “These things are good and profitable unto men,” Titus 3:8, — good to them that do them, and good to those towards whom they are done. But both these things, — namely, the usefulness of holiness unto ourselves and others, — must be spoken unto distinctly afterward, and are, therefore, transmitted unto their proper place.
Therefore, as it was before observed, it is incumbent on us, in the first place, to endeavor after holiness and the improvement of it, with respect unto the command of God that we should be holy, and because of it, and that especially under the consideration of it which we have insisted on. I know not what vain imaginations have seemed to possess the minds of some, that they have no need of respect unto the command, nor to the promises and threatenings of it, but to obey merely from the power and guidance of an inward principle; nay, some have supposed that a respect unto the command would vitiate our obedience, rendering it legal and servile! But I hope that darkness which hindered men from discerning the harmony and compliance which is between the principle of grace in us and the authority of the command upon us is much taken away from all sincere professors. It is a respect unto the command which gives the formal nature of obedience unto what we do; and without a due regard unto it there is nothing of holiness in us. Some would make the light of nature to be their rule; some, in what they do, look no farther for their measure than what carries the reputation of common honesty among men. He that would be holy indeed must always mind the command of God, with that reverence and those affections which become him to whom God speaks immediately.
And that it may be effectual towards us we may consider, — (1.) How God hath multiplied his commands unto this purpose, to testify not only his own infinite care of us and love unto us, but also our eternal concernment in what he requires. He doth not give out unto us a single command that we should be holy (which yet were sufficient to oblige us forever), but he gives his commands unto that purpose, “line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept.” He that shall but look over the Bible, and see almost every page of it filled with commands, or directions, or instructions for holiness, cannot but conclude that the mind and will of God is very much in this matter, and that our concernment therein is inexpressible. Nor doth God content himself to multiply commands in general that we should be holy, so as that if we have regard unto him they may never be out of our remembrance, but there is not any particular duty or instance of holiness but he hath given us especial commands for that also. No man can instance in the least duty that belongs directly unto it, but it falls under some especial command of God. We are not only, then, under the command of God in general, and that often reiterated unto us, in an awful reverence whereof we ought to walk, but, upon all occasions, whatever we have to do or avoid in following after holiness is represented unto us in especial commands to that purpose; and they are all of them a fruit of the love and care of God towards us. Is it not, then, our duty always to consider these commands, to bind them unto our hearts, and our hearts to them, that nothing may separate them? O that they might always dwell in our minds, to influence them unto an inward constant watch against the first disorders of our souls, that are unsuited to the inward holiness God requires, — abide with us in our closets, and all our occasions for our good! (2.) We may do well to consider what various enforcements God is pleased to give unto those multiplied commands. He doth not remit us merely to their authority, but he applieth all other ways and means whereby they may be made effectual. Hence are they accompanied with exhortations, entreaties, reasonings, expostulations, promises, threatenings; all made use of to fasten the command upon our minds and consciences. God knows how slow and backward we are to receive due impressions from his authority, and he knows by what ways and means the principles of our internal faculties are apt to be wrought upon, and therefore applies these engines to fix the power of the command upon us.
Were these things to be treated of severally, it is manifest how great a part of the Scripture were to be transcribed. I shall, therefore, only take a little notice of the re-enforcement of the command for holiness by those especial promises which are given unto it. I do not intend now the promises of the gospel in general, wherein, in its own way and place, we are interested by holiness, but such peculiar promises as God enforceth the command by. It is not for nothing that it is said that “godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” Timothy 4:8. There is in all the promises an especial respect unto it; and it gives them in whom it is an especial interest in all the promises.
This is, as it were, the text which our Savior preached his first sermon upon; for all the blessings which he pronounceth consist in giving particular instances of some parts of holiness, annexing an especial promise unto each of them. “Blessed,” saith he, “are the pure in heart.”
Heart purity is the spring and life of all holiness. And why are such persons blessed? Why, saith he, “they shall see God.” He appropriates the promise of the eternal enjoyment of God unto this qualification of purity of heart. So also it hath the promise of this life, and that in things temporal and spiritual. In things temporal, we may take out from amongst many that especial instance given us by the psalmist, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.” Wisely to consider the poor in their distress, so as to relieve them according to our ability, is a great act and duty of holiness. “He that doeth this,” saith the psalmist, “he is a blessed man.” Whence doth that blessedness arise, and wherein doth it consist? It doth so in a participation of those especial promises which God hath annexed unto this duty even in this life: “The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies.
Many especial promises in the most important concerns of this life are given unto the right discharge of this one duty; for godliness hath the promise of this life. And other instances might be multiplied unto the same purpose. It is so also with respect unto things spiritual. So the apostle Peter, having repeated a long chain of graces, whose exercise he presenteth unto us, adds for an encouragement, “If ye do these things ye shall never fall,” 2 Peter 1:10. The promise of permanency in obedience, with an absolute preservation from all such fallings into sin as are inconsistent with the covenant of grace, is affixed unto our diligence in holiness. And who knows not how the Scripture abounds in instances of this nature?
That which we conclude from hence is, that together with the command of God requiring us to be holy, we should consider the promises wherewith it is accompanied (among other things) as an encouragement unto the cheerful performance of that obedience which the command itself makes necessary.
Wherefore the force of this argument is evident and exposed unto all. God hath in this matter positively declared his will, interposing his sovereign authority, commanding us to be holy, and that on the penalty of his utmost displeasure; and he hath therewithal given us redoubled assurance (as in a case wherein we are very apt to deceive ourselves) that, be we else what we will or can be, without sincere holiness he will neither own us nor have anything to do with us. Be our gifts, parts, abilities, places, dignities, usefulness in the world, profession, outward duties, what they will, unless we are sincerely holy (which we may not be and yet be eminent in all these things), we are not, we cannot, we shall not be, accepted with God.
And the Holy Ghost is careful to obviate a deceit in this matter which he foresaw would be apt to put itself on the minds of men; for whereas the foundation of our salvation in ourselves, and the hinge whereon the whole weight of it doth turn, is our faith, men might be apt to think that if they have faith, it will be well enough with them, although they are not holy.
Therefore, because this plea and pretense of faith is great, and apt to impose on the minds of men, who would willingly retain their lusts with a hope and expectation of heaven, we are plainly told in the Scripture that that faith which is without holiness, without works, without fruits, which can be so, or is possible that it should be so, is vain, [is] not that faith which will save our souls, but equivocally so called, that may perish forever with those in whom it is.
IV. WE have yet other considerations and arguments to plead unto the same purpose with them foregoing; for one principal end of the design of God in sending his Son into the world was, to recover us into a state of holiness, which we had lost: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8.
The manifestation of the Son of God was his incarnation, 1 Timothy 3:16, in order to the work which he had to accomplish in our nature; and this was, in general, the destruction of the works of the devil; and among these, the principal was the infecting of our nature and persons with a principle of sin and enmity against God, which was the effect of his temptation. And this is not done but by the introduction of a principle of holiness and obedience. The image of God in us was defaced by sin. The renovation or restoration hereof was one principal design of Christ in his coming. Unless this be done, there is no new world, no new creatures, no restoration of all things, — no one end of the mediation of Christ fully accomplished. And whereas his great and ultimate design was to bring us unto the enjoyment of God, unto his eternal glory, this cannot be before, by grace and holiness, we are “made meet for that inheritance of the saints in light.” But we shall consider this matter a little more distinctly.
The exercise of the mediation of Christ is confined unto the limits of his threefold office. Whatever he doth for the church, he doth it as a priest, or as a king, or as a prophet. Now, as these offices agree in all the general ends of his mediation, so they differ in their acts and immediate objects: for their acts , it is plain, — sacerdotal, regal, and prophetical acts and duties, — are of different natures, as the offices themselves are unto which they appertain; and for their objects, the proper immediate object of the priestly office is God himself, as is evident both from the nature of the office and its proper acts. For as to the nature of the office, “every priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins,” Hebrews 5:1.
A priest is one who is appointed to deal with God in the behalf of them for whom he executes his office. And the acts of the priestly office of Christ are two, oblation and intercession, of both which God is the immediate object. He offered himself unto God, and with him he makes intercession. But the immediate object of Christ’s kingly and prophetical offices are men or the church. As a priest, he acts with God in our name and on our behalf; as a king and prophet, he acts towards us in the name and authority of God.
This being premised, we may consider how each of these offices of Christ hath an influence into holiness, and makes it necessary unto us: — First, For the priestly office of Christ, all the proper acts of it do immediately respect God himself, as hath been declared; and, therefore, he doth not by any sacerdotal act immediately and efficiently work holiness in us. But the effects of these priestly acts, that is, his oblation and intercession, are of two sorts: — 1. Immediate, such as respect God himself; as atonement, reconciliation, satisfaction. In these consist the first and fundamental end of the mediation of Christ. Without a supposition of these all other things are rendered useless. We can neither be sanctified nor saved by him unless sin be first expiated and God atoned. But they are not of our present consideration. 2. The mediate effects of Christ’s sacerdotal actings respect us, and are also of two sorts: — (1.) Moral, as our justification and pardon of sin. (2.) Real, in our sanctification and holiness.
Wherefore, although the immediate actings of that office respect God alone as their proper object, yet the virtue and efficacy of them extend themselves unto our sanctification and holiness. Titus 2:14, “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
His “giving himself for us” is the common expression for his offering himself a sacrifice to God as a priest, Ephesians 5:2. And this he did not only that he might “redeem us from all iniquity,” from the guilt of our sins, and punishment due unto them, which are regarded in redemption, but also that he might “purify us to himself,” sanctify us, or make us holy and fruitful, or “zealous of good works.” His blood, as through the eternal Spirit he offered himself unto God, “purgeth our conscience from dead works to serve the living God,” Hebrews 9:14.
There is a purging of sin which consists in the legal expiation of it, in making atonement; but the purging of a sinner, or of the conscience, is by real efficiency, in sanctification, which is declared to be one end of the oblation of Christ, chapter 1:3. So where he is said to “wash us from our sins in his own blood,” — namely, as shed and offered for us, — Revelation 1:5, it is not only the expiation of guilt, but the purification of filth, that is intended.
The way and manner how holiness is communicated unto us by virtue of the death and oblation of Christ, I have showed before at large, and shall not, therefore, here again insist upon it. I shall only observe, that holiness being one especial end for which Christ “gave himself for us,” or “offered himself unto God” for us, without a parcipation thereof it is impossible that we should have the least evidence of an interest in his oblation as to any other end of it; and as for those who are never made holy, Christ never died or offered himself for them. I cannot understand what advantage it is unto religion to affirm that the most of them for whom Christ died as a priest, or offered himself as an oblation to God, shall have no benefit thereby as to grace or glory, and incomparably the most of them without any especial fault of their own, as never hearing of him. Neither can I find in the Scripture a double design of Christ in giving himself for mankind; — towards some, that they may be redeemed from all iniquity, and purified to be his peculiar ones; towards others, that they may yet be left under the guilt and power of their sins. And it evacuates the force of the motive unto the necessity of holiness from the consideration of the oblation of Christ, when men are taught that Christ offered himself a sacrifice for them who are never made holy. Wherefore, I say, no unholy person can have any certain evidence that he hath an interest in the oblation of Christ, seeing he gave himself to purify them for whom he was offered.
The intercession of Christ, which is his second sacerdotal act, hath also the same end, and is effectual to the same purpose. It is true, he doth intercede with God for the pardon of sin by virtue of his oblation, — whence he is said to be our advocate with God, to comfort us in case of surprisals by sin,1 John 2:1,2, — but this is not all he designeth therein; he intercedes also for grace and supplies of the Spirit, that we may be made and kept holy. See John 17:15,17.
Secondly, As to the prophetical office of Christ, the church or men alone are its immediate object, and of all the acts and duties of it. He is therein God’s legate and ambassador, his apostle and messenger unto us.
Whatever he doth as a prophet, he doth it with us and towards us in the name of God. And there are two parts or works of Christ in this office relating only to the doctrine he taught: — 1. The revelation of God in his name and love, in the mystery of his grace, and goodness, and truth, by his promises, that we may believe in him. 2. The revelation of God in his will and commands, that we may obey him.
For the first, wherein, indeed, his prophetical office was principally exercised, see John 1:18, 3:2, 17:6. The revelation of the preceptive will of God made by Jesus Christ may be considered two ways: — (1.) As he was peculiarly sent to the house of Israel, the “minister of the circumcision for the truth of the promises of God unto the fathers,” Romans 15:8. (2.) With respect unto the whole church of all ages. (1.) The first, which took up much of his personal ministry in the flesh, consisted in the declarations, exposition, and vindication, that he gave unto the church of all divine precepts for obedience which had been given before. God had from the beginning, and in an especial manner at the promulgation of the law on Sinai, and by the ensuing expositions of it by the prophets, given excellent precepts for holiness and obedience; but the people unto whom they were given being carnal, they were not able to bear the spiritual light and sense of them, which was, therefore, greatly veiled under the Old Testament. Not only the promises, but the precepts also of the law, were then but obscurely apprehended. Besides, the church being grown corrupt, they were solemn expositions of God’s commands received amongst them, whose sole design was to accommodate them unto the lusts and sins of men, or to exempt men, if not totally yet in many instances, from an obligation unto obedience to them. Our blessed Savior applies himself, in the discharge of his prophetical office, with respect unto the end of the command, which is our holy obedience, unto both these, in the declaration of its excellency and efficacy.
And, — [1.] He declares the inward spiritual nature of the law, with its respect unto the most secret frames of our hearts and minds, with the least disorder or irregularity of our passions and affections. And then, — [2.] He declares the true sense of its commands, their nature, signification, and extent, vindicating them from all the corrupt and false glosses which then passed current in the church, whereby there was an abatement made of their efficacy and an indulgence granted unto the lusts of men. Thus they had, by their traditional interpretation, restrained the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” unto actual murder; and the seventh, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” unto actual uncleanness; — as some now would restrain the second commandment unto the making of images and worshipping them, excluding the primary intent of the precept, restraining all means and manners of worship unto divine institution. How, in his doctrine, he took off these corruptions we may see, Matthew 5:21,22,27,28.
Thus he restored the law to its pristine crown, as the Jews have a tradition that it shall be done in the days of the Messiah. Herein did the Lord Christ place the beginning of his prophetical office and ministry, Matthew 5,6,7. He opened, unveiled, explained, and vindicated, the preceptive part of the will of God before revealed, to the end that by a compliance therewith we should be holy. The full revelation of the mind and will of God, in the perfection and spirituality of the command, was reserved for Christ in the discharge of his office; and he gave it unto us that we might have a perfect and complete rule of holiness. This, therefore, was the immediate end of this work or duty of the office of Christ; and when we answer it not, we reject that great prophet which God hath sent; to which excision is so severely threatened. (2.) The second part of this office, or of the discharge of it with respect unto the church of all ages, which takes in the ministry of the apostles, as divinely inspired by him, consisted in the revelation of those duties of holiness, which although they had a general foundation in the law, and the equity of them was therein established, yet could they never have been known to be duties in their especial nature, incumbent on us and necessary unto us, but by his teachings and instructions. Hence are they called old and new commandments in distinct senses. Such are faith in God through himself, brotherly love, denial of ourselves in taking up the cross, doing good for evil, with some others of the same kind; and how great a part of evangelical holiness consists in these things is known. Besides, he also teacheth us all those ordinances of worship wherein our obedience unto him belongs unto our holiness also, whereby it is enlarged and promoted.
This, I say, is the nature and end of the prophetical office of Christ, wherein he acts towards us from God and in his name, as to the declaration of the will of God in his commands; and it is our holiness which is his only end and design therein. So it is summarily represented, Titus 2:11,12.
There are three things considerable in the doctrine of obedience that Christ teacheth: — [1.] That it reacheth the heart itself, with all its inmost and secret actings, and that in the first place. The practice of most goes no farther but unto outward acts; the teachings of many go no farther, or at best unto the moderation of affections; but he, in the first place, requires the renovation of our whole souls, in all their faculties, motions, and actings, into the image of God, John 3:3,5; Ephesians 4:22-24. [2.] It is extensive. There is nothing in any kind pleasing to God, conformable to his mind, or compliant with his will, but he requires it; nothing crooked, or perverse, or displeasing to God, but it is forbidden by him. It is, therefore, a perfect rule of holiness and obedience. [3.] Clearness, perspicuity, and evidence of divine truth and authority in all. [1.] Hereby, I say, the doctrine of Christ for universal obedience, in all the duties of it, comes to be absolute, every way complete and perfect. And it is a notable effect of the atheistical pride of men, that, pretending to design obedience (at least in moral duties) unto God, they betake themselves unto other rules and directions, as either more plain, or full, or efficacious, than those of the gospel, which are the teachings of Christ himself, as the great prophet and apostle sent of God to instruct us in our duty. Some go to the light of nature and the use of right reason (that is, their own ) as their guide; and some add the additional documents of the philosophers. They think a saying of Epictetus, or Seneca, or Arrianus, being wittily suited to their fancies and affections, to have more life and power in it than any precept of the gospel. The reason why these things are more pleasing unto them than the commands and instructions of Christ is because, proceeding from the spring of natural light, they are suited to the workings of natural fancy and understanding; but those of Christ, proceeding from the fountain of eternal spiritual light, are not comprehended in their beauty and excellency without a principle of the same light in us, guiding our understandings and influencing our affections. Hence, take any precept, general or particular, about moral duties, that is materially the same in the writings of philosophers and in the doctrine of the gospel, not a few prefer it as delivered in the first way before the latter. Such a contempt have men risen unto of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God and the great prophet of the church! When he entered upon his office, the “voice came from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, hear him.” This succeeded into the room of all those terrible appearances and dreadful preparations which God made use of in the giving of the law; for he gave the law by the ministry of angels, who being mere creatures, he manifested the dread of his own presence among them, to give authority unto their ministrations.
But when he came to reveal his will under the gospel, it being to be done by him “in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” and who was intrusted himself with all divine power, he did no more but indigitate or declare which was the person, and give us a command in general to hear him. And this he did with respect unto what he had fixed before as a fundamental ordinance of heaven, — namely, that when he should raise up and send the great prophet of the church, whosoever would not hear him should be cut off from the people. A compliance, therefore, with this command, in hearing the voice of Christ, is the foundation of all holiness and gospel obedience. And if men will be moved neither with the wisdom, nor authority, nor goodness of God, in giving us this command and direction for our good; nor with the consideration of the endowments and faithfulness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in the discharge of his prophetical office; nor from the remembrance that it is he, and not Epictetus, or Seneca, or Plato, to whom at the last day they must give their account, so as to take him alone for their guide in all obedience unto God and duty among themselves, — they will find, when it is too late, that they have been mistaken in their choice.
Let us suppose, if you please, at present, for the sake of them who would have it so, that all our obedience consists in morality, or the duties of it, — which is the opinion of (as one well calls them) our “modern heathens,” — from whence or whom shall we learn it, or to whom shall we go for teaching and instruction about it? Certainly, where the instruction or system of precepts is most plain, full, perfect, and free from mistakes; where the manner of teaching is most powerful and efficacious; and where the authority of the teacher is greatest and most unquestionable, — there we ought to apply ourselves to learn and be guided. In all these respects we may say of Christ, as Job said of God, “Who teacheth like him?” Job 36:22. Then, probably, shall we be taught of God, when we are taught by him. The commands and precepts of duties themselves which are given us by the light of nature, however improved by the wits and reasons of contemplative men, are many ways defective. For, — 1st . The utmost imaginations of men never reached unto that wherein the life and soul of holiness doth consist, — namely, the renovation of our lapsed nature into the image and likeness of God. Without this, whatever precepts are given about the moderation of affections and duties of moral holiness, they are lifeless, and will prove useless. And hence it is that by all those documents which were given by philosophers of old, the nature of no one individual person was ever renewed, what change soever was wrought on their conversation. But that this is plainly and directly required in the doctrine of obedience taught by Jesus Christ as the great prophet of the church, I have sufficiently proved in this whole discourse. 2dly. Very few of the precepts of it are certain, so as that we may take them for an undoubted and infallible rule. There are some general commands, I acknowledge, so clear in the light of nature as that no question can be made but that what is required in them is our duty to perform; such are they, that God is to be loved, that others are not to be injured, that everyone’s right is to be rendered unto him, whereunto all reasonable creatures do assent at their first proposal; — and where any are found to live in an open neglect, or seem to be ignorant of them, their degeneracy into bestiality is open, and their sentiments not at all to be regarded. But go a little farther, and you will find all the great moralists at endless, uncertain disputes about the nature of virtue in general, about the offices and duties of it, about the rule and measure of their practice. In these disputes did most of them consume their lives, without any great endeavors to express their own notions in their conversations. And from the same reason in part it is, I suppose, that our present moralists seem to care for nothing but the name; virtue itself is grown to be a strange and uncouth thing. But what is commanded us by Jesus Christ, there is no room for the least hesitation whether it be an infallible rule for us to attend unto or no. Every precept of his about the meanest duty is equally certain, and [as] infallibly declarative of the nature and necessity of that duty, as those of the greatest, and that have most evidence from the light of nature.
If once it appear that Christ requires anything of us by his word, that he hath taught us anything as the prophet of the church, there is no doubt remains with us whether it be our duty or no. 3dly. The whole rule of duties given by the most improved light of nature, setting aside those that are purely evangelical, which some despise, is obscure and partial. There are sundry moral duties, which I instanced in before, which the light of nature, as it remains in the lapsed, depraved condition of it, never extended itself to the discovery of. And this obscurity is evident from the differences that are about its precepts and directions. But now as the revelation made by Christ, and his commands therein, are commensurate unto universal obedience and gives bounds unto it, so that there is no duty of it but what he hath commanded, and it is sufficient to discharge the most specious pleas and pretences of anything to be a duty towards God or man, by showing that it is not required by him, so his commands and directions are plain and evidently perspicuous.
I dare challenge the greatest and most learned moralist in the world to give an instance of any one duty of morality, confirmed by the rules and directions of the highest and most contemplative moralist, that I will not show and evince is more plainly and clearly required by the Lord Christ in the gospel, and pressed on us by far more effectual motives than any they are acquainted withal. It is, therefore, the highest folly as well as wickedness for men to design, plead, or pretend the learning duties of obedience from others rather than from Christ, the prophet of the church. [2.] The manner of teaching, as to power and efficacy, is also considerable unto this end. And concerning this also we may say, “Who teacheth like him?” There was such eminency in his personal ministry, whilst he was on the earth, as filled all men with admiration. Hence it is said that “he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes,” Matthew 7:29; and another while “they wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth,” Luke 4:22; and the very officers that were sent to apprehend him for preaching came away astonished, saying, “Never man spake like this man,” John 7:46. It is true, it was not the design of God that multitudes of that hardened generation should be converted by his personal ministry, John 12:37-40, as having another to fulfill in them, by them, and upon them; yet it is evident from the gospel that there was qei~on ti> , a divine power and glory accompanying his ministerial instructions. Yet this is not that which I intend, but his continued and present teaching of the church by his word and Spirit. He gives such power and efficacy unto it as that by its effects everyday it demonstrates itself to be from God, being accompanied with the evidence and demonstration of a spiritual power put forth in it. This the experiences, consciences, and lives of multitudes, bear witness unto continually. They do, and will to eternity, attest what power his word hath had to enlighten their minds, to subdue their lusts, to change and renew their hearts, to relieve and comfort them in their temptations and distresses, with the like effects of grace and power.
What is in the manner of teaching by the greatest moralist, and what are the effects of it? Enticing words, smoothness and elegancy of speech, composed into snares for the affections and delight unto the fancy, are the grace, ornament, and life of the way or manner of their teaching. And hereof evanid satisfaction, temporary resolutions for a kind of compliance with the things spoken, with, it may be, some few perishing endeavors after some change of life, are the best effects of all such discourses. And so easy and gentle is their operation on the minds of men, that commonly they are delighted in by the most profligate and obstinate sinners; as is the preaching of them who act in the same spirit and from the same principles. [3.] Whereas the last thing considerable in those whose instructions we should choose to give up ourselves unto is their authority, that must be left without farther plea to the consciences of all men, whether they have the higher esteem of the authority of Christ the Son of God, or of those others whom they do admire; and let them freely take their choice, so they will ingenuously acknowledge what they do.
Whereas, therefore, the great end of the prophetical office of Christ, in the revelation he made of the will of God in the Scriptures, in his personal ministry, and in the dispensation of his word and Spirit continued in the church, is our holiness and obedience unto God, I could not but remark upon the atheism, pride, and folly of those “modern heathens,” who really, or in pretense, betake themselves to the light of nature and philosophical maxims for their guidance and direction, rather than to him who is designed of God to be the great teacher of the church. I deny not but that in the ancient moralists there are found many excellent documents concerning virtue and vice; but yet, having been, it may be, more conversant in their writings than most of those who pretend so highly unto their veneration, I fear not to affirm that as their sayings may be of use for illustration of the truth, which is infallibly learned another way, so take them alone, [and] they will sooner delight the minds and fancies of men than benefit or profit them as to the true ends of morality or virtue.
Thirdly, This, also, is one great end of the kingly power of Christ; for as such doth he subdue our enemies and preserve our souls from ruin. And those are our adversaries which fight against our spiritual condition and safety; such principally are our lusts, our sins, and our temptations, wherewith they are accompanied. These doth our Lord Christ subdue by his kingly power, quickening and strengthening in us, by his aids and supplies of grace, all principles of holy obedience. In brief, the work of Christ as a king may be reduced unto these heads: — 1. To make his subjects free ; 2. To preserve them in safety, delivering their souls from deceit and violence; 3. In giving them prosperity, and increasing their wealth; 4. In establishing assured peace for them; 5. In giving them love among themselves; 6. In placing the interest and welfare of his kingdom in all their affections; 7. In eternally rewarding their obedience.
And all these he doth principally by working grace and holiness in them, as might be easily demonstrated. I suppose none question but that the principal work of Christ towards us as our head and king is in making and preserving of us holy; I shall not, therefore, farther insist thereon.
It remains that we improve these considerations unto the confirmation of our present argument concerning the necessity of holiness. And, first , it is hence evident how vain and fond a thing it is for any persons continuing in an unholy condition to imagine that they have any interest in Christ, or shall have any benefit by him. This is the great deceit whereby Satan, that enemy of the common salvation, hath ruined the generality of mankind who profess the Christian religion. The gospel openly declares a way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ This is thus far admitted by all who are called Christians, that they will allow of no other way for the same end unto competition with it; for I speak not of them who, being profligate and hardened in sins, are regardless of all future concernments, but I intend only such as in general have a desire to escape the damnation of hell, and to attain immortality and glory. And this they at least profess to do by Jesus Christ, as supposing that the things to this purpose mentioned in the gospel do belong unto them as well as unto others, because they also are Christians. But they consider not that there are certain ways and means whereby the virtue and benefit of all that the Lord Christ hath done for us are conveyed to the souls of men, whereby they are made partakers of them. Without these we have no concernment in what Christ hath done or declared in the gospel. If we expect to be saved by Christ, it must be by what he doth and hath done for us, as a priest, a prophet, and a king. But one of the principal ends of what he doth in all these is to make us holy; and if these be not effected in us, we can have no eternal benefit by anything that Christ hath done or continueth to do as the mediator of the church.
Hence the miserable condition of the generality of those who are called Christians, who live in sin, and yet hope to be saved by the gospel, is greatly to be bewailed. They contract to themselves the guilt of the two greatest evils that any reasonable creatures are liable unto in this world; for, — 1. They woefully deceive and ruin their own souls. Their whole profession of the gospel is but a crying, “Peace, peace,” when sudden destruction lies at the door. They “deny the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” They are bought and vindicated into the knowledge and profession of the truth, but in their works they deny him whom in words they own, — “whose damnation slumbereth not.” For men to live in covetousness, sensuality, pride, ambition, pleasures, hatred of the power of godliness, and yet to hope for salvation by the gospel, is the most infallible way to hasten and secure their own eternal ruin. And, 2. They cast the greatest dishonor on Christ and the gospel that any persons are capable of casting on them. Those by whom the Lord Christ is rejected as a seducer and the gospel as a fable do not more (I may say, not so much) dishonor the one and the other than those do who, professing to own them both, yet continue to live and walk in an unholy condition: for as to the open enemies of Christ, they are judged and condemned already, and none have occasion to think the worse of him or the gospel for their opposition unto them; but for those others who profess to own them, they endeavor to represent the Lord Christ as a minister of sin, as one who hath procured indulgence unto men to live in their lusts and in rebellion against God, and the gospel as a doctrine of licentiousness and wickedness.
What else can anyone learn from them concerning the one or the other?
The whole language of their profession is, that Christ is such a Savior, and the gospel such a law and rule, as that men loving sin and living in sin may be saved by them. This is that which hath reflected all kind of dishonor on Christian religion, and put a stop unto its progress in the world. These are they of whom our apostle makes his bitter complaint: Philippians 3:18,19, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
Whatever they think of themselves, they are “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and do “tread under their feet the blood of the covenant.” Secondly, Let more serious professors be most serious in this matter. The apostle having given assurance of the certain salvation of all true believers, from the immutable purpose of God, presently adds, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” 2 Timothy 2:19; plainly intimating that without holiness, without a universal departure from iniquity, we cannot have the least evidence that we are interested in that assured condition. You name the name of Christ, profess an interest in him, and expect salvation by him; which way will you apply yourselves unto him? From which of his offices do you expect advantage? is it from his sacerdotal? Hath his blood purged your consciences from dead works that you should serve the living God? Are you cleansed, and sanctified, and made holy thereby? Are you redeemed out of the world by it, and from your vain conversation therein, after the customs and traditions of men? Are you by it dedicated unto God, and made his peculiar ones? If you find not these effects of the blood-shedding of Christ in and upon your souls and consciences, in vain will you expect those others of atonement, peace, and reconciliation with God, of mercy, pardon, justification, and salvation, which you look for. The priestly office of Christ hath its whole effects towards all on whom it hath any effect.
Despisers of its fruits in holiness shall never have the least interest in its fruits in righteousness.
Is it from his actings as the great prophet of the church that you expect help and relief? Have you effectually learned of him “to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world?” Hath he taught you to be humble, to be meek, to be patient, to “hate the garment spotted with the flesh?” Hath he instructed you unto sincerity in all your ways, dealings, and whole conversation among men? Above all, hath he taught you, have you learned of him, to purify and cleanse your hearts by faith, to subdue your inward spiritual and fleshly lusts, to endeavor after a universal conformity unto his image and likeness? Do you find his doctrine effectual unto these ends? and are your hearts and minds cast into the mould of it? If it be so, your interest in him by his prophetical office is secured unto you. But if you say that you hear his voice in his word read and preached; that you have learned many mysteries and have attained much light or knowledge thereby, at least that you know the substance of the doctrine he hath taught so as that you can discourse of it; yea, and that you do many things or perform many duties according unto it; but cannot say that the effects before inquired after are wrought in you by his word and Spirit, — you lose the second expectation of an interest in Christ as mediator, or any advantage thereby.
Will you betake yourselves to the kingly office of Christ? and have you expectations on him by virtue thereof? You may do well to examine how he ruleth in you and over you. Hath he subdued your lusts, those enemies of his kingdom which fight against your souls? Hath he strengthened, aided, supported, assisted you by his grace, unto all holy obedience? And have you given up yourselves to be ruled by his word and Spirit, to obey him in all things, and to intrust all your temporal and eternal concernments unto his care, faithfulness, and power? If it be so, you have cause to rejoice, as those who have an assured concern in the blessed things of his kingdom. But if your proud, rebellious lusts do yet bear sway in you; if sin have dominion over you; if you continue to “fulfill the lusts of the flesh and of the mind;” if you walk after the fashions of this world, and not as obedient subjects of that kingdom of his which is not of this world, — deceive not yourselves any longer, Christ will be of no advantage unto you.
In these things lie the sum of our present argument. If the Lord Christ act no otherwise for our good but in and by his blessed offices of priest, prophet, and king; and if the immediate effect of the grace of Christ acting in all these offices towards us be our holiness and sanctification, — those in whom that effect is not wrought and produced have neither ground nor reason to promise themselves an interest in Christ, or any advantage by his mediation. For men to “name the name of Christ,” to profess themselves Christians, or his disciples, to avow an expectation of mercy, pardon, life and salvation by him, and in the meantime to be in themselves worldly, proud, ambitious, envious, revengeful, haters of good men, covetous, living in divers lusts and pleasures, is a scandal and shame unto Christian religion, and unavoidably destructive to their own souls.
NECESSITY OF HOLINESS FROM OUR CONDITION IN THIS WORLD. Necessity of holiness farther argued from our own state and condition in this world; with what is required of us with respect unto our giving glory to Jesus Christ.
V. ANOTHER argument for the necessity of holiness may be taken from the consideration of ourselves, and our present state and condition; for it is hereby alone that the vicious distemper of our nature is or can be cured.
That our nature is fearfully and universally depraved by the entrance of sin, I have before declared and sufficiently confirmed, and I do not now consider it as to the disability of living unto God, or enmity unto him, which is come upon us thereby, nor yet as to the future punishment which it renders us obnoxious unto; but it is the present misery that is upon us by it, unless it be cured, which I intend. For the mind of man being possessed with darkness, vanity, folly, and instability; the will under the power of spiritual death, stubborn and obstinate; and all the affections carnal, sensual, and selfish; the whole soul being hurried off from God, and so out of its way, is perpetually filled with confusion and perplexing disorder. It is not unlike that description which Job gives of the grave: “A land of darkness, and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness,” chapter 10:21, 22.
When Solomon set himself to search out the causes of all the vanity and vexation that is in the world, of all the troubles that the life of man is filled withal, he affirms that this was the sum of his discovery, “God made men upright, but they have found out many inventions,” Ecclesiastes 7:29; that is, cast themselves into endless entanglements and confusions. What is sin in its guilt, is punishment in its power, yea, the greatest that men are liable unto in this world. Hence, God for the guilt of some sins penally gives many up to the power of others, Romans 1:24,26,28; 2 Thessalonians 2:11,12. And this he doth, not only to secure and aggravate their condemnation at the last day, but to give them in this world a recompense of their folly in themselves; for there is no greater misery nor slavery than to be under the power of sin.
This proves the original depravation of our nature: The whole soul, filled with darkness, disorder, and confusion, being brought under the power of various lusts and passions, captivating the mind and will unto their interests, in the vilest drudgeries of servitude and bondage, no sooner doth the mind begin to act anything suitably unto the small remainders of light in it, but it is immediately controlled by impetuous lusts and affections, which darken its directions and silence its commands. Hence is the common saying not so common as what is signified by it, — —— “Video meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor.”——[Ovid. Metam., lib. 7:20.] Hence the whole soul is filled with fierce contradictions and conflicts, Vanity, instability, folly, sensual, irrational appetites, inordinate desires, self-disquieting and torturing passions, act continually in our depraved natures. See the account hereof, Romans 3:10-18. How full is the world of disorder, confusion, oppression, rapine, uncleanness, violence, and the like dreadful miseries! Alas! they are but a weak and imperfect representation of the evils that are in the minds of men by nature; for as they all proceed from thence, as our Savior declares, Matthew 15:18,19, so the thousandth part of what is conceived therein is never brought forth and acted: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not,” James 4:1,2.
All evils proceed from the impetuous lusts of the minds of men; which, when they are acted unto the utmost, are as unsatisfied as they were at their first setting out. Hence the prophet Isaiah tells us that wicked men, under the power and disorder of depraved nature, are like “the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” and have “no peace,” chapter 57:20, 21. The heart is in continual motion, is restless in its figments and imaginations, as the waters of the sea when it is stormy and troubled; and they are all evil, “only evil continually,” Genesis 6:5. Herein doth it “cast up mire and dirt.” And those who seem to have the greatest advantages above others, in power and opportunity to give satisfaction unto their lusts, do but increase their own disquietness and miseries, Psalm 69:14: for as these things are evil in themselves and unto others, so they are penal unto those in whom they are, especially in whom they abound and reign; and if their breasts were opened, it would appear, by the confusion and horror they live in, that they are on the very confines of hell.
Hence is the life of man full of vanity, trouble, disappointments, vexations, and endless self-dissatisfactions; which those who were wise among the heathens saw, complained of, and attempted in vain reliefs against. All these things proceed from the depravation of our nature, and the disorder that is come upon us by sin; and as, if they are not cured and healed, they will assuredly issue in everlasting misery, so they are woeful and calamitous at present. True peace, rest, and tranquillity of mind, are strangers unto such souls. Alas! what are the perishing profits, pleasures, and satisfactions by them, which this world can afford? How unable is the mind of man to find out rest and peace in them or from them! They quickly satiate and suffocate in their enjoyment, and become to have no relish in their varieties, which only heighten present vanity, and treasure up provision for future vexation. We have, therefore, no greater interest in the world than to inquire how this disorder may be cured, and a stop put to this fountain of all abominations. What we intend will be cleared in the ensuing observations: — 1. It is true that some are naturally of a more sedate and quiet temper and disposition than others are. They fall not into such outrages and excesses of outward sins as others do; nay, their minds are not capable of such turbulent passions and affections as the most are possessed withal. These comparatively are peaceable, and useful to their relations and others. But yet their minds and hearts are full of darkness and disorder: for so it is with all by nature (as we have proved), who have not an almighty effectual cure wrought upon them; and the less troublesome waves they have on the surface, the more mire and dirt ofttimes they have at the bottom. 2. Education, convictions, afflictions, illuminations, hope of a righteousness of their own, love of reputation, engagements into the society of good men, resolutions for secular ends, with other means of the like kind, do often put great restraints upon the actings and ebullitions of the evil imaginations and turbulent affections of the minds of men; yea, the frame of the mind and the course of the life may be much changed by them, how, wherein, and how far, is not our present business to declare. 3. Notwithstanding all that may be effected by these means, or any other of like nature, the disease is uncured, the soul continues still in its disorder and in all inward confusion; for our original order, harmony, and rectitude, consisted in the powers and inclinations of our minds, wills, and affections, unto regular actings towards God as our end and reward. Hence proceeded all that order and peace which were in all their faculties and their actings. Whilst we continued in due order towards God, it was impossible that we should be otherwise in ourselves; but being by sin fallen off from God, having lost our conformity and likeness unto him, we fell into all the confusion and disorder before described. Wherefore, — 4. The only cure and remedy of this evil condition is by holiness; for it must be, and can be no otherwise, but by the renovation of the image of God in us, for from the loss hereof doth all the evil mentioned spring and arise. By this are our souls in some measure restored unto their primitive order and rectitude; and without this, attempts for inward peace, real tranquillity of mind, with due order in our affections, will be in vain attempted. It is the holy soul, the sanctified mind alone, that is composed into an orderly tendency towards the enjoyment of God. That which we aim at is what we are directed unto by our apostle, Ephesians 4:22-24.
Our deliverance from the power of corrupt and deceitful lusts, which are the spring and cause of all the confusion mentioned, is by the renovation of the image of God in us, and no otherwise; and hence, unto all persons not in love with their lusts and ruin, ariseth a cogent argument and motive unto holiness. But sundry things may be objected hereunto; as, — First, “That we do admit and maintain that in all sanctified persons there are yet certain remainders of our original depravation and disorder; that sin still abideth in believers; yea, that it works powerfully and effectually in them, leading them captive unto the law of sin. Hence ensue great and mighty wars and conflicts in the souls of regenerate persons that are truly sanctified. Herein they suffer so far as to groan, complain, and cry out for deliverance. ‘The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary.’ Wherefore, it doth not appear that this holiness doth so heal and cure the sinful distempers of our minds. On the other side, men supposed as yet under the power of sin, who have not that grace and holiness in the renovation of the image of God which is pleaded for, seem to have more peace and quietness in their minds. They have not that inward conflict which others complain of, nor those groans for deliverance; yea, they find satisfaction in their lusts and pleasures, relieving themselves by them against anything that occasioneth their trouble.”
Ans. 1. [As] for that peace and order which is pretended to be in the minds of men under the power of sin, and not sanctified, it is like that which is in hell and the kingdom of darkness. Satan is not divided against himself, nor is there such a confusion and disorder in his kingdom as to destroy it, but it hath a consistency from the common end of all that is in it; which is, an opposition unto God and all that is good. Such a peace and order there may be in an unsanctified mind. There being no active principle in it for God and that which is spiritually good, all works one way, and all its troubled streams have the same course. But yet they continually “cast up mire and dirt.” There is only that peace in such minds which the “strong man armed,” that is, Satan, keeps his goods in, until a stronger than he comes to bind him. And if anyone think that peace and order to be sufficient for him, wherein his mind in all its faculties acts uniformly against God, or for self, sin, and the world, without any opposition or contradiction, he may find as much in hell when he comes there. 2. There is a difference between a confusion and a rebellion. Where confusion is in a state, all rule or government is dissolved, and everything is let loose unto the utmost disorder and evil; but where the rule is firm and stable, there may be rebellions that may give some parts and places disturbance and damage, but yet the whole state is not disordered thereby.
So is it in the condition of a sanctified soul on account of the remainders of sin; there may be rebellion in it, but there is no confusion. Grace keeps the rule in the mind and heart firm and stable, so that there is peace and assurance unto the whole state of the person, though lusts and corruptions will be rebelling and warring against it. The divine order, therefore, of the soul consisting in the rule of grace, subordinating all to God in Christ, is never overthrown by the rebellion of sin at any time, be it never so vigorous or prevalent. But in the state of unsanctified persons, though there be no rebellion, yet is there nothing but confusion. Sin hath the rule and dominion in them; and however men may be pleased with it for a season, yet is it nothing but a perfect disorder, because it is a continual opposition to God. It is a tyranny that overthrows all law, and rule, and order, with respect unto our last and chiefest end. 3. The soul of a believer hath such satisfaction in this conflict as that its peace is not ordinarily disturbed, and is never quite overthrown by it. Such a person knows sin to be his enemy, knows its design, with the aids and assistances which are prepared for him against its deceit and violence; and, considering the nature and end of this contest, is satisfied with it. Yea, the greatest hardships that sin can reduce a believer unto do but put him to the exercise of those graces and duties wherein he receiveth great spiritual satisfaction. Such are repentance, humiliation, godly sorrow, selfabasement and abhorrency, with fervent outcries for deliverance. Now, although these things seem to have that which is grievous and dolorous prevailing in them, yet the graces of the Spirit of God being acted in them, they are so suited unto the nature of the new creature, and so belong unto the spiritual order of the soul, that it finds secret satisfaction in them all.
But the trouble others meet withal in their own hearts and minds on the account of sin is from the severe reflections of their consciences only; and they receive them no otherwise but as certain presages and predictions of future and eternal misery. 4. A sanctified person is secured of success in this conflict, which keeps blessed peace and order in his soul during its continuance. There is a twofold success against the rebellious actings of the remainders of indwelling sin : — (1.) In particular instances; (2.) In the whole cause. And in both these have we sufficient assurance of success, if we be not wanting unto ourselves. (1.) For suppose the contest be considered with respect unto any particular lust and corruption, and that in conjunction with some powerful temptation, we have sufficient and blessed assurance, that, abiding in the diligent use of the ways and means assigned unto us, and the improvement of the assistance provided in the covenant of grace, we shall not so fail of actual success as that lust should conceive, bring forth, and finish sin, James 1:15. But if we be wanting unto ourselves, negligent in our known duties and principal concerns, it is no wonder if we are sometimes cast into disorder, and foiled by the power of sin. But, — (2.) As to the general success in the whole cause, — namely, that sin shall not utterly deface the image of God in us, nor absolutely or finally ruin our souls, which is its end and tendency, — we have the covenant faithfulness of God (which will not fail us) for our security, Romans 6:14.
Secondly, But it will be farther objected, “That many professors who pretend highly unto sanctification and holiness, and whom you judge to be partakers of them, are yet peevish, froward, morose, unquiet in their minds, among their relations and in the world; yea, much outward vanity and disorder (which you make tokens of the internal confusion of the minds of men and of the power of sin ) do either proceed from them or are carried on by them. And where, then, is the advantage pretended, that should render holiness so indispensably necessary unto us?” Ans. If there are any such, the more shame for them, and they must bear their own judgment. These things are diametrically opposite to the work of holiness and the “fruit of the Spirit,” Galatians 5:22; and, therefore, I say, — 1. That many, it may be, are esteemed holy and sanctified, who indeed are not so. Though I will judge no man in particular, yet I had rather pass this judgment on any man, that he hath no grace, than that, on the other hand, grace doth not change our nature and renew the image of God in us. 2. Many who are really holy may have the double disadvantage, first, to be under such circumstances as will frequently draw out their natural infirmities, and then to have them greatened and heightened in the apprehension of them with whom they have to do; which was actually the case of David all his days, and of Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:6,7. I would be far from giving countenance unto the sinful distempers of any, but yet I doubt not but that the infirmities of many are represented, by envy and hatred of profession, unto an undeserved disadvantage. 3. Wherever there is the seed of grace and holiness, there an entrance is made on the cure of all those sinful distempers, yea, not only of the corrupt lusts of the flesh, that are absolutely evil and vicious in their whole nature, but even of those natural infirmities and distempers of peevishness, moroseness, inclination to anger and passion, unsteadiness in resolution, which lust is apt to possess, and use unto evil and disorderly ends. And I am pressing the necessity of holiness, — that is, of the increase and growth of it, — that this work may be carried on to perfection, and that so, through the power of the grace of the gospel, that great promise may be accomplished which is recorded, Isaiah 11:6-9. ,And as, when a wandering, juggling impostor, who pretended to judge of men’s lives and manners by their physiognomy, beholding Socrates, pronounced him, from his countenance, a person of a flagitious, sensual life, the people derided his folly, who knew his sober, virtuous conversation, but Socrates excused him, affirming that such he had been had he not bridled his nature by philosophy; how much more truly may it be said of multitudes, that they had been eminent in nothing but untoward distempers of mind, had not their souls been rectified and cured by the power of grace and holiness!
I find there is no end of arguments that offer their service to the purpose in hand; I shall, therefore, waive many, and those of great importance, attended with an unavoidable cogency, and shut up this discourse with one which must not be omitted: — In our holiness consists the principal part of that revenue of glory and honor which the Lord Christ requireth and expecteth from his disciples in this world. That he doth require this indispensably of us is, I suppose, out of question amongst us, although the most who are called Christians live as if they had no other design but to cast all obloquies, reproach, and shame on him and his doctrine. But if we are indeed his disciples, he hath bought us with a price, and we are not our own, but his, and that to glorify him in soul and body, because they are his, 1 Corinthians 6:19,20. He died for us, that we should not live unto ourselves, but unto him that so died for us, and by virtue of whose death we live, 2 Corinthians 5:15; Romans 14:7-9. “He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Titus 2:14. But we need not to insist hereon. To deny that we ought to glorify and honor Christ in the world, is to renounce him and the gospel. The sole inquiry is, how we may do so, and what he requireth of us to that purpose?
Now, the sum of all that the Lord Christ expects from us in this world may be reduced unto these two heads: — 1. That we should live holily to him; 2. That we should suffer patiently for him.
And in these things alone is he glorified by us. The first he expecteth at all times and in all things; the latter on particular occasions, as we are called by him thereunto. Where these things are, where this revenue of glory is paid in and returned unto him, he repents not of his purchase, nor of the invaluable price he hath paid for us, yea, says, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage;” which are the words of Christ concerning the church, which is his lot, and the “portion of his inheritance,” Psalm 16:6. Now, amongst many others, we shall consider but one way whereby we glorify the Lord Christ by our holy obedience, and whence also it will appear how much we dishonor and reproach him when we come short thereof.
The Lord Christ, coming into the world as the mediator between God and man, wrought and accomplished a mighty work amongst us; and what he did may be referred to three heads: — 1. The life which he led; 2. The doctrine which he taught; and, 3. The death which he underwent.
Concerning all these, there ever was a great contest in the world, and it is yet continued. And on the part of the world, it is managed under a double appearance: for some openly have traduced his life as unholy, his doctrine as foolish, and his death as justly deserved; which was the sense of the Pagan world and the apostate Judaical church of old, as it is of many at this day: others allow them to pass with some approbation, pretending to own what is taught in the gospel concerning them, but in fact and practice deny any such power and efficacy in them as is pretended, and without which they are of no virtue; which is the way of carnal gospellers, and all idolatrous, superstitious worshippers among Christians. And of late there is risen up amongst us a generation who esteem all that is spoken concerning him to be a mere fable. In opposition hereunto, the Lord Christ calls all his true disciples to bear witness and testimony unto the holiness of his life, the wisdom and purity of his doctrine, the efficacy of his death to expiate sin, to make atonement and peace with God, with the power of his whole mediation to renew the image of God in us, to restore us unto his favor, and to bring us unto the enjoyment of him. This he calls all his disciples to avow unto and express in the world; and by their so doing is he glorified (and no otherwise) in a peculiar manner. A testimony is to be given unto and against the world, that his life was most holy, his doctrine most heavenly and pure, his death most precious and efficacious; and, consequently, that he was sent of God unto his great work, and was accepted of him therein. Now, all this is no otherwise done but by obedience unto him in holiness, as it is visible and fruitful; for, — 1. We are obliged to profess that the life of Christ is our example. This, in the first place, are we called unto, and every Christian doth virtually make that profession. No man takes that holy name upon him, but the first thing he signifies thereby is, that he makes the life of Christ his pattern, which it is his duty to express in his own; and he who takes up Christianity on any other terms doth woefully deceive his own soul. How is it, then, that we may yield a revenue of glory herein? How may we bear testimony unto the holiness of his life against the blasphemies of the world and the unbelief of the most, who have no regard thereunto? Can this be any otherwise done but by holiness of heart and life, by conformity to God in our souls, and living unto God in fruitful obedience? Can men devise a more effectual expedient to cast reproach upon him than to live in sin, to follow divers lusts and pleasures, to prefer the world and present things before eternity, and, in the meantime, to profess that the life of Christ is their example, as all unholy professors and Christians do? Is not this to bear witness with the world against him, that indeed his life was unholy?
Surely it is high time for such persons to leave the name of Christians or the life of sin. It is, therefore, in conformity alone to him, in the holiness we are pressing after, that we can give him any glory on the account of his life being our example. 2. We can give him no glory unless we bear testimony unto his doctrine that it is holy, heavenly, filled with divine wisdom and grace, as we make it our rule. And there is no other way whereby this may be done but by holy obedience, expressing the nature, end, and usefulness of it, Titus 2:11,12. And, indeed, the holy obedience of believers, as hath been declared at large before, is a thing quite of another kind than anything in the world which, by the rules, principles, and light of nature, we are directed unto or instructed in. It is spiritual, heavenly, mysterious, filled with principles and actings of the same kind with those whereby our communion with God in glory unto eternity shall be maintained. Now, although the life of evangelical holiness be, in its principle, form, and chief actings, secret and hidden, hid with Christ in God from the eyes of the world, so that the men thereof neither see, nor know, nor discern the spiritual life of a believer, in its being, form, and power; yet there are always such evident appearing fruits of it as are sufficient for their conviction that the rule of it, which is the doctrine of Christ alone, is holy, wise, and heavenly. And multitudes in all ages have been won over unto the obedience of the gospel, and faith in Christ Jesus, by the holy, fruitful, useful conversation of such as have expressed the power and purity of his doctrine in this kind. 3. The power and efficacy of the death of Christ, as for other ends, so to “purify us from all iniquity,” and to “purge our conscience from dead works, that we may serve the living God,” is herein also required. The world, indeed, sometimes riseth unto that height of pride and contemptuous atheism as to despise all appearance and profession of purity; but the truth is, if we are not cleansed from our sins in the blood of Christ, if we are not thereby purified from iniquity, we are an abomination unto God, and shall be objects of his wrath forever. However, the Lord Christ requireth no more of his disciples in this matter, unto his glory, but that they profess that his blood cleanseth them from their sins, and evidence the truth of it by such ways and means as the gospel hath appointed unto that end. If their testimony herein unto the efficacy of his death be not received, be despised by the world, and so at present no apparent glory redound unto him thereby, he is satisfied with it, as knowing that the day is coming wherein he will call over these things again, when the rejecting of this testimony shall be an aggravation of condemnation unto the unbelieving world.
I suppose the evidence of this last argument is plain, and exposed unto all; it is briefly this: Without the holiness prescribed in the gospel, we give nothing of that glory unto Jesus Christ which he indispensably requireth.
And if men will be so sottishly foolish as to expect the greatest benefits and advantages by the mediation of Christ, — namely, pardon of sin, salvation, life, and immortality, — whilst they neglect and refuse to give him any revenue of glory for all he hath done for them, we may bewail their folly, but cannot prevent their ruin. He saves us freely by his grace; but he requires that we should express a sense of it, in ascribing unto him the glory that is his due. And let no man think this is done in wordy expressions; it is no otherwise effected but by the power of a holy conversation, “showing forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Nay, there is more in it also; if anyone profess himself to be a Christian, — that is, a disciple of Jesus Christ, to follow the example of his life, to obey his doctrine, to express the efficacy of his death, — and continue in an unholy life, he is a false traitor to him, and gives in his testimony on the side of the world against him and all that he hath done for us. And it is indeed the flagitious lives of professed Christians that have brought the life, doctrine, and person of our Lord Jesus Christ into contempt in the world. And I advise all that read or hear of these things diligently and carefully to study the gospel, that they may receive thence an evidence of the power, truth, glory, and beauty of Christ and his ways; for he that should consider the conversation of men for his guide will be hardly able to determine which he should choose, whether to be a Pagan, a Mohammedan, or a Christian. And shall such persons, by reason of whom the name of Christ is dishonored and blasphemed continually, expect advantage by him or mercy from him? Will men think to live in sensuality, pride, ambition, covetousness, malice, revenge, hatred of all good men, and contempt of purity, and yet to enjoy life, immortality, and glory by Christ? Who can sufficiently bewail the dreadful effects of such a horrid infatuation? God teach us all duly to consider, that all the glory and honor of Jesus Christ in the world, with respect unto us, depends on our holiness, and not on any other thing either that we are, have, or may do! If, therefore, we have any love unto him, any spark of gratitude for his unspeakable love, grace, condescension, sufferings, with the eternal fruits of them, any care about or desire of his glory and honor in the world; if we would not be found the most hateful traitors at the last day unto his crown, honor, and dignity; if we have any expectation of grace from him or advantage by him here or hereafter, — let us labor to be “holy in all manner of conversation,” that we may thereby adorn his doctrine, express his virtues and praises, and grow up into conformity and likeness unto him, who is the first-born and image of the invisible God.
Mo>nw| Qew~| swth~ri do>xa!
END OF VOLUME 3.