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their own greatest advantage; so God hath engaged himself to bless them in that holy use, and to cause them all by his gracious providence to co-operate to their good. Their greatest afflictions, the cruellest persecutions from the most violent enemies, our wants, our weaknesses, and death itself, all must concur to carry on this work. What then should a Christian fear, but sin? How honourable, and how happy a life may he live, that hath all these assured for his service. And what causeless fears are they that use to afflict the servants of God, concerning their outward troubles, and necessities. What do we fear, and groan under, and complain of, but our Father's physic, and the means of our salvation ? If this one truth were but believed, and received, and used according to its worth, O what a life would Christians live!
(12.) The last, and greatest of our benefits by Christ, is, Resurrection, and our justification at the bar of God, and our reception into glory. This is the end of all, and therefore containeth all. For this Christ died; for this we are Christians ; for this we believe, hope and labour; for this we suffer, and deny ourselves, and renounce this world. Our bodies shall then be spiritual and glorious,
no more troubled with infirmities, diseases or necessities. Our souls shall be both naturally and graciously perfected; both in their faculties and qualities. We shall be brought nigh to God : we shall be numbered with the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem, and be members of that blessed society, and companions and equal with the angels of God : we shall for ever behold our glorified Redeemer, and see our own nature united to the Godhead ; and we shall have the greatest and nearest intuition and fruition of God, the fullest love to him, and the sweetest rest, content and delight in him, that our created natures are capable of: we shall everlastingly be employed in this love, and delight, and in his praises with all the heavenly host : and the glory of God will shine forth in our glory, and the abundance of his goodness will be communicated to us : and he will be well-pleased with us, with our praises, with all that blessed society, and with our head : and this will endure to all eternity.
Christians, I have now named in a few words, those benefits by Christ, which the heart of man is not able to value, in any proportion to their inexpressible worth : I have named that in an hour, which you will enjoy for ever. So much of our benefits by Christ.
5. The fifth point to be understood in the right knowledge of Christ, is, The terms on which he conveyeth his benefits to men, and how we must be made partakers of them.
And these mercies are of two sorts : 1. Common. 2. Proper to them that are heirs of salvation. The common are, 1. Those discoveries of grace, that are made even to heathens in the creatures, and the merciful providences of God. These are absolutely and freely bestowed in some measure on all, but in a greater measure upon some, as pleases the giver. 2. The supernatural, or instituted means of revealing Christ, and life to the world, and drawing them to a saving consent of faith. These are the Gospel written and preached, with other concomitant helps. The commission Christ hath given to his ambassadors, is to teach this Gospel to all the world, even to every (reasonable) creature, without exception or restriction. And it is absolutely and freely given, where it is given. But as to the providential disposal of the event, God causeth it not to be sent to all, but to whom he seeth meet.
The proper or special mercies are of two sorts : (1.) Some are physical inherent qualities, or performed acts. (2.) And some are adherent rights, or relations.
Of the former inherent sort, there are these three degrees : (1.) There is the first special work of vocation, conversion or regeneration, causing the sinner to repent and believe, and giving him the principle of spiritual life. (2.) There is the bestowing of the indwelling Spirit of God, and progressive sanctification of heart and life, and perseverance with victory. (3.) There is the perfecting of all this, in our glorious perfection in the life to come.
(1.) For the first of these, God hath not promised it conditionally or absolutely to any individual person that hath it not. He hath bound all to repent and believe, but hath not promised to make them do it: (only he hath revealed that there are certain persons so given to Christ, as that they shall be infallibly drawn to believe.) But he hath appointed certain means for the ungodly, which they are bound to use in order to their conversion ; and if they will not use them, they are without excuse. If they will, they have very much encouragement from God, both [1.] In the nature of the
means, which are fitted to their ends, and are mighty to bring down all oppositions : and [2.] In the commands and institution of God; whose wisdom and goodness may easily resolve us, that he will not appoint us means in vain, nor set his creatures on fruitless labour: and [3.] ‘Also from the issue; for no man can stand forth and say, Such an one did his best in the use of means, and yet could not attain the end, but fell short of the grace and glory of God.
The diseases of men's souls are wilfulness and blindness; the means of cure are the persuasions, with the revelations of the Gospel. Men have the natural powers of understanding and willing : but they want that right disposition which we call the habit, or moral power, which is no more than to say, They are habitually blind and wilful. It is so far from being unreasonable to teach and persuade men that are under such an impotency as this, that there is nothing in the world that doth more bespeak our teaching and persuasions; for this is the natural and instituted way to cure them, and give them power. What means of overcoming ignorance like teaching ? And what means of overcoming habituated wilfulness, like persuasion, added to informing truths? We do not use to reason men out of a natural impotency, nor to persuade them to do that for which they have no faculties or object; but it is the very means of overcoming a moral impotency, and making men willing of the good which they rejected. And with this means doth God set in, and infallibly cause it to be effectual with his chosen. Thus no man cometh to the Son, except the Father draw him ; and then for the two following degrees of holiness in our sanctification, and glorious perfection, God hath promised them to those that have this first degree. For the Spirit of holiness is promised to all that truly repent and believe, and salvation to all that are sanctified, and persevere. So that the right to these inheritance mercies, being a relation, is conveyed as other rights and relations, of which we are next to speak.
(2.) As the Spirit by the operation of the word upon the heart conveyeth the foresaid inherent benefits or qualities and acts, so the promise of grace, indited by Christ and the Spirit, doth as a deed of gift, or testament, or act of oblivion, bestow on us our rights and spiritual relations; and from
these they do result, as the immediate instrumental cause. Thus doth he give" power or right to as many as receive him, to become the sons of God;" John i. 12. Thus doth, he give us pardon, justification, adoption, and our right to further grace and glory. And these promises are conditional; and our repenting and believing in Christ, is the condition. And therefore till conversion do bring us to repent and believe, we have no right to any of these benefits of the promise. And therefore though our repentance and faith be none of the proper cause of our justification, or right : yet the main work, in order to the procurement of these benefits, that is now to be done, is to persuade the sinner to repent and believe ; to turn that he may live ; for God's. act of grace is past already, and the conditional pardon is granted long ago, and will effectually pardon us as soon as we perform the condition, and not before. Till then, we hinder the efficacy of the deed of gift; for unbelief and impenitency are true causes of men's condemnation, though faith and repentance be no proper causes of their salvation.
These promises being conditional, we cannot be assured of our part in the benefits, but by being assured that we perform the condition. By this you may see the nature of presumption; 'when men say, they believe that which never was promised; or believe that they have right to the blessings that are promised to others, and thus they believe that they shall have the benefits promised, when they perform not the conditions ; all this is presuming, and not true believing. If men believe that God is reconciled to them, and will pardon them, and justify them, and save them, when they are unconverted, impenitent, unregenerate men; this is not indeed a believing of God, that hath never made them any such promise, nor ever told them any such matter, but the contrary; but it is a believing the false delusions of the devil and their own hearts. He that will claim any title to Christ, and pardon, and salvation, must have something to shew forit;yea, and something more than the most of the world have to shew; for the most shall be shut out. Every man, therefore that regardeth his salvation, must seriously ask his soul this question, What have I to slew for my title to salvation, more than the most of the world can shew? It is not saying, I hope to be saved, that will serve the turn, except I can give a reason of my hope. Thousands that lay
claim to salvation shall miss of it, because they have no title to it.' And that which you must have to shew, is this, A promise, or deed of gift on God's part, and the fulfilling of the condition on your part. God saith to all men, soever repenteth, believeth, or is converted, shall be saved.” When you have found that you repent of all your sins, and truly believe, and are converted to God, then, and not till then, you may conclude that you shall be saved.
6. The sixth point to be understood and believed, concerning these benefits of Christ, is the infallible certainty of them. While men look on the promised glory to come, as on an uncertain thing, they will hardly be drawn to venture, and let go the profits and pleasures of the world to attain it; much less to part with life itself. The life of all our Christian motion, is the unfeigned belief of the truth of God's word, and specially of the unseen things of the world to
Such as men's belief of heaven and hell is, such will be the bent of their hearts, and the course of their lives, and such and such they will be in yielding to sin, or in resisting it, and in all the service they do for God. As all men would take another course, if they did but see heaven and hell with their eyes ; so all men would presently throw away their worldly, fleshly pleasures, and turn to God and a holy life, if they did but as thoroughly believe the joys, and torments to come, as if they saw them. Flesh and blood can hardly judge of things, without the help of sense; and fleshly, men take all things to be phantasms or nothings, that are not within the judgment of their senses. They must see it, or feel it, or taste it, or hear it; and believing is a way that hardly satisfies them; though it be God himself that they are to believe. Believing is trusting the credit of another ; and we are naturally loath to trust to any but our eyes or other senses.
We are so false ourselves, that we are ready to measure God by ourselves; and to think that he is a deceiver, because that we are such. And hence it is that the world is so ungodly that they venture on sin, and will not be at the cost and labour, of a heavenly life; because they take the matters of the life to come, to be but uncertainties, and have not so true a, belief of them, as might possess them with a deep apprehension of their reality. How should the word profit them, that mix it not with faith, (Heb. iv. 2.) unless by begetting faith itself? O what a change would a