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" Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ;" 1 Cor. xi. 1. “Be ye followers of them, who through faith and patience do inherit the promise;" Heb. vi. 12. 1 Cor. iv. 16. Phil. iii. 17. 1 Thess. i. 6. ii. 16. v. 7.9. Heb. xiii. 7.
(2.) And the evil examples even of apostles, are to be avoided, as all other evil examples recorded in the Scriptures are; such as Peter's denial of his Lord, and the disciples all forsaking him, and Peter's sinful separation and dissimulation, and Barnabas's with him (Gal. ii.), and the falling out of Paul and Barnabas, &c.
(3.) And the history of indifferent actions, or those which were the performance of but a temporary duty, are instructing to us, but not examples which we must imitate. It is not divine faith which forgeth an object or rule to itself. Whatsoever example we will prove to be obligatory to us to imitate, we must either prove, 1. That it was an execution of God's own commission, which had a promise of infallible guidance. Or, 2. That it was done according to some former law of God, which is common to them and us.
(As the first must be the revealing of some duty extended to this age, as well as that.)
Direct. 12. 'Faith must make great use of Scripture examples, both for motive and comfort, when we find their case to be the same with ours.'
We cannot conclude that we must imitate them in extraordinary circumstances; nor can we conclude that God will give every extraordinary mercy to us, which he gave to them, (as that he will make all kings as he did David, or all apostles, or raise all as he did Lazarus now, &c.) nor that every believer shall have the same outward things, or will have just the same degrees of grace, &c. But we may conclude that we shall have all God's promises fulfilled to us, as they had to them; and shall have all that is suitable to our condition. As David was pardoned upon repentance, so many others: “I confessed, and thou forgavest: for this shall every one that is godly pray to thee."-- Psal. xxxii. 5,6. Hath God pardoned a Manasseh, a Peter, a Paul, &c. upon repentauce?
So is he ready to do to us. Hath he helped the distressed ? Hath he heard and pitied, even the weak in faith? So we may hope he will do by us ; Isa. xxxviii. 10, 11. Psal. cxvi. 3. Acts xxvii. 20. Jonah ii. 4. We have the same God, the same Christ, the same promise,
if we have the same faith, and pray with the same Spirit ; Rom. viii. 26. Heb. iv. 15. Though we may not have just the same case, or the same manner of deliverance. Therefore it is a mercy that the Scripture is written historically: and therefore we should remember such particular examples as suit our own case.
Directions how to Live by Faith upon God's Promises. This part of the work of faith is more noble, because the eminent part of the Gospel is the promises, or covenant of grace ; and it is the more necessary, because our lapsed, misérable state hath made the promises so necessary to our use. The helps to be used herein are these:
Direct. 1. Consider that every promise of God, is the expression of his immutable will and counsel.'
It is a great dispute among the schoolmen, whether God be properly obliged to us by his promises : when the word 'obligation’ itself is but a metaphor, which must be cas away or explained, before the question can be answered. God cannot be bound as man is, who transferreth a propriety to another from himself; or maketh himself a proper debtor in point of communicative justice; or may be sued at law, and made to perform against his will. But it is a higher obligation than all this which lieth upon God. His power, wisdom and goodness, which are himself, do constitute his veracity: and his very nature is immutable and just; and therefore his nature and being is the infallible cause of the fulfilling of his promises. He freely made them; but he necessarily performeth them : and therefore the apostle saith, that “ God that cannot lie hath promised eternal life, before the world began;" which is either promised according to his counsel which he had before the world began,' or 'from the beginning of the world;' Titus i. 2. Or as the word also signifieth, many ages ago. And Heb. vi. 17, 18. "Wherefore God willing more abundantly to shew to the heirs of promise, the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath ; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong con
solation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope set before us's which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”. And therefore when the apostle meaneth, that Christ will not be unfaithful to us, his phrase is, “ He cannot deny himself;" 2 Tim. ii. 13. As if his very nature and being consisted more in his truth and fidelity, than any mortal man's can do.
Direct. 2. · Understand the nature and reasons of fidelity among men, viz. 1. To make them conformable to God : and, 2. To maintain all justice, order and virtue in the world.' And when you have pondered these two, you will see that it is impossible for God to be unfaithful: For, 1. If it be a vice in the copy, what would it be in the original! Nay, would not falsehood and perfidiousness become our perfection, to make us like God? 2. And if all the world would be like a company of enemies, bedlams, brutes, or worse, if it were not for the remnants of fidelity, it is impossible that the nature or will of God, should be the pattern or original of so great evil.
Direct. 3. Consider what a foundation of his promises God hath laid in Jesus Christ, and what a seal his blood and resurrection is unto them.'
When it hath cost Christ so dear to procure them, certainly God will not break them. A promise ratified in the blood of the Son of God, called the "blood of the everlasting covenant,” (Heb. xiii. 20.) and by his rising from the dead, can never be broken. If the law given by Moses was firm, and a jot or tittle should not pass away till all were fulfilled, much more the word and testament of the Mediator of a better covenant; "All the promises in him are yea and amen;" (2 Cor. i. 20.) that is, they are asserted or made in him, and they are ratified, and shall be fulfilled in him. “ He hath obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises ;!'. Heb. viii. 6. And those that are better cannot be less sure. It is the sure mercies of David that are given us, by a promise which is sure to all the seed; Acts xiii. 34. Isa. lv. 3. Rom. iv. 16.
Direct. 4. Consider well that it is God's own interest to fulfil his promises; for he attaineth not that glory of his love and grace in the perfection of his people till it be done, which he designed in the making of them.'
- And certainly God will not fail himself and his own interest. The happiness will be ours, but it will be his everlasting pleasure to see his creatures in their perfection. If he was so pleased after the creation, to see them all good, that he appointed a sabbath of rest, to celebrate the commemoration of it; how much more will it please him to see all restored by Jesus Christ, and brought up to that perfection which Adam was but in the way to when he sinned and fell short of the glory of God. He will not miss of his own design, nor lose the everlasting complacency of his love.
Direct. 5. •Consider how great stress God hath laid upon the belief of his promises, and of how great use he hath made them in the world.' -If the intimation of another world and reward which we find in nature, and the promise of it in Scripture, were out of the world, or were not believed, and so men had nothing but temporal motives to rule their hearts and lives by, O what an odious thing would man be! And what a hell would the world be! I have elsewhere shewed that the government of the world is mainly steered by the hopes and fears of another life," and could not be otherwise, unless man be turned into far worse than a beast. And certainly those promises cannot be false, which God hath laid so great a stress on, and the belief of which is of so great moment. For the wise, and holy, and powerful God, neither needeth 'a lie, nor can use it to so great a work. 1:52. Direct. 6. Take notice how agreeable God's promises are to the nature both of God and man,'
It is not only God's precepts that have a congruence to natural reason, but his promises also. It is agreeable to the nature of Infinite Goodness to do good : and yet we see that he doth not do to all alike. He maketh not every creature an angel, nor a man: how then shall we discern what he intendeth to do by his creatures, but by their several natures ? The nature of every thing is fitted to its use. Seeing therefore God hath given man a nature capable of knowing, loving and enjoying him, we have reason to think he gave it not in vain. And we have reason to think that nature may be brought up to its own perfection; and that he never intended to employ man all his days on earth, in seeking an end which cannot be attained. And yet we see that some
do unfit themselves for this end, by turning from it, and following vanity: and that God requireth every man as a free agent, to use bis guidance and help aright, for his own preparation to felicity. Therefore reason may tell us, that those who are so prepared by the nearest capacity, and have a love to God, and a heavenly mind, shall enjoy the glory which they are fitted for. And it helpeth much our belief of God's promise, to find that reason thus discerneth the equity of it : yea, to find that a Cicero, a Seneca, a Socrates, a Plato, &c. expected much the like felicity to the just, which the Scripture promiseth.
Direct. 7. 'Be sure to understand God's promises aright,
you expect not that which he never promised, and take not presumption to be faith.'
Many do make promises to themselves by misunderstanding, and look that God should fulfil them. And if
And if any of them be not fulfilled, they are ready to suspect the truth of God. And thus men become false prophets to themselves and others, and speak words in the name of the Lord, which he hath never spoken, and incur much of the guilt, which God oft chargeth on false prophets, and such as add to the word of God. It is no small fault to father an untruth on God, and to call that his promise which he never made.
Direct. 8. • Think not that God promiseth you all that you desire or think you want, in bodily things.'
It is not our own desires which he hath made the measure of his outward gifts; no nor our own opinion of our necessity neither : else most men would have nothing but riches, and health, and love, and respect from men; and few would have any want, or pain, or suffering. But it is so much as is good, 1. To the common ends of government, and the societies with which we live. 2. And to our souls, which God doth promise to his own. And his wisdom, and not their partial conceits, shall be the judge. Our Father knoweth what we need, and therefore we must cast our care on him, and take not too particular nor anxious thoughts for yourselves; Matt. vi. 24, to the end, 1 Pet. v.7.
Direct. 9. . Think not that God promiseth you all that you will ask ; no not that which he commandeth you to ask ; unless it agree with his promising will, as well as with his commanding will.
That promise of Christ, " Ask and ye shall receive," &c.