« PreviousContinue »
quickened us together with Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us, through Jesus Christ." He hath "brought us nigh that were far off," so that "by one Spirit we have access to the Father by Christ; and are now no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God;" Ephes. ii. 5-7. 13. 17-19. "We are members of the body of Christ, we are come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant;" Heb. xii. 22-24.
Brethren, shall the Lord speak all this, and more than this in the Scripture, of your glory, and will you not prove yourselves glorious, and study to make good this precious word? Doth he say, "The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour;" (Prov. xii. 26.), and will you not study to shew yourselves more excellent indeed? Shall all these high things be spoken of you, and will you live so far below them all? What a heinous wrong is this to God. He sticks not in boasting of you, to call you his jewels (Mal. iii. 17.), and tells the world he will make them one day discern the "difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not;" ver. 18. He tells the world, that his coming in judgment will be "to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in them that believe;" 2 Thess. i. 10. It is openly professed by the apostle John, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness;" 1John v. 19. He challengeth any "to condemn you, or lay any thing to your charge, professing that it is he that justifieth you;" casting the saints into admiration by his love. "What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" Rom. viii. 31. He challengeth tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, or nakedness, peril, or sword, to separate you, if they can, from the love of God. He challengeth death and life, angels, principalities, and powers, things present, and things to come, height and depth, or any other creature, to
separate you, if they are able, from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord; Rom. viii. 35. 37-39. Shall the Lord of heaven thus make his boast of you to all the world, and will you not make good his boasting? Yea, I must tell you, he will see that it be made good to a word! And if you be not careful of it yourselves, and it be not made good in you, then you are not the people that God thus boasteth of. He tells the greatest persecutors to their faces, that the meek, the humble, little ones of his flock, “have their angels beholding the face of God in heaven;" (Matt.xviii. 10.) and that at the great and dreadful day of judgment, they shall be set at his right hand as his sheep, with a "Come ye blessed, inherit the kingdom," when others are set at his left hand as goats, with a "Go ye cursed, into everlasting fire;" Matt. XXV. He tells the world, that he that receiveth a converted man, that is become as a little child, receiveth Christ himself; and that "whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, that believe in him, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea;" Matt. xviii. 3-6. Mark ix. 42. Luke xvii. 2.
O sirs, must God be thus wonderfully tender of you, and will you not now be very tender of his interest and your duty? Shall he thus difference you from all the rest of the world, and will you not study to declare the difference? The ungodly even gnash the teeth at ministers, and Scriptures, and Christ himself, for making such a difference between them and you; and will you not let them see that it is not without cause? I entreat you, I require you, in the name of God, see that you answer these high commendations, and shew us that God hath not boasted of you beyond your worth?
(9.) Consider this as the highest motive of all; God doth not only magnify you and boast of you, but also he hath made you the living images of his blessed self, his Son Jesus Christ, his Spirit and his holy word; and so he hath exposed himself, his Son, his Spirit, and his word, to be censured by the world, according to your lives.
The express image of the Father's person is the Son; Heb. i. 3. The Son is declared to the world by the Holy Ghost: the Holy Ghost hath indited the Scriptures, which therefore bear the image of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
This holy word, both law and promise, is written in your hearts, and put into your inner parts by the same Spirit; 2 Cor. iii. 3. Heb. viii. 10. x. 16. So that as God hath imprinted his holy nature in the Scripture, so hath he made this word the seal, to imprint again his image on your hearts. And you know that common eyes can better discern the image in the wax, than on the seal though I know that the hardness of the wax, or something lying between, or the imperfect application, may cause an imperfection in the image on the wax, when yet the image on the seal is perfect : and therefore the world hath no just cause to censure God, or Christ, or the Spirit, or the word to be imperfect, because that you are so; but yet they will do it, and their temptation is great. O sirs! how would your prince take it of you, or how would your poorest friend take it of you, if you should hang forth a deformed picture of them to the view of all that shall pass by; and should represent them as blind, or leprous, or lame, wanting a leg, or an arm, or an eye? Would they not say that you unworthily exposed them to scorn? So if you will take on you to be the living images of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, and the word; and yet will be blind, and worldly, and passionate, and proud, and unruly, and obstinate, or lazy, and negligent, and little differing from those that bear the image of the devil; what do you but proclaim that the image of God, and of satan, and the world do little differ; and that God is thus unrighteous and unholy as you are!
(10.) Lastly consider, That the faithful servants of Christ are few; and therefore if those few dishonour him, and prove not fast to him; what do you, but provoke him to forsake all the world, and make an end of all the sons of men? It is but a little flock to whom he will give the kingdom; Luke xii. 32. It is but a few from whom God expecteth any great matter; and shall those few prove deceitful to him? It must be you or none that must honour the Gospel. You or none that must be exemplary to the world; and shall it be none at all? Shall all the workmanship of God abuse him? Shall he have no honour from any inferior creature? How can you then expect that he should preserve the world? For will he be at so much care to keep up a world to dishonour and abuse him? If the turning of men's hearts prevent it not, he would come and smite the earth with a curse,
Mal. iv. 6. For the "land that beareth thorns and briars is
Men are apt to look after images of the Godhead, because they are carnal and far from God. O you that are appointed to bear his image, see that you so represent him to the eyes of the world, as may be to his glory, and not to his dishonour, and take not the name of God in vain.
It is so desirable for God, and for the church, and for your own peace and happiness, that Christians should grow up to a ripeness in grace, and be rooted, built up, confirmed, and abound according to my text, that it hath drawn out from me all these words of exhortation thereunto; though one would think, that to men of such holy principles and experience, it should be more than needs; but if all will but serve to awaken the weak to a diligent progress, I shall be glad, and have my end. The great matter that I intended, when I began this discourse, is yet behind; and that is, the giving you such Directions as may tend to your confirmation
and perseverance; which I shall now proceed to: but I entreat every reader that hath any spark of grace in his soul, that he will resolve to put these Directions in practice, and turn them not off with a bare perusal or approbation. Let me reap but thus much fruit of all my foregoing exhortations, and I shall not think my labour lost.
Twenty Directions for Confirmation in a State of Grace.
Direct. I. Be sure that the foundation be well laid, both in your heads and hearts; or else you can never attain to confirmation, nor be savingly built up.'
To this end you must know what the foundation is, and how it must be soundly laid. The foundation hath two parts or respects, according to the faculties of the soul where it must be laid. The first is, the truth of the doctrine and matter, and the second is, the goodness of it. As true, the foundation is laid in our understandings; as good, it is laid in the will. Concerning both these, we must therefore first consider of the matter of the foundation, and then of the manner how that must be received or laid. And the foundation is that matter or object of our faith, and hope, and love, which is essential to a Christian; that is, to the Christian saving faith, hope, and love. This hath been always. contained in our baptism, because baptizing us is making us visible Christians, or the solemn entrance into the state of Christianity. As therefore we are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, renouncing the flesh, the world, and the devil; so the doing of this unfeignedly, without equivocation, according to the Scripture sense of the words, is the essence of Christianity, or the right laying of the foundation. So that the foundation-principle, or fundamental matter, is, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The secondary foundation, or fundamental doctrine, is, those Scripture propositions that express our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. When we name the three persons as the object of the Christian faith, we express names of relation, which contain both the persons, nature and offices or undertaken works; without either of which, God were not God, and Christ were not Christ, and the Holy Ghost were not in the sense of our articles of faith the Holy